How I Pack My Carry-On
Packing is an art…and though it’s one I’ve yet to fully master, I also have come a long way from lugging around three suitcases and a backpack when I could have easily pared my loot down to two bags. Having been there, at the lowest possible point of dragging around way too much stuff (from both over packing and over shopping) as a foolish college student, studying abroad, at the train station, praying to catch my ride, and ready to burst into tears because I physically could not drag my bags up another flights of stairs…you get it. It’s not fun.
But now, at the fresh and ripe age of twenty-six, I’ll allow myself a pat on the back: I might be on to something. I’ve studied how others do it, poured over their tips, tricks, and “packing hacks” videos say, and I have to echo the advice of Sorelle Amore, my favorite travel Youtuber and photographer: whatever you think you’ll need, half it, then half it again.
Scary? Yes! The fear of leaving behind something we need (or at least badly want) is terrifying. But it shouldn’t be. What should frighten you more is committing to lugging around anything that will rob you of your freedom, comfort, and happiness while you’re on vacation.
But with some trial and error, some practice, and a bit of faith, you can pack minimally, too. Here are my tips for packing small and packing smart:
1. Wear your heaviest items on the day you travel.
Save space, wear the boots. Nothing is more saddening than your favorite coat or chunky sweater hogging precious space in your suitcase. Plan your travel outfit around those pieces that are chunkiest: coat, boots, etc.
This is also helpful if you plan to purchase heavier items while on your trip - just wear em home to avoid having to stuff more into your suitcase.
2. Embrace the multi-taskers.
In a world bereft of the logical and the practical, let’s insert more of both into our lives. That means invest in a comfortable pair of shoes that work with multiple outfits, pieces that transcend season and weather (such as these heat tech turtlenecks, nude heels and flats, and a LBD), and toiletries that do more work than you do (e.g. tinted moisturizer doubles as cosmetic coverage and SPF). Do your homework on what products and pieces work best for your wants and needs.
(Let me know if I should I do a blog post on this!)
3. Plan your outfits.
Raise your hand if you’ve ever packed a ton of stuff for a trip that you never ended up wearing! ME! This step has really helped me, especially because I like to plan my outfits with the locations I pick to shoot. Setting aside your outfits ahead of time will help you avoid throwing in too many clothes and shoes that you don’t need, thinking that more options are best. Wrong.
In fact, bringing only the essentials and the clothes you know you’ll look and feel great in may also help you, when you return home, pare down those items in your closet you aren’t crazy about when you know you wouldn’t have worn them. Anything that makes you feel like less than your very best can go.
Less truly is more.
If you really wanna be extra (like me) roll up your outfits together and tie them together with a string or ribbon, so you’re ready to change and go when you arrive and unpack.
4. Save those sample containers.
Ever brought home a makeup sample in a tiny little plastic pot from a cosmetic or department store? They’re darling. And free. And weigh nothing. And take up minimal space.
You may be allowed 3.4-ounce bottles on the plane, but I say we can do even better. So collect these teeny weenies before your next trip, and put together whatever collection of bathroom and makeup products you’ll be bring. I’ve used recycled mint tins as makeshift travel eye shadow palettes. This company, for example, sells tiny eye shadow refills that are super pigmented, customizable for your own palette, and perfect for traveling.
5. invest in packing cubes.
…or some similar kind of organization items. This could mean packing cubes or an alternative like those reusable cloth bags you get at Urban Outfitters or Sweaty Betty (bless the heck up). This keeps my outfits, clothes, shoes, and toiletries compartmentalized and organized.
Extra note: putting your shoes in a separate bag keeps whatever gunk on them off your clean clothes. Voila!
6. Put heavier items at the bottom of your suitcase.
So if your luggage rolls, like mine, stuff anything that will comprise the most weight down where the rolling wheels will be. And put those in FIRST. Then you’ll have an easier time finagling your smaller things in after them.
A few more quick thoughts...
- Roll everything as tightly as you can; allow for as little gap space in your bag as possible.
- Research ahead of time where you’ll be staying: will they provide shampoo/conditioner? Razor? Hair dryer? If so, leave all that at home.
- Regret something you brought, or didn’t bring? Take note of it. Write down a list and set it aside to review for the next time you get ready for a trip.
What are your packing tips? Leave them in a comment below!