Tired of paying extra for a checked bag and waiting at the baggage carousel after your flight? Fit everything into a carry-on and you’ll pay less, wait less, and some airlines still give you a carry-on bag for free as long as it meets their requirements.

Here’s how to make it onto the plane with just a carry-on with everything you need and no hassle:

Get It Down to 20 Pounds Or Less

Although some airlines allow a carry-on to weigh 22 pounds or more, others will want it to be 20 pounds or less. Keeping it to 20 pounds is a good rule of thumb and one that will get you to the gate without trouble in most cases.

A small backpack is all that’s required, and will never get more than a passing look from airline staff. You can also go with carry-on luggage that meets the size requirements and fits neatly in the overhead bin, but the extra weight means you’ll have to pack fewer items.

Pack Only the Essentials

Unless you’re traveling to a remote locale, chances are they’ll have what you need at your destination. It’s easier to budget an extra $50 to pick up some items once you get there than fretting over trying to fit it all into your carry-on bag. Don’t forget travel insurance so you’re covered in case any of your essential stuff is lost or stolen.

Essentials Checklist:

In Your Backpack or Carry-On Bag:

  • Shirts (t-shirts, blouses, etc.)
  • Long-sleeved shirt
  • Pants or shorts
  • Socks
  • Underwear
  • Swimsuit
  • Pajamas
  • Phone charger
  • Sweater (if needed)

In Your Jacket or Personal Item:

  • Sunglasses and glasses case
  • Umbrella
  • Headphones

Maximize Your Personal Item

Most airlines also allow you a personal item or even two, often listed as a purse or laptop bag. Take full advantage of this and pack up your personal item with as much as you can. This will give you more room in your carry-on bag and will allow you to feel like you’re bringing enough to get you through your trip.

Tip: Wear a light jacket with lots of pockets and fill those pockets up with handy items you couldn’t fit into your carry on. Extra Tip: Put your wallet, keys, and everything from your pants pocket into your jacket pocket as you go through security checkpoints.

Know Before You Go

It’s no fun getting to the airport only to realize you aren’t as prepared as you thought you were. Double check the latest requirements (especially liquid restrictions) before you get there and you’ll be glad you did.

Airline-Specific Luggage Requirements - Each airline is different, with carry-on allowances varying in size and weight. A few pounds can mean the difference between bringing an extra pair of socks and underwear, so be sure to use up all of the weight you’re allowed without going over.

Latest TSA Guidelines - The Transportation Security Administration sets the rules for what can be brought onto planes leaving from the US, much like the ATSB in Australia. You’ll save yourself a lot of hassle if you stick to their instructions and pack accordingly.

Now that you’re all prepared, packed, and have done your research, you’re ready for a fun weekend without the drag of checked baggage!

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