I love, love, love to travel but I refuse to waste a single moment waiting on luggage at the baggage claim once I reach my destination. No matter where I’m going or far how long, I see it as a personal challenge to pack everything I need in a single carry-on suitcase and a bag that fits under the seat in front of me. Of course my plan is occasionally foiled when I’m forced to gate check my suitcase but at least then I know I did everything I could!
I decided to snap some pictures while I was packing for our trip to Nantucket so you could see my packing strategy in action and I could share a few of my carry-on packing tips. I almost always use this Steamline luggage — Will gave me this navy carry-on for Christmas two years ago and it’s truly one of my favorite things I own. People always comment and ask if it gets dirty — mine definitely isn’t spotless but I do take good care of it and most marks (especially on the white leather trim) wipe off pretty easily (I’ve even used my makeup wipes in a pinch!). It’s such a vintage-inspired suitcase that a few scuffs and scrapes don’t bother me! If it’s something you’re worried about, Will has the hunter green version with tan leather trim and his definitely shows less wear! And if it’s something you’re really worried about, this set gives you a similar leather trim look but with a more durable body.
My biggest piece of advice is to plan out your outfits in advance. Even if it makes you feel like you’re prepping for your first day of high school, it’s such a helpful way to get organized. I used to pack a pile of tops and sweaters next to a pile of jeans and shorts and call it a day (“I’ll see what I feel like wearing when I get there…”) but now I try everything on before it goes in the suitcase to make sure I have as many complete outfits as I’ll need for however many days I’ll be traveling.
Obviously I might mix things up once I get there but it’s nice to know I’ve packed the right number of items and can then make any game time adjustments if I’m so inclined. I typically pack twice as many tops as bottoms just because it bothers me more to repeat a top (especially if I’m on a trip where I’ll be taking lots of photos) than it does to rewear the same pair of jeans.
My second piece of advice is to pack your pajamas first so they’re at the bottom of your suitcase. This might sound strange but knowing I’ll need my pajamas soon after I arrive at my destination forces me to unpack the rest of my suitcase the same day I arrive. I’ll hang what needs to be hung and lay out other items on a surface in the room unless I’m staying long enough to actually put everything in drawers. It’s also a good way to avoid excessive wrinkling and remember what you packed in the first place!
I also try to minimize the number of bags and shoes I bring as these take up the most space in a suitcase. I think it’s a good idea to travel in a pair of shoes you’ll want to wear on your trip and then pack any additional pairs in your suitcase. This is hard to do if you’re travel from a warm to a cold location or vice versa but it definitely saves space if you’re trying to make cuts.
Personally, I’m not a huge bag person so if weren’t for taking outfit pictures while I travel and not wanting to bore you all with the exact same accessories every time, I’d probably stick to a suitcase, a carry-on handbag, and a single clutch for nights out. You might substitute the handbag for a beach bag if you’re heading to the beach or swap out the clutch for a cross body bag if you’ll be doing a lot of walking in the city.
I’ll admit that I tend to bring the largest possible second carry-on, which during the summer often means a boat tote or oversized straw bag. Another good option is to carry a small duffel bag and then pack your handbag inside it with a few other essentials. I like to have easy access to my cosmetic case if I’m on an early flight and don’t do my makeup until I land, plus it’s light enough to carry in a bag instead of in my rolling suitcase. Then I’ll fill it up with my laptop, camera, phone, headphones, wallet, sunnies, etc. and I’m good to go! My carry-on is a lot lighter since switching to Audible for most of my reading — obviously it’s nice to purchase hardcover versions of your favorite books and the classics but I highly recommend it if you’re tired of lugging around beach books you’re only going to read once.
I wouldn’t say I have packing down to a science (I’m not one of those people who roll all their clothing, I wish!) but this works pretty well for me on most trips! Would love to hear your packing tips in the comments and let me know of any similar posts you’d like to see from me!
Shop more travel staples: