Packing Light: How + Why to Travel with Only a Carry-On

It's my goal every time I travel to fit everything I need for whatever length trip it is into one carry-on suitcase and one personal-sized backpack. Spoiler alert: I accomplish this goal always. Why be burdened with huge, heavy bags that could potentially get lost on their way to your destination if not necessary? I want to share how I pack light and why I do it.

Don't overpack

This might seem like the obvious one, but for some of us, it's the hardest one. Do you reeeeally need 12 shirts for your 5 day trip? I highly doubt it. Also, you're probably going to wear your favorite jeans pretty much every day, so maybe only bring them and 1 other pair. If you're like me, you end up wearing the same (usually the most comfortable) outfit 3/5 days of your trip. "What if I spill coffee in my lap or fall in the mud or wet myself?!," you say. Well, firstly, that's what the extra pair of pants is for. And secondly, chances are you're more than likely going somewhere that will have a washer & dryer/laundromat that you can use if absolutely necessary. And if not, well that probably means you're in a location so remote that nobody will notice if you wear the same shirt 4 days in a row anyway. Remember you can always wash items in the sink too - I like to bring a small packet of powder laundry detergent in case I need to do this.

Also, by limiting the amount you pack, you'll have fewer outfit decisions to make. Fewer decisions is always good.

Roll up your clothes

You've seen it done, but have you done it? I was a little skeptical of this technique at first (how much space can it really save?), but I gotta tell you, it does work.


If you want to take it a step further, separate your rolls into clothing categories and put them into packing cubes. These are the ones I have and they are so cute and I love them and they smush everything down even further while simultaneously aiding in organization. No more sitting on your suitcase while you try to zip it up with these things.

Gonna toss my sweaters on top and there's still so much room!

Gonna toss my sweaters on top and there's still so much room!

Don't pack those "just in case" items

If you find yourself slipping something into your suitcase while saying to yourself, "just in case...," NO. Take it out. If there winds up being an item that you terribly regret not packing and can't stop thinking about and omg you just need it, you can probably purchase it at your destination.

Wear your heaviest items on the plane

I am very experienced in this one. I do it every single time I travel. If I know I'm going to need or want boots at my destination, it doesn't matter if it's 90 degrees at the location I'm leaving, I'm wearing those boots. I wear my least pack-down-able jacket and my thickest sweater. I'm more than likely going to want layers on the plane anyway, I can stow my jacket in the overhead bin once I've boarded, and can slip my boots off if I want to as well. 

Pack your bag of regulation-size liquids in your backpack

This way, they will be much easier to access while going through security. You probably have a laptop you're already going to have to take out of there anyway, so why open up two bags when you can open one? Keepin' things easy. I like it.


There are a few reasons to pack this way.
1. You avoid paying baggage fees. I enjoy saving money and I bet you do too. And if a checked bag is included in your ticket price, well then I still do it because of the following other reasons.
2. No lost bags. Carrying on is a sure-fire way for your suitcase to not be lost en route to your destination. There was a single time in the past few years that I did check a bag because it was included with my flight and, what do you know, it was who-knows-where for two days. At least it made its way back to me eventually, but it stunk to not have my so precisely packed belongings for those first couple of days.
3. You don't have to wait for your bag when you get there! I LOVE getting off the plane and walking straight out the exit, nah-nah-nah-boo-ing as I watch others standing around awaiting the arrival of their luggage while I grab the first taxi. Jk, I'm not that mean, but it's truly so nice to just be on your way after a long flight without more waiting.

Do you have any tips for packing light? Please share in the comments!