15 Hacks For Traveling With A Backpack To Avoid Extra Airline Fees

Just as excited as you are to travel some place new, you may equally dread packing for the trip. It’s not as easy cramming every outfit you want to wear and essential toiletry you need to bring into your luggage. Since airlines are also making it almost impossible to check a bag nowadays unless you want to fork over more than $30, many people are opting for only bringing carry-on bags for their next vacay. To pack light, you need some hacks for traveling with a backpack.

The thought of only bringing a backpack on your next trip may be intimidating AF. It’s hard to imagine you can fit a weekend’s worth of clothes into one backpack, but expert travelers have found ways to make not just clothes, but also makeup, jewelry, and even an extra pair of shoes fit into their bags. In fact, traveling light has become a new fad for those with wanderlust, looking for budget-friendly ways to get to more of their dream destinations.

To get you on the traveling light train, all you need is a list of the essentials and tips on how to travel with a backpack from TikTokers sharing their best-kept packing secrets. From using backpacks the size of carry-on bags to packing cubes that compress easily, here are 15 hacks for traveling with a backpack as well as a list of products you’ll want to add to cart ASAP.

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Consider Using A 40L Backpack

Airlines make it so hard to travel with carry-ons, with a lot of them charging for anything that’s not just a personal bag. Luckily, backpacks still fall under the personal bag category, and you can find plenty of large backpacks. TikToker @kathleenjbeach suggests using a 40L backpack like this Open Story one from Target. The best part is this backpack opens up like a carry-on and even has compartments inside that will make organizing your essentials so easy. One of the 5-star reviewers from Target even mentioned this bag is comfy and won’t hurt your shoulders, despite how much you’re bringing.


Use A Backpack That’s The Same Size As Your Carry-On Luggage

For flights that only allow one free personal item, a hack for traveling light is to use a backpack that’s the same size as any standard carry-on luggage. TikToker @delrosario.adventures recommends this 40L travel backpack from Amazon that’s not only the size of a carry-on, but also comes with packing cubes to use as well. Anyone who has tried to pack light knows how essential packing cubes are, so this is like two hacks for traveling with a backpack rolled into one. Plus, one of the over 4,000 5-star reviewers on Amazon mentioned that it did fit under the seat in front of them on the plane. That’s a big win.


Find A Backpack That Zips Open Like A Suitcase

One way to make packing easier when you’re just using a backpack is to find one that zips open like a suitcase. This bag recommended by TikToker Megan Homme (@meganhomme), who is also an airline employee, not only zips open all the way but can also fit under your plane seat as well. Homme also shared everything that can fit in this versatile backpack, like three pairs of pants, bulky sweaters, a pair of shoes, a flat iron, and a bag of toiletries.


Stuff Your Clothes In A Compression Sack

While these compression sacks are usually used by campers for their sleeping bag, TikToker @kaitlyn.dickie recommends using it for your clothes when trying to travel light with just a backpack. Of course, if you’re worried about wrinkles, this may not be the best option for you. However, if you’re bringing clothes that won’t wrinkle, stuff everything you’re planning to wear in your sack so it takes up less space in your backpack.


Pack Your Toiletries In Reusable Travel Bottles

Homme has more traveling light tips that include investing in travel-sized versions of your fave products. However, you may not want to spend money on smaller versions just for one trip. One way to bring everything in your skincare routine is to put it all in travel bottles. This set from Amazon includes four bottles, three mini jars, and two toothbrush covers.


Pack Neutrals To Mix And Match Your OOTDs

Both Homme and TikToker @mrsblinks suggest packing only neutrals from your wardrobe. This allows you to mix items to create multiple OOTDs from just a few essentials. Along with packing neutrals, @mrsblinks also suggests trying on all your clothes before packing to make sure they still fit and that you’ll want to wear them on your trip. Who doesn’t like a little fashion show at home, right? It’ll be like a movie montage à la Chew from Clueless.

Another good packing tip that helps create more space is to roll up your clothes and pack them in a cube that can go into your backpack. This packing cube set comes in a variety of colors. So, while your clothes may be neutral, your packing cube can be a fun pop of color.


Use A Pillow Case To Pack Extra Clothes

If you’re traveling light just to avoid paying extra for checking your bag, this traveling hack from TikToker @nolimitua is so genius. Take an empty throw pillow case and stuff it with any clothes or soft items that don’t fit into your backpack. It’ll not only act as a pillow for the plane, but it’ll give you extra room in your bag for souvenirs you can bring back.


Bring Along Perfume In An Atomizer

Packing anything that comes in a spray bottle like perfume or toners can be difficult when you’re only bringing carry-on bags. A tip from TikToker @thetravelmum is to get an atomizer to create a travel size version. One of the nearly 3,000 5-star reviewers on Amazon said “the filling and refilling is super easy and straight forward” with these in particular. Of course, a super thrifty hack is to see if you can snag a free perfume sample from the store so you won’t have to spend any money at all.


Use Compression Cubes To Create Even More Space

While packing cubes in general are amazing travel hacks, opting for compression packing cubes will give you that extra bit of space you need. TikToker @bondenavant mentions compression packing cubes as one of the ways to pack more efficiently. Another tip is to take pictures of all your outfits before packing them to make sure you really love them and will want to wear them.


Bring Along Serums In Travel Jars

Just because you’re traveling light doesn’t mean you have to skip out on your go-to skincare routine. Bring along your fave serums in these adorable travel jars. A great method to measure out how much you’ll need, according to TikToker @kaitlinsondae, is to just pump out how much product you use per day for however many days you’ll be gone. You could always add in more, because you can use the leftover product when you get home as well.


Pack According To A Color Scheme

While choosing neutrals is a great way to make sure all your clothes can go together, TikToker @loveyoumariemuch also suggests going with a color scheme. This can help make your vacay OOTDs more colorful if that’s your style. Just make sure you’re also packing item by item and not by outfits, because you’ll want to bring pieces you can wear multiple days.

Choosing five colors that all go together is @loveyoumariemuch’s hack for choosing your palette, and white may be a great choice for one of your colors. A simple white button down shirt can be your go-to whether you’re at the beach, walking around the city, or getting dressed up for a night on the town.


Put Your Shoes In A Bag

Since everything will be packed tightly in your bag, you don’t want your shoes dirtying up your clothes. Getting some shoe bags will help prevent this, which is just one of many hacks for traveling light from TikToker @findingfiona. Some other tips include rolling your clothes and only bringing the toiletries and makeup you’ve used in the last three days. If you haven’t used any items recently, you most likely won’t use them on your trip.


Bring Just One Makeup Brush That’s Multifunctional

Your makeup routine may require multiple brushes, which will only take up more space in your backpack. Luckily, there are multi-functional makeup brushes that are like Swiss Army knives, but for the beauty world. TikToker @wahmeko demonstrates how easy it is to do a full makeup lewk with just one brush. This one tool comes with an eyeshadow brush, brow brush, blush brush, and a concealer sponge all in one.


Keep Your Plane Essentials In An Easy-To-Access Case

Since you’ll be packing everything tightly in your backpack, you don’t want to have to dig through it on the plane for things like your headphones, Chapstick, or charging cable. It helps to have everything you need in one place that’s easy to access. TikToker @nowboardingallgroups suggests the mini Away suitcase, which unfortunately, is not available right now. Luckily, Target has this budget-friendly dupe from Open Story that works just as well.


Wear A Travel Vest With Tons Of Extra Pockets

You may need to sacrifice wearing a super cute OOTD to the airport with this hack for traveling light. TikToker @megthetravelingteacher recommends wearing a travel vest that comes with tons of extra pockets for anything that couldn’t fit into your backpack. You may still be able to pull of a cute ‘fit with this vest from Amazon, though. It comes in a variety of colors like denim and basic black to match whatever you’re wearing, and since you will be wearing it, “it doesn’t count as another carry-on.”