So let me get this straight: tickets cost a fortune because of out-of-control fuel surcharges, I have to cram everything into a sandwich-sized Ziploc, they're not serving peanuts, and now I have to pay 15 bucks just to check my bag? Airlines, you have got to be kidding!
Major airlines are announcing fees for checked bags now (here's a list of the 10 busiest airlines' policies ), with American and United leading the pack with a $15 charge for the first checked bag. Second checked bags can run you $25 or more, and you'd better not go over the 50 pound limit—that's when the real wallet-draining happens.
With all this in mind, it's best to carry on whatever you can. But with hair dryers, brushes, toiletries, and all those extra shoes you need (yes, need), it's going to take some serious packing savvy to get all your goods on board on the cheap. The website OneBag.com has some great packing tips, including an intricate diagram of the Bundle Method of packing. Basically, you fold all your clothes, with the least wrinkle-prone pieces at the center, around one core object.
Choose your core wisely: we like eBags Pack-it-Flat toiletry kit ($35) stuffed with your hairbrushes, makeup brushes, and other dry toiletries, or a small Packing Cube ($25 for 3) filled with little stuff like socks, underwear, and swimwear. All your garments get folded around the core (it helps if you've worked at The Gap!) and the whole bundle ends up taking up less room than individually folded or rolled clothes.
As for the tiny toiletries you'll need to tote if you want to get it all onboard, we love Cargo's ColorCards ($24) and DailyGloss ($12) – itsy bitsy palettes of color that'll last at least the length of your trip. Find more airline-approved beauty loot at Sephora's handy travel-friendly shop. Store your shampoo, conditioner, liquid soap, moisturizer, and other liquids in spill-proof bottles from the 15-Piece Carry-On Kit ($10). All fifteen bottles, jars, and tubes come stacked in a reusable quart-sized bag, so you can be sure you'll be able to fit all your get-gorgeous goodies inside.