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  • Writer's pictureAbby

7 Tips for Packing Light: How to Travel Carry-on

Let's talk about how to pack more efficiently. I'll share some of my own experience and strategies that will hopefully give you ideas to improve your packing techniques and therefore enhance your traveling experiences!


This week, I surprised myself with how lightly I packed and thought, "I have to share this with others!" I've always been a light packer. Friends and family have marveled and questioned me about it before, but I believe I took it to a whole new level. I started packing for a trip that is at least 2 weeks, it could turn into 4, and somehow only filled half of my carry-on!

Over packing and then still feeling like we didn't bring enough clothes is a huge problem. I've been there, too. But if you take the time to really consider your outfits, weather, style, and locations, you'll be amazed how light you can go!


I knew I needed warm late autumn attire, so this isn't just a super light beach style of trip. In my situation, I don't have to pack my tall black boots and warm down feather coat, which helps, but if I needed to, I would wear them on the airplane and it wouldn't change my packing too much.


Here's what I packed:  2 pairs of jeans, one black, one denim 1 pair of black leggings 8 shirts 3 cardigans 2 light jackets   1 button up dress shirt  3 dresses 1 fashion scarf 1 pair of flats (explanation later on) 1 swimsuit Undergarments, socks, sleepwear


Method. I started thinking about my first week that I'll be in the United States. I'll be in a wedding with lots of pre-wedding festivities, so I planned specific outfits for each day, making sure to have a couple extra options. I started making organized piles of my clothing - don't just start packing it in the suitcase! I separated out my clothing into: basic shirts, sweater/long shirts, dresses, pants, leggings, and cardigans/jackets. Then I made a maybe pile. Turns out I didn't really need most of the items in my maybe pile. Undergarments and sleepwear are the only items I'd ever advise to pack right away into a suitcase. Side note: I think the best method is rolling. It alleviates wrinkles and I've found it to provide the most space efficiency.


Versatility. One key to packing is to have shirts and sweaters that can be dressed up or dressed down. Most of my shirts can be worn with jeans (casual) black jeans (a little dressy) or leggings (lounge or occasionally dressy). I have dresses that can be worn with leggings and boots or just with flats, switched out with different cardigans, and changed with a scarf... etc for multiple different outfits.


Simple. I love patterns and colorful designs but I didn't pack tops and dresses that are too loud. The more simple, the easier to combine in a variety of ways for more outfits (and to feel okay with re-wearing). I estimated that through these about 20 items of clothing, I have over 40 different outfits. (More outfits than days I'll be traveling.) If I were specific enough with footwear and cardigan changes, there are really countless combinations!


Reason. Sometimes when packing, we go into a "what if" attack. What if there's an unseasonably warm day and I want to wear sandals, what if I go swimming more than once, maybe I should bring 3 swimsuits to chose from... really think about where you'll be and assess how reasonable you're being. Don't overpack and bring clothes you won't wear on your trip all because of thinking unrealistically.


Resources. Are you traveling somewhere with a friend? Think about if you would be able to share outfits and pieces of clothing. Will washing your clothes be easily accessible? If so, be okay with re-wearing a top or outfit and don't bring multiple pairs of pants. Are you going somewhere you might want to purchase clothes? I know my plan is to buy new shoes, which is why I'm only bringing 2 pairs with me!


Time. I'm almost always a last minute packer. I have traveled a lot which has helped me to get my packing down to a science, but either way, just take some extra time. I'm guilty of going on weekend trips where I pack more than I would pack for a 2 week trip. For those weekend trips, it's usually because I'm packing 10 minutes before and I just start throwing in different outfits, numerous extra options, and multiple pairs of shoes... if I had reasoned, and thought simple and versatile, I wouldn't have been filling a full duffle bag for a weekend that only needs 2-3 outfits.


If you've been looking for ways to simplify and improve your packing, I hope this helps! Believe me, you can travel carry-on anywhere!!! I've traveled carry-on to Mexico for a 2 week trip and my friends were confused how I did it... but you'll never lose your bag and you don't have to deal with waiting for luggage! They called my bag the Mary Poppins bag... proves to you that I still had multiple outfits to wear with my light packing techniques! I traveled carry-on to London and Ireland, and many other places. This week, I'll travel carry-on across the world from Zambia to Colorado...Where I will then be in over 5 different states during my trip! You can travel between two states, carry-on... I promise.


Be creative! As I mentioned, I'm packing carry-on, but then putting the carry-on suitcase inside of a medium size suitcase and putting those two suitcases inside of a large suitcase! I'll call it the Russian dolls of traveling! That way, I only check one bag and just carry my big purse (full of my laptop bag and tons of other things) on the way there, and on the way back I can check up to 2 bags and travel with my rolling carry-on and large purse. (I know this contradicts the idea of packing light on my way back, but if you've ever lived in another country and then gone back to your home country, you would understand the idea packing light and bringing 1-2 empty suitcases.)


Overall, when aiming to pack light for an upcoming trip, think about your method - be versatile, simple, and reasonable.Assess and use your resources and time well. Find ways to be creative with your packing. The more efficiency with your packing, the more satisfaction with choosing outfits and having options during your trip!

Best of luck and if you're about to travel, may you enjoy :)

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