Everyone’s been there. You have a week long trip coming up, you realized ‘omg I haven’t packed!’ And your mind immediately jumps into overdrive thinking of every single article of clothing, every single pair of shoes, every single face moisturizer, and every single dream catcher that you just HAVE TO BRING. It’s okay if you’re an overpacker, we’ve all been there. This article is for you & anyone who wants to make their packing more efficient. You don’t have to become a carry on only traveler but you don’t have to be an overpacker either! It’s 2020 and we are leaving over packing behind us, agreed?!

Now, Would you believe I’ve been a carry on only traveler for a little more than a year now? I went from this:

Overpacked, messy, just thrown together haphazardly. two thumbs down!

To this:

Clean and organized, fits everything a duffle bag would! We love to see it!

I originally did this backpack (you can get my backpack here, btw) only thing as a challenge to myself. I wanted to just see if I could do it. I watched videos, researched bags, and finally decided to take the leap on my 2018 month long South East Asia trip. I did a month in Southeast Asia (3 countries, 5 cities) and all I brought was my backpack. I haven’t looked back since. Another thing to note: when you do only carry on, that’s another $25-35 dollars in your pocket. May not seem like a lot but it’ll definitely add up when you travel often & who doesn’t want to save a lil extra money?

Alright now, who’s ready to be an expert packer?!? 

1. Learn to let things go

This is a very important step which is why I made it number 1. We, as humans, tend to get very attached to stuff. We like stuff and a lot of times, we can be lowkey hoarders of stuff. The clothes you can’t fit anymore but keep just because? The random trinkets you literally never use but think ‘maybe I’ll need it one day.’? Just.. STUFF. Learning to let go of these items is the biggest step when it comes to packing well. You don’t need so much stuff. You’re only on vacation, you’re coming back.. so leave your stuff at home. Most things you can find wherever you’re going, anyway, if you so happen to need it. More often than not, you don’t even need it though and it never leaves your suitcase. So, just remove it before hand. Don’t bring the ‘what ifs’ or ‘just in case’. These situations almost never happen and it’s just taking up precious space! 

2. Check the weather

This is kind of super important when it comes to packing because how will you even know what to bring if you don’t look up the weather. Colder weather, means It’s time to layer, baby! Get out a couple flannels, a few shirts, a nice turtleneck, two pairs of good versatile pants, a boot. You’re good to go. Warm weather means less clothes 😉 utilize the sun and bring less bulky items.

3. Use packing Cubes

So what’s the big deal about packing cubes? So here’s the great thing about them: they save space: you can immediately fit more items by putting them into organized packing cubes than simply throwing them into your luggage. Packing cubes literally pack down your items to create more space. You can find sets via amazon. Here are links to a couple I like to use: here and here

4. Rolling your clothes

If you are not rolling your clothes at this stage in life, then I don’t know what you’re doing! Just kidding. But really. I’m a super basic roller but there’s actual tutorials you can follow to be an expert roller like this one. But rolling allows you to use less space for the same clothing than just folding and stacking. Just remember: a roll takes up about half the space as a fold. You can even organize your cubes by clothing type, that’s even more next level!

My rolls could be a little tighter but they get the job done.

5. Mix and Match

People always ask ‘omg how many outfits do you bring for _____ day trip?’ I honestly have no clue how to answer that because I don’t plan trips/packing by outfits. I always always bring clothes that are versatile and can be mixed and matched. I have one flannel that literally goes with 90% of my wardrobe & I bring it everywhere. Some people will say you can bring a wardrobe thats in certain colors so everything goes together automatically. My wardrobe is typically earthy tones like greens, yellows, reds etc  so everything is just interchangeable. You can bring 6 shirts and 3 pants and that’s literally 18 outfits. Add in a dress or two and boom you got 20 different outfits. You can check me out on instagram and see how I wear the same 4 outfits all year long LOL 😀

6. Versatile shoes

My rule of thumb for shoes is: the all day shoes and then the going out shoes (if you’re into that). If you’re planning to go out bring a pair of heels/dress shoes. Otherwise stick to one pair of versatile, COMFORTABLE shoes like a comfy sneaker or sandal or boot if it’s chilly. You don’t need a different shoe for everyday or every outfit. The 2 shoes you bring should be able to go with everything, no problem so use colors that match a wide variety such as nude, brown, black, white, etc. I’m sorry to those shoe obsessed folks, my mom is one of them, but shoes are just way too bulky to be bringing multiple pairs of! I’m a firm believer in if my Birkenstocks don’t match then it’s not an outfit I need. I basically wear my birkies for everything.

7. Checklists

This can come in handy for those packers who are a bit forgetful and then end up packing random things and forgetting important ones, aka the old me! I’m super forgetful so I’m always making lists of things I need to bring. But it will also help keep you organized even if you’re packing last minute. And it’s much easier to pack only what you need when you’re going off a list vs free styling it. Think of it like shopping, you’re less likely to buy random stuff when you know exactly what you need! I just use my notes app to make lists just to remind myself of little things to bring. If you travel often, you can start just keeping things in your bag so you never forget it like a toiletry bag.

8. Wear Your Bulk

If you’re going somewhere that may be a bit chilly, wear your jacket, your hoodie, the boots, scarf, ON THE PLANE. This leads to so much more space in your luggage & you can always take off layers if you don’t need them. Planes are cold anyways so you may actually feel more comfy. By wearing the bulkiest items on you, your luggage is now open for your smaller items that weigh less and take up less space.

9. Pack What you Actually Like

Don’t bring that shirt that’s literally been at the back of your closet for a century now! You didn’t wear it at home or care about it at home, chances are it’ll be just a forgotten space holder in your luggage that you could’ve used for something else. Pack what you really like and love to wear. Most of us have a core wardrobe that we wear, bring those items. 

10. Do Laundry

For longer stays, you can still pack less and be just fine. Stay at places that have laundry facilities or hit a laundromat. When I was traveling for weeks-months at a time, I was doing laundry & repeating outfits. *gasp* it’s okay I promise you, your Instagram is not gonna be shut down because you repeated an outfit on vacation. Don’t feel pressured to wear an outfit and never wear it again.

11. Put Smaller items Into Others

You can put your socks, undies, accessories inside of pants legs or shirts before rolling; into a baggie, I’ve heard of people using shoes (although that seems kind of gross for undies to be in shoes but hey, whatever works!) but these little items can start to get really bulky when you’re bringing a lot of them so save the space and hide them into things. 

12. Bring More Shirts

 A simple change of your top will switch up any outfit drastically more than a change in pants will. Most pants are simple and we don’t pay them as much attention as a shirt. So bringing more shirts than pants will keep your wardrobe feeling fresh even if you’re rocking the same pants multiple times. I’ve had one pair of go to shorts for years and just wear a different shirt with it and it’s like a brand new fit every-time! I also feel like pants can be re-worn more before having to wash than shirts can. 

13. Use Travel Sized Containers

You can find these little handy sets at almost any store. Target has a lot of options, as well as amazon. But it’s basically a little bag that comes with a few diff travel sized containers for your liquids. If you’re going somewhere for a short period (a week or less), these are perfect for your toiletry needs such as face wash, body wash, hair products, lotion etc. it’s super convenient. If you’re staying somewhere longer and feel like you need more, I recommend just buying a full sized when you arrive & transfer to smaller containers for when you go. Two oz of anything is usually plenty for me for a trip that’s a week or less. 

It actually came with another travel sized container that I replaced with deodorant. It was $7.99 at Target.

14. Bring Less Make-Up

 *record scratch* Sorry y’all, but this isn’t the time to try to fit your entire rolling makeup case into your luggage. Bring your essentials. You don’t need 3 different palettes that have almost the exact same colors. You’ll most likely use the same thing every single day anyway! People love options and I totally understand but just try it and force yourself to use what you bring and you’ll see it really isn’t that hard or bad! I have a small makeup case that I just put into my purse for trips. It keeps it organized and actually fits a lot, tbh. But I’ve definitely traveled with just foundation, a small eyeshadow palette that doubled as blush and highlighter, mascara and eyeliner & been just fine. Having products that can double as other products goes a long way! 

All my makeup fits in here and even still that’s a lot

15. Save Room

If you realize you have extra room, don’t immediately go to fill it up! You can use that extra room for when you’re on your trip and want to do a little shopping whether for yourself or your loved ones. Extra room is a great thing to have at the end of packing, just be sure to utilize it well or just keep it empty and lower the weight of your bag, a little.

That’s my tips for packing efficiently. You don’t have to jump right into Carry on only like I did, it isn’t for everyone & this isn’t me forcing my ideologies on you! I hope you can utilize any of these tips and they make your travels a little easier when it comes to packing. Traveling can be really stressful and frustrating so hopefully being able to pack a little better will lighten your load, literally and figuratively. 

I’m including a typical packing list for me as people are always asking what the hell I have in my bag, as well. This will last me a week easily. 

My Packing List

-2 pair of shorts – one for sleeping 

-2 pairs of pants

-1 flannel

-4 shirts 

-1 tank top for sleeping

-4 dresses 

-1 cardigan/kimono

-1 two piece skirt and top set

-2 pairs of shoes – 1 worn to airport

-7 pairs of underwear 

-2 bras

-Laptop and Camera

This all fits in my backpack, no problem.

Thank you for reading, let me know in the comments if you found it helpful at all or if you think it’s worth doing. Would love to hear what you think!