How to Pack Light and Just Use a Carry-On!

packing light advice fashion blogger

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printed in the Idaho Statesman’s Treasure Magazine, view the online version here:

Going on a trip? Treasure Valley style expert offers tips for packing light!

If you are among those jetting off on vacation this summer, you’ll likely have to endure many of the hassles of flying: baggage check-in, security, flight delays, layovers and the eternal baggage claim carousel.

Some of these things are unavoidable. However, there is one major way you can cut down on the vacation time you spend stuck in an airport while beaches beckon you: Pack everything in carry-ons.

Seriously, you can do it. This spring I traveled to London, Amsterdam and Paris with my husband and was determined to only take what I could carry quickly through an airport: my carry-on and a cute backpack.

stylespygirl on the go

My husband laughed when I stated this intention; he knows that as a fashion blogger I feel compelled to always dress well for the hundreds of photos I’ll be taking as we travel. He also knows I have a particularly passionate habit of accumulating fashion treasures along the way and once or twice have had to purchase extra luggage to bring it all home with me!

Not this time, I vowed, because I’m writing a book of travel tips for women adventuring abroad, and I had to make this work.

And if this little shopping-crazy fashionista could manage two weeks abroad in a carry-on and a backpack, so can you!

1. Mix and Match

Don’t take your favorite outfits; only take things that match each other. Focus on multi-functional pieces. I found a breezy swimsuit cover-up at Target (pictured above) that also looks great with a tank top and jeans or thrown over a dress. It’s a neutral color, too, so it goes with everything. Great for the beach, exploring and shopping, or a night out on the town.

packing light for vacation stylespygirl

Photo by Valerie Davenport / Swimsuit cover-up from Target / Sandals by Dolce Vita, Nordstrom / Bags by COACH

2. Go Monochromatic

Pick three colors, and I mean it. My “Eurotrip” suitcase had only black, white and gray in it. Somber, yes — but with my intentionally blank canvas, I had plenty of room to add accent colors and fun accessories along the way. A blue scarf here, a red umbrella there and a pretty cardigan or patterned handbag to seal the deal!

3. Ditch the Big Coat

Unless you’re vacationing to snow, pick the most versatile layering jacket out of your closet and wear it on the plane. That saves space in your luggage and gives you a blanket of sorts to stay warm on a long flight or a pillow to cuddle with.

(Bonus tip: Wear all of your largest items on the plane. Not only does this give you options to make yourself more comfortable on long flights, but it also saves room in your carry-on for more compact items. )

4. Leave Behind the Bling

Leave diamond rings (and other high-end jewelry) at home, in a locked safe or with someone you trust. Even in many modern European countries, for example, diamond wedding sets are not customary; most folks wear simple bands. Major bling can quickly brand you as an American tourist and might cause people to make assumptions about your wealth.

When I travel, I wear a small silver band I bought for $3 at Charming Charlie and leave my fine jewelry with a trusted friend. I also take only three necklaces: one small piece, one multi-strand chunkier piece and one multi-layered piece. That way, every neckline in my suitcase is covered.

packing light stylespygirl fashion advice

5. Take 2 Pairs of Shoes, Period

You really only need one pair of comfortable walking shoes and one dressier heel or wedge. You can buy cheap flip-flops just about anywhere in the world if you really need something extra for the beach — and then leave them behind before you head home.

6. Pack everything inside everything else

On my Europe trip, I discovered I could fit six pairs of rolled-up socks in each of my favorite ankle boots. Six! I can also fit 6-7 pairs of underwear in one ankle boot as well. Look for unused nooks & crannies for extra space! I chose a small second purse for evenings out ,and found to my delight that my ziplocked toiletries fit perfectly inside it. No additional toiletry bag needed!

I also learned I could fit my everyday handbag into my backpack, with more toiletries and extra gear on top, so I had a total of three purse options for my trip, ranging from mini to large, each one compactly nestled inside the other.

Another great option is to purchase a specific compact multi-functional travel bag, like the one I bought (below) from Coach at Boise Towne Square, to use for trips. It’s a wallet, handbag, phone holder and clutch all in one!coach wallet wristlet silver

Photo by Valerie Davenport / Bag by COACH / Heart sunnies from Hot Topic

7. Take travel sizes

Don’t bring all your toiletries; only take samples. Every time I shop for beauty products, I end up with extra trial samples from stores like Sephora and Macy’s that I use for traveling. Not only are they compact and disposable, but I also enjoy the adventure of trying new things as part of my travels. “Good morning, London! Let’s see how these ‘Revitalizing Moisture’ under-eye strips help with my jetlag!”

You can also buy things wherever you travel. Plus, it’s fun to explore new products. A need for facial moisturizer in Paris led me to find some amazing new brands of skin care that I never would have discovered had I brought my own.

(Bonus tip: Many larger beauty shops and department stores all over the world will give you neatly packaged samples of products you’d like to try. Run out of conditioner? Ask for a sample. It might hold you over for the trip and help you discover something new.)

8. Ship it

If you’re anything like me, you’re likely to accumulate things as you travel. You can certainly purchase a suitcase inexpensively in most tourist markets, but don’t forget the convenience of global postal services.

I lived in Amsterdam when I was a teenager, and some of my best memories of that city were exploring all the incredible candies and chocolates made there. This winter I had the opportunity to return with my husband for the first time in many years.I visited a local grocery store, filled a massive box to the brim with all the stroopwafels, kinderspekken, drop (licorice) and gummy things I could find and walked straight to the post office to ship it all home. We had such a blast at home a few weeks later, opening up all that yummy stuff and explaining it to my kids.

(Bonus tip: If you’re shopping in high-end boutiques or department stores abroad, ask about shipping. Some shops will let you buy an item and will mail it home for you.)

When you’re on vacation, you really don’t need as much as you think. People won’t notice how often you’ve worn an outfit. Do laundry if you need to, but keep your luggage light. You never know when you might discover an awesome new treasure to bring home — and you’ll be glad you have room for it!

Watch how it all goes together, in my video tutorial on How to Pack Light, below!

How do YOU pack light? Tell me your favorite tips and advice in the comments below!
XOXO,
Tanya

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