Wear your “cheapskate traveler” badge with pride! You already bought your stuff. Why pay an arm and a leg to haul it around with you? Amirite? Once you’ve caught the travel bug, there’s no stopping you from going on adventure after adventure. But there is something that may slow you down—seriously rude bag checking fees and dragging heavy luggage everywhere you go. PASS. It’s time to pack a carry-on like the savvy nomad you are. Wearing six pairs of underpants beneath two layers of slacks with three sweaters may sound like a great plan (and very attractive), but you’ll end up looking like you’re about to explore the Arctic Circle.

Body - boy playing in snow

Whether you need to get away for the weekend or you want to know how to pack for a long trip without checking a bag, check out these globetrotter-tested, TSA-approved carry-on packing tips instead:

Remember, Size Matters

Sure, the true test of any bag is how you use it, but size (and shape) does matter. Your carry-on luggage needs to fit in the overhead bin when it’s filled to capacity, so take a measuring tape shopping with you, and play the comparison game. We won’t judge. A little structure never hurt either. Soft duffels may be tempting, because they lack deceptively bulky-looking hardware, but a small softshell suitcase makes the most of its space without crumpling and collapsing, while still staying flexible in a tight spot—sounds like the ideal travel buddy, actually.

Make Your Own Rules…After Passing Security

You may be thinking, “Rules? Where we’re going, we don’t need no rules.” Think again, partner. Don’t be that guy holding up the line because he somehow forgot that a fifth of whiskey is both flammable… and a lot of whiskey (you can be that person after you land). Save yourself some time at the security gate by researching current TSA regulations before you leave for the airport. When you know what you can take onboard, go at it. Be sure to ditch everything that doesn’t make the “OK to carry on” list, like sharp objects and large aerosol cans. Yes Banksy, that means no in-flight graffiti for you.

Challenge Accepted

Before you start packing a carry-on, challenge your stuff to some multi-tasking. Do you really need three pairs of shoes—sandals, sneakers, and boots—or can you walk the same streets with your sneaks that you were planning to tread in your half-calf boots? If you can sightsee in the same jacket you wear on the plane, you’re already ahead of the game! We’re not saying your socks need to double as mittens if the weather takes a turn, but if they can, wouldn’t that be awesome?

Roll with the Pouches 

Body - rushing through airport

Have you heard the debates about folding clothes vs. rolling them? It can tear jet-setting families apart (for reals). We’ve tried both packing methods and here’s the deal: Thicker fabrics are tough to roll snugly enough to save space—just imagine the Pillsbury Doughboy trying to roll himself into your bag…Sorry, that got weird. Thinner articles of clothing, on the other hand, roll up and tuck into unused corners like stealthy ninjas. So, what’s our two bits on how to pack a carry-on bag tightly? Think of your luggage as a puzzle. Fold the bulkier “anchor pieces” first and then add your other clothes and supplies as they fit—rolled or folded or wrapped into a tiny ball.

Stuff Your Pockets 

You may have to empty your jeans pockets to get through security, but the outer compartments of your carry-on are fair game, so fill ‘em up. Leave some space free for any last-minute reshuffling or that stack of magazines you pick up from the airport newsstand. If you take a laptop and other electronic gear, give them their own compartment so they’re handy for the security check and some in-flight entertainment. Just because you’re packing light that doesn’t mean you can’t indulge with your favorite episodes of “Downton Abbey” (may it rest in peace). Oh, and you can always stuff your pockets with snacks once you’re through airport security.

Thin the Herd…Again

That sounds brutal, but that’s exactly what you need to bring your baggage down to size. Your haul may do double-duty, but the big question is, do you need all of it? Can you use shampoo at your hotel, or maybe bum some organic, gluten-free body wash off the friend you’re visiting in LA this weekend? Can you leave just one of those long-sleeve shirts behind? If the answer is “Yes,” try leaving two. There’s no shame in being an outfit repeater—or washing your socks in sinks—when you’re charting a new path.

Body - guy relaxing in airport

Savor the Experience, Not the Stuff

Travelling is all about exploring new landscapes, meeting interesting people, sampling intriguing flavors, and seeing what life is like in another neck of the woods. If you’re having trouble parting with your personal sound system or Beanie Babies collection, remember the real good stuff won’t even fit in your suitcase—whether you’re a folder or a roller!

Travel light and live large!