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    Here’s How To Pack Carry On–Only Without Using Hotel Shampoo

    Take it from someone who just traveled 2.5 weeks and took eight flights carrying on only.

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    1. TRIPLE check the size constraints for every single airline you'll be flying on your trip so you aren't forced to gate-check an oversized (according to the airline) bag.

    diagram of baggage allowance for EasyJet flights

    2. Also use a digital luggage scale to make sure that you aren't slammed with an overweight luggage fee (ugh) or having to move stuff from your carryon bag to your personal item to avoid said fee (also, ugh). Yes, sometimes airlines will actually check the weight of your carry-on! Sigh. 

    hand held luggage scale

    Promising review: "We use this on every trip to avoid paying for extra weight as we travel internationally quite often. I have tested in several ways and also always note the weigh number in the airport. After several trips, I can say that the accuracy of it is right within 2 lbs. I have it for almost two years and still using the same batteries." —Cass Young

    Get it from Amazon for $10.99.

    3. Or buy a BuzzFeed shopping staffer fave Beis suitcase that has a built-in scale that does the heavy lifting (and measuring) for you.

    model with the roller carry on suitcase

    4. If you're flying internationally, just use a plain old plastic baggy for your toiletries so you aren't forced to sacrifice your beloved face serum at security.

    I have a gorgeous reusable toiletries bag that I constantly travel with domestically in the US. But every single time I try to use it when going through security in a European airport, I'm made to switch to a plastic baggy that's the EXACT size constraint. I've learned my lesson and have just started keeping the plastic baggy left over from a trip to pack my toiletries in from the jump. Yes, it's more wasteful but rules are rules!

    5. Use a packing list to make sure you get every last thing you need. Alternatively you can use a note on your phone, but sometimes writing stuff down is just more effective for some folks!


    Promising review: "We travel frequently and have two children. As any parent knows, packing for yourself and your children can be overwhelming — especially for trip longer than a few days. I have found this list to be a lifesaver and I also give it as a gift for other traveling families. It is easy to plan, organize, and list out items that are easily forgotten. You can also list the quantity of each item needed. Overall, a wonderful purchase and has likely saved me many forgotten items!" —Mike D.

    Get it from Amazon for $7.

    6. When you start planning your outfits and toiletries, consider what you need to be comfortable. After all, discomforts are a distraction from all the fun you'll be having.

    For example, if you're a super light sleeper and struggle in new environments, it's probably worth throwing in your white noise machine to help you get some Zzzzzs instead of that baseball cap you always take to the beach but never end up wearing. 

    7. And do a bit of research about your destination before you start planning outfits and other essentials to help zero in on other things you'll need but probably aren't top of mind.

    View this video on YouTube

    For example, I watched the above video before I went to Croatia last summer with FTLO (I love the Wolters World YouTube channel!) and learned that, yep, I needed water shoes. And I was so grateful that I packed them because 1) they were very expensive in Croatia and 2) someone in my group who didn't wear them stepped on a sea urchin. And yep, there was blood. 

    8. If you're a visual person, take pics of your outfits you can reference later and match up with activities you'll be doing. Or, at the very least, you'll know what goes with what when you pull stuff out of your suitcase at your destination.

    dress on floor with a purse and sandals beside of it

    9. Try to pack only two purses, max. Yes, your bags are cute and you wear them proudly. But they also end up taking quite a bit of room in your suitcase...even when you stuff smaller items into them to save space.

    I will never shut up about this wonderful JW PEI purse I've taken on multiple trips to different countries. On my recent trip to France, Monaco, Spain, and Greece I brought that and a secondhand MCM crossbody barrel bag that both served me well. But! I mainly just carried the JW PEI purse.

    10. Wear your bulkiest stuff on the plane. Yes, it's the oldest trick in the book but planes are cold and you probably want to wear long pants, a sweatshirt, and sneakers that completely cover your feet anyway.

    writer's white sneakers on a mosaic tile floor with a sea creature motif

    11. If you're going on a beach vacation, try to only pack one or two coverups that also function as normal nonbeach outfits.

    12. Embrace rewearing clothing items. It's perfectly fine and fun to repeat outfits!

    That's it. That's the tip. 

    13. Cope with the fact that you'll likely have to launder some clothes if your trip is a week or longer. Pack some laundry soap sheets (seriously they take up VERY little room) you won't even have to slip into your toiletries bag if you're flying. They're perfect for hotel sink-washing. 

    collection of shaving sheets, body wash sheets, and shampoo sheets

    I just came off a 2.5-week Europe trip (I stayed in Nice, Barcelona, Mallorca, and Rhodes Island, Greece) and only had in-unit laundry in one of those places. These sheets were a lifesaver for washing underwear, clothes that I sweated SOOOOOO much in, and also swimsuits that were laden with very salty sea water. They got the job done and I even found that the towel-warming rack in my Nice hotel did a fine job of hang drying my hand-washed undies much faster! Now, I went through about half of the sheets because my friend and I were having to wash a lot. But it was such a small investment (size- and money-wise) to keep our travel loads significantly lighter. 

    Promising review: "This came SO in handy during my vacation to Europe! I was making lots of different stops to places with different types of weather. With these laundry soap sheets I was able to wash my clothes in the sink — letting me pack just the right amount of clothes for all the different places I went." —Katie Fujarski

    Get it from Amazon for $7.19 (available in four other styles, including hand soap and shampoo).

    14. Lean on accessories like sunnies, jewelry, scarves, and easily rolled bucket hats that'll take up minimal packing space while serving as the finishing touches on outfits you're rewearing to make them feel special and fresh...even if you're sweating out seemingly every toxin in a heatwave.

    writer wearing an animal print bucket hat and matching mask with sunglasses

    15. Make the best use of your personal item (that'll fit under an airplane seat) with a Beis backpack that zips open like a suitcase without *looking* like one of those backpacks that does that. It's sleek and minimalist on the outside while allowing you to pack a weekend's worth of stuff into it (unless you're an overpacker). OK if you're an overpacker, it's just an overnight bag. 

    open backpack stuffed full of things for a long weekend.
    stacks of some clothes packed in the backpack
    Elizabeth Lilly / BuzzFeed

    I snagged this backpack after hearing my colleague Chelsea Stuart sing its praises. I had a trusty (now discontinued) InCase backpack I used as a personal item and served me well on dozens of trips for about five years. But I wanted a bag for some upcoming travel (2.5 weeks in Europe with *just* carry-on for five flights) that opens up like a suitcase for easier packing. Since buying, I've taken it on two long weekend trips (Amtrak to Newport, RI, for a wedding and regional train to a CT country lake house) with no complaints. In fact, for both of those trips I packed MORE than I needed

    Inside, you'll find a mesh zippered pocket and a plastic pocket perfect for your toiletries. I can fit enough wet toilet toiletries in the second pocket as I'd be allowed to carry-on for a plane. In the mesh pocket I put other necessities like cotton swabs, medicine, eye glasses, etc. The main compartment is deceptively deep so you can easily roll clothes and Lego-fit them in together without using packing cubes. In fact, I fit all of the stuff in the second picture in that section (a romper, PJs, a bikini, sunscreen, five pairs of undies, a pair of jean shorts, nap dress, three pairs of socks, two pairs of sandals, two T-shirts, a slip skirt, sleep mask, curling iron, mini flat iron, makeup bag, and tote bag). AND it has stretchy X-straps to keep it all secure like you'd see in a roller suitcase so when I unzip it, everything stays put. But before I forget, there's a separate cushioned laptop pocket close to the backpack straps that I found works well for books or a Kindle if your travel leaves you laptop-less. 

    I love that this backpack has DEEP side pockets so your umbrella or water bottle won't fall out. In fact, I stuck a flashlight and an umbrella in one side pocket. (You could always use a flashlight.) Plus! It has a generously sized pocket on the front of the backpack with easy access for sunglasses, snacks, writing pens...all sorts of those little extras you need to access quickly. To top it all off, the backpack straps and top handle are STURDY. I felt totally secure toting it around and slinging it into overhead storage compartments on the trains. I love the look and construction of it with faux leather and sturdy black canvas, and the trolley passthrough to easily fit on my roller suitcase I'm about to drag through a bunch of airports. At nearly $80, this isn't the cheapest backpack option but if you're a frequent traveler, you'll get so much mileage on it and seriously save on some baggage fees, making it well worth the cost. This backpack and I are going places, for sure. 

    NOW when it comes to air travel, you won't be able to put your wet toiletries in the waterproof pocket (as I have in the above pic for a train trip). But! Lots of nonliquid toiletries and essentials fit in there just fine. 

    Get it from Beis Travel for $78 (also available in beige). 

    16. Or use a bag you'll want to carry around on your trip as your personal item on the plane. This particular tote would be useful as a day bag (of course keep your valuables zipped up concealed and tucked away inside) with plenty of room for your souvenirs. 

    reviewer pic of tote bag on bed beside of cat
    another reviewer's pic of pink bag hanging on wall hook

    Promising review: "It is hard to complain about an item that is exactly what you are looking for. Come on, the price point can't be beat, the lovely extra that came with the bag (bag scarf) is super cute. This is a bag I use to hold a few extra items for quick trips out of town. This bag is a composite product, like tennis shoes and the like. There is almost always that 'new car' smell, which is one way to describe it, for these types of items. But unlike a new car, this is a barely detectable smell, that is faint and is gone by the time you threw the packaging away. Zero complaints, will buy in other colors!" —D.S.

    Get it from Amazon for $13.99+ (available in a variety of colors).

    17. If you're going to the beach, try a *washable* market bag that'll ball up really tiny in your bag and can serve as a beach bag without getting too gross. I'm able to easily use a pouch (that I used in my packing) to hide necessities inside the bag for tons of beach days. And one of these bags weigh next to nothing, so it'll be like adding hardly anything to your suitcase.

    person sitting by the ocean with some fruit in the bag

    Promising review: "I use these when I travel and as a pool/beach bag! Perfect for if you need to pack it in your suitcase! One bag has ripped slightly, so be careful they don't snag on things! Love these bags and will probably order more." —DAS

    Get four bags from Amazon for $12.99.

    18. Consider a set of compression bags if you're not beholden to carry-on weight limits (v much more of a thing for European flying these days) and tend to overpack. Here's your sweet spot ;). And in the event that security has to go through your bag (it happens!), this'll make it a bit easier for them to sort through your stuff. 

    several clothing items folded and not in bag
    clothing items compact in the bag

    And they come with a hand pump for travel!

    Promising review: "This is a great product. I have a memory foam pillow that I try to take on trips, due to neck issues, so I purchased this product and put it to the test to see if it could flatten the pillow so I can also carry my clothes and the pillow in the same bag, carry-on size travel bag. The pillow's been sitting in the vacuum pack for the last three days now and hasn't let any air into the package at all. The pump removed so much air that the foam is as solid as a rock with less that an 1/8 of an inch of give when I press on it firmly with my thumb." —4-H Shooting Sports Instructor

    Get a pack of five from Amazon for $15.99+ (available in four sizes).

    19. Or invest in a collection of compression packing cubes you can use over and over again without having to remember to pack a pump for sucking out the air.

    stack of thick sweaters and then it in the compression cube
    the full cube and then showing it zipped and compact

    Again, just be sure to look up any weight restrictions on carry-on luggage. I ran into that problem last summer (it was in Croatia while flying British Airways, btw), but the person at the airport check-in counter that gave me some trouble about my bag just seemed to care about my roller carry-on. So I'd suggest using these in a backpack or tote bag you plan to put under the seat.

    Promising review: "Easy to clean, lightweight material. All of the compression bags have a mesh front which makes it easy to see what’s inside, plus there is a small clear vinyl pocket on the front for a label. I tested one of the medium bags with four sweaters (one long and bulky, plus three medium-thickness pullovers). They fit in the bag nicely with the bag zipped closed (not compressed yet). It was not difficult to zip the compression closure, although I did take special care to push down and 'help' the zipper along. No signs of strain or damage to the zippers once fully closed. These bags seem very sturdy. As seen in the pictures, there is a significant size reduction! Will definitely use in my travels and would highly recommend." —Clarissa Sheats

    Get a pack of six from Amazon for $25.99 (available in three colors).

    20. When possible, use containers and pouches that fit the length of your trip.

    large pill box and then small container for pills

    21. Opt for soft-sided pouches and organizers in your suitcase so everything can Lego-fit in more easily...especially if you have multiple legs on your trip and will be constantly packing and unpacking. (It also makes it easier when TSA decides to go through your bag.)

    three various pouches

    22. Try out the TSA-friendly versions of toiletries (like this sensitive skin–friendly deo) you'll be using BEFORE your trip to see if they work well for you (and head off any potential allergic reactions or subpar results).

    hand holding white deodorant tube

    At home I always use gel Mitchum deodorant and opted for a random solid deo at the drugstore labeled for sensitive skin for a trip last summer. Let me tell you, my pits did NOT react well to it. It looked like I had chemical burns! Since then, I've switched to this Vanicream solid deo for traveling. It's super effective but doesn't irritate my sensitive skin. And there are lots of reviewers with sensitive skin that would agree. 

    Promising review: "I recently developed a serious reaction to antiperspirants. My underarms would break out in a horrible, painful red rash. So I tried different 'natural deodorants.' They did not break out my underarms, but they didn't really work! So I tried Vanicream after reading several reviews. IT WORKS!! My underarms don't break out, and it works as well as any antiperspirant/deodorant on the market. After my first order, I ordered two more. Couldn't be more relieved and happy to find this product!!" —Amazon Customer

    Get it from Amazon for $9.99.

    23. There are lots of *good* solid shampoo and conditioners (that are TSA-friendly!) on the market so you aren't beholden to whatever's in your hotel or rental's bathroom. 

    round conditioner bar in palm
    writer with naturally curly hair
    Elizabeth Lilly / BuzzFeed

    This is me on a week-long trip to Croatia last year with three city stops that I did a carry-on only for, knowing I had a tight layover in Amsterdam and would be riding two ferries. But, um, my hair had to look good for wonderful sunset photo ops such as this (the bar is Buza Bar in Dubrovnik, go there!). So I packed a shampoo bar by another brand that I felt pretty meh about and this wonderful new go-to bar. Here, I used hotel shampoo (it was pretty fancy, NGL), this shampoo bar, and my roommate's Moroccan Oil curl cream. The bar is basically foolproof. You rub it directly on your wet hair after rinsing out your shampoo. I normally wash my naturally curly hair once or twice a week but on this trip was taking daily dips in the sea, so I washed my hair 5x over a week. Because of this, I let the conditioner sit for a few minutes, though you probably don't need to do that if you're washing your hair your usual amount on your trip. Each bar is supposed to last 200 washes and it might do a little less for me, but I know this'll be good for many future trips! I've used it on about five trips now and it doesn't look any smaller than it did when I used it the first time. 

    Get it from Amazon for $13.97.

    24. But! If your trip has you staying in one spot or getting from one destination to another with nonairplane transport, consider buying some shampoo and conditioner close to your hotel. That goes for any basic toiletry you'll likely use up on your trip.

    Sometimes this can end up costing about the same amount as buying some travel-size things. Do a quick google of your accommodations to see if there's a market, grocery store, or something else nearby (FYI, pharmacies can be expensive) as an option for buying toiletries. 

    25. Buy sunscreen at the destination. Seriously. Yes, it might cost you a pretty penny. But it'll end up being the right decision because you need more than a TSA toiletry size of sunscreen and you shouldn't skimp.

    hand holding a can of sunscreen

    26. But if you absolutely don't want to show up empty-handed when it comes to SPF, a *solid* Neutrogena SPF 50 sunscreen is worth throwing in your bag. 

    model applying solid sunscreen to face

    I first bought this for a weeklong Croatian vacation last year when I did carry-on, and as long as you are *thoroughly* reapplying, this stuff stays on pretty well. On a beach club afternoon, I did haphazardly reapply and missed a strip on one arm, but I tend to do that with spray-on or lotion sunscreen, too. Since then, I've packed this for any trip I've been on, including a two-day Disneyland trip where I toted this around in my bag and shared with friends. I sometimes carry it with me in my purse on my everyday adventures because I know it's so easy to apply. Also worth mentioning...I am about the palest lady you've ever seen and swear by daily application of sunscreen. But when on a beach trip, I'm constantly swimming in the water and sweating. So yeah, this stuff works. 

    And if you're a bit hesitant about jumping on the solid sunscreen bandwagon, you can pack a stick of this, knowing you have enough sun protection to get you through to finding some spray-on or lotion SPF at your destination. 

    Get it from Amazon for $10.17.

    27. And there are lots of other swaps for typically "wet" bug-repellant wipes, hand sanitizer wipes, toothpaste tablets, mouthwash tablets, and more. This'll keep you ready like a Girl Scout without having to trust the airline with your suitcase.

    packet of laundry sheets, containers of mouthwash and toothpaste tablets

    28. Pare down your makeup routine with multi-use items, like a Fluide universal crayon so you can add shimmer in all sorts of ways on your eyelids, lips, and cheekbones without weighing down your toiletry bag with another liquid. 

    Model applying orange shimmer to eyelids
    a different model wearing the shade celestial
    Fluide, Amazon

    Fluide is a queer-owned and woman-owned small business specializing in vegan, cruelty-free and paraben-free cosmetics.

    Promising review: "I'm a huge fan of quick and easy enhancements and it doesn't get any easier than this. Drag across your eyelids, lips, rub into your cheeks and nose for a fabulous rosy shimmer." —Teneca Kennedy

    Get it from Fluide or Amazon for $12 (available in four colors).

    29. Free up a BIT of room in your suitcase (maybe just a little!) by packing up toiletries you'll use up within the time that you're on your trip.

    For example, that mascara that maybe has a week or two left it in it can be tossed at your hotel before you leave for the airport. And that container of face serum on its way out will be staying on vacation...forever.

    Additionally, I've DEFINITELY thrown away a pair of cheap sandals or two at the end of a trip because, upon closer inspection during packing, they were on their last leg (lol) after tons of walking on my trip and wouldn't last more than a wear or two at home. (Have you ever had a sandal strap break on you in public? It's awful.)

    30. Decant your fave fragrance into a pocket-sized, refillable travel perfume atomizer you simply pump on your normal size perfume bottle. Besides, this is much more compact than the travel size perfume rollers you can grab at Sephora. 

    atomizer pumping on a perfume bottle
    Elizabeth Lilly / BuzzFeed

    ^ That's me pumping my signature perfume into one of these travel atomizers I've been using for about a year. As the reviewer down below mentions, it's great to just throw in your purse on the reg for a fragrance re-up throughout the day. As you can see, it's about the size of my thumb and therefore takes up very little room. Plus! It's smaller than most rollerball travel fragrances you can pick up. This first one is working so well, that I just have the other three in storage. But if this one bites the dust this summer during travels, I'll be OK about digging into my stores to use one of the remaining three...especially at this price point. 

    Promising review: "These work so great. Love it!!! I put my favorite perfumes in each one. When I wear a perfume I put the matching one to the perfume I’m wearing for the day in my purse. So I can freshen up my scent later! I like to smell pretty all day!!! They are small and compact but hold enough before you have to refill as well." —Nikki

    Get a four-pack from Amazon for $8.99.

    31. And if it's worth it to you, consider styling your hair in the way that requires the least amount of effort and fewest products. Maybe pack some curl cream instead of your beloved, bulky round brush hair dryer.

    writer with curly hair on a boat

    32. Use a satin pillowcase (you should tbh be packing for your best vacation hair ever) as a next-to-nothing-dust bag for your purses.

    Even the dust bags that come with your nice purses can be a bit bulky!

    33. And then, obviously, use up any free space in your bags and shoes to stuff in socks, undies, whatever.

    Check out Rebag's guide on bag storage to learn more about why stuffing your bags is a good idea when not in use. 

    34. If you're a dress person and your destination clothing standards jibe with shorter dresses, opt for mainly above-the-knee options because they'll in general take up less space in the suitcase than midi or maxi dresses. Like, this satin spaghetti strap dress will serve you well for fancy occasions in your travels.

    Promising review: "I recommend 100%. I loved the fit and and was super comfortable. Got a lot of compliments about it and it was accurate on the size. Perfect!" —Cynthia Arizpe

    Get it from Amazon for $9.99+ (available in sizes XL–4X and eight colors).

    35. But! Slip dresses will look incredibly chic and take up a minuscule amount of space in your suitcase.

    writer in a black spaghetti strap slip dress

    36. And that also obviously goes for a silky slip skirt that can up the ante with any of the tops in your suitcase...or maybe even a new top you acquired on your travels?

    A model wearing the skirt in dark olive
    reviewer wearing the green slip skirt with a crop top

    FYI, if you have Amazon Prime Wardrobe you can give this a spin before you buy it!

    Promising review: "Obsessed. This is exactly what I have been looking for, and now I want one in every color. It is so soft, fit perfectly, and is made from great material (as in it's not too thin). It washes well too! You will NOT regret buying this. Buy this now." —Chelsea S.

    Get it from Amazon for $12.10+ (available in sizes XXS–5X and 20 colors/ patterns).

    37. OK OK, and cotton nap dresses are also a decent covered-up option that'll be light and airy enough so they won't hog a bunch of suitcase room. (And because they're so airy, they'll freshen up post-sweating during a Vatican Museum tour vs clothing made out of synthetic fabrics.)

    writer in a midi length dress with off the shoulder puff sleeves sitting on the wall of a bridge
    writer wearing the same dress with hand stuck in mouth of a statue
    Elizabeth Lilly / BuzzFeed

    FYI, if you have Amazon Prime Wardrobe you can give this a spin before you buy it!   

    I know, I look SO elegant and not at all like I've been running on ~three hours of sleep a night for going on a week at this point of my vacation, right?! I packed this dress for Italy knowing that I'd be going in lots of churches and religious sites that require having your shoulders and knees covered, and I pulled it off with this by merely slipping the sleeves up higher (as seen on the right when visiting the church with The Mouth of Truth from A Roman Holiday...turns out I'm NOT a liar after all). But I owned this dress months before I touched down in Rome and have been racking up compliments from strangers on the streets of NYC thanks to this frock. ("Thanks! It's from Amazon!') It washes well, is super lightweight, and very easy to wear with a regular bra. The only thing it *doesn't* have is pockets. But I'll make an exception for this comfy beaut.

    Get it from Amazon for $32.99 (available in sizes XS–XL and eight colors).

    38. Let your products pull double duty for you, like versatile lightweight shawl you can even wrap up in on the plane then at night when it gets a bit chillier but it doesn't quite call for a jacket. 

    Promising review: "Absolutely love this shawl! The color is a true red and will work beautifully for several outfits. I bought it specifically for travel...easy to pack in carryon bag and warmth without weight." —bojangles

    "Wore on a trip to Morocco. Lightweight and versatile. Wear it as a traditional scarf, draped over front, or as a head scarf. Good quality and color pigment." —Micki R. Leesch

    Get it from Amazon for $11.89+ (available in 38 colors).

    39. If you're traveling in warm weather, bring along a pair of ~flexible~ flat sandals that'll pack very easily and look nice enough for when you don't wanna bother with sneakers. (They'll also be great in case your feet swell when you travel.) 

    And at this price, you can wear them to death on a weeklong trip (like I did with a similar pair of Old Navy sandals on a weeklong trip to Croatia, s/o to For The Love of Travel!) to activities like walking tours, dinner, clubbing even(!!), and if you're really desperate, kayaking (like I said about wearing them to death). 

    Promising review: "These are so comfortable, I wore them every day on vacation and didn’t even get a single blister. However I have no arch so I don’t think they would have enough support for people who do. The 'leather' parts are very soft and not stiff. These will be my everyday shoes this summer for sure." —