MapChick carry-on tips

Traveling carry-on luggage

MapChick did carry-on only, so can you!

Seriously, I never dreamed I could spend almost a month in Mexico with only bringing a piece of carry-on luggage and small backpack, but I did it, and even more amazing, my husband who is a bonafide over packer did it too! That right there proves it can be done šŸ™‚ With as often as we move around, taking public transportation, taxis, etc, small bags just seemed to be the way to go. Plus the money you save not checking a bag! We will also have laundry done while we’re there. Having laundry done in Mexico is very inexpensive and fast. I highly recommend it! I do not take special clothing or fine washables to the laundry, for those I will purchase a small bottle of laundry detergent when I get there and wash those out in the sink. You can buy just about everything you need when you arrive, Chedraui, (like a super Target or Walmart) has everything!

Start with  regular carry-on luggage, size restrictions vary by airline, so check your airline’s website for size requirements. Mine was just the right size for American Airlines, 22 x 14 x 9 inches / 56 x 36 x 23 centimeters, and my backpack, that fit under the seat.

Let’s start packing

Exhibit A šŸ™‚

Get some TSA approved plastic bottles. I got mine at Target. These are fantastic for liquids that you can’t bring in their full size bottle. I have a special sunscreen I like to use on my face, so I put some in a bottle and labeled it.  I’ll buy more for the rest of me when I get there. Everyone says sunscreen in Mexico is so expensive, but really with the exchange rate right now, it’s about the same price. I also pick up some coral safe sunscreen when I get there.  But you can buy travel size coral safe sunscreen from Mexitan

Ziplock bags are a must! You’re going to roll your clothing and put them in the bags, squeeze out all the air and zip it shut!

Five swimsuits. I pretty much wear a swimsuit every day because I never know where we’ll be!

Five tops. I also have another bag with a couple of dressier tops.
I think you get the ziplock bag approach! just roll clothes as tight as possible get them in the bag and squeeze out all the air to make it as small and flat as it can get!

Keep those things that you are especially worried about leaking out on to other things in their own little ziplocks.

As you can see I also packed more stuff, like snorkel gear and a life vest, I can’t even believe I got those in! I also put 2 pairs of shoes, (flip flops and another pair of sandals) in the front zippered pocket of my bag, (see photo above)

Here’s the finished packing, the secret of course is the ziplocks and using every little storage compartment of the bag. I actually had room to bring back a few purchases I made in Mexico!

…….. and although you’d like to squeeze this sort of thing in because you’ll miss it so much, you probably shouldn’t šŸ™‚

If you have any questions about what is allowed in your carry-on luggage, the TSA is very helpful. I messaged them about a couple of things on their Facebook page and they were very helpful and replied quickly! Ask TSA

You’ll also find useful information on their website.

Happy packing, I don’t think I’ll ever check a bag again!

Don’t forget your MapChick Map
Or download Mapchick’s Isla Mujeres app today!


  1. Great article! We’ve always done the bit of one large checked suitcase for each of us. Finally, we realize this is crazy. On two American Airlines trips last year, the cost was $102 round trip each trip. We get free checked luggage in the USA, but, to Cancun is $25 each piece and $26 on the return trip.

    ON the liquids for carry-on, I read the TSA rule is ONE zip lock bag per carry on. As much as can go in there, 3.4 oz or less each item, and the bag must close.

    iquids, gels and aerosols packed in carry-on must follow the 3-1-1 liquids rule:

    3.4 ounces or less per container.
    1 quart size, clear, plastic, zip top bag (all liquids must fit in bag)
    1 bag per passenger.

  2. Great post! We are carry on all the way. Here in Mexico for a month with just a carry on, and we too got in flip flops, water shoes, snorkel stuff, games, a cat, just kidding! Even my stove top moka coffee pot. And our Mexican blankets that we like to bring.

    We had spent 3 months on a literal RTW, carry on only, gallon zip lock bags to organize and compress, 4 continents, 9 countries, and we have never checked bags since. We spend a month or two here in Mexico from time to time, never needing checked bags.

    Did I mention super great post?

  3. Iā€™m a plastic bag junkie. I love the article.

    Do you have more than 1, one qt ziplock for your liquids, creams, etc.?


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