Note: All travel is subject to frequently changing governmental restrictions—please check federal, state and local advisories before scheduling trips. This article was updated October 2020.

Nobody wants to spend extra money carrying around clothes they won’t wear! Erin Holmes of Explore With Erin certainly doesn’t, and so she has come clean on how she spends more on her vacation and less on baggage fees with her carry-on tips.

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Since airlines introduced paid luggage, we have tried everything to avoid those fees. And it’s not just the fees, but the wait for the luggage to come out, or the chance of the luggage being lost or worse, your brand new Italian shoes being stolen.

Checking in baggage is no longer the luxury it formerly was and so I’ve had to come up with alternatives. The only alternative is to travel with a carry-on. So I devised ten carry-on tips to help pack for ten days. Plus, you’ll get to save money on fees and spend more money on your dream vacation.

2×5 = 10

Here’s an easy equation to remember. For 10 days of travel, 2 bottoms, and 5 tops. That’s right. You are going to become the King or Queen of travel with this number one tip. 2 bottoms – shorts, skirts or pants. 5 tops – t-shirts, shirts, etc.

This also doesn’t include the outfit you wear on the plane, which is a bonus to your ten items. Females may also want to add on a dress, so I’m giving you a cheeky plus one.

This algorithm also goes for shoes, socks, and underwear – 2 shoes, 5 underwear = 10 days. Again, ladies, I’m going to give you a plus one for your brassieres.

Finally, depending on the weather you may need to add a bikini or swim shorts.

Mix and match

So you only have 2 bottoms and 5 tops. It’s time to mix and match. Make sure all your outfits go together so you have any number of outfits to choose from during your vacation.

Be savvy about the clothes you wear

With most bags tipping the scales these days, you have to think smart. Wear the heaviest clothes you own. Your hiking boots, your jeans. That great big, utility jacket is perfect to stuff the pockets with battery packs and power adapters.

Pack travel-size toiletries

Most pharmacies sell travel-size toiletries, but if you can’t find what you are looking for then purchase travel-size bottles under 100ml to keep in your carry-on. Not only are these small enough to make your packing relatively easy, but you don’t have to check them. Best tip: Use your hotel’s shampoo and conditioner to avoid carrying your own, or use throw away items that you can get rid of at the end of the trip and replace with gifts.

Use packing cubes

With a whirlwind 10-day trip, you don’t want to spend time rummaging through your suitcase or having everything out of place. Chances are you will be living out of that suitcase, so invest in some packing cubes to find what you are after quickly and keep things in order.

Choose your electronics wisely

Avoid weighing down your bag with heavy electronics that you won’t even use. Make wise decisions on whether you really need a camera or just your phone. Whether you can use a lightweight tablet or if you need a laptop. Whether you can do without your Kindle and use your phone instead.

Minimize cables and chargers

Once you have your electronics all set, minimize the cables and chargers. A computer can charge a phone, as well as an external battery pack. Chose a lightweight universal power board to avoid multiple plugs and adapters.

Do laundry

Carry a spare packing cube or bag to stuff that laundry in. If possible, get it laundered 2 days before you are due to leave. They will ensure its folded so neatly you’ll be surprised how many extra things you can take in your bag. No laundry service? Keep your clothes clean during your travel by hand washing in hotel sinks. This will inevitably also help you avoid packing a mountain of underwear and socks.

Take scales

The best way to be prepared for 10 days in one carry-on is with a travel scale. I never leave home without it. It’s saved me too many times to count.

Buy smart gifts

Avoid liquids and heavy items. Pick gifts like magnets, key rings, items of clothing, plush toys, postcards, stickers. All these things make perfect small gifts that you can take with you. Pop them in shoes, pockets, or books.


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