How to Pack for a Flight

By Amy Curtis; Updated June 08, 2017

Tips to pack light for your next flight

How to Pack for a Flight

Check it or carry it? Fold it or roll it? How many shoes should you bring? How can you prepare for the weather? Pack efficiently for a smoother trip.

What's the best way to pack a carry-on bag?

First, pack the heavier things on the bottom, where the weight will have a stabilizing effect as you roll through the airport – otherwise, you'll compress the lighter items. In a rolling carry-on, the bottom is the part by the wheels, and it’s a great place to put shoes and jeans. To make the most of the space claimed by shoes, pack things inside them, like rolled up ties, jewelry in a pouch, bagged underwear or socks.

Try to think in terms of versatile clothes in neutral colors that are easy to mix and match, and pack several light layers, rather than a heavy coat. Wear your bulkiest clothes, including the shoes or boots that take up the most space. If it’s too hot to wear your jacket, just carry it over your arm.


Go light on shoes and toiletries – you really don’t need that many pairs of shoes, and often, hotel toiletries are a fine solution while you’re on the go. Stick to necessities, like contact lens solution.

How much can you fit in a suitcase?

Making the most of suitcase real estate is the key to a successful packing job. You probably already know that rolling your clothes instead of folding them can save space and prevent wrinkles, but how else can you optimize your suitcase space? Use the same tactics you would for a carry-on, but think about the nooks and crannies, too. You'll find that you can stick small things between larger items, and that using the corners makes a big difference.


When you're trying to pack your suitcase as full as possible, remember that most airlines charge not only per bag, but also by weight. It may be better to leave some things at home, rather than paying extra for an overweight bag.

Is it better to use a carry on or check your bags?

Unless you’re going on an extended journey, a carry-on is probably the best option. Not only does it save you the hassle of waiting for checked bags, not to mention the baggage fees, but it’s also much easier to wrangle when you’re navigating taxis, airports and city streets.

What's the best plan for electronics?

Many seasoned travelers have learned to leave their laptop at home. There are often mobile apps for anything you need to do while traveling, and today’s smartphones take photos of a high enough quality to encourage you to leave your camera, as well. For the electronics you do decide to bring, opt for a plug extender with USB charge ports, so that you can use USB cables instead of having to bring along bulky adapters.

What can we learn from the experts?

Who is better at packing than flight attendants and pilots? These seasoned pros know how to travel light, and they have some really good tips. Most flight attendants, for example, always pack a pashmina or similar wrap, because it’s good for a layer if you’re cold, or rolled up as a pillow when you’re traveling. They also favor travel cubes, which are extremely useful in organizing your suitcase, and they tend to keep sentimental items to a minimum.


Pack anything that might leak in freezer bags, which are heavier than regular zipper bags, and can protect your clothes in case a change in cabin pressure causes a leak. It’s also a good idea to bring extra gallon zipper bags, for keeping your bag organized, and packing things like wet bathing suits.

About the Author

Amy Curtis