When this year is all said and done, I will have taken ten round trip flights in 2017. And for each of those flights — with the exception of flying home for Christmas because bulky clothes — I will have packed only a carry-on bag. And I’m not talking about the small suitcases with wheels either. I’m talking about a good old-fashioned over-the-shoulder bag. The kind of bag you used to pack to sleepover at a friend’s house back in the day.
With airlines changing their Checked Bag Policies left and right these days, I’ve found that it’s just a heck of a lot cheaper to pack less and carry on. And so I started to get questions from my friends like, “how the hell do you only pack a carry-on bag?? What’s the secret??”
And so I thought I’d write a little blog post with my secrets to packing lightly! Most of my trips this year have ranged from 3-6 days total, and I pack the same bag each time. I call it my Mary Poppins bag because it fits more inside than meets the eye. …And because it’s covered in an old lady floral design that I absolutely love. I got it from Target a few years back, but I’ve linked a similar one –> here. Due to a zipper mishap, I may have to invest in a new Mary Poppins bag, and I’ve got my eye on this brand –> Lo and Sons, because they have a separate compartment in the bottom of the bag for dirty laundry. Which I think is just genius.
^^ my Mary Poppins bag, perfect-sized purse, & ideal travel-wear 😉 ^^
Lauren’s Top Ten Tips for Ditching the Checked Bag & Packing Only a Carry On:
- Take time to honestly think about your upcoming trip. What are you going to be doing during your visit? Plan your outfits that way. Are you really going to have time to exercise every day? Be honest. Probably not. So skip all the extra workout gear. Maybe you won’t have time to at all. Leave the athletic sneakers at home. Do you need a whole new outfit for each event, or can you stay in the same thing all day long? Do Not pack “multiple options” for each event thinking, “Well maybe I’ll wear this instead…” No! Make a decision and stick with it! I try to pack one outfit per day + one comfy pair of clothes to lounge in/sleep in during the evenings that I can wear on multiple evenings…
- Only pack items that you truly love. This is my most important rule! If you aren’t absolutely in love with a piece of clothing, then it’s probably going to stay folded up in your bag for the entirety of your trip. A successful trip for me is when I wear every single item that I packed (usually more than once). Only pack the clothes that you are going to want to wear — and want to wear all day long in most cases. If you want to wear it, you will wear it. And then you’ll feel good and look good!
- Will you have access to a washer/dryer?This can be a huge space saver. For me, I have this weird thing that once I wear clothes on an airplane, I can’t put them on again until they’ve been washed (because airplanes are gross). If there’s a washer/dryer available to me, then I wear the same outfit home that I wore on the way to my destination. Usually (for me) flying takes up my whole day anyway, so I keep it comfortable and casual. Having a laundry room available also helps out if you do have athletic clothes to pack, socks, underwear, etc…
- Pick clothing items that you can mix and match.Trust me, you don’t need to pack two pairs of jeans and three different sandals. Pick one of each and roll with it. Pick your favorite items that go with everything so that you can make game time decisions on what to wear if you need to. You don’t need to pack 4 sweatshirts either. Leave it at one. Especially if you have a washer/dryer. I’ll tell you something — people couldn’t care less if you re-wear something. I bet 90% of the time, they don’t even notice you’re wearing the same thing. And if they do, to hell with it! You’re on vacation and trying not to waste $50+ on baggage fees (you have Margaritas to buy instead)!!! If you’re that concerned with people noticing that you’re re-wearing clothes, then don’t pack anything extravagant (like a pink polka dot ball gown, for example) that people will definitely notice you wore the day before.
- If weather allows, stick with one-piece outfits! This is absolutely my #1 Space Saver. Dresses and rompers should become your best friend. Think about it — you’re only packing one piece per outfit instead of two or three. And if you stick with this approach, you can probably fit an extra outfit in there if you reallllyyyyy feel like you need to.
- No one needs more than three pairs of shoes, maximum. Personally, I stick to the basics and wear my Birkenstocks with pretty much every outfit I own. And then I pack a pair of sneakers that I usually wear on the plane (because my feet get cold, you know?). This can be tougher in the winter, but just substitute your sandals for a single pair of boots. I break this rule when I’m going home for a special event — like a wedding — where a specific form of footwear is necessary. But generally my rule of thumb is “no more than three pairs of shoes at a time — one on your feet, and two in your bag!” Bonus tip: wear your bulkiest shoes + clothes on the plane so they don’t need to be packed at all!
- You know those $3 squeeze tubes in the travel aisle at Target? Invest in some. Gone are the days of running to Target before every single trip and stocking up on travel-sized shampoo and conditioner…now you can just buy these totally awesome silicon tubes in a variety of colors on Amazon, and just refill them with your normal shampoo and conditioner before each trip! If you’re one of those people that thinks you have to pack your entire economy sized bottle of shampoo, just stop.
- Always check if there’s a hair dryer, straightener, curling iron, etc. available wherever you’re staying.If you use these items, you might as well check to see if any or all of them will be available to you! Cus why pack em’ if you don’t need to! If you’re visiting a friend, or going on a trip with a bunch of other gals, why not coordinate and split the items up, that way you can all save on space!
- Find the perfect-sized purse. For me, this is a brown pleather purse also from Target that perfectly fits my wallet, my iPad, and whatever book I’m reading at the time. Because these are the only things I need on a plane, train, or automobile. I like to keep my carrying of items through the airport at a minimum and to get through security as quickly and as efficiently as possible.
- Leave a little extra wiggle room in your bag. This way, if you’re out and about and see something that you must have…or a family member or friend gifts you something on your visit…you can fit it in your bag for the way back! You don’t want to leave anything behind, do you?? It’s also good to leave a little bit of extra room in your bag and make sure that you can carry it around on your travels comfortably. There’s nothing worse than struggling through an airport on a short layover after all…
And there you have it! My Top Ten Tips for packing only a carry-on while traveling! Hopefully this list helps you save a little bit of time, a lot of money, and maybe even cut down on some stress the next time you’re traveling. And if there’s something that you absolutely need on your trip that you’ve found yourself without, have no fear…for everything else…there’s Mastercard 😉