Let's pack Lifestyle Travel

Carry on: How to Pack it!

With checking a bag theses days, you run the risk of losing your luggage, or having to wait in mile long lines before security. Look no further here’s you’re guide on how to pack a carry on, for any length of travel.

When I tell people I haven’t checked a bag in 5 years, they look at me like I’m insane. Let me assure you, I’m not insane, I’m just really good at packing.

Because you are only packing a carry on, doesn’t mean you are wearing the same outfit over and over, or you look like a bum on your trip. It simply means you’re selective as to what you are putting in that carry on.

… plus who uses every single item they jam into that big ass piece of luggage anyways?

I can go on and on about all the reasons I think checking a bag is silly, but I won’t bore you with my opinions. Instead I’ll give you a few lists of what I pack in my bags, and questions to ask yourself when you pack your own bag, so you can travel a bit lighter next time.

The lists:

We are going to use my 14 day trip to Ireland as an example for this episode of “How to pack a carry on…”

Let me start by setting the scene, because that matters when you pack a bag. The weather in Ireland is moody as ever, moments of warm summer air with big blue skies, quickly turn into a light drizzle with gusty winds. So let’s just say, I needed a little bit of every season to fit in this carry on.

After all, being prepared, and looking cute while doing so.. is the reason you’re here.

So here’s the lists you came for.

What’s in my carry on suit case…
  • 2 pairs of jeans
  • 2 pairs of yoga pants
  • 1 pair of biker shorts
  • 1 pair of sleep pants
  • 1 pair of comfy colored pants
  • 1 skirt
  • 2 dresses
  • 3 long sleeve cardigans (denim button up, open sweater, pull over I wore traveling)
  • 2 long sleeve tops (1 casual, 1 for going out)
  • 7 tee shirts (3 casual, 2 for going out, 1 for sleep, 1 hiking)
  • 5 tank tops (2 Hiking, 3 to wear under cardigans)
  • 3 jackets (Warmer coat, Raincoat, North face zip up)
  • Converse (traditional white chucks)
  • Birkenstocks
  • 3 pairs of hiking socks
  • 3 pairs of regular socks
  • 5 pairs of undies
  • 2 sports bras
  • 1 tee shirt bra
  • Swimsuit (that I never wore)
  • Extra purse for going out
  • Umbrella
  • Charging convertors
  • Makeup bag
  • Toiletries bag (Bring a little bottle of downy wrinkle guard!!)
  • Accessories (earrings, necklace, handkerchief)

The key to making this work, is a capsule wardrobe. Meaning anything you bring can be worn more than one way, or with multiple looks.

Example: My casual tee shirts I can wear with a pair of jeans, and some accessories to look cute while exploring the city. Then I can wear that same tee shirt while hiking, or traveling on the second wear. With 7 tee shirts total, I’ve got options.

I either roll the clothes, and stack them. Or fold them like in the photo above, so I can see everything I’ve got.

The actually carry on I use is a Calpak. I was lucky enough to score it at Marshalls about 5 years ago, and it’s been on every single trip since. Calpaks are pricey, but they are so worth the investment. They don’t sell the exact piece of luggage I have, but this is the closest I could find to it!

Here’s some examples of the outfits I put together in Ireland!

What’s in my personal item…

Most airlines, depending on the ticket you purchase, allow for a carry on measuring 22″ x 14″ x 9″. Along with a personal item, that can be stowed under the seat in front of you.

Packing both with intention will set you up for the most success.

I select what I will use as my personal item, based on the type of trip I’m going on. Ireland was going to be a mixture of everything. However, I knew we’d be doing a fair amount of hiking, so I brought my hiking backpack. It’s small enough to leave room for my feet under the seat. Big enough to hold everything else I needed. Including a side pocket for my water bottle, and a front clip I was able to hook my coat into.

What else goes in my personal item-

  • Electronic pouch (Phone charger, other charging cords, USB port, headphones.)
  • Kindle/Journal/Book
  • Fanny pack (Holding the important things-wallet, passport, travel documents)
  • Medicine (Tums, Advil, etc.)
  • SNACKS! (Protein bars, granola bars, all the bars, dried fruit, nuts, chocolate, liquid IV)
  • Travel pillow (clip to to a strap)

We want to keep this bag as light as possible, while still keeping the things we may need while traveling easily accessible.

What to wear on the plane…

It seems silly to be strategic about what you wear while traveling, but lemme tell ya it makes all the difference.

For this trip I needed boots that were waterproof, comfortable to hike/walk distances in, and cute. I went with Blundstones, and I think it was the best choice. However, when I tried to pack them in my carry on, they were quite bulky. So, I wore them on the plane! Easy fix. Wear your heaviest/ bulkiest shoe if possible.

Same with your tops. I wanted options as far as my sweaters went, so I wore the biggest one while traveling. Along with the biggest tee shirt that took up more room than the others.

I always wear yoga pants while traveling. This also provides you with another pair for the trip.

And my coat, as I said I was able to attach it to my bag. Then use it as an extra blanket/ pillow on the plane.

Clean Clothes:

Okay, so you have all these lists of what to pack, and you’ve got you’re own versions laid out of what you want to bring. But how on earth are you going to wear only 5 pairs of undies, or your yoga pants for 14 days?!?

  • Option one is to make sure you have laundry at your Airbnb’s. They all don’t need a washer and dryer, just your stay about a week into the trip. Bonus if more of your Airbnb’s have it.
  • Option two is to use sink suds, or wash in the sink. I personally don’t mind wearing my clothes a few times, as long as they’re not drenched in sweat or dirt. However, clean undies are a must. You can easily wash your undergarments in the sink and leave them out to dry.
  • Option three, one I’ve personally never had to do but is easy to find. A laundry mat! If you are backpacking Europe, or on a super long trip, chances are you’ll be spending a little time in a laundry mat. Easy fix to having clean clothes, ya?

Your turn:

Ask yourself, is this something I’m actually going to wear?

Can I wear it with both pairs of jeans, or the skirt?

Will it store well in a carry on bag?

Try on all your outfits!!! I pull everything out of my closet that I may want to bring on a trip, then I make outfits. Trying them on decides if it makes it in the carry on or not.

Sometimes the image in your head, doesn’t look as cute on. Testing outfits while packing eliminates outfit fails, while on the trip. Making more room for souvenirs, or useful items.

Shoes, okay I always want a few more pairs. I’ll admit it. But this is a sacrifice you make when only packing a carry on. Choose comfort, and something that goes with everything. Example: Chucks, you can wear them with yoga pants, jeans, or with a cute skirt.

Now it’s time to pack your carry on and get on the plane. I hope this guide helps you to pack a bag with a little more intention, and a whole lot lighter!

If Ireland happens to be your destination, I’ve got four blog posts up with your name on em!

Where to stay.

Must see’s and hikes.

Best pubs and restaurants.

Full Itinerary.