10 Cold-Weather Packing Tips in a Carry-On


A carry-on, or a cabin bag, is one of the most essential items in a traveler’s arsenal. It is all well and good to pack your kitchen sink into your check-in luggage but what if the luggage just doesn’t make it to your intended destination? What if it was winter and you had nothing but your airport-friendly clothes on?


With that in mind, we have come up with 10 essential cold-weather packing tips that we think you should consider when packing your carry-on. You never know - it might prove to be a lifesaver!


1. Make a Checklist of your Most Essential Items



Image by Brandless


Every good packing starts with a plan. Since you are travelling to a cold country, we would advise packing enough clothes for you to survive at least one day. Think thermal shirts and leggings, boots, gloves, scarves, socks and jeans. Put your most valuable items in your carry-on as well as you don’t want to lose them! And if you require any medicine, make sure you pack them in an area that is easy to reach. 


2. Use the right carry-on bag


Find a carry-on bag that stays within the airport size limit but also isn’t too heavy. There is nothing more frustrating than having more than half of your allocate 10kg cabin luggage (Airasia and Malindo only permit 7kg!) taken up your bag before anything has been placed in it!


Other features for a great carry-on bag is one with four rollers so that you can easily push your bag around the airport. Whatever bag you end up choosing, we would advise picking one that is reliable and of good quality so that it will last you a long time.  


3. Wear your heaviest and most bulky clothes onto your plane


Another trick we have is to identify the heaviest and most space-consuming items in your list of must-haves and, if possible, wearing them onto your plane.


We would suggest wearing your thickest winter coat, socks, winter boots and scarves. You don’t have to wear them in the airport itself - it would be too hot and you would attract plenty of strange stares! However, you can wear them just before passing through security. You can also hold your laptop and other reading materials as you go through security. All of these things will not count towards your weight and luggage space. 


Once you have gone past security, you are free to put everything back into your carry-on. Just bear in mind that boots can be a pain. Most airports nowadays are really strict and will insist that you take them off and put them through the scanner, so make sure you allocate enough time to get through security. 


4. Use Packing Cubes




Image by This Is Why I’m Broke


Packing cubes are a real lifesaver when you’re trying to fit everything into your luggage. These cubes function as organisational pouches that help you compress your bulky clothing into a more manageable size. They are also a lot easier to fit into the suitcase and arrange to keep everything organised. 


With packing cubes, you can see goodbye to the old days of ransacking your carry-on just to find the missing half of a pair of socks or gloves!


5. Layer Up


One of the easiest ways to pack clothes for winter is to dress in layers. 


In general, three to four layers can keep you fairly warm in the cold. The base layer, which is your underwear, absorbs sweat off your skin. This is the layer you might want to change the most if you’re travelling for a long period of time. The second layer is the insulating layer and this is where your body heat is trapped to keep you nice and toasty. 


The final layer, or outer layer, is what shields you from the wind and rain. If you’re going somewhere that is bound to rain, make sure your clothes are waterproof. Windproof clothes are highly recommended. You’ll be freezing less because of the cold and more because of the wind. 


As a final travel tip, make sure all of the layers of your clothes are dry, even the layers beneath your outerwear, otherwise layering will be counterproductive!


6. Have at least two sets of thermal wear




Image by Travel Fashion Girl


Now I’ll be the first to admit that I prioritise warmth and comfort over fashion, but I feel that this advice applies to everyone. Your thermal wear is perhaps one of your most important items of clothing and it’s vital that you bring at least two sets. Once you have on a set of thermal wear, you can easily wear it under a pair of jeans and still be warm.  You can recycle the rest of your clothes if you want to, but you might feel icky wearing the same thermal clothes against your skin for a week. 


Travel Tip: If you’re trying to save on space and weight, you can even wear your thermal wear as your pyjamas! 


7. Pick neutral coloured clothing



Image by Priscilla du Preez


On that note, we would advise picking clothing that comes in neutral colours like black, white, brown, cream, olive, navy, denim and khaki. This makes it very easy to mix and match. Lessening the decision making when travelling goes a long way in making a trip more delightful.


If neutral colours bore you, you can jazz up your winter ensemble with a few choice accessories like necklaces and scarves, which have the added benefit of keeping you warm! 


8. Wear boots, not shoes. 


Boots are more than just a fancy winter fashion statement. Most of them are designed to match with anything you might wear and are incredibly comfortable to walk it. They also keep your feet warm and dry as opposed to sneakers where you can feel the wind against your feet every time it blows! 


The type of boots you wear depends on where your destination is. Many boots go up to your ankle which gives bonus protection against the cold and also a great support to your ankles. They also give you a good grip when walking on icy surfaces.


9. Big Travel-Friendly Toiletries

Time to ditch your jumbo-sized toiletries. When packing your carry-on, everything should be travel-friendly and in small bottles. Samples are perfect for this purpose, if you don’t already know! In any event, your bottles should be no more than 100 ml or the airport won’t let you go through its multi-layered security. 


Where possible, pack them in transparent bottles that are all sealed within a transparent bag. The bag should be placed in an easily accessible part of your carry-on. This will prove helpful when you’re going through security. Just reach in, grab your toiletries bag for your security check and you’re done!


10. Weigh your carry-on before heading to the airport



Image by Thrifty Fun


Always, always check your weight before you zip your bag up. If the airline has given you a limit of 10kg, make sure your luggage doesn’t weigh more than 9.5kg. 0.5kg is a good buffer, although you could go down to 0.3kg if you’re willing to chance it. 


The reason we suggest this is because there are times when the results of the weighing scale at home can differ from the one at the airport. Certain airlines are also more strict and won’t let you through even if you are a mere 0.1kg over the permitted weight limit. It just isn’t worth paying a bomb just for that extra 0.1kg!




It is possible to pack a lot into a small space, and we hope that this guide proves useful as you prepare for your upcoming winter trip. If you haven’t already decided on a travel destination, why don’t you check out mayflower.com.my for the best travel deals? It’s never too late to book a flight out for a wintry Christmas!


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A faith-driven Sarawakian lawyer who believes that it is never too late to start crafting a socially impactful legacy. When not grappling with warranties and liabilities, she loves pursuing adrenaline-fueled adventures, improving her Español and playing the violin. You can find her at @vidadeliya or https://www.vidadeliya.com