21 Jul Vacation – Packing a 2 Week Carry on
We travel a lot, and the having the right luggage, and the right plan makes all the difference getting from A to B.
If you’re going on a long trip, the last thing you want is to have to haul huge amounts of luggage everywhere you go – especially if you travel at the pace we do, packing up and moving on every 2-4 days. And every time you check your bag, you risk losing it, having items stolen, or making it harder for yourself to switch flights or airlines at the last minute if you need to. At the same time, most of our international trips last at least 2 weeks, usually a bit longer (like 17 days). 17 days of clothing in one little carry on? It’s a challenge, but it’s worth the effort. There are some basic principles to follow along with handy tips and tools to making it all fit.
Here’s how we do it:
Packing cubes. I have no idea how we’ve ever survived travel without packing cubes. All of your items disorganized and shifting around in one space is a disaster to deal with, both at security if your luggage is inspected, and on the road once some of those clothes are dirtied. Packing cubes are offered by a few different brands, but I’ve found eBags to be the best value. I have and love the 3-piece set with the small, medium, and large cubes, as these fit perfectly together in my carry on. They’re sturdy too, having successfully withstood several long trips.
Roll your clothing. Rolled-up tubes of clothing fit much more neatly and compactly into luggage than flat, folded clothing. Roll most of your items individually with the exception of shirts and underwear, which can usually be rolled a few together at a time. Secure them with rubber bands to keep them from unrolling. An added bonus of packing this way is that rolled clothing tends to wrinkle less than flat clothing. This method also makes it very easy during your trip to quickly tell which articles of clothing are still clean versus which ones have been worn. Click here for more tips on rolling your clothing.
Bring less. This is admittedly usually a little more difficult for women than it is for men, and it involves choosing your outfits very, very wisely. I’ve found that I always have a favorite few outfits I tend to recycle over and over each few months, even at home, so I bring those and not much else.
- My everyday personal style usually revolves around neutral colors (like black) paired with colorful accents, like bright Tees or scarves. This is your best bet on the road, so select versatile, basic, go-with-anything colors and styles that pair well with a variety of other outfits. For a pop of style or color, pack a lightweight scarf or two.
- Few things are more bulky in luggage than shoes, so try to take 2 pairs at most. I tend to plan my outfits around black versus brown shoes and purses (black purse=black shoes, brown purse=brown shoes), and it pays to choose just one of those options rather than trying to bring both. Oh, and make them comfortable. Take it from someone who’s struggled with this: if you don’t wear sneakers or casual-athletic style shoes with your everyday outfits, it’s time to get comfortable with that. It rarely matters where you’re going, you’re going to be walking. A lot. For most trips, at least during the day while you’re doing the most sightseeing, comfortable shoes are the only option. I have Nike Roshes in black and though they don’t get much use stateside, they’re my traveling go-to’s. I also have a bulky pair of Tevas I can walk 10 miles in, which is my go-to for summer. I also bring a pair of flip flops with arch support (I like the Reef Fannings).
- Pack only 1-2 pairs of pants. These can usually be re-worn a few times before they need a wash, so you’ll get more longevity from pants than you will shirts. 1 pair of comfortable jeans and 1 pair of black pants should do it. I usually bring a long maxi skirt as well, but those don’t tend to take up as much room.
- Casual dresses are a traveling girl’s best friend. Why? It’s an entire outfit in one simple garment. Choose lightweight, breezy fabrics that are opaque enough that you won’t need a slip, which would negate the whole point.
- Wear your bulkiest items when you travel. If I want to bring a pair of boots on a trip, I’ll be sure to plan my outfits so I’m always wearing them on travel days, leaving more room in my luggage.
And remember, if you’re feeling iffy on an item and think you might need it but aren’t sure, leave it. A good rule of thumb: lay out everything you think you’ll need and take only HALF. Be very conscious of the fact that nothing will ever fit back in the way you originally pack it – this is the ongoing game of luggage Tetris that you’ll never win, so plan ahead by leaving room. Plus, you’re going to need room in your luggage for any shopping you might do, too – one more reason to NOT fill that suitcase to the brim!
Bring snacks. To fill the gaps in both your luggage and your meals during a trip, pack a few protein bars in your suitcase. As you eat them, you’re creating more space.
Pack a foldable/checkable bag. I love this bag from Rick Steeves. It’s compact, and folds down well. When headed to the beach or pool, I use it as my bag and it holds everything. At the end of the trip, I am guilty of packing it with my dirty clothes and carrying it on or checking it though. It’s a great “just in case bag”.
Do laundry. You’re going to be washing your clothing at least once during a trip like this – there’s no getting around it. If you’re staying in budget accommodations that don’t offer laundry services, all you need is a clean sink and a few travel-size packets of laundry detergent. I bought this 20-pack of Woolite for $8 a few years ago and still haven’t gone through all of it. You can also buy travel clotheslines, but I prefer to just bring some rope – or nothing at all. I don’t usually have much trouble finding places (like towel and shower curtain rods) in hotel and private hostel rooms to drape clothing over as it dries.
If you pack smart and plan ahead, you can still fit a wide range of outfit options in a single carry on bag. The freedom and flexibility this buys you is priceless. Few things make you look as hapless and touristy while abroad as hauling a ton of luggage. And while the rest of your fellow passengers wait idly by the luggage carousel, some half-fearing their bags won’t even show up, you’re already out the door and on your way to your exciting destination. One thing’s for sure – you’re not likely to make the mistake of overpacking twice.