Packing in a Carry On: Part 1

pinnable How I Packed for Europe

As you may know from my recent post, Tips for Surviving Group Travel, I just spent two weeks in Europe on a school trip. Out of the thirty people in our group, I was one of only two people who carried on luggage instead of checking it. Why? I didn’t want to deal with my things being lost, or with lugging around a giant suitcase! Read on to see how I became a packing wizard…



Pick a color palette: This is a packing tip I absolutely swear by. It is SO much easier to come up with a ton of outfits from a handful of items when everything works well together! I recommend picking 4-5 colors, with one of them being either black or brown. For this trip, I chose teal, royal blue, black, and white.

Evaluate weather: Knowing the climate of your destination is critical to a well-packed suitcase. A Hawaiian vacation is very different from a trek to Alaska! While thinking about the weather, make sure to account for variations like rain or a chilly night. Regardless of your destination, I recommend taking a lightweight cardigan or scarf that you can use for a just-in-case touch of warmth.

Keep it simple: Don’t bring that one pair of shoes that only looks good with one dress. Don’t bring that skirt with a crazy pattern if it doesn’t match anything. Pack a combination of solid colors and subtle prints for maximum versatility.

Mix and match: Easiest way to bring a wide variety of outfits without bringing a mountain of clothes? Mixing and matching. I brought four tank tops, four regular shirts, four pairs of shorts, three skirts, two cardigans, a pair of black pants, leggings, a romper, and a dress. It may not seem like much, but almost every item could be combined to give me SO MANY outfit combinations! I used the iPhone app Stylebook to mentally organize my suitcase. I totally recommend it for the type-A personality, because it kept me sane on the trip by telling me exactly outfits I had buried in my suitcase!

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Sort and organize: To live out of a suitcase for 2+ weeks, you have to stay organized. I accomplished that feat via packing cubes, tiny pouches, and old-fashioned plastic bags. For items that could easily wrinkle, such as shirts and dresses, use packing cubes. For things like socks and underwear, stick to a Ziplock. It’s also smart to bring an extra bag or two for clothes that get wet or dirty.

Roll, don’t fold: Not only does this save space, rolling clothes helps keep them from being wrinkled. Plus, it’s much faster than folding, and keeps your suitcase looking nice and neat.


Packing can seem like a monumental or even impossible task, but sticking to a plan and staying organized can help it be more manageable. Stay tuned for the second part of my series: packing tips for everything other than clothes.


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