Baggage fees are big business. In total, airlines raked in more than $3 billion in checked-baggage fees last year, with Delta, American and US Airways, together, collecting more than half of that total, according to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics.
But why check anything when you can fit everything into one compact carry on? Even for lengthy trips that require several different outfits – and shoes – your carry-on offers more room than you might assume.
For packing expertise, we checked in with Brad John, co-founder of the boutique travel store Flight 001. Here are his secrets to packing the perfect carry-on and dodging airline fees.
“The first mistake [travelers] make when packing their carry-on is not planning and organizing ahead,” says John. “You should check the climate of where you’re going, so you know what the temperature is going to be. Pick one color palette and then plan your outfits so they mix and match,” he says. With two to three bottoms and five to seven tops, you should be able to easily assemble up to 10 outfits.
Wear Bulky Clothes to Board
Wearing your bulkiest, heaviest items to the airport has multiple benefits. “By wearing a jacket or sweater or sweatshirt, you’re saving room in your carry-on and you’re dressed comfortably, since planes tend to be cold,” says John.
Right-Size Your Carry-On
Security might let you roll away with an oversized bag, but your airline may not be as forgiving. At Alaska Airlines, for example, passengers with carry-on luggage that exceeds the carrier’s limits face a $25 charge as they board. Avoid any surprises by checking your airline’s site for its most up-to-date measurement requirements.
Consider Packing Systems
At Flight 001, Brad and his team have created the SpacePak, a series of packing cubes with air vents that can fit multiple clothes. Through the use of compression, the SpacePak maximizes space in your carry-on. It also keeps things organized with one side for clean clothes and the other for dirty laundry.
The clothing SpacePak retails for $46. If you like the concept but want something more basic, you can find sets of plastic compression travel bags at stores like Walmart for around $15.
If you don’t have the chance to get a packing system, make the most of your carry-on’s space by first taking your pants and other bottoms and folding them big at the creases to the dimension of your bag and laying them flat on the bottom. “The less folds, the less creases and wrinkles you’ll have when you reach your destination,” says John.
With tops, there are two strategies you can take. One is continuing to fold minimally and laying shirts flat over pants or skirts. The other popular method is to tightly roll your tops and line them up neatly across the bag. Rolling creates a bend in your fabric, as opposed to a crease, so your garment bounces back more easily.
Bag Shoes Individually
For shoes, there are three steps. First, stuff them with socks as a space saver in your carry-on. Next, tuck each individual shoe into its own cloth or plastic bag to keep your other garments dirt-free and so that you can place each shoe evenly around the bag. TSA suggests keeping shoes near the top in the luggage.
One trick my dad taught me for bulky blazers is to pull the arms inside out and fold just once. As long as your carry-on’s not overflowing, it should lay flat into the bag and arrive at your destination with minimal creases. Otherwise, just wear it on the plane!
Make sure you have proper ID labeled both on the outside and inside of your carry-on. “You never know if your outside tag is going to fall off,” says John.
Can’t Zip? Try Soap
One trick if you still ended up over-packing and can’t zip: rub some soap over the zipper to make it easier to get zipped up.
What are some of your money-saving packing tricks? Connect with me on Twitter @Farnoosh and use #FINFIT.