I don’t think I”ll ever claim to be an expert at packing. I feel like unless you travel really often (like my husband does for work), you kind of get out of practice. But while I may not be fast at packing, I have mastered the art of it for long trips—starting early, strategically planning outfits, editing things down. No more overpacking here! It’s become a proud accomplishment to be able to pack for two, even three, weeks and multiple cities in a single carry-on suitcase. My husband gives me a gold star for my effort, we don’t have pesky baggage fees, and we never face the dreaded lost bag situation. And once we arrive at our destination (or home), we’re on our way—no waiting around the baggage carousel.
What about you guys? Are you a chronic over-packer or a carry-on convert? After our most recent trip to here and here, I snapped a few photos of what I packed so I could share my process with you. This is Part 1 of two posts, and hopefully it will help when it comes time for your next adventure. Maybe you’ll even get a little vacation outfit inspiration too. See what’s in my travel tote and my tips on how to pack for two weeks (and two cities) in just one carry-on!
Travel Tote Essentials
- A versatile sarong for the beach/pool that doubles as a scarf and triples as a light blanket for the plane
- Snacks (I like almonds and apricots) for hunger pangs in between meals
- Sunglasses in their case means no scratching
- Emergen-C for fighting off colds before and during the trip
- Headphones for jams on the plane or beach
- iPhone for Instagram and Spotify…but not email or work!
- Thick socks for keeping toes warm on the plane
- Passports (I carry his, too)
- Journal for jotting down favorite spots and memories
- iPad for watching movies on long flights
- Pen and highlighter for last-minute travel research
- Travel guides and a folder with reservation info and printed pre-travel research
- Books to read leisurely
- Wallet with a bit of cash
- A big pouch to put all the little bits and pieces in
Note: When traveling with a laptop, I use a more structured bag (Lo & Sons O.M.G.).
You may be wondering about cameras, lenses, memory cards, phone power cords, outlet adapters…my husband packages all the small pieces into Ziploc bags and carries our gadgets in his personal item (usually a backpack).
10 Tips for Packing Light
- Research your destination. What will the weather be like? Are there any cultural sensitivities – is there any clothing not acceptable in certain places (ex. temples, churches, museums)?
- Consider your activities. We did a lot of city walking, excursions and beach time during our last two trips. I didn’t bring a single pair of heels and instead opted for cute flat sandals that could transition from day to night.
- Plan out your outfits. It’s totally worth the effort and helps prevent overpacking. Pick versatile pieces you can mix and match for different looks. Bring a few accessories to dress things up, but nothing you’d be heartbroken about losing.
- Pare down your makeup and toiletries. How much time do you really want to spend doing your hair every day? Skip the heavy, bulky hairdryer and curling iron for sure. Let your hair air dry if you can—and the top knot can become your best friend.
- Tightly roll everything. I mean, everything. Rolling takes up less space than folding and minimizes wrinkling.
- Layer heavy to light. Shoes first, then heavier rolled clothing (jeans and pants). Lighter materials, especially linen or silk, should be added last.
- Reduce your shoe count. Cut back or at least pack shoes that fold very flat. For warm-weather getaways, I pack a pair of sneakers or Toms, a ballet flat, and one (or maybe two) sandals. Cheap flip flops too.
- Stuff the extras. Underwear and swimwear can be pushed into an interior pocket. Tuck jewelry in a small pouch or right into a clutch.
- Strategize your quart-sized bag. Figure out what your most-needed toiletries are and only what fits in the bag goes. Place it in the exterior pocket of your suitcase for easy removing in the security line.
- Don’t forget to leave a little space. A little room in your suitcase and personal item means room for a few travel treasures to bring home.
A note on my travel outfit — I wore a few extra layers while traveling (see image outfit above), since we left with snow at home and returned to it. Thick black leggings and a black tank are my comfortable staples, I just make them airport appropriate with cute flats and long layers on top.
What are your travel tricks? I’d love to hear! Feel free to ask questions about any of the specific items pictured – I’ll gladly answer!
*Also see 12 warm-weather vacation outfits I packed for Mexico and Colombia using these tips!