PACKING for vacation is no small thing – especially when you’re traveling through different locations and climates.
However, after traveling around the world and back again, I’ve narrowed my packing game down to a science.
On my most recent trip, a nine-day trip around the Caribbean — including a week-long cruise — I managed to pack all my clothes and shoes into a standard 20-inch carry-on suitcase.
That means I stuff all of my toiletries, accessories, and miscellaneous items into a single 15-inch tote bag.
At first I wasn’t optimistic that I would be able to do it and laughed at the thought of packing outfits into one small suitcase for nine days.
I tend to treat vacations like a fashion show – for better or for worse – and follow my mom as I need to have perfectly fitting shoes.
With limited space, I really had to buckle up and be strategic with my outfits.
It forced me to review—and reevaluate—what mattered most (swimsuits and chic nightly looks) and things I could do without (a third pair of heels and a second sweatshirt).
ORGANIZATION IS THE KEY
For each trip, I start by making a broad list of things I need to bring, want to pack, and maybe cram into my suitcase at the last second.
This list includes everything from socks to hair accessories to books.
As the trip nears, I do laundry to make sure everything I need is clean and start piling up mountains of laundry.
Sometimes I sort items into “must bring” and “potential” piles.
This helps me gauge what is absolutely necessary for a trip and what might be good just in case I find myself in a specific situation.
This time I made a huge pile and narrowed it down while physically packing my suitcase.
I discovered the magic of packing cubes years ago while working on cruise ships and have rarely taken a trip without them since.
Personally, I find that three different-sized packing cubes—one small, one medium, and one large—help me prioritize and limit my wardrobe items.
The small packing cube is always for the essentials – socks, underwear and pajamas.
The big one is always for my fanciest outfits, including dresses and jumpsuits.
The middle cube varies by voyage.
For this cruise, it was filled with swimsuits, cover-ups, and a few matching sportswear sets.
By arranging my clothes into outfit categories like this, I can see what I can combine for the trip and I also know which shoes I have to take with me.
As for the actual packing, the rolling technique is my favorite.
I’ve found that it’s actually possible to fit more in packing cubes and suitcases overall if you roll up your clothes.
It also helps reduce wrinkles, which is a plus.
As it was a warm weather holiday, the clothes were mostly light and easy to pack.
On the left side of my suitcase—the side with the compression zip—I packed the largest cube, which tucked in reasonably well.
The right side was stacked with the remaining two dice.
I also put each pair of shoes—packaged four in total—into individual plastic bags, partly to keep my clothes clean, but also for organizational reasons.
There were also two hats and an additional pair of black leggings that were placed on top of the dice.
The suitcase closed without any problems – once it was expanded.
Even with the expander, the hand luggage on my Delta flights easily fit in the overhead compartment.
I then proceeded to my shopping bag, which I stacked like a tetris game.
Books lay flat on the floor, and then I carefully arranged my makeup bags on top, like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle, to fit everything—including the toiletry bag and curling iron.
I wrapped my travel pillow around one of the straps and was set to jet.
In all, I packed five swimsuits, three coverups, four pairs of shorts, two tank tops, two t-shirts, two gym sets, two two-piece sets, six dresses, and a denim jacket—plus underwear and pajamas—all of which fit in my extended suitcase.
As for the shoes, my suitcase had two pairs of heels, a pair of sandals and a pair of flip flops.
I also threw on the two extra hats and leggings before zipping up.
My shopping bag contained a toiletry bag, a makeup bag, a medicine bag, two books, a journal, a curling iron, two pairs of sunglasses, my glasses, charging cables and a belt pouch/wallet.
I ended up coming home with only extra underwear and an unworn dress, t-shirt and shorts.
Everything else I packed has been used or worn at least once.
Repacking a suitcase at the end of a trip is a big disappointment and can be difficult if you don’t remember how you originally packed it.
I tend to take a picture of my packed suitcase before I travel so I can remember how everything fit for the way home.
At the end of my cruise I used the large packing cube and the left side of the suitcase for dirty laundry.
The small and medium cubes were for unworn items, and the shoes were snuggled back into place on the right side.
This way of sorting makes doing laundry a breeze when you get home.
While meticulous planning isn’t for every adventurer, honing my packing skills over the years – and relying heavily on rolling technique – has only made traveling easier.
https://www.the-sun.com/travel/7584591/carry-on-caribbean-cruise-magic-formula-traveling/ I packed a carry-on for nine days on a Caribbean cruise – my magic formula for traveling light