A couple of years ago, one of my readers asked me to write a blog post about some of my packing tips and tricks. I meant to do it while I was living in Europe and traveling so regularly, but I never got around it. Tonight, I packed for my next European adventure (!!!!), and it seemed like the right time to share.
First of all, I have a huge disclaimer. I do everything in my power to only pack in a carry-on (or hand luggage, for my European friends). It gives me SUCH high anxiety to part with my bag. I’m afraid the airline will lose it wreaking havoc on my plans (especially when I have some tight turnarounds), and in general, I don’t like the added time associated with checking it in and picking it up from baggage claim. Approximately 98% of the time, I’m successful in packing in a carry-on. The only exceptions are when I have to pack formal wear in addition to two weeks of travel (think, 14-day Scandinavian Cruise and 18-day Ireland / UK adventure inclusive of being a bridesmaid in a wedding) or when I was traveling to/from the US as an expat (either when I was moving or when I was planning to do some shopping in the US).
The most difficult part is scrutinizing what you think you need to bring. Inevitably, there are items you consider bringing but that you don’t really need. I start mentally planning for long haul trips several days in advance. Then, 1-2 days in advance, I start laying out what I want to take. I consider when I’ll wear everything I’m planning to bring (which day or activity) to make sure all of the events of the trip will be covered. Next, I typically remove items that will only have one wear. Unless it’s a special occasion, nothing makes it into my bag, if I only have plans to wear it once. I am not concerned with re-wearing when I travel. Obviously, there might be an outfit or two that get too dirty or sweaty, but for the most part, I plan to re-wear just about everything I bring. To pack for 2-3 weeks in a carry-on, you also have to be very selective about your shoes. There just isn’t room to bring very many.
Tonight, I packed for a trip that includes: 1 evening in Paris, one week on the island of Corsica (France), 4.5 days in Switzerland, and 2.5 days in Birmingham, UK. Plus, one day of travel on either end.
I packed the following items:
3 dresses, 2 shorts, 1 pair of leggings, 1 pair of jeans, 3 cardigans, 2 tunics, 3 long sleeve tops, 2 t-shirts, 2 tank tops, 2 scarves, 1 swimsuit, 1 cover up, 1 hat, 1 pair of gloves, 3 pairs of socks, 1 pajama, 1 raincoat, 1 umbrella, 1 pair of sneakers, 1 pair of sandals, 1 pair of flats, 1 pair of Toms, 1 small backpack, 1 cross-body purse, 1 wristlet, 1 waterproof wet beg, undergarments, gifts for the friends I’m visiting, toiletries, chargers, 2 magazines, 1 notebook, and my Kindle.
Here is everything laid out on the floor…
The secret is to roll everything that can be rolled and to stuff things in every nook and cranny. Inside my tennis shoes, I fit three pairs of socks, a pair of gloves, a sports bra, and a tank top. I make sure to pack in layers in my bag attempting to use up every possible space.
When all was said and done tonight, I got everything into one carry-on suitcase and one bag for under the seat in front of me. I plan to carry my raincoat. (For the record, I can’t say enough good things about Tumi roller bag or my Longchamp bag. I broke a zipper on my Tumi suitcase several months ago, and when I took it into the store, they fixed it free of charge.)
The finished product…
If you’re someone who likes to have a lot of clothing and shoe options when you travel, or who likes to buy a lot of souvenirs, this may not work for you, but know that if you’re willing to plan, re-wear, and be a bit of a minimalist for a couple of weeks, it’s possible to travel with just a carry-on. I’ve done it over and over again for everything from two day trips to 21-day trips.