Pack Like a Pro: Carry-On Bag

It’s summer vacation time which means the suitcases are being dug out of the attic, the travel toiletries are being bought, and the carry-ons are being packed. Whether you’re headed to a tropical paradise or you plan on escaping the heat by heading north, whether you’re taking a redeye or filling up the minivan, you probably want to pack as lightly as possible, but still be able to haul everything you might need. Most people like to travel with just a carry-on suitcase due to the convenience, but many are unsure of how to fit everything they want to bring into that smaller size bag. We’re here to show you how to pack a carry-on like an expert, by using just a bit of creativity, some efficient thinking, and being able to master the “bundle”.

The Bundle Method

There are several different ways to effectively pack a carry-on bag and just as people prefer chocolate over vanilla, you will prefer one way over another, depending on what best works for your situation and travel essentials. We’re sharing a couple of our favorite ideas that are crowd pleasers for many experienced travelers. Whether you’re packing for your children, for yourself, or for your husband, and regardless of what bag you’re using, hard shell, soft shell, or duffel, packing with The Bundle Method works like a charm!

Product Recommendation

We’re using our favorite 22” Crossover Rolling Upright carry-on from Thule. This heavy-duty, sleek looking, and feature-packed carry-on definitely will keep you organized, well packed, and your belongings safe and secure while traveling this summer.

With three grab handles, a sturdy V-tubing telescoping handle, and rugged oversized wheels, Thule makes it extra easy to take this carry-on with you wherever you’re headed. The 22” Crossover Rolling Upright meets most carry-on regulations, but can also be extended by 2” and checked if you need even more room.

Even though considered a soft-shell bag, Thule made this carry-on super tough, with a solid exoskeleton and molded polypropylene back panel, not to mention water-resistant fabric and a unique lockable and removable SafeZone compartment, perfect for storing sunglasses, electronics, and other valuables. The quick access front pocket can hold passports and travel documents, while the piggy-back strap gives you an extra hand by easily holding an additional beach bag, purse, or neck pillow.

Inside the Crossover Rolling Upright you have an included (but removable) tri-fold suiter and cinch bag for separating certain outfits and accessories, compression straps for holding everything in place, and two mesh zippered pockets for extra organization. A do-it-all bag perfect for holding your Bundle Method of clothing!


22″ Crossover Rolling Upright


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The great thing about The Bundle Method of packing is there’s no need for any other organization tools, such as packing cubes, to master it. Simply use your own two hands and a bit of patience and practice. Save your money for vacation while still being able to pack just as good, if not better, than adding in all those pricey extras.

Here’s how it’s done. And remember, practice makes perfect!
  • Start with a small, filled bag of some sort, such as a Ziploc bag packed with socks and underwear or a toiletry bag, and set it aside. This will be your core.
  • Do your bundling on a flat surface, such as the floor or a bed. Round up all the clothing you will be packing for your trip.
  • Lay a piece of clothing flat on your surface, and then start to layer all other pieces on top of each other, at opposing angles. Clothing should be layered flat, not folded up.
  • When all the clothing is in a pile, lay the core bag on the top and center of the pile.
  • Start wrapping each part of the clothing around the core, like you’re wrapping a present, alternating between all sides of stuck out clothing.
  • You should end up with a pretty bundle of all your clothing, which you can then pick up and place in your carry-on bag.

If that was a bit confusing and you need some visual reinforcement, check out this helpful video from WireCutter and read more detailed instructions from OneBag.

As you’re bundling, you may realize that it’s not going to be that easy to pull out a single sundress when you get to your destination without taking apart the whole bundle. That’s sometimes a downside to this method of packing, but even if you don’t bundle pack, we actually encourage you to take a few minutes to completely unpack your suitcase when you reach the hotel or Grandma’s house. Not only will it make you feel more at home, relaxed, and organized, it will help prevent any wrinkles and mildew by allowing your clothes to breathe.   

The Rolling Method

Even though The Bundle Method is our favorite way to pack, due to its efficiency, wrinkle-freeness, and ability to pack more using less space, we realize it’s not for everyone. If The Bundle Method doesn’t work for you, then try out The Rolling Method. There are differing opinions on whether bundling your clothes or rolling your clothes provides you with more space, so we won’t enter that debate, we’ll just show you another option for packing your carry-on like a pro. The Rolling Method is used by many flight attendants, pilots, and men and women in the Armed Forces, so you know there’s truth behind it if professional travelers use it everyday.

Here’s how it’s done.
  • Take the clothes that you’re planning on packing and simply roll each piece into a tight tube-like roll.
  • Line them up side by side in your carry-on bag, squeezed in as closely as possible.
  • Once one layer is in, start placing rolled pieces of clothing on top of the first layer, and keep repeating layers until everything is packed in.

The Extras

Now that your clothes are packed up like a pro, what about all the other stuff that need to make it into your carry-on? This is the easy part. Here are some different options for packing all your extras.

  • If you’re using The Bundle Method, put your toiletry bag, shoes, and other items at the bottom of your bag and place your bundle of clothing on top, zip up, and go.
  • Put groups of items, such as socks and underwear in Ziploc bags, squeeze all the air out, and close them up for a space-saving option.
  • Or stick small items among your clothing to fill in any gaps, or stuff inside shoes. You’re guaranteed not to lose your socks this trip if they’re already in your sneakers!
  • Stay tuned for an upcoming post in our two-part series Pack Like a Pro explaining how to expertly pack a toiletry bag, complete with our favorite product recommendations and unique hacks!  

Alright, you did it! You finally figured out a great way to efficiently pack a carry-on bag, allowing you to ditch the checked bag fees, to fit more in less room, and to make your summer traveling a bit more stress-free. Now zip up your beautifully packed bag, toss on the sunhat, grab the kiddos, and hit the road. Happy Vacation!

For everything travel related, from more travel tips and favorite destinations to travel specials and best places to stay, be sure to stop by our WANDER section!

Photo Credits: Dani
Sources: The Wire Cutter, Lifehacker, OneBag

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Dani lives in North Carolina with her two preschoolers. She is a stay-at-home/work-at-home mom who loves to clean and organize anything and everything. Her happiness is found in Jesus, days at the spa, and combating dark chocolate peanut butter cups with everyday workouts at the gym. She owns a wedding, lifestyle, and freelance photography business, Dani Nicole Photography.

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    You got the rolling method mentioned. Good! It is really the best way of packing for a carry-on bag. If you’re looking for carry-on luggage and their sizes take a peek at


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