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Don’t want to pay baggage fees to check your luggage? Find out how to avoid checking luggage with these ten helpful packing tips!
How to Avoid Checking Luggage
Written By: Sydney Vogl
Checking a bag can be costly, especially when you’re traveling long term and taking lots of flights. On international flights, you’ll usually get to check a bag or two for free.
But if you’re doing short flights around Europe or Australia, for example, you likely won’t get any bags checked for free. Unless you want to start paying a pretty penny for your checked luggage, you’ll need to learn what to bring and what to leave behind.
I spent a year living in Copenhagen, Denmark, where most of my weekends were spent jetting off to whatever city I could get the cheapest flight to. I spent six weeks of that year backpacking, so I had no choice but to stick with carry-on, especially with my tight student budget.
If you have similar plans in mind, start by reading these tips:
- How to Pack for 7kg Baggage Allowance
- The Best Carry-on Suitcases for Traveling Europe
- How to Avoid Looking Like a Backpacker in Europe
- 10 Step Guide to Packing for Europe
During my travels, I accumulated tons of little tricks to get you from a checked bag to a carry-on. Wondering how to avoid checking luggage? These are ten tips you need to know!
Roll up everything
Packing Cube | Compression Bag
Everything seems to fit better when you roll it. Instead of folding all your clothes and stacking them on top of each other, try tightly rolling items (similar to a sleeping bag) and maneuvering them into the small corners of your suitcase.
This not only keeps clothes from wrinkling, but frees up space because the fabric is compressed much tighter than if you folded it.
Watch the packing tutorial on Youtube!
In 2017, I launched Compass Rose Travel Accessories and my very first product was a 4-Piece Set of Carryon Packing Cubes. These are the only packing cubes sized to fit the exact width of a carryon suitcase and they also have a unique color-coded and numbered organization system – the only kind currently available anywhere on the market.
I put together a five-part YouTube series showing you the different methods to use packing cubes. If you use this specific packing strategy, they can also compress your belongings. This is the secret to traveling carryon only!
Stuff your shoes
When I travel, I always fill my shoes with socks, panties, bras–you name it! This is one of the most easily forgotten tactics on how to avoid checking luggage.
If you’ve got booties or sneakers in your luggage, you’ve likely got extra space inside them that you aren’t using. Instead of letting it go to waste, use it up and create more room!
Ankle boots are awesome for traveling. Find out why and how to wear them!
Solid toiletries are key
As I’m sure you know, all carry-ons have a liquid requirement. In the United States, you can only bring liquids in containers of 100 milliliters, or 3.4 ounces. So if you’re traveling long term, or you’ve got a big head of hair like me, 3.4 ounces for shampoo and conditioner just won’t do.
Learn more about the 3-1-1 liquids rule here!
My hair is a lion’s mane, so I stick with solid shampoo and conditioner bars, which are quite long lasting. Lush has shampoo and conditioner bars that work just like a bar of soap (and lasts about 60 washes)!
It’s super convenient and will get you past security in a jiffy. My favorite is the Honey I Washed My Hair shampoo bar and the “Big” conditioning bar.
Here’s our roundup of 18 useful solid toiletries for travel!
Wear your heaviest clothes and shoes on the plane
If you’re going somewhere really cold, you’re going to need a giant, puffy jacket. The problem is, large puffy clothes usually can’t coexist with a carry-on bag. (See this guide on how to stay warm in cold weather without looking like a snowman.)
However, if you wear your biggest and heaviest clothes on the plane, it will save you loads of space when packing. Don’t worry about being warm–you can always de-layer once you get on the plane.
Choose outerwear that packs light while keeping you warm – choose one of the best down jacket styles!
You only need two pairs of shoes: one casual pair for walking, one for going out
My number one rule for packing a carry-on bag is to bring only two pairs of shoes. This is hard for me because I’m a complete shoe addict. I always somehow convince myself I need one black pair, one colored heel, one casual, and one exercise shoe.
The truth is, you only need two pairs of shoes. The two you choose depends on your destination.
Read this guide on how to choose the best travel shoes!
If I were headed to Europe, I’d bring a cute, casual pair that I could wear in the day. Then I’d bring a nice going out shoe (though not a stiletto unless you want to twist your ankle on the cobblestone streets).
However, If I were headed to a tropical beach locale where I wouldn’t be hitting the clubs, I’d bring a nice pair of dress sandals to wear to the beach and dinner, and a pair of hiking shoes that I’m not afraid to get dirty.
Looking for comfortable and cute walking shoes for travel? Read these tips!
Bring more accessories than clothes
I like to pack more accessories than clothes, because accessories take up way less room, and they can switch up an outfit in an instant. So instead of packing extra clothes, pack a statement necklace that will make your outfit feel brand new (even if you’ve already worn it twice that week).
Read the lazy girl’s guide to stylish travel accessories.
Pick more versatile outfits
Top | Tee | Tank | Dress | Jeans | Skirt
Instead of going for one casual, daytime outfit and one nighttime outfit, I pack clothes that can be more versatile. A simple black crop top can go with jeans during the day and a mini skirt at night. This trick can reduce the clothing you pack by half and help you with how to avoid checking luggage!
On the hunt for versatile, fashionable travel wardrobe ideas? Find them here!
Look up the carry-on measurements and utilize them
Delsey Platinum 19″ International Size vs. Black 21″ Carryon Size
Depending on the airline, carry-on measurements can be a lot bigger than you think. Instead of trying to stuff everything in a tiny backpack, look up the measurements you need and get yourself a suitcase that matches that size. You might get a lot more room this way.
But be careful. You don’t want to push your luck and then have to check your bag when you get there. Use this guide to see baggage rules for various airlines.
Looking for the best carry-on suitcase? Read these tips!
Use a personal item and a carry-on
Tumi Backpack | Herschel Backpack
Unless you’re traveling on a super budget airline and working on how to avoid checking luggage, you’ll be allowed one carry-on bag and one personal item. I push the boundaries a bit and make the personal item a small backpack (as long as it can fit under the seat in front of you, you likely won’t have a problem).
This way, I have both my carry-on bag and my backpack. Don’t forget to stuff an extra purse in your backpack so you’ll have something to use during your trip.
Don’t like to travel with backpacks? Here are some of the most recommended in-flight travel purse styles.
What’s a carry-on personal item? Find out and take a look at our top picks!
Ditch the hair appliances and go natural
Travel Flat Curling Iron | Travel Dryer
Being a person with incredibly wild hair, I hated the idea of leaving my straightener behind. The truth is, it’s easy once you get into the groove.
Most hotels will have a hair dryer, and if you’re staying in a hostel, I can almost guarantee one of your hostel roommates will have a straightener or curler for you to borrow (some hostels even provide them in the bathrooms)!
If all fails, I amp up my hair product game, use some serum to stop the frizz, and do a beach wave to enhance my curls.
Take a look at our hostel checklist!
Do you have any other tips on how to avoid checking luggage? Share in the comments below!
For more packing tips, please read:
- 10-Step Packing Guide to Stop Overpacking
- One Bag Travel: Go Luggage Free
- 75 of the Best Travel Packing Tips
- How to Travel Carry-on Only Every Trip
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Author Bio: Sydney is a freelance writer from Los Angeles currently living in Sydney, Australia. She loves all things travel and is happiest when she has a passport in her hand and a pair of cute shoes on her feet!
Some great advice here, especially the packing cubes which I have never used before. I was amazed at how much I could squeeze into them and how much space they saved.
And bring a long scarf that can make an outfit look stylish and double as a confortable small blanket on the plane
I bought those packing cubes for my upcoming trip to the Caribbean. I can’t believe I didn’t know about these sooner!
you’ll love them!
Great advice on how to travel carry on only!
Going on a super long haul in 2 months time, with 28 hours in transit and 2 stopovers each way, so plenty of opportunity for luggage to go missing. This is everything I could ask for, compressed in one very easy to follow blogpost. I am so grateful!
Glad to help Charlotte! You might like this post, too: https://travelfashiongirl.com/airport-transit-tips/