How To Fit 10 Days Worth Of Stuff In A Standard Carry-On

The NYT has a slideshow that demonstrates how a flight attendant packs enough stuff for a 10 day trip into her carry-on. Yeah! This is how you do it! Now if only Amazon would hire this lady.

Her secrets:

  • Shoes around the bottom edges.
  • Roll everything, pants go in first, then lighter stuff.
  • Toiletries on top.

Here’s the best tip: If you have clothes that wrinkle and don’t need to save as much space, fold them around the rest of your clothes.

5-7-2010 10-34-42 AM.jpg

10 Days In A Carry-On [NYT]


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  1. Mr. Fix-It says: "Canadian Bacon is best bacon!" says:

    Wow… 10 days worth of clothes in a single carry-on? If I didn’t care about having a limited wardrobe, or doing my laundry every week, this’d be brilliant. :O

    • QuantumRiff says:

      I’m sure being a flight attendant, with their size and weight restrictions probably makes it a bit easier for her.. She’s probably smaller than the average person.

      • NatalieErin says:

        The height restrictions for flight attendants are 6’1″. That’d be a pretty tall woman.

  2. Bob Lu says:

    Link broken

  3. Toffeemama is looking for a few good Otters says:

    I learned the “rolling” tip from my army dad… we could always get him to fit everything we wanted on our family trips.

    • probablykate says:

      I learned the rolling tip from my brother after he learned it in boy scouts. We didn’t learn it in girl scouts.

      • Spike3185 says:

        I was on a trip last week with my girlfriend and we were talking to a few people about packing methods. Girlfriend starts giving me shit, saying I roll everything and that’s not the way to pack. Everyone else we were talking to was like “um nooooo….that saves a lot of space”. She ended up packing our bag to head home with while I was taking care of some other stuff and when we got home I saw everything was rolled up and the extra duffel bag we thought we’d need for the stuff we bought there was no longer needed. Hehehe.

    • cash_da_pibble says:

      I had to learn it on my own. And people laugh at it.
      But hell, now I’ve been confirmed, woo!

    • MrBounce says:

      I’ve had friends wonder why I rolled up all my clothes (for space reasons obviously), and now I’ve been validated by this article! Woohoo!

    • HogwartsProfessor says:

      I don’t remember where I learned it, but it works good.

  4. Fujikopez says:

    link is broken.

    Whatever will Zelda do?

  5. Rectilinear Propagation says:

    Yeah! This is how you do it!

    Play your guitar on your MTV!

    Oh, and the link in the article itself does work. Just click on that one.

  6. pecan 3.14159265 says:

    The clothing she is packing is mostly t-shirts and lighter shirts, so that helps with the space problem. But if she were going somewhere cold I suspect packing 10 days of stuff in a carryon would be a lot harder.

    • hoi-polloi says:

      That’s true. One strategy would be to wear some of those items on the plane. If I know I’ll need hiking boots on a trip, I wear them on the flight to cut down on bag weight. I’ll usually wear a sweatshirt, which is nice to have if the plane is cold.

      • Spider Jerusalem says:

        Yup. Wear as much as you can. Although I kind of wish someone would invent a windbreaker you could line with sweaters. I feel that would save everyone a lot of hassle.

      • catastrophegirl chooses not to fly says:

        yeah, i always wear hiking boots on the plane if i am taking them. although even before the security crackdowns i’d have to take mine off and run them under the xray because mine have metal supports in the soles. so i wear them with no laces in them and lace them up on the plane

    • FatLynn says:

      I have done up to a week of business clothing, but that also means making smart choices about what I need to take. For example, one pair of basic black shoes, two neutral blazers that I can wear more than once, etc.

    • AnonymousCoward says:

      I went to Europe for 2 weeks in January with a single carryon. I had to wear the coat onto the plane, and live in a single pair of boots the whole trip, but otherwise it worked fine. Lots of black microfiber, which is both warm and doesn’t wrinkle.

    • catastrophegirl chooses not to fly says:

      silk. it’s light, warm even when wet, drip dries overnight hanging from the shower rod [unless you are in a very humid place]
      silk undershirts take up almost no room and will keep you super toasty under even a light jacket in the snow

      • speedwell (propagandist and secular snarkist) says:

        I do most of my travel around the South. Last time I was in Lafayette, LA, it was so humid that every piece of paper absorbed water from the air. I went to a farmers’ market and asked the counter girl where to get some real Cajun food for dinner, and she was trying to write down the directions on a piece of cash register paper, and the paper was so damp the pen wouldn’t write on it. Silk clothing would get an extra coat of green fuzz before it dried, if I had to wash it out by hand and hang it up.

        Now in Dubai, well, I could wash out a pair of pantyhose when i woke up in the morning, take a shower and get ready, and have a dry pair ready to put on as the last thing I did before I walked out the door.

  7. hoi-polloi says:

    That’s impressive. I’m traveling with my wife and son this summer. I need to take a couple items that have to be checked, but this makes sure checked luggage will be limited to one bag.

  8. speedwell (propagandist and secular snarkist) says:

    Tip number 0: Only weigh as much as a stewardess!

    I’m not small, and I can fit five days’ worth of clothing in my carry-on, but I carry a lot more “other stuff” in it too (a resistance band and exercise book, a wand-style hair dryer, an entire laptop)…

  9. 3rdUserName says:

    Cool post…

    I did however keep thinking… Where does all the underwear and socks go? I know as a guy, my cotton tube socks and undershirts take up quite a bit of room in a hurry and two pairs of shoes will take up most of the bottom of a carry-on..

    • phantastic says:

      Shove the socks in the shoes. You have the shoes anyway, why not use the empty space in them?

    • Pastry Minion says:

      I roll the socks, put them in a light plastic bag like a produce or newspaper bag and stuff them inside the shoes. Undies can be stored the same way.

    • ARP says:

      Travel socks and underwear. They’re expensive, but worth it. You could conceivably get buy with two pairs of socks and underwear, if you’re OK with doing laundry in the sink. They dry overnight, so you can be wearing one paid while the other dries.

    • el-brazo-onofre says:

      You should have no more than two pairs of shoes – what you have on and the ones in the bag.

  10. nbs2 says:

    Isn’t most of this common sense? These same ideas are also the best way for families to minimize baggage fees. We get clothes, including “regular clothes”, dress clothes, and 70000000000000 changes of clothes for the infant, for all four of us into one hard side suitcase (usually at 47-49 pounds, including bag) doing this.

    Also, I try to buy most of my travelable dress clothes from Men’s Wearhouse, as I don’t have to worry about keeping the stuff pressed on my way to the destination. That they will press some not-purchased-there stuff as an add in makes them even better. It’s one of the few advantages to buying from a chain.

  11. stephent says:

    I have used the rolling technique before. If I really need to get alot of cloths in a little space I will you travel sized vacuum bags. Those things save a ridiculous amount of space.

    • selianth says:

      OMG, how is it I’ve never thought of the space saver bags before? That is an extremely useful tip. Thank you!!

      • catastrophegirl chooses not to fly says:

        i’ve used just plain old heavy duty freezer bags too. roll a sweater up and put it in the baggie, squeeze the air out and zip it. i prefer the slider zip ones, they stay closed better.

    • fuceefacee says:

      I’ve considered doing that but what if the boys/girls at TSA want to go through your things? It’s unlikely you would ever get them back into the carry on. Even if they don’t wouldn’t you need a device before leaving your destination to vacuum the bags for the return trip?

      BTW even though I’m a rather large person I can pack quite a bit in a carry on by rolling my clothes as shown in the slide show. The only toiletry I take is a tooth brush and a small toothpaste. I can get everything else when I arrive at my destination in regular sizes.

  12. Costner says:

    No, no no…. they have it all wrong. Clearly if you want to know how to pack, there is only one guy who can help you. You need the expert advice of Joel “Douchey Business Card Guy” Bauer.

    Seriously… this tool has a 20 minute video on how to properly pack a bag.

  13. You-Me-Us says:

    The only thing that’s missing is a picture of how that bag looks after the TSA opens, searches and repacks it. Good luck with that!

    • menty666 says:

      that’s what I was thinking. “Ok, so now you know there’s no bomb. Sorry line of 300 people, now I need to re-roll my underwear, so you just wait there”

  14. Dirtylicious says:

    That works for women’s clothing, but for larger men’s clothing 10 days is virtually impossible

    • giax says:

      I’m a female and the list of clothes she packs would last me 30 days.

      My list for a 10 day travel would probably be about this: 1 pair of trousers (and wearing 1 pair of jeans when traveling), 1 pair of shorts (if summer), 1 skirt (and poss. a short one if summer), 1 pair of shoes (wear heavier ones when flying), 1-2 long sleeved blouses, 1 shirt or dress (depending on purpose = holiday or work wear), 3-4 t-shirts, enough underwear and socks, liquid laundry soap, small bag of toiletries that fit that magic ziploc bag. Laptop, analog books (leave to travel when done reading them), pens and paper, iPod with spare headphones (especially useful when seated involuntarily close to infants), world travel adapter, camera.

      Or if total holiday of only by myself: 1 set of change (trousers or jeans), 3-4 t-shirts, long sleeved shirt (if not wearing when traveling), (if needing coat in destination, wear when flying), a very lightweight but walkable pair of shoes, underwear, socks, and non-clothing items listed as above.

    • ARP says:

      Here are my tips for traveling a month overseas on business:

      1) The key here is to think about basics that you can mix and match. A grey suit and a black suit with four different shirts, will give you enough variety. Especially since you can just wear the pants on their own some days.

      2) Layers. For example, put a sweater on under your suit coat and that should keep you plenty warm in most locations and you don’t need to bring a coat.

      3) If you’re in an urban area, go to a local dry cleaner and have your stuff cleaned. Don’t use the hotel unless you can afford it or expense it.

      4) Consider doing “sink laundry.”

      5) Wear clothing blends that don’t wrinkle, are easily cleaned, and can dry quickly. For example, if you wear a poly-cotton blend shirt, you can wash in the sink overnight, hang it up, and it will be dry the next morning. When it comes to underwear and socks, consider travel underwear and socks. They’re expensive, but worth every penny.

      6) Buy your toiletries at your destination. Obviously, this doesn’t apply to make-up, cologne, or speciality items, but most stuff can be bought at your destination.

      7) Consider using those vacuum bags. Trust me, they work. But they can also wrinkle your clothes, so be prepared to iron.

      8) Limit your number of “what if” clothing. They don’t happen that often and what you already have will probably suffice, even though its not perfect.

  15. LarsimusBogartimus says:

    I’d like to stuff HER in my carry-on and have her available for 10 days !!

    No, seriously, I always roll my clothes too. Anyone who spends 5 minutes on Google searching for effective travel packing tips knows that.

  16. Spider Jerusalem says:

    Yup. This is how we’ve done it since the late 80’s. My best friend’s mom was a travel agent, and they taught her this at a conference.

    There was also a bit about lying stuff on top of each other crossways and rolling that all at once for more fiddly stuff like underwear-and-socks.

  17. Geekybiker says:

    I do this. It saves space, but your carry on is like a lead brick. Don’t use this for checked baggage you will just exceed the weight limit.

  18. dougp26364 says:

    If you look closely, the expansion zipper has been let out. If put into a size-wise box, I doubt this bag would fit. There’s also the problem of how much the bag weighs. So long as the airlines don’t enforce their own rules none of this really matters. Oversized, overstuffed and to heavy carry on’s are the way of the flying world right now.

  19. theblackdog says:

    Clearly I have been rolling them wrong, because I was rolling all the pants together, then all the shirts. I’m switching to rolling each item.

  20. Sam2k says:

    How is the stewardess allowed to carry toiletries in her carry on?

    • veronykah says:

      If you are an employee you can carry liquids and gels that are above the limit. These people are the CREW of the plane you know, they have a different security clearance than the average person.
      When I would fly with my ex who was a pilot, I’d give him all the liquids etc to put in his bag. It was nice, well that and the free tickets and upgrades to first class.

  21. Pastry Minion says:

    I’m calling slight shenanigans. Either she’s wearing sports bras or non- underwire, but I’m not seeing any underwear in there. So she’s got way too many clothes for a 10 day trip but no clean undies?

  22. FerretGirl says:

    You know, every time I do that rolling the clothing thing everything ends up HORRIBLY wrinkled. Clearly if everyone else is doing it to keep wrinkles out I’m doing something terribly wrong, but I can’t figure it out.

  23. Jecker says:

    I recently took a 16-day trip to the east coast (US) travelling with only a small backpack and a carryon size duffle bag. I wasn’t too keen on the rolling but what I did instead was lay all my shirts on top of eachother, flat, fold in the arms, then fold them in half and they filled the bottom of the bag perfectly. This method was good because it kept all the clothes together which worked better for my soft-sided bag. If I had a bag made of something a little stiffer (kept its shape better) the rolling would have worked better, i think.

  24. ElleAnn says:

    Prior to a trip to Mexico, I bought pants and shirts made of thinner materials and I used the rolling method. I managed to pack 10 days of clothes and snorkeling gear in a hiking pack designed for 2 day trips. I recommend looking through your wardrobe and picking your thinnest items for your basic layers and then bringing one or two warmer items if you need to worry about cool temperatures.

    • catastrophegirl chooses not to fly says:

      with the snorkeling gear that’s extra impressive but i have to ask – do you pack your fins or rent on location? i have my own snorkel and a prescription mask but i tend to rent fins on location to save packing space

      • P_Smith says:

        I have shorter fins I use both in a pool and when travelling. They’re about 15″ long, not 20+” like most fins, and similar to these:

        They pack well and they protect the soles my feet, which is part of their job. I may not swim as fast as you, but what’s the hurry if I’m on vacation or working out?

        • catastrophegirl chooses not to fly says:

          eh, everyone swims faster than me due to disability. not caring how fast i swim, i’m there to take pictures.
          those fins look quite packable, thanks. and also less like i need to sit my butt in the surf to take them off before getting to land

  25. Big Mama Pain says:

    We don’t need any more tips on how to get a huge, heavy carry-on onto an already over cramped plane! Here’s my tip: carry NOTHING but what goes into your pockets; it’s less stressful as you’re running through the airport trying to catch your connecting flight (because your first one ran late due to how long it took everyone to cram their luggage on board), you look more like a seasoned traveler (get treated better), and you never have to worry about slamming someone in the head with your gear. Yes, checking your bag has its hosts of other worries; I’ve had my luggage “delayed” almost every time I’ve flown, but have found that they handle it pretty well. I can live without my things for a few hours.

  26. graytotoro says:

    Try vacuum packed bags. Your local Asian variety store (Daiso) carries vacuum sealed bags that deflate when you roll them up. Those babies can carry a week’s worth of clothes with buttloads of space left over.

  27. P_Smith says:

    And what about the 15 pound and 7″x14″x21″ limit? It looks like she’s violating both rules.

    Man or woman, for a ten day trip nobody “needs” more clothing than a 1/2/3/4/5/6 rule, even if travelling for business (these numbers include what you wear on the plane):

    1 jacket or blazer
    2 pairs of shoes
    3 pairs of pants (or skirts for women)
    4 shirts or blouses
    5 pairs of socks or hose
    6 pieces of underwear

    Any more than that and you’re trying to have a fashion show. If you’re travelling for business, people aren’t going to be judging you by how many outfits you have, and if you’re on holiday, you don’t need to impress anybody. Clothes can be washed, you know.

    The only exception or variation would be on toiletries where some people feel the need to bring everything or for women to have a variety of makeup. That’s one big advantage of being a man, I only need my razor, deodorant and travel toothbrush; anything else I can buy on the way. I don’t understand why few women lighten their makeup bag when they travel.

    And I’m sure as hell not going to stuff the bag so full of clothes that there’s no room for a netbook, MP3 player, phone and puzzle magazine.