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
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 forget to pack at least one dressy top.
This black leather skirt works with a lot of different colored tops, making it a versatile piece.
Don't Overdo It on Shoes
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.
Definitely bring along sneakers for your daytime activities.
Insta-Search Your Destination
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.
A simple striped button-down is easy to dress up or down.
Use the Layer-Up Rule
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.
Consider a simple white tee the ultimate layering piece.
Always Bring One Athletic Outfit
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.)
Make sure to pack a pair of leggings. These can get you through any weather condition.
Maximize Your Space
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!)
First things first: Make sure to pick a reliable carry-on that can handle whatever the elements throw your way.
This dress is a key layering piece you can wear for drinks or a day out strolling.
Avoid Bulky Accessories
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.
Skip accessories that take up too much space. Only take styles that are easy to pack.
Wear Your Heaviest Piece on the Plane
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.
Your travel coat should be one that will keep you warm wherever you plan on touching down.
If you're headed somewhere chilly, a pair of boots will come in handy.