I’ll admit it: I’m a chronic over-packer.
Don’t judge me.
No matter how hard I try, whether it’s a long trip overseas or just a weekend out of town, I always end up taking more outfits and pairs of shoes than I really need.
Part of this is often due to me packing at the last minute, just throwing random things into a duffle bag.
The other part is because I’m really indecisive. I find it nearly impossible to plan what I’m going to wear a few days or a week ahead of time. What happens if I change my mind? I like having options. So I inevitably end up packing extra outfits.
And I always return home having not worn everything I took with me, wondering why I bothered bringing so much extra stuff.
So, after I booked my tickets to Hawaii (with more layovers than I could shake a stick at), I decided that it was time to put an end to my over-packing tendencies. Because I didn’t want to chance losing my luggage as I went in and out of 4 airports each way, I made a vow to convert to carry-on-only travel.
That’s right — just me and my carry-on bags.
I knew it would be a challenge; perhaps it would even be impossible for me, who can’t fathom living out of a backpack for a year at a time. But it was really the smartest, most economical plan. And I’d only be in Hawaii for a week. I could do it, right?
Turns out, yes, I could.
In order to make my carry-on-only dreams a reality, I stuck to some tried and true packing tips that travelers have been using for years to help them avoid the over-packing curse.
And now I’m going to share a few of them with you:
Know what you really need
This is probably the most important thing to think about when it comes to packing. Where are you going? What season will it be there? How long will you be gone?
Obviously, if you’re going somewhere tropical, you probably can leave the winter coat and fuzzy socks at home. In fact, if it’s going to be hot and humid, you can probably leave the jeans behind, too. Not only are they uncomfortable in hot weather, but they also really weigh down your luggage.
Conversely, if you’re going somewhere cold, you probably shouldn’t bother with shorts, and your flip flops should probably be reserved for hostel bathrooms.
Simply knowing what sort of weather to expect can do wonders for your packing list, and is the easiest way to decide what things you really need.
Edit your packing pile
Lay out what you think you want to take, then try to reduce it by half. If you’re only going to be gone for 7 days, you definitely don’t need more than 7 outfits. (In fact, you probably don’t even really need 7 outfits, but remember — I’m a girl who likes her options.)
Unless you know you’re going to need more than one outfit per day (for example, if you’re going to go to a formal dinner one night), don’t take anything extra.
If you’re like me and like to have those choices, pack pieces in neutral colors that can be mixed and matched to create multiple different outfits without adding extra bulk to your luggage.
Roll your clothes
Make the most of the space you have by rolling up the clothes you’re taking that won’t get ridiculously wrinkled. I was skeptical of this method at first, but it really does work! By rolling up T-shirts and skirts, I was able to fill in some of those spaces that usually end up empty when you simply fold everything in your luggage.
And, rolling often can make it easier to find things in your suitcase, since it means you don’t have to rifle through piles of clothes.
Use space-saver bags
These vacuum-seal bags can be a great packing tool, especially if you have to take cold-weather gear like sweaters that tend to take up a lot of room. When I studied abroad in New Zealand, I used these bags to pack sweaters and bedding, and they worked like a charm.
But a word of warning: Remember that those 5 sweaters, even if you can squish them down to take up the same amount of space as 2 sweaters, will still weigh the same as 5 sweaters. If luggage weight is an issue, make sure to keep this in mind. Overweight baggage fees are no fun.
Using some of these tips helped me pack for a week in Hawaii in just one little suitcase.
Did I over-pack? Probably.
But these things don’t just happen overnight, people. I can’t let go of ALL my over-packing ways all at once. I improved, and that’s a start.
Though, I still needed that extra skirt. And that one last fancy tank top, just in case. And of course a couple of pairs of cute sandals…
Are you a fan of carry-on-only travel? What tricks do you use when trying to travel light?
(Top photo by jasleen_kaur.)
*This post was sponsored by a third party.