If you have a trip coming up, I know you’re probably not looking forward to packing for it. There are plenty of reasons why you should try to fit everything into carry-on luggage. First of all, there’s virtually no risk of the airline losing your luggage if you only have a carry-on. Believe me, airlines losing checked luggage is way more common than you think. It’s happened to me twice in the last year.

Second of all, you’ll save money when you only have a carry-on, since so many airlines keep increasing their fees for checked bags.

Third of all, having a carry-on bag could be the reason you don’t miss your flight. When you’re late for a flight, they sometimes will still let you on – but not if you have baggage to check. I’ve heard the “I can only let you through if you’ve got carry-on only” line a few times, and sadly I had to miss my flight and pay a fortune to re-book. It’s times like these I cursed my stupid big suitcase.

It also makes traveling so much easier when you have less to lug around with you. When I traveled to Croatia, I desperately wanted to stay at the iconic Prijeko Palace hotel in Dubrovnik. And while it was an unbelievable hotel, no taxis can drive down that street within Dubrovnik’s old city walls, and lugging two giant suitcases with me down the road and up side streets was kind of annoying. Stuff like that kept happening during my trip – the unexpected lugging of suitcases because taxis couldn’t take me any further. To make matters worse, I only wore about 30% of the clothing I packed (sound familiar?) and I knew I could have packed lighter. Anyways, now that you’re convinced your life would be easier if you could fit everything into a carry-on, let me tell you how to do it:

1. Start with the essentials

A great tip for packing light is to start by writing down the essentials. These are the things you know you need to pack. Even when it comes to outfits, write down the essential outfits you need (for example, maybe you need one fancy dress for certain occasion during your trip, and one hiking outfit, etc.) From there, you can add extra items until you run out of space. It helps to physically pack those essentials, and see how much room you have left for the ‘wanted’ items that you don’t need but still hope to have.

2. Remember that the little things add up

You might think to yourself that things like sunglasses and bikinis are small and don’t take up much space, so there’s no harm in packing a few of your favourite pairs. Think again, because the little things definitely add up, and when it comes to things like sandals, bikinis and sunglasses, you really should only pack one great pair. Find the perfect pair of sunglasses that suit your face shape. You know, the ones that look fantastic on you (and have good UV protection) and then be done with it. That’s your favourite pair of sunglasses, and that’s the only pair you’re bringing with you. It has to be the same deal with things like bikinis and sandals. If you pack 5 pairs, you probably will only wear one or two of those pairs and the rest you’ll realize you didn’t need. You don’t need all these options because in actuality, you know what your favourite pairs that you’ll wear the most are.

3. Plan your outfits ahead of time

It won’t take you that long to plan your outfits, and you’ll realize that that you need way less than you thought to create enough outfits for your trip. You definitely only need a very minimal number of bottoms. Each time you pair your bottoms with a new shirt, it’s a new outfit, so make sure your bottoms are neutrals that can match with any top. Your button-down floral sundress can double as a cute layering vest when worn open over a t-shirt and shorts. That black romper can be worn to the beach and dressed up at night with a statement necklace and a nice hairstyle. That striped t-shirt can be mixed and matched with almost anything, and will make any outfit extra-cute.

All it takes is a little planning to realize you don’t need to pack as much clothing as you think – and you can still look cute while traveling. It’s important to pack versatile clothing items that can be mixed and matched, worn for multiple occasions, and items that can be dressed up or down. If it helps you to pack light, choose a color scheme and stick to it. Remember, you only need two or three pairs of shoes at the very most! I usually pack one pair of sandals, one pair of converse, and one pair of heels. I never have needed more than that. If I do need hiking shoes, I’ll wear those on the plane so that they never get packed.

4. Get creative when you’re packing

Shove some charging cables and socks inside your shoes to save space.  Roll your clothes (the rolling fold) to take up less room. Throw some rings and necklaces into your sunglass case since there’s usually a little extra room in there.  Get a kindle to store all your reading material on one small device instead of packing books. Buy some multipurpose products such as shampoo that doubles as body wash, but also be sure to know which products you don’t need to pack (your hotel might offer lots of these products.)

5. Maximize the space of your personal bag

Carry-on allows you to have one carry-on luggage and one carry-on personal bag. I suggest your personal bag be a spacious, structured tote bag. That way, you can still put your real purse inside, but you can maximize the space of your personal bag thus creating more room in your carry-on luggage. Even if you were able to pack everything you needed into carry-on, you should still bring a large tote as your personal bag because that extra space could be used for souvenirs!

6. Wear lots of layers at the airport

Wear that chunky sweater and those bulky hiking boots at the airport instead of packing them. That big sweater or jacket can double as a blanket or pillow on the plane, which is always nice. Anything that takes up a lot of room in your bag should be on your body instead. That’s your airport outfit and you’re sticking to it.

Now that you’ve read all these tips, the whole concept of packing light sounds a lot less stressful and a lot more doable, right? Keep calm and carry-on!

Erica Gordon is the author of the new book Aren’t You Glad You Read This? The Complete How-To Guide for Singles with a History of Failed Relationships Who Want their Next Relationship to Succeed, available for only $4.99 here, on iBooks or on Amazon.

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