Luggage/travel (227277)
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Flying is always a part of the hustle and bustle of the holidays. Sometimes it runs smoothly like clockwork; other times it’s a disaster waiting to happen. One way to ensure your Christmas travels go as planned is to travel with just a carry-on suitcase. Not checking a bag gives you the freedom to arrive at the airport a little later, as well as the reassurance that all of your items will arrive at your destination with you and that you won’t have to spend nearly a half-hour in baggage claim after you land. If you follow these six simple tips, not only will you become a seasoned packer, but also you’ll save yourself added stress, wasted time and dozens of possible inconveniences.

Tip 1: Invest in a good suitcase

This tip is No. 1 for a reason. You can’t pack for a week in a carry-on if you don’t have the right equipment. There are only three qualities to a good carry-on suitcase. One, its dimensions should comply with TSA and each individual airline’s regulations (22x14x9 is standard). If not, your bag is useless because they’re just going to ask you check it. Two, it needs to be sturdy and of good quality. Don’t waste your time trying to stuff all of your things into a cheap suitcase or attempt running through the airport with it—the zippers will bust, the wheels will come off or the plastic will bend. And three, make sure it has no dead space. Neither the wheels nor unnecessary pockets should take up space.

Personally, I prefer suitcases with four wheels because they roll easier and have two distinct sections that don’t take away from space; however, if you prefer suitcases with only two wheels (as they are better when walking up inclines) just make sure the inside depth is as deep as the dimensions allow and that it isn’t a hard-shell.

Tip 2: Convert as many toiletries as you can to travel-sized containers

Sure, you may have gotten some liquid past TSA that you shouldn’t have, but don’t count on that happening every time because chances are you’re going to get stopped, they’re going to search your bag and it’s going to add 10 minutes (minimum) to your process. And I hate to mention the obvious, but space is what you’re trying to maximize! Why waste it all in products? Prioritize what is most important. Decide what you can’t get where you’re going, or what would cost the most to replace. Start by packing those into plastic travel containers first. Be sure you have travel-sized toothpaste, mouthwash, body wash, etc. because you’d be surprised by how much room all of those things take up.

Tip 3: Roll clothes (or pack them flat) instead of folding them

Two different techniques, one concept, which is to take up the least amount of space. I personally roll my clothes; that way I can roll other things (see next tip) into them. Well, that and I think my clothes tend to be a little less wrinkled when I roll them. But I have laid clothes flat on top of one another and recognized the saved space. Whichever you prefer, choose a technique and use it. Your clothes will ultimately take up the most room so the more you can squish them together, the more room you free up!

Tip 4: Fight your urge to use bags

I’m pretty OCD when it comes to organization. I don’t like messes or for things to be sloppy, so understand when I say this tip is a constant struggle even for me. Too many bags inside your luggage will take up precious space that you have to be willing to give up. Granted, something things need small bags. My makeup is always in a small bag because I’m not going to chance a catastrophe just to save a little space. My toiletries are also usually in a bag. I say “usually” because there have been times when I truly needed that extra space, so I threw the liquids in a Ziploc bag and wrapped other things (such as my toothbrush and soap holder) in a T-shirt I was already planning on taking. My hair products and tools are things that start off in a small bag, but usually end up packed in the crevices of other things. In that case, I throw my liquid products in with my toiletries, wrap the other things in clothes/tuck them next to my shoes and keep it moving. The goal here? NO DEAD SPACE! Fill space with things you need to pack.

Tip 5: Only bring one pair of heels (two max)

I know this one sucks. Trust me, I know. But this tip helps in two ways. First, heels take up so much space. One pair is ideal; two pairs you can work around. Second, cutting your shoe game down to just one or two pairs helps keep your wardrobe choices to a definite color palette. That alone will help cut down on excess clothing and accessories.

Pro tip: Always pack shoes in shoe bags; having the bottoms of your shoes touch your clean clothes or any of the other things you have floating in your bag is actually pretty gross if you think about it.

Tip 6: Use your one personal item for extra space

This tip is what sets the seasoned travelers apart from the people who travel a few times a year. Every airline allows one bag and one personal item. They define the personal item as a purse, laptop bag or baby bag. However, if you’re smart you can use this personal item as extra space. The key is getting the perfect-sized personal item. It has to be large enough to hold your purse along with other random items but must be small enough not to have attention brought to it. If your suitcase has a spot for a hook, buy one so you can latch your bag onto your suitcase. That way, when you’re in a hurry, you can just attach it and go. Note: Being a good flyer means you’re a considerate flyer, and you should keep this bag at your feet (like they ask you to), especially if you are on a completely full flight. But, if there’s room in my overhead bin I’ll stick it up there. Shhh!

Megan Pinckney (@shadesofpinck) is a retired beauty queen turned lifestyle blogger who loves exploring the world and writing about it.