How to Pack Light on Any Length Trip

These days, nothing’s free when you fly. Not the snacks, not the headphones, and not the carryon bags. That, combined with the likelihood of luggage getting lost or stolen–or even just the ridiculous wait times to claim your bags at some airports–may prompt you to try to get away without checking anything. But how do you pack everything you need in one small carryon and look fabulous on your trip?

When we traveled to Europe for the first time, we planned the whole trip ourselves—England, France, Brussels, back to England and home. We stayed in different places almost every day, which meant packing a ton wasn’t an option, even if we were willing to pay bag fees. Everything had to go with me some days whether I liked it or not.

In front of the Arc de Triomphe in Paris.  See my bags? That's all I brought for our 10 day trip.

In front of the Arc de Triomphe in Paris. See my bags? That’s all I brought for our 10 day trip.

Here’s how I packed.

  • Wear Knits. Thank goodness for knits. They look fabulous even if they’ve been squished at the bottom of your suitcase for a few days, and they don’t take up much room or weigh much.
  • I choose mostly neutral solids for a classic, put-together look and packed a few pops of color. Black and tan leggings, white and grey tops and tanks, bright cardigans. I took one pair or boots and a pair of sandals.
  • Pick items that multitask. If it got cold, I wore a tank under one of my shirts and a cardigan over it. I also brought one bright pashmina since it could double as a scarf, shawl, or even a blanket on a cold airplane. I love wrap bracelets that can be worn as necklaces, too.
  • Re-wear. I picked items that I could mix, match and re-wear in different combinations so I could feel like I was wearing a different outfit even if it was the same clothes. Especially when you are traveling, remember the same people aren’t seeing you day to day. When you change locations, all your outfit options are back on the table.
  • Learn space-saving tricks. I rolled all my clothing items to keep them as small as possible. Take only one makeup palette and wear the same colors on your entire trip. All my personal care items and jewelry went in a pouch in my purse. My pashmina could also be laid over my large tote bag and tied as a sort of lid if my bag got too full.

Before this trip, if someone had told me I would do 10 days in Europe with nothing but a carryon, I would have told you that you were nuts. Now, anytime we go anywhere I am able to pack light and maximize space. And when you have three girls, a Honda Civic and your closest family more than 1,000 miles away, that trick comes in handy!

Erin Hayes Burt

Erin Hayes Burt

Erin Burt is a freelance writer and mom of three girls. She enjoys yoga and reading non chick-lit fiction when she's not translating the ramblings of toddlers or training for her next half marathon.
Erin Hayes Burt

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Erin Burt is a freelance writer and mom of three girls. She enjoys yoga and reading non chick-lit fiction when she's not translating the ramblings of toddlers or training for her next half marathon.


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