6 Tips for Packing Carry-On Only

This past weekend I went away to NYC to visit a dear college friend. I left Friday and returned Monday so I knew I wanted to only pack a carry-on bag. And then I realized I don’t think I’ve ever packed carry-on only. I got a little anxious just thinking about the liquids. Late at night, I was laying in bed 5 days before I left going through my mental list of what I needed to bring. No joke. The day before I left, I asked everyone in my family, “is this considered a liquid? How about this?”

I didn’t have much hope for myself, but by the end of it, I felt good in my decisions. I made it through security easily and now I want to share with you what I learned to help make packing for your next trip stress-free.

But first, make sure to have some fun when packing. Put on your favorite playlist and turn up the volume. If packing makes you super anxious, write a list that breakdowns everything you’ll need and where it will go. You can also use it as a checklist right before you leave for the airport. That is totally optional, but for some writing it down helps calm the mind.

And now, my top 6 tips for packing carry-on only:

Tip #1

Pick out clothes you can wear different ways/in multiple outfits. Before you start throwing everything into your suitcase, look up the weather forecast and think appropriately. From there, stick with basics. I knew NYC was going to be cold still, so I picked out 2 pairs of jeans, 2 tops, and 2 sweaters. That worked for me, but maybe you only need 1 bottom and more variety on top. Make it your own. I also stuck with a simple color palette with mostly black and a small splash of color. It allowed me a lot of freedom to mix and match since everything went together. Before making your final decision, take a few minutes to create your different outfits. It can change once you get there, but either way you will know you have enough for however many days you’ll be gone. Don’t be afraid to wear an article of clothing more than once and embrace your creativity.

Tip #2

Use packing cubes and roll your clothes. Whether you’re packing carry-on only or not, packing cubes are a huge life saver. Utilize the space even further by rolling your clothes before putting them in the cubes. I bought a set from Eagle Creek in 2016 that has already had plenty of use. For carry-on, the bigger cube was perfect for all of my clothing, including pjs, and the half cube I use for intimates, socks, and any little accessories, like a scarf if it’s needed. If I check a bag, I love the folder for all of my shirts and the cube for my bottoms.

Tip #3

Wear your thickest clothes on the plane. This applies no matter the season. In my particular case, I was bringing bulky sweaters so I wore the thicker one on the plane and my coat. However, I personally get cold on planes regardless of season, so if you’re traveling in the warmer months, wear a sweater or sweatshirt on the plane, or whatever outwear you want to bring. It will keep you cozy on the ride there, but if there’s any unexpected weather or the nights are chillier than you thought, then you’re all set to go.

Tip #4

Choose 1 pair of shoes that are comfortable and easy to take on and off. Since we’re trying to pack less here, only bring 1 pair of shoes. Most people walk a lot on vacation so make sure they are comfortable and easy to take on and off for security. If you’re traveling to the beach or somewhere hot, then it’s okay to bring both sneakers and sandals, but choose the ones that are most versatile and will hold up no matter the activity.

Tip #5

Bring multipurpose products. Finally, we’re getting to the complicated part – toiletries! If you’re bringing makeup, think about multipurpose products. I didn’t actually end up wearing makeup this trip, but I still brought my RMS Beauty Eye Polish in Lunar that I could use as both an eyeshadow and a highlighter. I also packed my RMS Beauty Lip2Cheek in Diabolique that doubles as a lip and cheek tint. Bonus, they’re not considered liquids! Other makeup items that could be multipurpose include foundation/concealer.

Tip #6

Don’t freak out over the liquids, and dry shampoo is the best. While I initially stressed about the liquids, once I made the decision to not bring shampoo and conditioner, everything just fell into place. While I love my new bangs, they can be a bit high maintenance. The thought of washing my hair on this trip was freaking me out. Instead of packing a bunch of different hair products and styling tools, I just brought my new Acure Dry Shampoo (that is a powder, not aerosol). Our Air BnB had a hair dryer and provided us with mini haircare products, so I ended up using them on the last day and all was fine. Not the best hair day ever, but it worked. For me, my hair is my liquid weakness, but maybe it’s something else for you. Stick to the essentials. If something goes haywire, with your hair or skin, rest assured that you can always pick up whatever you might need at your destination. Oh, and mascara is not considered a liquid!

I am by no means a packing expert, but I used to be absolutely terrible at it. With these tips, I feel way more confident in my abilities and I know I won’t have issues or anxiety about packing carry-on only in the future. I hope they can help you too!

What are your packing tips? Let us know!







  1. Reply


    March 30, 2018

    These are great tips, I totally agree with all of them. For me, the two most important things are planning and simplifying. I roughly know the programs we’re going to do, I check the weather and actually plan all my outfits, so I’ll know exactly what I’ll need and don’t take anything more. Toiletries are tricky because they seem so small so we just throw in a bunch of things, just in case. But I’ve realized that my beauty routine is incredibly simple when I’m traveling so nowadays I really only bring the basics. It’s absolutely possible to survive 3 days without two eyeshadow palettes, 3 cleansers, and a bunch of face masks:)

    • Reply


      March 30, 2018

      Yes, yes, yes! A little planning goes a long way. Because skin can change from day to day, I know I rely too much on the variety of my skincare at home. But really, what’s the worst that would happen if I get acne on a trip and don’t have my spot treatment? A pimple isn’t the end of the world! Not ready to get rid of all of my face masks at home just yet, though 😉


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