How to Pack a Cabin Bag [and which type of bag to choose]

Packing light has all sorts of benefits, but how do you possibly get everything you need into a cabin bag (especially if you’re going away for longer than a weekend)? It’s a fair question, but you’ll be pleased to know that packing light is easier than you might think, once you have the know-how.

Here we’ll show you how to pack a cabin bag, which type of carry-on bag is best and how to maximise space to minimise those pesky packing compromises.

What’s the best type of hand luggage bag to use?

Before you start packing, it’s important to pick the best possible type of carry-on bag to help you on your way. Your best bet is to go for a soft-sided bag like a rucksack or holdall, as these allow more things to be squeezed inside as well as being lighter and easier to carry than a solid, wheel-along suitcase.

Look for backpacks or bags with plenty of pockets, as this allows for easy organisation of all your little bits and bobs. A padded laptop compartment is an ideal additional feature for carrying any delicate tech with you, and if you can find a front-loading design you will find it much easier to pack and access all your belongings without lots of rummaging.

And what about size?

The size of your cabin bag will depend on your airline’s specifications and how long you’re going away for. Most airlines, however, require carry-on luggage to be roughly 22” x 14” x 9”, though you may find some airlines differ by an inch or two. Most standard rucksack sizes fall within these dimensions, but be careful with larger, camping-style bags as these are sometimes too tall to qualify as carry-on baggage and will most likely be overkill anyway, even for a 2-week trip.

The size of most rucksacks and bags is expressed in litres, and a 30-45 litre rucksack is the ultimate sweet spot, allowing plenty of room while not being too bulky or heavy. However, a 20-26 litre bag will work perfectly for a long weekend. If in doubt, get the tape measure out.

how to pack a cabin bag carry on rucksack which backpack to take on a planeHerschel Barlow Backpack (31.5L) , Fjallraven High Coast Backpack (26L)

How to Pack a Cabin Bag: 8 Tips

1. Pick clothing styles and colours that all work together

Running out of outfits is a key fear for anyone contemplating travelling with just a carry-on bag. The easiest way to combat this issue is to be smart about matching options. For example, if you pick three tops or T-shirts, three pairs of trousers or shorts and three layering pieces such as jumpers or cardigans that can all work together, you’ll have a total of 18 possible outfit options to cycle through.

And remember, the odds are you’ll be able to find a launderette while you’re away, or you might have the option of handwashing pieces at your accommodation, so you can always wash and recycle outfits as and when you need to.

2. Roll, don’t fold

what to pack in a cabin bag how to pack a carry on bag rucksack

Rolling your clothing saves space in your backpack while also helping to minimise creasing, making it a no-brainer packing tip for carry-on luggage. With rolling, you can ensure every nook and cranny of your backpack is filled, so no precious packing space is wasted.

3. Ditch the ‘just in case’ items

We’ve all done it. Packing items ‘just in case’ you need them is an easy trap to fall into and can be the undoing of any cabin bag packing attempt. If you’re struggling to pack your cabin bag without running out of space, go back through and be ruthless with removing anything that falls under the just in case category. If it’s not something you’re going to use regularly, the odds are you won’t need it. And, if an occasion arises where you do need something extra, the likelihood is you’ll be able to buy it at your destination.

4. Wear the bulkiest items

Big items such as coats, boots or chunky trainers can obliterate precious packing space, so wearing them to travel in is the perfect way to eliminate this problem without compromising. Besides, temperatures at airports and on planes can fluctuate wildly thanks to air conditioning, so having a few extra layers to hand is never a bad thing.

5. Use the dead space

You’d be surprised at just how much cabin bag packing space is wasted, especially the space inside shoes and down the sides of your bag. Try stowing fragile items such as sunglasses or jewellery inside shoes to eliminate the dead space and protect your items at the same time, and have a play around with the order in which you pack your items to see if you can squeeze any extra space out of your bag.

6. Pack solid toiletries

soap bars

Taking just carry-on luggage presents an issue with toiletries, as you aren’t allowed to take any liquids that exceed 100ml into the cabin of a plane. The solution is solid toiletries such as soap bars, shampoo bars and small perfume samples, all of which are allowed. You can also buy miniature liquid bottles to store up to 100ml of your most essential toiletries, and there’s always the travel miniatures for things like toothpaste. And, if it comes down to it, you will usually be able to buy what you need while you’re there.

7. Keep essentials separate

Items such as your passport, phone, money and boarding passes would be best kept in a bum bag or other small, securely-fastened bag. This will save you from having to rummage in your cabin bag every time you need to get your travel documents or money out, which will get very tiresome very quickly.

8. Go digital

how to pack a cabin bag digital e reader instead of books save space

Wherever possible, switching to digital devices can help save lots of packing space in your cabin bag. For example, downloading boarding passes onto your phone will save you from having to print and stow your travel documents, while loading up all your favourite books onto an eReader will mean you can kick back with as many books as you want on holiday without them taking up huge chunks of space in your cabin bag.

Now you know how to pack a cabin bag like a pro, you can travel for weeks on end without compromising on your luggage contents or dragging huge cases around with you. So long, baggage claim!

Ready to start packing? Explore our full range of women’s travel luggage and men’s travel luggage here at CHO Fashion & Lifestyle to find carry-on backpacks and other essential travel accessories from big-name brands.

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