OneTravel - Book cheap flights, hotels and cars!

6 Packing Hacks for Flying with Just Carry-On in the Winter

Written by Suzy Guese

This blog post was updated on January 20, 2022.

A beach vacation might be the easiest trip to pack a carry-on bag. You don’t need much other than lightweight clothing, flip-flops, and a swimsuit. Winter travel, on the other hand, presents a whole different challenge when it comes to squeezing it all into a carry-on bag. Many travelers resign to checking luggage during cold weather months thanks to all of the extra bulk that comes with trying to dress warmly. And while a trip in the winter might prove more difficult to go carry-on only, it’s not impossible.

Use these packing secrets to help you still manage to pack light with just a carry-on even in the heart of parka season.

Wear All Your Bulky Clothes for the Flight
Packing Hacks for winter carry-on - wear bulky clothes

You might look a bit like a marshmallow trudging through the airport in a parka and winter boots, but your carry-on bag will thank you for the extra space. If you want to only pack a carry-on for winter travel, some of the bulkier items are better suited to be worn than packed, freeing up space for everything you will need. If you can wear your bulkiest pieces such as a winter coat and boots, you’ll be able to bring more layers in your actual carry-on bag.

Pack Light But Toss in Ample Cold Weather Accessories
Packing Hacks for winter carry-on - winter accessories

When you’re taking trips on cheap flights during cold weather months, you probably will look back on your trip photos and conclude you look like you never changed. While you have to keep pieces to a minimum in the winter to go carry-on only, that doesn’t mean you need to look like you wore the same coat and boots every day. Instead of adding multiple coats and pairs of shoes to change up your looks and thus probably result in a checked bag, you can vary your looks with cold-weather accessories instead. By packing more hats, gloves, and scarves, you can change up your day-to-day looks without taking up too much space in your bag.

Give Multiple Pairs of Boots the Boot
Packing Hacks for winter carry-on - boots

No matter what time of year you are traveling, if you bring several pairs of shoes, packing just a carry-on proves challenging. In the winter especially, several pairs of boots will take over your suitcase. Select a boot that will work for walking and being out in the elements. If you can limit your big boots, or simply give them the boot from your carry-on bag, you can free up more room in your luggage. If you must pack an additional winter shoe, stuff it with socks, hats, gloves, scarves, and any other small items you might have to utilize every inch of your bag.

RELATED: 7 Air Travel Mistakes to Avoid When You’re Flying in Winter 

Think in Terms of Layers
Packing Hacks for winter carry-on - wear layers

While that thick giant wool sweater will certainly keep you warm, it also will take over your carry-on bag. To get more out of your winter travel wardrobe and for the same amount of warmth, packing in terms of layers can prepare you for any weather changes, keep you warm and lend more options to wear on the road. Long underwear, for example, doesn’t take up loads of room, but when worn under lightweight clothing can yield the same warmth as that wool sweater hanging in your closet back home.

Be Resourceful With Your Personal Item Allowance

When most travelers think of a carry-on baggage allowance, they sometimes forget most carries also allow passengers to bring personal items on airline tickets (usually limited to one per passenger) that fit under the seats in front of them in addition to their carry-on bags. Before your trip, check out your airline’s personal item measurements. If you can, bring a personal item that is more on the tote, backpack, or duffle bag side. Your personal item should be as large as it can be so that you can toss in extra items that might not fit in your carry-on bag.

Use Compression Bags and Packing Cubes
Packing Hacks for winter carry-on - compression bags

Sometimes you just can’t avoid packing bulky, thick items for cold weather travel. Luckily packing technology has come a long way and you can find many specialized compression bags and packing cubes on the market that help condense the space hoarders in your luggage. Packing cubes and compression bags can also help keep your carry-on more organized for winter travel by sectioning off like items in one place.

Do you have any secrets for squeezing in all your sweaters and woolens into just a carry-on bag? Share your tips with us in the comments below.

About the author

Suzy Guese

Suzy Guese is a travel writer from Denver, Colorado. She caught the travel bug after taking her very first flight at just three months old—she was headed for Disney World—and has been a total travel junkie ever since. From family car trips across North America to stints abroad in Europe, Suzy travels the globe with her redheaded temperament in search of sarcasm, stories, and travel tips to share with anyone willing to listen. She blogs about her travels at