It’s the inevitable dilemma: you’re almost ready for spring break, but you don’t want to pay extra for checked baggage (less money on checked baggage = more money for good food, amiright?). Not convinced you can squeeze everything you need in your carry-on? We can help. We’re here with 6 tips from one of our resident packing experts.

Step 1. Take out everything you *think* you need.

Lists don’t count here, fam. Take it all out and throw it on top of your carry-on or your bed (or the middle of the floor, you do you). Once you see it all in the center of your room, you’ll be able to make sure you’re not forgetting anything—and you’ll be able to get an idea of how realistic it is to bring everything you think you’ll need.

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Step 2. Consider what you’ll have at your hotel/hostel/AirBnB/etc.

Most places provide towels, linens, soaps and shampoos, hairdryers and so on. If you have a particular product you can’t live without (favorite shampoo or something), transfer what you need to a small container to bring with you. Otherwise, leave your own at home. If you’re not sure what you’re accommodations will provide, ask!

Step 3. Actually find the right carry-on bag.

Check the airline’s baggage policies on their website to be sure you know how big your carry on can be. Most airlines have overhead bin space large enough to fit a small rollaboard suitcase or a good-sized backpack. You might actually have more room to work with than you think!

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Step 4. Eliminate.

We know, we know. Choosing between your favorite pair of shoes before going on a trip is more intense than the Bachelor’s decision for who to give his final rose to. Just keep in mind the old packing rule: lay out everything you think you need, then take half the clothes and twice the money. This is seriously a lifesaver. You think you need 32 t-shirts for a weekend trip, but you really, really don’t. (Promise.)

Consider the weather of the place you’re traveling to (i.e., if you’re going to a beach, you don’t need multiple sweaters. If you’re going skiing, don’t bring every swimsuit you own—even if you are planning on getting in the hot tub). Also consider how long you’ll be gone. Keep in mind that you really don’t need a brand-new outfit every day of your trip. Pare it down to the very basics.

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Step 5. See how it fits.

Once you’ve got it pared down as much as you think you can, start packing up your carry on to see how you’re doing on space. A few general tips:

  • Rolling larger clothing items (like jeans and sweaters) instead of folding them usually saves space.
  • Pack your largest and bulkiest items in first. Then add in the rest of your smaller, lighter items. Stuff any holes and gaps left with socks, scarves, etc.
  • Reserve your heaviest items for wearing on the plane. Planes are usually pretty cold as it is, so if you can get away with wearing two sweaters and your heaviest pair of shoes on the plane, that’ll save you a ton of space in your carry on.

If it doesn’t fit, take everything out and return to step 3. Rinse and repeat until it *does* fit. Unless your spring break trip is more than two weeks long or unless you’re packing snow gear for a trip to Iceland, it’s totally possible to pack everything you need in a carry-on sized bag. Especially if you’re going to the beach.

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Step 5. Move all your travel essentials to a small purse or bag to have on hand (and free up room in your carry on.)

Most airlines let you bring two items on the plane: an official carry-on sized bag plus a smaller “personal item.” This can be a purse, small bag, briefcase, etc. I like to bring a small bag that will be good for carrying around with me during the day while I’m traveling and then a larger carry-on that can fit all my clothes and stuff.

Step 6. Enjoy only having to carry around a small bag or backpack while your friends are dragging full-size suitcases through the airport.

You’re done! Sit back, relax, and enjoy your spring break.

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Still haven’t decided where to go? We’ve got all the spring break inspiration you need.