As much as I love traveling, I’ve always loathed the packing process and making decisions on what to take with me and what to leave behind. I think we can all relate to a time when we overpacked or had to pay extra baggage fees, and then ended up not even wearing half of the things we brought with us.
For a long time when I traveled, I was mostly the girl who carried a giant “check-in” only suitcase with her. But then when I came to Europe and traveled solo for awhile I realized it was nearly impossible to continue traveling like this. Lugging a 25kg suitcase up and down stairs and into trains by myself was becoming a hassle, and my back was beginning to feel the pain from pushing my entire life around on wheels. I knew it was time to make some drastic changes, which is why I chose to say goodbye to my big, bulky suitcase and go carry-on only.
In the beginning, traveling with just a carry-on was a huge challenge, but helped me set reasonable limits on what I packed. I had to replace my usual last minute packing rush with a more thought-out strategy limited by my luggage size. I had to start really thinking about the items I was putting into my drastically smaller suitcase, which ended up making me feel much more content with what I brought.
Keep scrolling to read my tried and true tips on how to travel with just a carry on, while still looking stylish and having everything you need.
The first thing you should do before you start throwing clothes into your suitcase is to make a pre-packing list. Take some time to think about, or even better, write down what activities you’re going to be doing on your trip and what the weather will be like. Then think about what you plan to wear for each activity and whether it is weather appropriate. If you’re going out for a nice dinner in the evening or if it looks like it’s going to rain – then make sure you bring what you need to be prepared but nothing more than the essentials. If something doesn’t apply to the activities you’re doing, then don’t bring it with you!At least a week before you leave, try to plan and lay out specific outfits so you can get an overview of everything you have. This will not only reduce what you bring with you on your trip, but will also make getting dressed a breeze since you’ll know exactly what you’re going to wear for each activity. If you’re going to be on a long trip then make sure you bring tops and bottoms that you can interchange with each other to create new outfits. This hack has been an absolute lifesaver for me!In the roll vs. fold debate, there is one clear winner. Rolling your clothes not only saves you a ton of space, it also leaves your clothes with less wrinkles compared to folding. And if you have delicate items you’re bringing with you like jewellery, then wrap them in clothes to keep them safe and untangled.Ditch your normal-sized toiletries for TSA approved plastic bottles which are cheap, refillable, and meet-hand luggage requirements. Fill these bottles with liquids that you already have at home like shampoo and moisturizer to reduce the amount of weight and space you take up. You can usually find these bottles at your local drug-store or on Amazon. I recommend condensing these bottles down into one ziploc bag in case one of the bottles leaks or opens during transit. I usually use the plastic zip bags provided at airport security since Europe has a strict 1 litre liquid limit and it makes it easier to get through security.
If you’re running low on space, shoes are a great place to stuff things like socks, bandanas, t-shirts and cords. This is one of my favorite tricks to make sure there is no wasted space.
Like most people, shoes are my packing downfall and take up so much space! It’s important to really think about what you’ll be doing on the trip and to limit yourself to no more than 3-4 pairs. I suggest bringing one pair of tennis shoes for walking in, a pair of flats or sandals, a pair of heels to go out to dinner in, and also lightweight hiking shoes if you’re doing a lot of serious hiking. And for an extra tip, I store my shoes in a laundry/plastic bag so that the rest of my clothes stay clean.
The key to having many outfits to wear when you’re limited on space is to pack basic colors that you know you’ll look good in. While tempting, stay away from bold patterns or experimenting with wild colors that you don’t usually wear. I like packing colors like white, black, ivory and grey since they generally go well with each other and lend themselves to many outfits.
Have any other “carry-on only” packing tips that I missed? Let me know in the comments!