I never thought I would be someone who could pack for a vacation using only a carry-on. I used to be a chronic over packer and my brothers would tease me saying I brought my entire room with me. They weren’t wrong. After marrying into my husbands family I found out about a traveling rule they had where they only bring carry-ons when they travel. No checked bags! *gasp*, I know.

This past year whenever I traveled domestically, my goal was to only pack a carry-on. Knowing we had a planned trip to Japan and China in August, I knew I had to prepare for the daunting task of packing a carry-on for an international trip. I can now officially say I have been on five trips this past year where I only brought a carry-on and personal item…and I SURVIVED! I promise, it’s doable. I also bring a personal bag on the plane that carries my electronics and items I need for the flight. If you want to see what I pack in that bag you can read my post here.

Now whenever I go to the airport and see people dragging tons of bags around, I try and figure out what in the world they are bringing with them. With no judgment to them, of course, because I used to be that person. After seeing the other side of how much easier a carry-on is, I cannot see myself turning back! Here are 9 tips that have helped me and can help you travel only using a carry-on!

  1. Packing cubes are your best friend- I use packing cubes to store my under garments, swimsuits, pjs and small clothing items. It help consolidate these items and is helpful to locate everything when unpacking as well.
  2. Pack wrinkle release spray! this is the one I use.
  3. Plan your outfits before you pack – Planning your outfits before you pack them helps you not to overpack. Having already decided on what you’ll wear each day takes away the stress trying to figure out what to wear each day of vacation.
  4. Hold the shoes- When packing, I like the have 2-3 shoe options that will go with all my outfits. This is the hardest part about packing for me because I looove shoes and would pack 10+ pairs if I had the room. I usually stick with a pair of sneakers, casual sandals and fancier shoes to wear for dinner. I also like to put my shoes in plastic or a secure bag so they aren’t laying directly against my clothes.
  5. Roll, don’t fold- I’ve learned I can fit so much more into my suitcase when I roll the items rather then folding them. This is where the wrinkle spray comes in handy because while it saves space, it doesn’t always keep your clothes wrinkle free.
  6. Pick the right luggage- Make sure you have a suitcase that fits the weight requirements for the airline you fly. Choose a lightweight option and stick to soft shell bags. Hard suitcases are more likely to get damaged/cracked quicker. This is the bag I use. Here are a few other carry-on luggage options! 
  7. Wear your bulkiest items on the plane to save room
  8. Buy reusable liquid containers. Since you aren’t checking you bag you need to make sure you liquids follow the rules of TSA. I have found using containers like these have helped so much! I fill them with my shampoo, conditioner and body wash I use at home and have always had the perfect amount stored for my trips. I also like to look in my beauty drawer and take any liquids under 3oz. that are almost emptied. That way I can throw them away and save space for on the trip home.
  9. Don’t be afraid to be an outfit repeater- This tip was the hardest for me to follow. I’m that girl who will change her outfit 2-3 times a day and used to not like repeating clothes/outfits. I’m not saying to wear the same dress every night for dinner, but two nights out of your vacation won’t kill you and will help you save room in your luggage.

I hope these tips were helpful to you and will be useful on your next trip! If you have any tips for not overpacking that I didn’t mention, let me know down below!

Stay Lovely,

Hannah Shanae

10 comments

Reply

I really need to try traveling with just a carry-on. I’m for sure an overpacked! Trying out your tips on my next trip!

Reply

Love your travel backpack! I am such an over-packer and it drives me nuts since I never end up wearing half of the things I pack. I am working on it though. When I can only bring a carry on the thing that saves me is rolling my clothing. Love all of your tips, too!
Rachel
http://www.hello-her.com

Reply

I’m a huge fan of carry-on only. Love all your tips, especially the rolling! Great list!!

XOXO
Cathy

Reply

I can never achieve traveling with just a carry on lol It’s so difficult for me to decide what to pack. But these are great tips! I need to try them for sure. Thank you for sharing!

XO
Candace
http://www.thebeautybeau.com

Reply

I’ll definitely have to come back to this post when I begin traveling more often. I feel like I’d definitely stress out about carry-on only because I’ve always traveled with checked bag(s) haha!

Reply

Great tips!! I only travel with a carry-on! I hate checking bags in and bringing so much extra unnecessary stuff! So this is great!

Xo, Steph

Reply

This is perfect! We are traveling tomorrow and Sunday and I NEED to have a carry on only as we’ll be traveling during the hurricane and a good chance our flights will be changed. So definitely want to have my bags with me!

xo Laura Leigh
Louella Reese

Reply

Any trip under 4 days and I try and pack a carry on!! I need to look into getting some packing cubes though like you suggested!

-Morgan

Reply

I’m really trying to be better about this when I travel. I am such a bad over packer too! Thanks for these tips.

Megan

Reply

I actually pride myself on being an incredibly smart packer!! The only times I’ve ever checked a bag are when I’m literally moving to another state/ country, and most recently on a 2 week vacation. Otherwise I’m strictly carry-on only! Packing cubes are the besttt!

xx Mollie

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