askST: The ST Guide To... packing a carry-on bag

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The Straits Times travel journalist Lydia Vasko shares five tips on how to pack like a pro.

With more airlines charging extra for luggage, it pays to travel light.

Here are five tips on how to pack a carry-on bag like a pro and avoid the long wait at the baggage claim.

1. Think essentials, not fashion

Make a list of all the items you will need based on your itinerary. Be realistic about what you need. You don't need half your wardrobe for one week away. Instead, you probably need only three bottoms and five tops, or four tops and a dress, where you can mix and match. Substitute a pair of pants with one or two bathing suits if you are heading somewhere with a beach, or pack a light jacket if you are going somewhere cold.

2. Roll, fold and layer

Fabrics like cotton or wool, which are less prone to wrinkles, can be rolled up and used to line the bottom of your suitcase. Fold your more delicate, wrinkle-prone fabrics and place them gently in a flat area of your suitcase. You can also put them in nylon bags to decrease chances of wrinkles. Place your shoes, accessories, toiletries and sleepwear on top of your packing.

3. Fill up awkward spaces

Use your accessories, like socks, underwear and electronics, to fill up the awkward spaces in your suitcase. The inside of shoes are perfect spaces for socks or plug adapters. Wear your heaviest shoes and pack the others. If your shoes are dirty, place them in a shower cap, which often comes in the hotel's amenity kit.

4. Travel size your essentials

Carry-on liquids and gels must be 100ml or less and carried in a clear toiletries bag. The good news is, 100ml is more than enough to last a week. Tester-sized bottles of shampoo, conditioner and body lotion are perfect for travelling.

If you can't find your favourite products in travel packaging, you can pour them into into travel-size bottles and jars, which can be bought for a few dollars. There are even spray bottles for perfume so you can keep to your skincare or beauty routine without having to lug big tubes of lotions or heavy jars which take up valuable weight and space.

5. Maximise your personal bag

Most airlines allow passengers one piece of carry-on luggage plus one small bag, such as a handbag, laptop bag or a small backpack. For instance, use a beach tote if you are going to Phuket, or a backpack if you are hitting the trails in Hong Kong.

These bags will serve double duty once you reach your destination, and provide plenty of space for reading material or a tablet to keep you entertained, or an eye mask and earplugs if you want to rest inflight.

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