Packing in a Carry On Only

When I first started traveling as an adult, I would over pack to another level. I mean for a 2 night trip I’d check in a bag and have a carry on. How could I not have options? And what if I wake up and not in the mood to wear my limited outfits? So just pack it all!


Especially with all the new airline fees for luggage, this is not only not practical, but not very affordable either.

Over the years I’ve learned to OUTFIT for my trips. Literally, I will set outfits for every day, activity, dinners or events planned. I allow myself 2 extra outfits in each category.

Since doing this I’ve been able to travel all over with just a carry on suitcase and a backpack! My proudest trips have been Italy in the fall for 12 days, and Mykonos in the summer for 10. Both without checking in a bag!

On my way to Italy!

Here are some quick tips on keeping your packing in one carry on suitcase:

  1. Pick 3 pairs of shoes only! The key here is to pack shoes that are versatile; you can dress them up or down, and will go with any of your outfits.
    For a beach vacay: beach sandals, dress sandals and wedges- that’s it!
    Let’s say fall trip: sneakers, dress sandals & heels (booties or other)
  2. Don’t bother with your hair dryer and really try to make it without your straightener. You can do A LOT with the hotel’s or Airbnb’s hair dryer and the rest with a curling iron you did bring from home. Plus, for a beach vacay, you’re likely to not be styling your hair too much to perfection.
  3. Travel Size Toiletries: If you’re specific about your toiletries like I am, figure out what amount you use on each use and put into travel size containers- take one extra of each to give you peace of mind you won’t run out. For things that are more generic like body wash or toothpaste, depending on the length of time you are away, it might be worth to just buy wherever you arrive to save space and weight in your bag.
  4. Beauty Regimen: this is really two parts for me; as far as my skin care regimen and routine; I need what I need. Luckily skincare is usually in small containers and this is what it is!
    Make-Up on the other hand is a different story. Think like you did for your shoes. Lets pick one blush that is universal and/or can double as eyeshadow, one highlighter, one bronzer, a foundation, tinted moisturizer or tinted sunscreen, mascara, eyeliner, brow pencil, 2-3 lip tints/gloss and you’re set! Same with brushes, pick the one for each product that works and that can be versatile should you need it to be. I know this sounds like so little, but let’s think again- if it is a beach vacation and you plan to be in the water, you do not need full glam for this. So buildable basics will work great! If it’s not a tropical vacation all you really need to add is 2-3 more lip/eye colors and you’re set! 
  5. Pick 1 Bra, 2 max. My chest is so small I skip the bra all together on most vacations as I can get away with a brallette for evenings. But if you are blessed and need more support, pick 2; your super comfortable one and another that is convertible, meaning removable straps so you can match with a variety of outfits.
  6. Picking your outfits: when picking your outfits think about what is bulky vs. what folds or rolls into a small piece. I’ve been excited about outfits to pack in the past and as I’m putting things in my suitcase, replace the bulky one for a space saver one. Reconsider those outfits you really want to make work, but ultimately do not love the way you feel in them or are really far off your style- you are likely to just pack and not wear these.
  7. Jacket or Outerwear: pick 1 item like a denim jacket that you can wear with your evening/dinner outfits, during travel or day if you needed it. Wear this on your flight or tie around your waist so it’s not taking up room in your luggage.

Now, picking your outfits- this can be overwhelming. How do you know what you’re going to feel like wearing when you’re away? If you’re like me, you probably have been shopping a bit for your trip, have certain ideas on the kind of style you want for your trip, or looking at Pinterest for inspo. Pinterest is great for finding inspo on your outfits. If you’re going to be away for 5 days, pick 7 outfits, look in your closet and start outfitting! Try things on, even take pictures to make sure you like and are comfortable with your choices. Look at your previous OOTD selfies to find any outfits you may have wasted on a non-exciting day or event you never pictured or posted. If you’re really want to take this to the next level, put your outfits in an excel file broken down by day or activity/event you have planned for your vacay and see how it all looks and if you are satisfied with your options. The longer you have to plan your packing, the less you will over pack and be efficient with your time and luggage!

This is what my process looks like:

First, I compile pictures of outfits I have and would like to take and outfits I would like to buy


Then, I start outfitting by day/activity



I always start with way more outfits than needed; but as I begin got be realistic in breaking them down by day and activity (day/exploring & dinner) I’m able to quickly identify which outfits I really want to pack and which are not necessary and/or don’t go with my theme for the trip.

Once you’ve decided on your outfits and shoes, move on to intimates, and accessories. I don’t give myself a cap on either of these as I find they are always easy to pack whether in my handbag/backpack or carry on; although Hats can get a little tricky. In these two trips, I’ve only picked one hat each time and have worn it in the flight to save space in my luggage.

Good luck guys, you can do it!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s