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 I have to travel quite a bit for my job, but I never seem to be able to pack what I need in a carry-on. How can I confidently hit the road -- without having to check my bag or hire a Sherpa?

I have to travel quite a bit for my job, but I never seem to be able to pack what I need in a carry-on. How can I confidently hit the road -- without having to check my bag or hire a Sherpa?


The challenge of packing a carry-on: stowing a minimal amount of stuff and making sure you have what you need. The first thing you should consider when packing is finding a small bag that will carry a lot. Eagle Creek makes a great wheeled tote, the Cloudstream  ($150), that is tapered to fit into an overhead compartment on an airplane. You can also check out their laptop-friendly Hovercraft Converter ($240).

Either way, there are plenty of things you can do to save space while packing. I usually pack one pair of sneakers and a pair of dress shoes. (I fly wearing a pair of loafers.) I place the sneakers on the very bottom of the suitcase, lined along the bottom of the inside of the piece. Next, I take my socks and belts and stick those inside the sneakers. I then wrap my dress shoes in a plastic bag and place them between the sneakers. Then, I lay my t-shirts, underwear, dress shirts and pants (in that order) on top in layers.

How you fold the dress shirts and pants is also important. I fold button-down shirts the same way as they would be folded at the Laundromat, and then I fold them in half again across the button line. I take my pants and fold them in half, lengthwise at the zipper, and then I fold the trouser legs in half over the shirt. This keeps the shirt from getting wrinkled -- and keeps you from having to pack (or use) an iron.

Finally, I’ll lay my sports jacket face-down on the bed, fold the arms behind it, then fold the edges towards the middle, and then fold that in half. That will be the last thing I put in the suitcase. I’ll put a plastic bag on top of that to prevent wrinkling.

If you’re expecting rain, Patagonia makes a hooded Torrentshell jacket  ($99) that is lightweight and can be stuffed into any corner of your bag -- without getting wrinkled.

One additional way to save space and prevent suitcase clutter is to buy quick-dry underwear made by a company called ExOfficio. It’s a nylon/cotton blend that can be washed in the bathroom sink and can subsequently dry in just 15 minutes. You can travel the world with one pair of underwear … as long as you’re conscientious about it.

Now you’re on your way, with little to weigh you down.


About the Expert

David Dillinger has been an airline pilot for 25 years. He is also the owner of ProTravelGear.com.

Tags: Travel


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