How I Pack My Carry On Suitcase

Note: Thank you to for sponsoring today’s post. As always though, all opinions are my own. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Something Good.

Yesterday I focused on what I wear on when I travel, but today we’re focusing on something that a lot of you have asked about: how I pack my carry on suitcase.

This was something that I was admittedly not great at for a long time. Thank god for Hitha’s book How to Pack. Between that, packing cubes, and my Away suitcase, I think I’ve almost gotten it down to an art.

I wasn’t sure if I wanted this post to be a step by step guide or just a list of tips, so it’s going to be a mixture of both. The pictures really lay out a step by step of how I pack, while I’ll provide tips as we go.

My first step is my very not elegant, dump everything you need on the bed step.

How I Pack My Carry On Suitcase | Something Good, @danaerinw, how I fit everything into my carry on bag, traveling with just a carry on, travel with away luggage, the away bigger carry on
How I Pack My Carry On Suitcase | Something Good, Away x Gray Malin Coral Bigger Carry On

Normally, my suitcase would be on the floor with my shoes. But there isn’t really enough space for you to see it properly, so for today, it goes on the bed. On the bed I also like to lay out all of the clothes I’m going to need for the trip. I make sure to grab any “must needs” first and then fill in the blanks.*

* Okay, so actually, I’ve done the clothing pre-planning with the tear out planner in Hitha’s book (mentioned earlier). When I’m packing though, I grab the must needs first so I can make sure I don’t forget them.

I also make sure to grab all the shoes I need. Shoes are the most important after all. I’ll also designate from these clothes what will be used for my plane outfit. Those clothes will be set aside so they don’t get packed.

This is also when I would grab socks, underwear, workout clothes, pajamas, and toiletries. For the sake of my privacy, I left those out of these pictures.

How I Pack My Carry On Suitcase | Something Good, @danaerinw , travel capsule wardrobe, how I pack everything into a carry on suitcase, what I pack into my carry on suitcase,

When I’m deciding what clothes to bring, I tend to go for a neutral palette with one or two pops of color. In this case, the pop of color would be the plaid shoes! Everything else though can be mixed and matched and layered (including the sweater I’m wearing). For this trip, I picked a mix of black, navy, white, and tan. As long as I can look at the clothes and start to see different combinations, I know it will sustain me. The only other trick to this is knowing that you’ll have access to laundry (or at least the ability to do some laundry).

Now on to actually packing.

Since I’m packing with my Away suitcase, all of my clothes go into the open compartment which is designed for soft items. I’ll typically fold sweaters and jeans and then roll shirts and leggings. For items like socks, underwear, and workout clothes, this is when I would pull out a packing cube. These are amazing because they keep everything separated within your luggage and you can easily pull them out. You can find really good inexpensive packing cubes, (like packing cubes), on Amazon.

If you’re one of those people who like to put your things into the drawers in hotels, packing cubes are the dream because all you have to do is lift it out of your suitcase and put it into the drawer. No unpacking, no losing clothing items. It’s amazing and I could really preach about them all day. I even spent so long preaching about them at home once that I turned my sister into a packing cubes convert.

How I Pack My Carry On Suitcase | Something Good, @danaerinw , away luggage, soft items section

In the picture above, I have a lot of empty space around my jeans, that’s where I would put the packing cubes!

Next, if you’re using an away suitcase, you’ll pull the tighteners to bring down the compression pad. This helps your clothes from taking up more room in your suitcase.

How I Pack My Carry On Suitcase | Something Good, @danaerinw , away luggage compression panel

How I Pack My Carry On Suitcase | Something Good, @danaerinw, away luggage zipper compartment

Shoes go into the zippered compartment, which is designed for harder items. As I’ve gotten older though, I’ve gotten weirdly cognizant of dirt and therefore a little pickier about how I pack my shoes. I’ve actually started saving the bags that my shoes arrive in (if they arrive in bags). Then, I use those bags to pack my shoes into whenever I’m packing my suitcase. I’ll take how I’ve arranged my shoes below, slide them into bags, and then slide them back into that arrangement.

This section is also great for storing toiletries and any hair tools.

Those will again go into my packing cubes (all the heart emojis) so all of the bottles and things don’t fly around. The packing cubes will be fit into the zipper compartment along with any last minute things I may need to add.

How I Pack My Carry On Suitcase | Something Good, @danaerinw, packing shoes for travel, how to pack shoes in your suitcase

Then just re-zip the compartment and go!

Before I end the post though, there were a few cool things I wanted to share about the Away bag with you.

These little things helped the bag totally win me over during my first trip with it.

First, it comes with it’s own laundry bag!

There’s a little pouch sewn into the bag which contains a bag that you can easily roll and unroll for your laundry. Now you never have to try to remember a bag for laundry (or search for one).

How I Pack My Carry On Suitcase | Something Good, @danaerinw , away luggage zipper compartment

How I Pack My Carry On Suitcase | Something Good, away luggage x gray malin suitcase

Next, the suitcase can charge your phone.

Yes, you heard that right. The Away suitcase comes with a built in charger so if you ever need to charge your phone or laptop you can! Just plug in a usb cord and it’ll start charging.

The charger also pops out, so you can carry it around with you as a portable charger.

How I Pack My Carry On Suitcase | Something Good, @danaerinw, away built in charger

How I Pack My Carry On Suitcase | Something Good, @danaerinw , away luaggage built in phone usb charger

Finally, the bag comes with a TSA-approved lock.

Just program the lock when you first get it and you’re good to go. Only TSA agents will be able to get in, so your bag will be safe!

How I Pack My Carry On Suitcase | Something Good, @danaerinw , away luggage tsa approved lock

How I Pack My Carry On Suitcase | Something Good, @danaerinw , away x gray malin, the bigger carry on, away luggage coral

Here are also the travel questions a few of you asked and what I answered! If you have any more questions, please ask them in the questions below.

  1. If I’m bringing presents, what’s the best way to pack them?

    A: If it’s possible, I would first suggest not wrapping them before you pack them. If it’s at all possible, wrap them once you get there. Depending on what the item is, I would also plan on storing it in the “shoe/hard items” section of your suitcase. For books, I never want the pages to get damaged, so I’ll always layer those between my clothes.

    However, if it’s valuable, don’t pack it in your suitcase. Those things should always be in your carry on bag/backpack with you.

  2. I still don’t have a gift for my in-laws. HELP.

    A: I’m sorry guys, I totally failed on that gift guide. I did some field research and every answer was so personalized that the main answer I came away with was: make it personalized. Figure out what their “treat yo’self” thing would be and get it for them. Otherwise, you can’t go wrong with a gift certificate to their favorite restaurant.

  3.  What’s a good suitcase to use as a carry on?

    A: Were you reading this post? Just kidding…kind of. If you couldn’t tell from this post, I’m in love with Away luggage. I have the Away Carry on and the Away Bigger Carry on and both are amazing. They’re both lightweight and I can easily lift either into overhead compartments (and I’m short, so that’s saying something). The Away Carry On is great for a short trips, but if your trip is longer than three days, go for the Bigger Carry On. Also, if you’re traveling Internationally, know that the Bigger will fit on all major carriers, but the Carry is the only one that will fit on Asian carriers.

    Also, again, Away DID NOT sponsor this post or this mention. I have spent all of my own money on their bags. My link is an affiliate link, but I really love these bags and will preach about them all day.

  4. I’m going to Australia for Christmas and New Years and I can only bring a carry on, help!

    First, you lucky duck, want to bring me? Second, I would suggest picking three colors as neutral bases for your clothes. For example, you could do white, tan, and navy. These will make up the majority of the clothes you bring. Then pick two accent colors that match together well. For example, pale pink and burgundy. Use those colors for your pieces that will add pops of color.

    This next part is going to sound crazy, but I promise it’s real, you only need to pack three pairs of shoes. I know, crazy, right? But really think about your vacations, how many shoes do you actually wear? You just stick to your favorites, right? So save yourself the time and room in your suitcase and just bring those.

    Hopefully that helps!

Phew, that was way more than I expected!

If you have any questions, please feel free to leave them in the comments below. I’m also sharing all of the pieces that I included in the post so you can shop them as well!

PS You can also shop Away at West Elm!

Photography by Kimberly Graydon

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  • Ooh jealous of that fab suitcase. I recently got a similar one from Herschel and am loving it compared to the rolling duffel I’ve used for years – but yours is even prettier and more full of bells & whistles. And yes, I totally do that “dump everything on the bed” step – crucial! 🙂

    • Haha, the dumping everything on the bed step is what guarantees success!