How to Avoid Over Packing

A brown leather duffel bag sits on a grey couch next to stylish gold and pink cushions.

Sounds like you’re finally getting away for a trip—good for you! Believe me, I know you deserve it, but now the real question sets in:  what do you take?

If you want to vacation right—not like a tourist, but as the savvy & stylish traveler you are—think minimal. And while that might sound nice, how is everything going to fit in your carry-on??  I have shared my travel essentials with you before, and to be honest, you don’t need much more than that!

I am crazy, right? Well, let me give you an example… My 30th Birthday, my 5 girls & I head out for a long weekend in Punta Cana to celebrate. I took my ONE Henri Bendel weekend bag for everything. I promise you it was just the one, nothing else—not even a purse.  (A bit of truth: I know my friends are the kind who overpack, and I knew one of them would have all the makeup, the other extra outfit, and the all the hair products, but still—) That was it!  

Obviously, no matter where you are going, it can be tough to choose what should make it on the plane, and what needs to stay home. Trust me—I have to lay everything out on the bed, and by the time I’m finished just as much of it ends up on the floor or tossed around in the closet as does in the suitcase.

NEVERTHELESS, remember you do not need everything from your closet for this trip, and you can make do with a few select items. Even if you are headed off for a week-long Australian adventure, there are probably some ways you can lighten your load and add extra space in your suitcase.

1. Mix and Match Your Clothes (LAYERS ARE KEY)

I used to be guilty of this first problem, but I have changed my life—and it feels so much better! We pack way more clothes than we will ever wear on vacation. Give some thought to your planned activities and then choose a few garments that are multi-functional—this is the key! Aim for one dress, one versatile jacket and one pair of casual pants. Limit all the different pairs of sandals.

Note: Wear your heaviest items on the plane.

Basics can often transition from day to evening and a few simple pieces of jewelry can turn them into a high fashion look for dinner—you likely don’t need a whole separate outfit for that. Scarves and light wraps can also help step up your fashion game while taking up little space in your carry-on.

Limit different colors. If you stick to the same color palette, it is even easier to swap out styles from occasion to the next. Here is the tough change: take a maximum of three pairs of shoes—one dress pair, one walking pair, one hiking pair OR sandals etc….but, just three. If you can get by with one or two, all the better, but I have not been able to do so.

2. Be Selective with Electronics

Must we always be connected? Remember, this is VACAY! Enjoy your time away.

I know you may regularly switch between your IPad and smartphone, but those screens take up a lot of space in your carry-on. Consider relying on your smartphone to take photos and leave the fancy camera and bulky laptop at home. Unless you’re a shutterbug, of course, and half the fun for you is playing with zoom lenses—then go for it.

Be economical about your space and remember even if you can get all your devices in your bag, it may be tough to find an outlet to charge them once you arrive. You may have limited access to Wi-Fi, so make sure to download music, movies and books before leaving. But, try to use your smallest device!

3. Limit Your Toiletries and Makeup

This one I know will get me in trouble, however, depending on where you plan to stay; you may not need to take any toiletries—there, I said it! Boutique hotels and nicer resorts have all the items you need such as quality shampoos, conditioners, body wash, lotion and hair dryers. If you need to carry additional items, go for the travel size or pour it into smaller bottles. It will save you space and make it easier to go through airport security—nothing will be confiscated!

Note: If you’re a subscriber, try to use your Birchbox samples for this.

Do a self-check before putting your entire makeup bag into your carry-on. Unlike in your regular life, you may be spending most of your time on a beach or strolling the streets where no one knows you. You can probably get away with a few small items and do not need your full color palette.

4. Optimize Your Packing Technique

If you are going to invest in a carry-on before your trip, try to find one that is the same size as the maximum that your airline will allow. This gets tricky since they all do not have the same size allowance. Be careful not to overfill the outer pockets—that could alter the size of the bag and put you over the limit.

In order to make the most of your space, roll your clothing so it will fit neatly into the nooks and crannies of the bag—Hubby is very good at rolling, while I tend to prefer the “shoving stuff down in there and squeezing the bag shut” method! The benefit of folding over rolling is you may not need an iron when you get to your destination, but if you think your hotel will have one, and most do, roll away.

I always put anything that could spill out in a liquid bag. I am OCD so I hate when stuff touches (just like my food). Most airlines will let you have both a handbag and one piece of carry-on luggage. Try putting those items in there instead. You will save space in case you really need that extra pair of sandals after all.

5. Make a Checklist of Essentials

I am a true lover of lists so I make one for everything—and check it twice. I actually start doing this before the night before my trip. I hate rushing because I always forget stuff when I do. Moral of the story: WRITE IT DOWN, you may overlook something you absolutely cannot live without.

Think about it this way, you may be able to get contact solution at your destination, but you will not be able to pick up an extra pair of lenses. Been there and done that.

So, make a rough checklist of everything you might need, including medical items, and everything you can get at your destination. Band-Aids, headache remedies, deodorant, hair accessories, and hangover cures are all things you may be able to buy there.

Take what you can live without off the list, but be sure to pack your personal essentials. You do not want to be so much of a minimalist that you leave a treasured item at home!

Just Enjoy Your Trip

Your vacation is your chance to get away from it all. Do not overload your escape from the real world by lugging around too much stuff. With a bit of planning and some careful styling, you can put all you need into one carry-on.

And one final note: DON’T CALL YOUR GIRLFRIENDS!!! They will just have you throwing all the words of wisdom from this article out the window lol!