I Packed a Carry-On for 2 Weeks: Here's What I Learned

Picture it: Your flight leaves tomorrow and you're sitting on the floor surrounded by piles of clothes, attempting to squeeze them all into one carry-on. Sound familiar? Not long ago, I found myself in a particularly tricky packing situation and had to figure out how to pack for two weeks with just a carry-on bag. I was traveling from New York to California for a week, only to hop on a plane straight back and then on to Paris for another seven days. The catch: With not enough time in-between flights to check a bag (I had to switch airports—it was a rough day), I had no choice but to use a carry-on for the entire duration of my trip.

However, what initially seemed to be a total nightmare ended up being a blessing in disguise. Packing light forced me to be ultra selective and taught me a few lessons along the way. I have a bad habit of packing things I never end up wearing, but this time around, I actually put everything I brought along to good use. Curious to learn a few of my personal secrets for mastering the art of carry-on packing? Keep scrolling to see my eight tips for packing a carry-on, and then shop pieces to help you travel light (without feeling like you're missing something important).

Cherry-Pick Statement Pieces


(Image credit: @alwaysjudging)

Since space is limited, keep statement pieces to a maximum of three. Opt for styles you can wear multiple times and that will seamlessly work with your basics.

Don't Overdo It on Shoes


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If there's one thing I tend to overpack, it's shoes. But with limited space, it's important to be realistic about your choices. Keep your shoes down to three sets: sneakers, heels, and one pair specific to your location—boots, sandals, etc.

Insta-Search Your Destination


(Image credit: @songofstyle)

When it came time to start packing, one trick that helped was Insta-searching the style of the city I was headed to. A little insight into how fancy (or casual) my destinations were helped me assemble my travel capsule wardrobe.

Use the Layer-Up Rule


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For my trip, I tried taking simple pieces that I could easily layer or style together. I focused on neutral shades and simple prints (like stripes) to ensure that I could make outfits feel fresh by swapping pieces in and out.

Always Bring One Athletic Outfit


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Traveling can be unpredictable, so it's a smart move to have one sporty outfit on hand. Leggings are great if you end up on a hike or sightseeing expedition. (They also happen to be the perfect option to wear on the plane.)

Maximize Your Space


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Thinking strategically about packing is crucial when every spare inch matters. Instead of packing all your shoes together, tuck them into the sides and corners of your bag. Stuff the nooks and crannies with soft items like socks, and roll your tops instead of folding them. (Bonus: Rolling instead of folding prevents wrinkling!)

Avoid Bulky Accessories


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As much as I'd love to travel with a chic full-brim hat, it's better to save room for more versatile items. Instead, pack a baseball cap or a hat that can be easily stuffed away.

Wear Your Heaviest Piece on the Plane


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To save space (and maximize how much you can bring along), wear your heaviest coat on the plane. Plus, when things get chilly in the air, you'll have something to keep you warm.

This post was published on an earlier date and has since been updated.

Up next, shop the biggest fashion trends from the '80s.

Aemilia Madden