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It’s vacation season, and along with our excitement about hitting the road, we feel fear. Fear of checked-bag fees. There’s flat-rate charges, of course, plus double- and triple-digit extra taxes when the suitcase is just marginally over weight. Makes you wish you could just fit it all in a carry-on, huh? This dream isn’t impossible. Allow me to throw this out there: I can pack a month’s worth of winter clothing in a carry-on.

While some airlines are resizing their overhead spaces, the maximum carry-on luggage dimensions are 22" x 14" x 9" or 56 x 35 x 23 cm (courtesy of Delta Airlines). This can easily fit a large duffle bag, or my personal preference, a hard-shelled zip-up on wheels. With careful planning, one of these can get you through your summer trips without ever having to check a bag.

  • Don’t be afraid to minimize! We all want to bring the comforts of home with us wherever we go, but chances are, you’re staying at a hotel that will already have soap and shampoo in stock. Cut it down to the essentials, because you’ll need to save as much space as you can for your clothes.
  • The MEGA FOLD! I’m sure we’ve all seen the YouTube video of simple yet impossible-to-duplicate Japanese shirt folding. Start with a full-sized adult article of clothing, end with a tiny cube of cotton fabric. While that is an unreachable goal for us mortals, we can fold over double, sometimes triple, to consolidate on space. My method is to either roll up all clothing into tight little logs, or lay everything as paper thin flat as possible.
  • Sit on the box. It’s a tried-and-true technique that is often seen as a sitcom moment, but sitting on your carry-on to make it close often works. Much like vacuum-sealed bags, folding your mini-suitcase over and crushing it down will force the excess air out, keeping clothing and necessities in. Adding a strategic lock to the zippers on your suitcase of duffle will seal the thing shut.
  • Coordinate with your hand bag. Use that space under the seat. A tiny, stylish clutch is not what you want here. Put the clutch in a bigger tote or computer bag, and coordinate your electronics and packing needs between the bag and the suitcase. If you find the right balance, you’ll easily have room for a few souvenirs on the return trip.
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