We’ve all been there…expensive checked luggage and tight, complicated airline regulations have us stuffing our carry-ons until the zipper is bursting!
Plenty of people probably snicker behind me as I throw my huge Cabin Max backpack (here is one that converts to a trolley) and VS Weekender Tote onto the security conveyer and start pulling out my electronics, liquids, and electric hair tools. But knowing that I fit one and a half to two weeks worth of clothes (three weeks in the summer) into a carry-on and a hand bag has me with the last laugh.
Now, I am not a backpacker. I travel cheap (and buy cheaper), but I am no vagabond or camper (although I wish I could be). The Cabin Max backpack and Cabin Max wheeled bag are not for use as a traveling or camping backpack for long hauls of carrying time, but when it comes to plane hopping, this durable backpack is a must for me.
For one, it is useful getting on and off a plane, and walking through the cobble stoned streets of Europe to get to a hostel. Many rolling luggages will not easily make it through rough terrain.
Two, as long as your backpack can fit into the luggage rack provided by the airline, attendants don’t seem to question the weight of it when you are carrying your luggage on your back (budget airlines have 10kg limits on carry-on luggage).
Three, backpacks are expandable! Whenever I think mine is full, I can always find a small pocket of space.
So even though my backpack is always past the weight limit (ssshhh…don’t tell), and maybe even the dimension limit when it is stretched, I always have my boarding pass printed, never go to the check-in desk or airline customer service, and I am able to slide straight through security.
If you still aren’t sure about having to carry all of your things on your back, or if you’re not sure of the sturdiness of a backpack converted to trolley, try these conventional rolling carry-ons from Aerolite or Samsonite . I like these two rolling luggages because the wheels are low to the ground and do not take up much space. This may not allow for a full 360 rotational spin, but it does provide you with more room, as the measurements are taken from ground up. If you purchase a carry-on with tall wheels and suspension, your wheels are taking up most of your space allowance.
To find out more on luggage allowance dimensions, click here to find a simple, color-coded periodic table of hand luggage. And speaking of space, I’m sure you are wondering how I maximize the 55cm x 40cm x 20cm (21.5″ x 15.5″ x 8″) of space that Ryanair and most other budget European airlines allow. Below, you will find a guide for Packing to the Max (and keeping your clothes wrinkle free):
- Choose all of the items you want to bring and lay them out!
- Put flat shoes in a plastic bag (for sanitary purposes) at the bottom of your carry-on; wear any bulky, but comfortable shoes, while traveling. Roll small items like underwear, tank tops, belts, athletic shorts, and place in the bottom of your carry-on filling in the space around the shoes until you have made one flat, leveled layer of clothes and shoes.
- Lay jeans/pants out flat, side-by-side, perpendicular to the bag. I usually bring three pairs and wear one during travel!
- Begin laying out each of your shirts, skirts, and dresses one on top of the other. Make sure that each layer of clothes is taking up as much square area of the bag as possible. If any of your shirts are long sleeved, fold the sleeves parallel to each other, across the shirt. I usually wear my thickest layer during travel, especially since you can usually carry a coat in your arms when boarding the plane!
- Once you have laid out your last large clothing item, place any small, thin leftover items into the center and begin to tightly fold each layer into itself and around the items in the center. Folding the layers around themselves should make a tight, square bundle. Be sure to smooth out any kinks or creases in the fabric.
- Once all of your clothing is folded in, you can slide this bundle into a plastic vacuum bag to compact the items even more. You can find vacuum bags at most of your local Walgreens or Wal-Mart, or Here on Amazon. Plus vacuum bags help keep your clothes fresh and wrinkle free. But if you feel there is sufficient space left for toiletries and electronics, you can leave the bundle of items as is.
- At this point, I always zip up my bag and toss it onto my shoulders so everything sort of settles down into place. If you have an upright roller, zip-up the bag and stand it up-right. After I do this, I can usually find more space at the top of my luggage for toiletries and odds and ends like bras and chargers.
- If you have a bag with a laptop pocket, like I do, you will be able to slide your laptop right into the pocket. But if you are lacking storage space, make sure your toiletries, electronics, and laptop are the last to go in and accessible for easy removal at airport security.
- If you are traveling on an airline that allows for a handbag, I always use a tote with the max dimensions. In the tote I usually pack my toiletries and liquids (remember liquids must be in a clear plastic quart size bag), laptop charger, and any other shoes I want to bring. *airlines only allow for one quart size liquid bag but I have gotten through most major airports in Europe, EXCEPT COPENHAGEN, with two clear quart size liquid bags. I always put the two bags into different security bins*
And just in case you got lost along the way: Here is a video that inspired my packing method!
So now, GET TO PACKING!!