Ways to pack lighter – it’s travel freedom!

Landmannalaugar, Iceland
Landmannalaugar, Iceland

It’s been a while since Samantha and I have done a joint post, so it felt like a good time. We both have learned the advantage of traveling with a single carry-on bag and one personal item. I can do it for trips that are up to three weeks. She hasn’t gone that long at one time yet.

Some benefits of traveling light include not paying baggage fees, worrying about lost luggage, or needing to walk around with heavy bags. Also, while others are at baggage claim, you can leave the airport.

People have asked both of us how we manage to pack so light. Here are some of our tricks.


Pack a week’s worth of clothes. If you’re going for a couple of weeks or longer, you’ll have to do a little laundry. You can pay for it at the hotel or a laundromat, or wash them in your room and hang them to dry.

Bring layers rather than take a thick coat. The same T-shirt that you’d wear when it’s warm can be a layer when it’s cold. Pack less of your heavy layers. Sweaters or thick shirts can be worn more than once if you change the shirt closest to your skin. If you need to take a jacket, bring it on the plane, so it doesn’t take up space in your bag.

Organize your clothes well and pack them in tightly. Rolling your clothes instead of folding them will maximize space and minimize wrinkles.

Rolling clothes helps wrinkling and frees up space

If you’re going somewhere that requires a suit or gown, see if you can find a carry-on that doubles as a folding single suit bag and has some compartments.

Pack clothes that coordinate with everything else you’re bringing. If it doesn’t work in multiple outfits, don’t take it. Go simple and very light. Think of what you can do without, not what will be handy. Leave it out if you have any doubt. Limit yourself to two pairs of shoes and two pairs of pants, and wear the heaviest items on the plane.


Travel bags
My carry-on bag and travel laptop bag

Aldo covers everything I learned how to do. I’ll add some extra tips for women that may be helpful.

I tend to stick to dresses. I bring ones that don’t need to be ironed, like jersey material, or that look fine if they’re slightly wrinkled. I’ve found dresses so much better for travel because they take up less space than pants and shirts. You also don’t have to coordinate, so it’s less work! They can look casual during the day or fancier at night with some small accessories.

If you don’t like wearing dresses, I suggest wearing black bottoms. Black is easy to mix and match, and you take less. It works can also look casual or dressy with the right top.

Boot - Fall Stuart Weitzman
Black pants and boots go a long way in chilly temperatures

I wear the clothes on the plane that take up the most space. So if it’s cold, I wear a jacket, leggings, a shirt and either sneakers or stylish high boots with a flat heel that can double as something I can wear out at night. I find boots or shoes that are comfortable to walk in for hours.

Most times, one to two weeks’ worth of shampoo and conditioner should fit into multiple 100ml bottles, so it doesn’t have to go into a check-in bag.  I’ve also learned that I don’t need every color of makeup I own on vacation, but still carry one of everything, base, powder, blush, mascara, eyeliner, brow pencil, and two shades of lipstick.

Extras. I also take a tiny umbrella and a small purse that fits into my carry-on bag.

purse + umbrella
This little purse and umbrella go everywhere!

These are some of our tips for packing light. What are some of yours?



  1. Packing light is the best, there’s nothing worse than running to catch a bus/train/plane while lugging around a heavy suitcase! One of my favorite tricks has been switching to bar soap, shampoo and conditioner. Before traveling, I cut off a small piece from the main bar, saving on space, avoiding any leaking in my bag, and I never have to stress about travel restrictions on liquids. It’s been a lifesaver.

  2. Great tips. I also bring a small ‘save a trip’ kit. Inside I have packets of detergent for washing clothes, some clothes pins and light rope for a makeshift clothesline. Because I check my bag, I also stuff in a Swiss Army knife, cork screw, a black marker, some duct tape, safety pins, bandages, tums, a few ibuprofen etc, etc. The kit is always ready so I just need to throw it in my bag and I’m ready for just about anything. Still light. It all fits in a 4” x 4” pouch.

  3. Great tips!!! Since I will be living in a tent (and my car), I will have to pack very light…lol Love the tip of packing items that can be used for multiple purposes/ outfits…will be doing that for sure! Hope you both have a great day! 🙂

  4. I like to pick one dominant color (black or brown, or gray) and make sure my shoes and shirts all match that- this helps me make sure I don’t pack a shirt that doesn’t go with anything and doesn’t get worn, taking up useless space in my bag!

  5. I will definitely be taking some of these tips on board! I’m going backpacking in the middle of a New Zealand winter so I think layering up is key because the last thing you want is excess weight.

  6. The ‘wearing dresses’ tip is a fantastic one! Especially because you can take a few sets of tights and wear the same dresses for colder and warmer days 🙂 But the make-up thing still kills me every time… I have to take a totally different bag for all my make-up bits 😛
    Love that you shared both of your perspectives in this post!

    1. Thanks so much! Makeup is a tough one for a lot of people I know. I just had this conversation! I used to take so much and now I’m happy as long as I have some base, lip color and eyes (I say this and still take blush, powder, etc) I think I look better on vacation because I’m less stressed so I need less hahaha! Thanks so much for you comment. Have a great weekend!

  7. Great tips! I don’t think I could ever do these! I have been trying. Sam, I don’t know how you can fit makeup, hair products and all of that into a carry-on and personal bag! What about shoes? I am really trying 🙂

    1. It’s not that hard, really! I still bring the basics…I don’t really care if people see me in the same colour lipstick and you know I can’t do eye shadow so one palette will work for me, if I need it 🙂 I think I need less because I’m more relaxed and probably look better naturally hahaha!

  8. These are great! I have to share them with my wife. The hair products she says she needs to check because of how much she has to bring, It would be great to get to a point where we could take carry ons to travel!

  9. Love this blog. Another idea (if you’re really super tight on space) is to roll your clothes and put a pair of socks on the end of each roll ! Also, always pack micro fibre towels and not the thick space taking ones haha!

  10. Great tips! Packing light is my downfall, and I really need to work on it. We’re going on a 3 week trip in a few months and I’m going to do it. I feel like it will make trip less stressful, because lugging several bags is a real pain. haha

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