If there’s one thing I dislike about travel it’s dragging around a ton of stuff – or traveling with people who do. Whether I’ve traveled for a day or a month, I always manage to get by on nothing bigger than a carry-on bag. That’s not always easy when you’re traveling across different countries with varying dress norms.
Factor in the need to dress up a little for the occasional visit to a family member’s home and overpacking becomes tempting. Resist the urge! Here are a few pro tips for packing a carry-on for a month-long trip:
1 – Pack for a week, then wash your clothes. If you were to take nothing else away from this article, take this piece of advice: Pack for a week and then wash your clothes to make them last through the month. This is especially easy if you’re traveling to cities with similar climates and dress norms. You can get by with packing 5-7 outfits and then just doing laundry once a week.
If I’m traveling to a warm destination with lots of sight-seeing, I’ll usually pack 3 light-fabric pants, 2 pairs of tights, a black cardigan, 4 t-shirts and a breezy dress or two. I try to pick a dress that I can wear to a nice dinner if I have to and the tights I can sleep or work out in. I’ll also bring a pair of Toms for the plane ride – the thick soled ones are comfortable enough to substitute as walking shoes. I’ll also throw in a pair of sandals for the beach or light walking days. That pretty much takes care of it.
2 – Light fabrics and layers are your best friend. If the above packing routine seems a little light to you, then you can certainly add to it. I always find myself with tons of extra space in my carry-on bag and that’s because I focus on bringing light fabrics and layers. If you’re traveling through cities with varying dress codes (i.e. the Middle East to Europe), you’ll want to bring layers. Maybe t-shirts and tanks for warm European weather and some cardigans or portofino shirts for a more modest dress code.
3 – Keep non-essentials to a minimum. Hopefully you all know better than to pack things like hairdryers and travel-sized bath amenities in your luggage. These things not only take up space, they also create hassles at security. I always try to keep my essential beauty products to travel-sized only. That’s not at all difficult since I’ve accumulated quite a stash of skin care and makeup samples from Sephora over the years. These come in tiny packages and are usually good for 1-2 uses. They save space, provide everything I need and save me money on travel-sized products. I highly recommend you hold onto these or try to pick some up at your local beauty store. While you’re at it, hit up the travel bin at target and stock up on small, travel-sized toothbrushes, paste, deodorants, and whatever essential items you may need.
Some of the more higher-maintenance folks will wonder if this is enough to look your best. When I’m on vacation, I’m not interested in looking my best. I want to be comfortable, I want to let my skin breathe and just relax. That means the excessive beauty products and hair gadgets can stay home for a little while.
4 – Get rid of stuff. For most people, it’s impossible not to return home from a trip without more stuff. Whether it’s gifts or clothes, you’re bound to pick up a few things that take up additional space in your bag. If you’ve packed wisely (and shopped responsibly), it won’t be an issue. But if you have no impulse control, consider what I do: Leave things behind.
I don’t travel with my best clothes and make it a point to bring stuff that I’m comfortable losing or leaving behind if necessary. So if I find a bunch of amazing traditional Afghan dresses that weight a ton and I’m on the last leg of my trip, I can give away my (clean) travel clothes in exchange for picking up new gear. There’s also something really nice about purging yourself of old stuff at the end of your trip.
5 – Packing cubes? Packing cubes are all the rage now. You can buy them fairly cheaply on Amazon, though I would personally recommend the eBags brand. Packing cubes may seem obnoxious and unnecessary, but they’re great for staying organized and making good use of space in your carry-on bag. As an organization freak, I love knowing exactly where things are and unpacking only the essentials when I get to my destination. Packing cubes really help with that. Not to mention, they keep me accountable in terms of how many items I can bring with me because of how everything fits into these cubes.
It’s absolutely possible to fit a month’s worth of clothes into a carry-on bag, if you plan it right. Minimalism is really key – stick to essentials and pack smart if you’re going to be gone for an extended period of time. Also, know that if you realize halfway through your trip that you don’t have enough clothes or you really wish you’d brought your favorite beauty products, stocking up shouldn’t be that difficult (or expensive) depending on where you’re traveling to. Plan ahead, be sensible, and allow yourself a little room to bring things back from your adventures. That will help you not only keep your luggage light, but enjoy your trip more.
What are some of your tips for packing light during a long trip?