How to Pack Your Life into a Carry-On (Plus Free Downloadable WTF to Pack Checklist!)

Every time a family vacation rolls around, my dad insists we pack only carry-ons.

Umm…that’s practically a sin for a fashion blogger.

But there’s no bribing/conniving/puppy dog facing this guy, because he’s ALL about saving time. And I’ve got to admit, packing a carry-on alone does have its perks.

  1. No waiting for checked bags to come on the conveyor belt
  2. No getting luggage mixed up
  3. No lost luggage
  4. You can pocket the cash you saved and spend it on vacay
  5. It’s way less weight to roll around (ha!)

If I had my way, I’d probably check a bag. BUT, it’s kind of a weirdly rewarding challenge fitting my entire life into a carry-on. Plus, I’ve got it down to a science now. So why not reap the benefits of the carry-on life? And here’s the best part: You can too. Here a few quick & dirty tips to mastering the art of packing your life into a carry-on.

* P.S. I know it feels IMPOSSIBLE to pack only a carry-on if you’re going on a 7 day+ trip. Trust me, it’s entirely doable — and without skimping. I am and never will be a skimper. Hear me out. I promise you can fit everything you need right into that cute (lightweight) bag you almost never use. *

Prioritize.

This is single handedly the most important part of packing your life into a carry-on. We all overpack, even if we won’t admit it. Think about what you’re actually going to use, and pack those things first. Then check yourself. Do you really need those sky-high heels you’ve never worn? And five books? Be realistic.

Pack in the value. 

Do you have pair of shorts that work with a few different tops? See if you can do any double-dipping with some of your clothing items/outfits. I know it’s hard to hear, but you really don’t need 21 outfits for a 7 day trip, even if you’re a fashion blogger/guru. Try to be creative and re-wear a few items in totally different ways!

* P.S. This is not to say that you can only pack a few outfits or have to wear the same few items over and over again. There is PLENTY of room in there, as long as you’re prioritizing and packing things you’re actually going to use. This is just a little tip that can help you to make the most of your space! *

Roll your clothes.

Too obvious? Probably not, because most people still use the old-fashioned fold & stack method. And don’t even pull the excuse that your favorite shirt will be wrinkled by the time you get to the hotel. That’s what irons are for. And guess what? The hotel provides them, so get your money’s worth! Plus, most delicate materials will wrinkle regardless of how they are folded/rolled, so does it really make a difference?

Take advantage of travel-sized goods. 

Before a trip, I always scope out the dollar hygiene section at target. You can find all sorts of goodies like mini face washes, shampoos/conditioners, lotions, hand sanitizers, mouth washes and more. Since you can only carry 3 oz. liquids in your carry-on, it’s great to stock up on these pre-measured goods. And if you’re certain you’ll run out? Just buy duplicates of some of your fave items! Oh, and be sure to pack them in a clear bag for the security check.

Bring a “personal item”.

A personal item is essentially your second carry-on, but smaller. It’s the item that fits under the seat in front of you. Everyone has the right to this, so use it to your advantage. Instead of carrying a traditional purse, I like to pack a large backpack full of the items I’m most likely to use during flight like my camera, iPad, laptop, and snacks. Items that I’d usually keep in my purse are be stored in a small wristlet inside the backpack. This frees up tons of space and is also a good backup area for those last-minute items you may forget to pack in your suitcase until the morning of your flight!

Communicate.

Still don’t have enough room to fit everything in your carry-on? Check in with your travel partners and see what kind of space they have left over. I’m always cramming a few extra things into my dad’s bag.

Hope that helps and that a few of you might try traveling lighter! Let me know what you think of traveling without checked luggage in the comments! Would you try it? 

Also, check out the WTF to Pack Checklist below — even if you aren’t traveling this season, you’ll thank yourself later when you’re totally prepped for your next trip!

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xx,

Holly