packing light in a carry-on

goodness, i am late on running this post!  i started it back in march, so 6 months ago!  sometimes life just gets in the way of blogging and i have just t=had to learn to be ok with that.  but for those of you who were waiting for this post, my apologies!


back in april, sean and i got away for a big work sponsored trip to greece, france, italy and monaco.  here’s a post where i shared how i packed light for a 2 week trip.

but how did i get all of that into one carry-on suitcase?!  creative packing and packing cubes.  my mom got sean and i these packing cubes from ikea a couple years ago and they are so efficient (here’s another option).   stacking folded clothes and zipping them up really packs everything in so tight.  i’ve tried several techniques, from rolling my clothes to laying everything flat, but this works best.


i try to pack like with like, so the dresses were stacked together, sweaters together, bottoms together.  if there was still room in a section, i’d all thinner items, like camisoles or scarves.


2 dresses, 2 sweaters, 2 pants, 1 pair of shorts, 2 camisoles, and a scarf all fit into this cube.


this cube held most of my tops, but also pajamas and workout clothes.



this cube held ankle boots, sandals, and all the socks and undies.  a couple pairs of shoes didn’t fit in the bag, so they were tucked into the suitcase separately.


after filling 4 cubes (the small 4th one held bras), this is what i had to fit into my suitcase:  4 cubes, 2 jackets (i added the lightweight patagonia jacket in the black cube last minute – totally unnecessary in the end), 2 pairs of shoes, an umbrella, jewelry bag, curling iron, power adaptors, and a hat.

the hat and my toiletry bag were carried on with me in my oversized purse.  i also only ended up bringing one of the smaller travel purses (why did i think 2 was a good idea, ever?) and its nice and flat so it tucked easily inside my large purse.


my suitcase is nothing special.  actually, it belongs to one of my daughters!  it is expandable, which is a nice feature if i end up needing more room.  i packed the larger cubes first, filling up some of the off space between the suitcase support in the bottom with small items like the power adaptors and curling iron.


next were the shoes and smaller cubes.  this left some unused space but i filled it with the next layer.


i added the jackets last to fill in those gaps.  obviously, this is way above the suitcase edge, but its amazing how it can all condense when the lid is flipped over and zipped up!

now, time for full disclosure:

my bag was overweight.  like very overweight.  but in all the airports we traveled to, only one or 2 weighed our bags, which we have never experienced before with international travel for carry on bags.  the bag technically fit in US standards for size, but not weight.  and each country has different size standards, almost all of which are much smaller than US standards.

our main reasons for traveling with carry-ons: 1) no waiting for check luggage.  2) we were traveling to a greek town with no streets, only walkways, so we’d have to carry all of our luggage a decent distance to and from our car.  3) we have lost luggage several times during international travel and it stinks!

i didn’t mind my clothes getting wrinkled or creased because each place we were staying at had an iron and board, and really, no matter how you pack, wrinkles are inevitable.

also, i could’ve packed even less!  there were a few things i never wore at all.


if you were counting items, you may have noticed a few missing.  i also wore some of the items on the plane, including my bulkiest sweater, which helped free up valuable space.  i also always travel with a scarf in my bag, for when it gets chilly, if its culturally more appropriate to be more covered up, and to cover my face if i encounter “smells”, which can happen when you travel in tight spaces!


packing light for spring international travel


i think i might be a rare one, but i love packing!  ok, not always, but for big trips i do.  we have been blessed with a bit of international travel during our 16 years of marriage, and one thing we have learned is to travel as light as possible.  several times we have been stranded in another country with lost luggage, so now we do our best to just travel with carry-on luggage if at all possible, especially if there are several flights involved.

every couple years, we get to go on a big trip sponsored by a manufacturer that sean’s company represents.  these trips are really fun because we get sent places we’d never really get to go to otherwise.  this year we are heading to monte carlo, monaco and we added on a few days in greece as well.  the price of international travel when you are already in europe is really great, so we thought since we were so close, we may as well make the most of it!

a couple years ago we went to barcelona and mallorca, before that was a river cruise in france, and before that was a mediterranean cruise.

the tricky thing about packing light for these trips is that it is also a “work” trip and there are a few work functions that we go to that require us to dress up, so that means packing 2-3 fancier dresses and heels, items i wouldn’t normally travel with.  also, we always go in the off season (just before peak season starts), so the weather is a little trickier to anticipate, so i have to pack extra layers in case of cold or rain.


here’s the breakdown of what i’ll be bringing:


shirts: 1 graphic tee, 1 long sleeved b&w stripe shirt (it goes with everything), 1 tunic (could be worn with leggings), a dressy tank/tunic/short dress (for warmer days or a beach cover up), long chambray tunic for layering, and a lightweight gauzy boho shirt {similar}


bottoms: 1 pair of shorts {similar} (just in case its warm enough), 1 pair of skinny jeans, 1 pair of black denim ankle length skinny jeans, 1 pair of ponte pants/thick leggings with pockets and stitch details that elevates them just a bit from regular leggings


sweaters: 1 grey loose fitting cowl neck sweater {similar} & 1 tan loose fit shawl collar cardigan {similar}


jackets: 1 olive green field coat {similar} (goes with everything) & 1 lightweight puff coat {similar} (in case its really chilly)


2 dresses: 1 fitted sheath {similar}, 1 trapeze/a-line style.


extras: 1 bathing suit {similar}, pajamas, running clothes


accessories: 1 belt, 1 hat {similar}, 2 cross body bags, 2 scarves (great for airplane travel)


shoes: dressy heels {similar}, gladiator sandals, ankle boots {similar}, running shoes, flats {similar}

travel outfits

 these are just a few off the many combinations that i can make with these pieces! cheap true religion i like to have the ability to pack as few items as possible, but have as many outfit options as possible. true religion outlet packing items that work well together give me more options – options to dress up or down, or to add or subtract layers without looking like an obvious tourist.


PicMonkey Collage4

soon i’ll share my magic tricks & tips for packing ALL of this into ONE carryon suitcase!