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packing a carry-on suitcase

Hey Everyone! Rachel here.

I just got back to the US from a month-long trip to New Zealand. This is a trip I take every couple of years to visit family, but this time I decided to switch things up.

On this particular trip, I decided not to check a bag and to only travel with a carry-on suitcase.

I only packed a carry-on for a couple of reasons:

  1. I always have an irrational fear of losing my luggage, and I didn't want to that fear to be looming over the entirety of my 26-hour travel time.

  2. It's becoming more and more expensive to check a bag, and I refuse to pay extra $$ on top of my already-expensive flight.

  3. I'm a classic over-packer and I wanted to prove to myself that I could do it.

Anyway, I did it and I survived! Actually, I thrived.

I had more than enough clothes and shoes for the month and I didn't have to sacrifice a single item from my beauty routine. What I learned from this exercise is it all comes down to packing strategically. 

Here are the packing tips I learned. TL;DR my packing list is at the bottom.

1. Opt for dresses

I pack dresses when i travel to save space in my suitcase

To me, this was a no-brainer.

Cut your clothing items in half by choosing a dress instead of a shirt-pant combo. They're fairly lightweight, easy to roll, and are versatile for almost any occasion. Traveling to a cooler city? throw in some warm leggings to wear underneath.

2. Pants > Jeans

the pants I packed in my carry on bag for my month long trip

Jeans are heavy and bulky, but a necessary staple in our closets so for your carry-on I say pack 1 pair, but the rest of your pants should be made out of lighter material.

For my New Zealand trip, I packed -

  • 1 pair of jeans
  • 2 pairs* of leggings - one for lounging and one for exercise
  • 1 pair of thin joggers
  • 1 pair of light, flowy pants.

*I wore a pair on the plane so technically I only packed 1 pair

3. Leave your shampoo and conditioner at home

don't pack shampoo and conditioner

It's not as crazy as it sounds.

Most Airbnb rentals supply these items, so do hotels. It's not necessary to bring your own - you do not need to get that bougie with your hair 😅

If they don't supply them? buy them when you get there, you would have run out of your travel-sized products after one week, anyway.

4. Weird underwear tip

Pack all of your underwear into a clean sock. Take the second sock from that pair and wrap it over to create a second layer. Put your new underwear sock inside one of the shoes you're packing.

Is that a weird thing to do? Whatevs. I bet Marie Kondo would approve of this packing tip because it's GENIUS! 

5. Travel-optimize your skincare products

Most women do a good job of strategically packing their skincare but I wanted to cover this anyway.

You should always have a set of travel-friendly bottles and jars handy. You're allowed to pack 3.4oz of each product, which is more than enough for your trip.

Trust me, I'm a skincare fiend and I was fine.

If it doesn't last you the whole month then you're using way too much product - your skin can only absorb so much!

I put together a chart to show you the breakdown of how I condensed my skincare and which products I put into each container type.

packing skincare into smaller containers 

 

 

 6. Cut back and condense your makeup

reduce your makeup by packing multi-purpose products

Women use an average of 16 different beauty products during their morning routine alone! So my #1 tip here is to reduce the number of products you're using by replacing them with multi-purpose products. My second biggest tip is to opt for travel-sized products. No one needs a full-size mascara anyway.

There's a lot to cover in this section which is why I wrote a whole separate post on how to pack your makeup for travel. Make sure you check it out when you're packing.

7. Only 3 pairs of shoes

pack three pairs of shoes when traveling

I packed 2 pairs of shoes and wore a pair on the plane.

Think about how you'll be spending your time on your trip and pack accordingly. For example, I knew I would be spending most of my time outdoors and so I packed sneakers and strappy sandals. I wore a pair of Toms on the plane because honestly, these shoes are just so versatile. They pair perfectly with jeans and leggings and they do a good job of dressing down a dress if you're trying to go a bit casual.

Packing for cooler temperatures can be harder when it comes to shoes so my best advice is to wear your bulkiest pair of shoes on the plane with you.

8. When it comes to shirts layers are best

example outfit that can be both casual and dressed up

While I was away I did still have to work which meant joining early morning video conference calls from time to time. Having to pack for both leisure and work can be tough but here's how I solved that problem - 

I levered basics (think: a plain black cami and grey v-neck tees) and paired them with nicer-looking cardigans for my work calls. Then I packed shirts that are more casual for the rest of my time away.

The cardigans worked out great because they doubled as an extra layer for when it got cooler at night. 

Those are the tips I wanted to dive into, but here is the full packing list below. You can use this as a guide for your own packing list

My Carry-On Packing List

Clothes

  • 2 dresses
  • 4 pants - wore a pair on the plane
  • 3 shirts
  • 3 basics - wore one on the plan
  • 2 cardigans - wore one on the plane
  • 2 bras - black and beige
  • 1 black sports bra
  • 3 pairs of socks
  • 10ish pairs of underwear

I did end up buying a jean jacket while I was away and was able to fit it into my suitcase perfectly for my return flight. I also did wash my clothes while I was there.

Skincare

(packed into mini containers)

  • Day cream with vitamin A
  • Night cream with vitamin C
  • Serum Hyaluronic Acid
  • Toner with Peptides 
  • Micellar Water - for washing my face on the plane
  • Clay mask - my pores couldn't last 28 days without it
  • Cotton pads - for the micellar

Makeup

  • Tinted moisturizer with SPF - Laura Mercier
  • Mini mascara - Too Faced Better than Sex
  • Makeup Kit - Subtl Beauty makeup stack

Hair

  • Hair Straightener - Used for straightening and curling
  • Hairbrush
  • Mini hairspray 

Shoes 

  • Workout Sneakers
  • Strappy sandals - I wore these the least, might skip them next time
  • Toms - wore these on the plane...and almost every day

In my backpack

  • Sunglasses
  • Eye mask - for the plane
  • 2 sets of headphones - yeah, idk why I did this
  • Laptop + charger
  • Wallet + passports, the usual
  • Mini handcream