16 Days in a Carry-on: Confessions of an Over-Packer


It all started a few months ago…

Steve and I had just booked out flights to Europe. Then he turned to me and said, "I want to do this trip in a carry-on". I laughed. "No way in hell", I responded. We had just booked a 16 day trip and he thought our luggage would fit in an overhead compartment? Our honeymoon, just eight day trip, required a checked bag, plus carry-ons. So how could a trip twice as long be condensed to a carry-on each? Also, I am a textbook over-packer.

Steve started to pull up articles and YouTube videos about packing for a multi-week trip in a carry-on. We spent a couple hours watching and reading. After some time, not only did I start to believe we could do this, but I also saw the benefits. Currently, the plan is to hit 3 countries, (maybe 4! stay tuned) and I liked the idea of not checking a bag. It would make things a lot easier, especially in a foreign country, to always have our luggage with us. Laundry wouldn’t be difficult to do either because we are visiting friends during the second leg of our trip. It all started to seem conceivable.

Today, we are flying out to our first stop, and I am pleased to report, we both have one suitcase and one backpack. How did I do it? Well for Steve it was easy, but for me, it took quite a bit of planning and some lessons learned along the way.

Here is how a classic over-packer condensed her suitcase and curbed her need to pack EVERYTHING!


1. Get used to the idea early.

If Steve had approached me with this idea last week, rather than several months ago, it would have been a hard no. I would have been mentally packed and not prepared to take on the task. But over the months, I've had time to plan accordingly and do proper research.

2. Get real with your plans.

The reason our honeymoon required a checked bag, was because I over-packed. I had 9 pairs of shoes and at least 2 outfits for each day, including eight dresses. (I would like to note, I did, wear all eight.) Realistically, I did not need all of that. But the purpose of the trip was to relax and enjoy our vacation. I had the luxury of changing outfits midday and wearing high heels to dinner. This trip however, is a different story. We will be on the move from sunrise to way beyond sunset. For this trip, I need comfortable footwear and an outfit that would work all day.  Once I realized this, half of what I would have brought in a checked bag was cut.

3. Check the weather.

In the week leading up to the trip, I monitored the weather in each city we'd be visiting. I was using this to help plan the clothes I would bring. Paying attention to the weather allowed me to make smarter choices in the clothes I was bringing on the trip.

4. Remember you can always buy something there.

Assuming your traveling to a developed country, you'll be able to get anything you need in the hotel lobby or a local drugstore.


5. Don't skimp on what's important to you

When carry-ons were first discussed, Steve told me I shouldn't bring my hairdryer because it's bulky. I said no, because I use a hairdryer everyday to style my bangs and I don’t like using hotel dryers.

6. Only pack for one week

Let's be honestly, you cannot pack 16 outfits in a carry-on suitcase. You can, however, back for about a week. So do just that and toss in a few detergent pods.

7. Do you wear it at home?

If you don't wear it at home, you won't wear it when you travel. Pick clothing items you know you are comfortable wearing out.

8. Don't go shopping!

I resolved to do this early. I knew if I bought something, I would feel obligated to bring it on the trip. I decided it would be best to save money leading up to the trip. We have a lot of actives planned, but I wouldn't mind doing a little shopping over there as well. I would much rather purchase something while I'm in Europe and bring it back to the states, than the other way around. 

9. If you're worried, do a practice pack.

A week before we left, I did a quick practice pack to make sure everything I was planning on taking would fit. It was worth it because it assured me that I didn’t have too much.

Below I have put together an abridge list of what I am packing for clothing and accessories.

• 8 tops

• 2 pairs of jeans

• 2 pairs of shorts

• 8-10 pairs of underwear

• 8-10 pairs of socks

• 2 pair of shoes

• 2 bras

• 2 jackets

• Leggings

• 1 sports bra

• 1 of each beauty item (ie: 1 eye shadow palette, 1 concealer, 1 blush, etc.)

• Minimal jewelry

• 1 Hair dryer

• 1 Curling wand

 All of this is currently packed in my carry-on suitcase with room to spare!

To keep up with our travels for the next two weeks, make sure you're following me on Instagram and check out the hashtag #KSpinningTravels to stay up-to-date! 

 As always, thank you for reading,

XOXO Helen

P.S. If you liked this, you will also like

Don’t forget to follow me on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram