How to Pack a Carry-On — The Right Way

Folding technique makes the difference between cruising off the plane with a carry-on and spending an hour at baggage claim.

Henry Phillips

Before a vacation, the thought of packing looms dark and dense overhead. It’s a chore undertaken with the knowledge that something is bound to be forgotten, and that overpacking one category often means neglecting another. Packing, then, is an art form — one that’s easily mastered with a bit of guidance.

“The number-one mistake that people make is packing for every potential occurrence, rather than what they need,” says Anna Bauer, a certified organization and packing specialist and Thumbtack pro, noting that while a vacation may be a getaway, it’s not a trip to an alternate reality. “Who you are in your everyday life is exactly who you’ll be on vacation. You’re not going to start wearing things you typically never wear.” In other words, stick to the comfortable and the familiar.

How a suitcase is packed is just as important as what goes inside it. Here, Bauer shares her guiding principles for more efficient packing:

Fold, don’t roll. “Rolling actually makes your clothes more wrinkled, it takes up more room, and if you’re using space-saving packing tools, rolling just isn’t a good technique.” The much-hyped KonMari method of folding offers maximum efficiency, allowing individual items to stand vertically and squeeze into narrower spaces.

Compartmentalize. Organizational tools — packing cubes, vacuum bags, even Ziploc bags — facilitate more thoughtful packing. “They keep you accountable in terms of quantities, because you can only fit so many items in a bag,” Bauer explains. She prefers the Flight 001 Spacepak ($46), which has one-way air valves to allow the bag to compress down, taking up less space and reducing wrinkles. It’s large enough to hold two weeks worth of clothing and has separate zipper compartments for clean and dirty clothes.

Think in layers. “People often make the mistake of packing bulky items instead of many smaller layers. Think in terms of different layers that can be worn together and separately, especially during early summer, when mornings tend to be cool, afternoons are warm, and the temperature goes back down at night.”

Do laundry (yes, really). “People will go on two-week vacations and pack 20 pairs of underwear and 20 pairs of socks. That takes up a lot of room in your suitcase,” Bauer says. “But packing five to seven pairs of underwear and socks, and knowing that you can do laundry at an Airbnb, at a hotel, or, worst-case scenario, wash by hand in a hotel sink, is far cheaper than having to check a bag. It goes back to the concept of a vacation still being your reality — there are still places to do laundry.”

How To Fold

Maximize Space, Minimize Wrinkles



FSC T-Shirt by Freeman Sporting Club $48

Fold the shirt horizontally into thirds, tucking sleeves back as needed. Bring the neckline down an inch from the bottom of the shirt, and roll it vertically into thirds.

Button-Up Shirt


Beach Stripe Linen Shirt by Corridor $165

Make sure that the top, middle and bottom buttons are closed in order to allow the shirt to keep its form. Fold the shirt in half vertically, using the button placket as a crease. Fold the sleeves in toward the body. Bring the bottom of the shirt up to the armpit or base of the sleeve. Fold in half again, making sure to keep the collar neatly creased.



Traveler Chino by Outerknown $95

Fold the pants in half, horizontally, so that the back pockets are visible. Bring the bottom of the pants up to the top of the back pocket. Fold up into thirds. When placing folded pants in a bag, lay them in alternating directions, so that the thicker, waistband sides are not stacked.



Fatigue Comfort Shorts by Woolrich John Rich & Bros. $125

Fold the the outside of each leg across the middle, into thirds. Roll vertically into thirds.

Pack It Up


A22 Carry by Raden $345
Cottesloe Towel by Mayde $52
Traveler Chino by Outerknown $95
Fatigue Comfort Shorts by Woolrich John Rich & Bros. $125
FSC T-Shirt by Freeman Sporting Club $48
Beach Stripe Linen Shirt by Corridor $165
Premium Leather Sk8-Hi by Vans $85

While lining up folded items is a central tenet of the KonMari method, Bauer recommends stacking pants on top of each other in alternating directions so that the thicker waistbands are not directly on top of each other. Stack shoes at the bottom of the bag, with soles facing downward, “that way, when the bag is upright, dirt from shoes isn’t falling down onto clean clothes,” she explains.

Place miscellaneous small items — a dopp kit, socks, underwear — on top of the clothing. To free up even more space, plan to wear bulkier items (like thick sweaters or heavy boots) while in transit.

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