How to Pack in a Carry On for Vacation

Packing Ollie

First rule of thumb: don’t forget to pack your cat!

But really, packing every you need for a 10 day vacation in a carry on can be a small challenge. I decided a carry on was the only way to go because I was going to be taking so many flights during my vacation (8 planes total!). The chances of my checked bag getting lost were way too high for me to risk. I had never packed strictly in a carry on before, at least not for a trip as long as this one, but I think I rose to the occasion successfully since I used every piece of clothing I brought but didn’t feel like I really needed any more.

Tips for packing in a carry on:

  1. Mix and match. This is the golden rule. I used to make the mistake of creating outfits for my travels. I would plan maybe two outfits per day with an extra outfit or two for good measure. The problem with this plan though is every outfit had it’s own components. I would end up bringing 12 shirts, 12 bottoms, all different accessories, some dresses, etc. The best way to pack is to have items you can mix and match. I only brought 3 bottoms on my trip to France and Greece: black jeans, jean shorts, khaki shorts. I brought 10 shirts that I knew could be mixed and matched with any of those bottoms and work perfectly.
  2. Keep to a color scheme. This rule works hand in hand with rule #1. I brought mostly white, blacks and blues for my trip. This helped everything feel cohesive. I didn’t feel like I could only wear this shirt with these bottoms. Everything went together so I always had options.
  3. Plan to do some laundry. Plan to do a little laundry when you travel. Even if it’s just in your hotel sink. I washed socks, bras, and a couple shirts during my trip.
  4. Know your style. I used to make the mistake of bringing clothes I hadn’t worn in years on vacation. What if the one time I want to wear this shirt I bought back in 2009 is when I’m on vacation?! Guess what, not going to happen. If you haven’t worn an item of clothing in years, do not bring it with you on vacation. Pack only what feels like you and what makes you happy. Vacation should be fun! Don’t stress about your outfit.
  5. Highs and lows. Didn’t I say mix and match was the golden rule? Well it applies here too. Bring clothes which can be worn casually or dressed up. I brought a few dresses that felt casual and breezy enough for a day of sightseeing but also felt polished and perfect for a night out once I layered on a few more pieces of jewelry.
  6. Don’t over do it on shoes. I brought only two pairs of shoes to Europe. Brown strappy sandals and white converse. I did not bring any heels. Two pairs of shoes is probably really all you need. If you can mix and match your outfits you should be able to match them to just two pairs of shoes. If you think you’ll be going to fancier dinners or events, bring one pair of heels. But three pairs of shoes max.
  7. Keep your jewelry simple. Yes, you should also be able to mix and match your jewelry. Bring jewelry that you know will go with everything you’ve packed. I only packed gold jewelry because I knew that would go with all my outfits.
  8. Stay comfortable. Chance are you’ll be doing a lot of sightseeing on your trip. Or if not you’ll be doing a lot of relaxing. Or a lot of eating. With any of those things you want to be comfortable! Don’t pack those shoes that give you blisters. Don’t bring the jeans you need to suck in your stomach to wear. Comfort is key when trying to actually enjoy your vacation. Save room in your suitcase by getting rid of that too tight top.

Those are my best tips to pack for your vacation in a carry on. Let me know if you have any other packing tips you would like to share!