How To Pack Carry-On Only

I am SERIOUSLY committed to packing light so I can travel carry-on only. Mostly, this is because I don’t like hauling and keeping track of a lot of stuff, and I also don’t like even entertaining the possibility that my stuff will get lost. I even traveled to Ethiopia for 10 days carry-on only! The last time I checked luggage traveling by myself (MANY years ago) I had three pieces with me and left one behind in the cab when I got to my hotel (OMG CUE PANIC). I'm clearly just not made to check luggage.

When I traveled to Mom 2.0 Summit last week I posted the below 4am glamour shot from Logan airport. Mom 2.0 is a very fancy conference and there is a lot of fuss over what to wear, and there is typically a lot of swag to haul home so carry-on really is not the norm. But I have remained committed, even when this means I need to gift my swag to other people! Some people asked me for tips on how to pack carry-on only and travel light so I wanted to share my tactics while they are top of mind.

1. Commit to carry-on only!

It’s totally true that the more space you have, the more you will fill! Commit to carry-on and it will force you to edit things down.

2. Review the weather + your itinerary and make a plan

Before your trip, check the weather forecast and your itinerary and make a clothing plan. There are a lot of moving pieces at Mom 2.0 so I literally jotted down what I was planning on attending (which also meant deciding that I was NOT going to opt in for yoga and running, which impacted my packing) and what I was going to wear.

3. Try everything on and commit!

So this is probably the most important step because adding a lot of backup outfits is the main reason for luggage bloat. I packed super last minute for this trip but I tried everything on and committed to what I was going to wear. I did bring two backup dresses because two of the dresses I wanted to wear were white and I was forecasting the not totally unlikely possibility that I would spill all over myself. But that was it in terms of alternatives and I was willing to bring those backup dresses because they took up so little room (see next point!).

One simple key to packing light so you can travel carry-on only? Limit your space to start with!

One simple key to packing light so you can travel carry-on only? Limit your space to start with!

4. Befriend dresses

Dresses are my favorite. They are the ultimate no brainer in dressing and they don’t take up much room. With one exception, I wore all dresses throughout this conference.

5. Be strategic about packing shoes

Shoes are both wonderful and problematic. It’s awesome to have lots of options but they take up so much room! I committed to two main pairs of shoes to do double (triple?) duty through the conference: a neutral block heel for day and gold block heels for night. I traveled in flats and also had a super skinny pair of flip flops in case I hit the pool.

6. Bring samples you will finish and ditch

This is so minor but one little thing I like to do is bring samples or toiletries that are almost done so I can finish them on the trip and free up that space for my return trip.

7. Layer and fold your like-sized clothing together

Folding each item of clothing adds unnecessary bulk. When I pack, I layer all the like-sized items together (e.g., shirts, dresses, pants) and fold them as one. On this trip everything except my PJs, bathing suit, and underwear went in one single, skinny little folded stack! And I used my PJs, bathing suit, and underwear to wedge into those weird nooks at the bottom of the luggage (between the rolling luggage handle rods).

8. Wear the same thing in and out

I wore the exact same thing (save fresh underwear and shirt) to and from my destination. Major space saver!

9. Be realistic and EDIT, EDIT, EDIT!

At one point I thought about bringing my podcast rig so I could do some on the fly podcasting. I also waffled back and forth a couple of times about bringing running and yoga gear. But ultimately after reviewing the schedule and giving myself a reality check, I opted to forego these items and leave empty space in my carry-on, which I totally needed because I was gifted with some incredibly generous stuff at the conference.

Did I miss anything? Feel free to share any favorite tips for packing light/carry-on only in the comments below!