How to pack like a pro (the never-check-a-bag plan)

Ever since our family vacays when I was a kid, my dad instilled in us the power (and necessity) of packing light. And I’d like to think I’ve learned well.

Last September, Weez and I spent 10 days in Spain: 5 days at an academic research conference (business clothes), and 5 days doin’ the touristy thing in Barcelona (cute dresses, swimsuits, summer clothes). Everything for the trip fit in here:

Tomorrow, Weez and I are leaving for a 15 day trip to Asia: Cambodia, Malaysia, and then 7 days in Singapore for an academic conference.

Here’s what I packed:
Business skirt, 4 matching blouses, 3 cute tops, 2 capri pants, 2 dresses, 3 running shorts, 5 running shirts, under-items, 3 sports bras, 4 socks, toiletries, makeup, jewelry, straightener, emergency meds, my DSLR camera and charger, my cell phone and charger, adaptor/converter, notebook, travel folder, umbrella, 2 books, and 4 pairs of shoes (heels, running, cute sandal, and flipflop).

And once packed up, it fit in the same backpack that I brought to Spain:

Carry on approved!

Here’s the low down on packing light, tight, and efficiently:

  1. Mix and match outfits, to minimize bringing more clothes than you need.
  2. Coordinate outfits so they all match with only one or two cute shoes.
  3. Remember that you can always do laundry there – running shorts/shirts/socks can be hand washed in the sink.
  4. ROLL everything. I find stuff packs down much smaller if I roll, instead of fold.
  5. Stuff socks and small items into shoes
  6. Ditch the blowdryer and curling iron. Most hotels have blowdryers, and hair can be curled with a straightener.
  7. Pack travel-sized toiletries (<3oz.). If you run out, ask the hotel concierge!
  8. Layer the shoes on the bottom, and wear your bulkiest (for me, the running shoes) shoes on the plane

I refuse to check luggage. Ever. As far as I see it, unless I’m literally moving someplace else and have 4 suitcases to send, I will only carry on what can fit in an overhead compartment :)

PS… If you live in the CO area, check out my The Dirty Dash free-race entry giveaway HERE!

What’s your philosophy on packing: check it or carry on?
What’s one must-have item you always pack when you travel?
Neck pillow for the plane: is worthwhile to drag along?

9 Comments Add yours

  1. misszippy1 says:

    Well done! Especially for a big trip like that. My husband travels internationally all the time and he always kills me with his overpacking! I”m much more with you–the smaller the better and no checking!

    Have a great trip.

  2. Heidi Nicole says:

    I’ve become a very skilled packer as well…although we usually fly SW and get free checked luggage I hate waiting for it so everything fits in my carry on, or it doesn’t come with. But for road trips?! That is one thing I suck at packing for, I always over pack! And I usually pack a roller bag for my carry on then use my hiking back pack {smaller than yours, more school back pack sized} for my “personal item”…hold more than my mini purse!

    Oh, and HAVE FUN! :) I’m excited to hear about the trip!

  3. kaitwatts says:

    It’s because that Go-Lite backpack is magic! I do the same with mine-it goes everywhere and holds everything.I checked a bag for my Salt Lake last week because it was paid for. I have a great roller suitcase, but it gets used more for moving than traveling.

  4. I hate checking bags bc I’ve had my bags lost before. So i usually try to cram everything into one suitcase & my tote bag. however, shoes are my downfall. last year, i went to El Salvador for a week for work & then Belize for a week for vacay, and I literally brought a small duffel full of shoes for the 2 weeks.

  5. Lauren says:

    what will you sleep in??

    1. Efo says:

      in clean running clothes! (which is my usual bedtime apparel anyways) :)

  6. Lisa says:

    Wow, you are my packing hero! My husband and I do our best to do carry on, but don’t always succeed. Seeing this is motivation for our next trip!

    HAVE FUN!!!

  7. HOLY SHITSNACKS YOU ARE AMAZING! I can’t believe you fit ALL that in that backpack. You are a MAGICIAN. I agree about rolling clothes. Thats ALWAYS how i pack if i need to conserve space. and YES, i TOTALLY agree that only carry ons should be taken on planes! F paying for taking luggage! NECK PILLOW: NO! WASTE OF SPACE! BAD ERIN, BAD! I certainly hope it helps your sleeping immensely…. But ya know what would help your sleeping even more? ……Milkduds.

  8. Jessica says:

    I really need to learn to pack lighter!!!

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