10 Tips: A Guide to Packing and Traveling in a Carry-on

I’m excited to be working on a collaboration of the perfect packing lists for various vacations to be posted in the coming days. As a precursor to any perfect packing list, I thought it’ll be helpful to also share my top tips for packing light and traveling with only a carry-on. Whether I’m traveling to the beach or the mountains, I prefer to pack 1 hand bag and 1 purse/backpack to minimize baggage fees and the risks of losing my bag. I use to have many problems with packing my carry-on luggage. Most of time, I’ll return with pieces I’ve never use! Over many trips, I’ve developed better packing skills. A month’s travel in my tiny carry-on is a breeze now. Though it can be extremely difficult depending on where you’re going especially if it’s winter when clothing pieces tend to be chunkier and heavier. But follow my favorite tips for packing and you’ll find it easy to pack just 1 carry-on on any trip you’ll take.

clothes packing nail polish and lipsticks

  1. Wherever you go, remember to check the weather prior to packing. The last thing you want is to pack items that you can’t wear due to bad weather conditions.
  2. Plan your outfits. Lay everything out and find ways to mix and match tops/bottoms to maximize its wear. That way you’ll more likely wear everything you pack!
  3. Pack 1-2 items that can easily be dressed up for a night out, but will also work as casual morning wear.
  4. Think about your fabrics, things that don’t take up much space and items that don’t wrinkle easily! For spring and summer, pack lightweight fabrics: chiffon, cotton, silk, etc…I tend to stay away from linen as it wrinkles the easiest. For winter and autumn, learn to dress in layers: lightweight thermals, light sweaters, fleece, silk, and wool are best.
  5. Wear your heaviest items onto the plane! Winter coats, jackets, jeans, boots, hiking shoes, etc…Layer up because you can always stow it away if needed.
  6. Pack things that are versatile, this goes for clothes as well as shoes, purses, large scarves, etc…get creative! I’ve worn large scarves as tops before. This eliminates unnecessary items especially shoes.
  7. If you’re going to bring a towel. Invest in a light microfleece towel (link). Mine folds up into a 8×8″ square and is also great because it also dries quickly.
  8. Need more than one purse? Wear your largest purse as a personal item and place smaller one(s) inside.  Or I’ll fold my backpack up and place it inside my purse.
  9. Leave unnecessary toiletries at home. It’s just easier to fly without a bunch of heavy fluids. Most hotels, rentals or B&Bs will stock everything you’ll need. If I’m traveling longer than 2 weeks, I’ll plan to stay at a place that’ll have a washer to wash my clothes for re-wear around the 7-day mark.
  10. Need more space? Stuff socks in your shoes or other “empty” spaces that you’ll pack. When I packed my thermos and cooking gear for Iceland, I placed my undies/socks in a small plastic bag and placed them inside my thermos and pots/pans. Wrap scarves, belts and other long items around the sides of your luggage first before placing in anything else. You won’t believe how much space is left around the edges and corners of our luggage after we’ve “fully” pack it!

Hope this helps. Happy packing!