How To Travel With Just A Carry-On (+ A FREE Packing List Inside!)

Let’s start this point by saying: I’m really proud of the fact that I did a 14-day vacation in Europe with just a carry-on bag. Trust me, there are perks to minimizing the things you need to drag around while traveling.

The first being – You don’t have to drag things around! Big, bulky suitcases are the worst. Especially when you have layovers, you’re jumping in and out of cabs, or you need to walk a bit with luggage in tow. The second is that it’s cheaper! You don’t need to pay the extra baggage fees that come with having to check-in your suitcase. And my third favorite things: You can get off a plane and go straight to your destination. No pit stops at baggage claim.

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So if I’ve convinced you to downsize, the next question is: How do I even make that happy!? The good news is that it’s easy. The challenges mostly come from the old “I need options” and “well I might need this” thoughts that we all go through when packing.

After doing it in Europe with success, I’ve done it ever since. And so I thought I’d compile I few tips I’ve learned along the way.

How to travel with just a carry-on:

First and foremost, you need to find your trusty weekender bag. My go-to is the Everlane bag that I bought a few years ago. I’ve used it on weekend getaways and epic 14-day vacations.

They don’t make the one I have anyone, but you can find a similar bag here.

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Alright, so you have the bag. Now it’s time to pack strategically! First, start by considering how many days you’ll be traveling. But more importantly, take count of how many locations you think you’ll have access to a washer/dryer because that’s key.

For example, of the 5 places that we stayed at during our Eurotrip, two of them had a washer/dryer in unit. This was through Airbnb by the way. But that’s super helpful to note because it allows you to condense the number of things you need to bring, and since you can wash your clothes at some point, you can recycle outfits as well!

Psst! Save $40 on your first Airbnb stay with travel credits from me here!

How to pack light for your next trip:

Alright, let’s get to the good stuff: It’s time to figure out what you need to bring.

It helps to think about it like a capsule wardrobe. What are those classic pieces that you wear all the time that can be a part of your “uniform” for the trip? For me, it was pretty simple:

  • 1-2 black pants and 1 pair of jeans
  • 1 pair of shorts
  • 2 shoe options (one causal or one formal)
  • 5 tops in various styles
  • 1 dress or romper
  • 1-2 bathing suits (these are small so no biggie here)
  • Bulk up on underwear and socks (7-8 pairs, and then you can clean them)
  • 2-3 bras (because let’s be honest, they’re less needy of being clean)
  • 1 versatile scarf
  • Accessories and jewelry (these are small so you can load up!)

All of this depends on the weather, of course, but you get the idea. And that was what I did for a 14-day trip. Gasp!

Freebie alert: I’ve created a  complete packing checklist that you can download here. It has check boxes for toiletries, paperwork, electronics, and more!

But think about it: If you stick the basics, that leaves rooms for you to mix and match, instead of stressing about having to pack a unique outfit for each day. And it doesn’t have to hinder your style! In fact, I like to think it makes me think more creatively. For example, I wore that top a few days ago, what can I do to make it different? How about trying a scarf or a bold necklace? Or pair it with different shoes this time around? It’s kind of fun to see what you can come up with!

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Now just roll them in:

Yes, that’s right. The best way to save space is to roll your clothes! I usually start by adding my shoes in first, tucked back into the sides of the bag. Pro tip: Add your socks and other small accessories into your shoes as a way to save some space!

Then, start rolling on your clothes. Put the bulkier things in first, followed by the lighter items on top. You’ll be amazed by how much room you’ll have for the extras, like toiletries, jewelry, scarves, and more!

Then, everything else I need to pack can just be nicely tucked into my purse.

Voilà! You’re officially packed light and ready to take on the world.

Let’s go places,
Sarah

Have an awesome packing tip? Tell me in the comment section below.

All photos on this blog are mine. Feel free to share but please credit me with a link back to the blog. Much appreciated and thank you for your support!

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