12 packing hacks for flying low-cost carriers
This post contains references to products from one or more of our advertisers. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products. Terms apply to the offers listed on this page. For an explanation of our Advertising Policy, visit this page.
It seemed like not paying for that checked bag was a good idea in theory… until you actually began packing. Your sunblock is more than 3 ounces, you can’t bring all of your cute sandals and your jacket takes up over half of your carry-on.
If you’ve been affected by packing anxiety, especially when flying low-cost, you’re not alone. The stress of squeezing everything into one small bag without going over weight and size requirements is enough to put a damper on travel, not to mention the other stressors that go along with flying low-cost, like long lines, limited personal space and unhelpful staff.
But following these tips will help make sure your packing experience is a little less overwhelming, especially when flying a low-cost carrier with strict baggage rules.
1. Know the Requirements
Knowing exactly what you can bring onboard is half the battle. Note luggage restrictions when booking your ticket, and review them again before you begin to pack. The most important things to know are:
- Amount of bags: Can you bring an additional personal item?
- Bag size (be prepared to shove it in the luggage sizer if asked)
- Bag weight
For a list of carry-on baggage rules for some of Europe’s most popular low-cost carriers, see this post.
2. Utilize Your Personal Item Wisely
Many people bring a small purse or bag as their personal item. However, few airlines share their size requirement for your personal item, or have a vague explanation, such as it must fit under the seat or it must be a purse, backpack, laptop case, briefcase, etc.
Take advantage of your personal item, and make sure to bring one if allowed. Instead of a smaller purse, bring a backpack or a larger case if you need more space. Typically, personal items shouldn’t be bags with wheels, but if you can sling it over your shoulder or carry it on your back, it shouldn’t cause an issue, assuming the size is within reason. Just adhere to the general requirements, but try to utilize your extra space well.
3. Plan Ahead
Planning your outfits and packing in advance can ensure you’ll fit everything you want into just a carry-on. Knowing exactly what you’ll be wearing means you won’t pack extraneous items, and if you pack ahead, you have time to test the waters to see if everything you want to bring fits. If not, you can take things out and start over.
If you wait until the very last minute to pack, it’s likely you’ll be rushed. You may overpack or forget the essentials. With a little planning and organization, you’ll be sure to bring everything you need, fitting it perfectly into your carry-on.
4. Use a Luggage Scale and Tape Measure
Before even starting to pack your suitcase, measure it first to make sure it adheres to the sizing requirements. When done packing, weigh it to see if it goes over any weight requirements. If you frequently travel with the same airline, it may be worth purchasing a carry-on bag that fits its sizing requirements so you always know it works.
5. Get Packing Cubes
Packing cubes help save space and keep your luggage organized. Plus, if your bag gets opened at security (here’s looking at you, London airports), your items won’t spill out all over the place. Compression packing cubes can even help you fit more items in your bag, sucking the air out to make room for more things.
6. Manage Your Liquids
Liquids are some of the most annoying things to deal with when traveling with just a carry-on. Maximize the space in your clear baggie by thinking about what is really available at your destination or lodging. Most hotels provide shampoo, body wash, soap and conditioner. If you’re staying at a home rental or at a B&B, check to see what is offered.
Buying a set of small clear bottles (test them first at home to make sure they don’t leak) will help you bring all your favorite liquids on board even if they don’t come in travel sizes.
If you’re traveling and sharing accommodation with a partner or friend, combine forces and share — one of you can bring toothpaste, the other, contact solution.
Finally, if you must bring shampoo and conditioner, consider solid versions. You won’t have to put them in your clear baggie, and they use less plastic and therefore are better for the environment, which is an added plus.
7. Use Samples
I store samples in a special box and save them for whenever I’m traveling. Often handed out at drugstores or beauty stores when you make a purchase, just a sample or two can replace having to take along a large bottle of moisturizer or makeup remover.
8. Check to See if Your Accommodation Has Laundry Facilities
If you’re staying at a home rental, check to see if there is a washing machine on site. If so, you can plan to pack less and do laundry. Although most hotels offer laundry options, it’s typically expensive and priced per item, so it’s best not to count on laundry services when staying in a hotel.
However, some destinations offer extremely cheap laundry services that charge less than a dollar per pound. Some countries where I’ve personally found many cheap options for laundry include Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, Indonesia, Malaysia, Peru and Colombia.
9. Wear Your Heaviest Items
Wearing your largest shoes, heaviest jeans and thickest jacket will save you space in your suitcase — especially during the winter months when bulky sweaters and heavy boots can really monopolize your carry-on.
10. Actually, Wear All of Your Items
Pocket-heavy outerwear like the ScotteVest or the Baubax jacket can help save space in your carry-on as you can actually fit a variety of items in your jacket or vest. With pockets for things like phones, tablets — even special additions like an inflatable neck pillow, bottle opener or phone charger, it is actually possible to look fashionable while carrying some of your most important possessions on you.
11. Folding Vs. Rolling
While many seasoned packers have strong opinions about rolling or folding, it’s not an exact science. Rolling usually works best for lightweight items (your items may wrinkle less if you roll them too) but folding often works better for heavier/bulkier items like sweaters and jackets.
12. Maximize Your Plugs and Cords
While cords don’t necessarily take up heaps of space, your suitcase will be much more orderly if you store them all together so they don’t get tangled or caught in zippers. I like to use a small amenity kit bag, but they also can fold up well in sunglasses cases or pencil cases. Having all the cords and adapters together will make them easier to find and use when you need them. The exceptions are my iPhone cord, Bluetooth earbuds and an external charger, which I place together inside my personal item bag for easy access during a flight.
Featured photo by Chalabala / Getty Images.
Welcome to The Points Guy!
WELCOME OFFER: 80,000 Points
TPG'S BONUS VALUATION*: $1,650
CARD HIGHLIGHTS: 2X points on all travel and dining, points transferrable to over a dozen travel partners
*Bonus value is an estimated value calculated by TPG and not the card issuer. View our latest valuations here.
- Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,000 when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. Plus earn up to $50 in statement credits towards grocery store purchases within your first year of account opening.
- Earn 2X points on dining including eligible delivery services, takeout and dining out and travel. Plus, earn 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
- Get 25% more value when you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. For example, 80,000 points are worth $1,000 toward travel.
- With Pay Yourself Back℠, your points are worth 25% more during the current offer when you redeem them for statement credits against existing purchases in select, rotating categories.
- Get unlimited deliveries with a $0 delivery fee and reduced service fees on eligible orders over $12 for a minimum of one year with DashPass, DoorDash's subscription service. Activate by 12/31/21.
- Count on Trip Cancellation/Interruption Insurance, Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver, Lost Luggage Insurance and more.
- Get up to $60 back on an eligible Peloton Digital or All-Access Membership through 12/31/2021, and get full access to their workout library through the Peloton app, including cardio, running, strength, yoga, and more. Take classes using a phone, tablet, or TV. No fitness equipment is required.