The 6 Secrets to Packing Light (a tried and tested plan!)

This post may contain affiliate links. Please read our disclosure for more info.

Photo courtesy of  Icon8

Photo courtesy of Icon8

While planning our two-week honeymoon, Paul suggested we bring carry-on luggage. Only. Upon first hearing this plan, I smiled and nodded, thinking that I would surely have to check my luggage in the end. I am, after all, the queen of planning for EVERY.SINGLE.THING…rain gear for inclement weather, heels for a fancy dinner, sneakers for the anticipated workout (that may never happen...), many pairs of pants in case anything spills, stain sticks to fix said spills, every type of medicine you can imagine….sigh, you get the drift. The inner-planner in me often overpowers the wanna-be minimalist that I wish I was.

But Paul had a very good point. Limiting ourselves to only what we can carry saves us in so many ways. You can read more about that decision over here, where we talk about our favorite carry-on of all time!

But the question is — how can packing light be done? 😳

The short answer is, it takes a little bit of planning, but it is possible! Here are our 6 secrets to packing light:


Secret #1: Pack what you love

The best secret for packing light is to only pack what you love. If you don’t reach for a piece of clothing while at home, what makes you think it will suddenly become alluring when on a trip? (Sorry for the tough love…but it’s true!) In the same vein, if you’re purchasing new clothes for the trip, be sure to test-drive them before taking off -- or you may learn the hard way that you don't love them.

Knowing that you will feel amazing in any piece in your carry-on will save you from agonizing over what to wear while on the road. When you could be out and about checking out the Colosseum, for example, it's a no-brainer!

Secret #2: Quality over quantity

Thinking about the quality fabric of your clothes is key. Merino wool and tech-like blends that don’t wrinkle or absorb odors are some of our go-tos.

Our biggest secret when packing light when embarking on a long trip is to throw in a few Tide sink packets. Hand-wash pieces in the sink, hang to air-dry overnight, and bam, you’ve saved yourself from packing extra pieces of clothing.

One thing to keep in mind, of course, is how thick these fabrics are. A pair of jeans may not air-dry very fast. That’s why we aim for fabrics like merino that keep your body temperature regulated, but also wash easily.

  • Our favorite places to shop for quality pieces that travel and wash well: Anatomie (for women only), Outlier (for men only), Wool and Prince (for men only) Exofficio (for undergarments), Eddie Bauer

Anatomie pants for women

Anatomie pants for women

Outlier pants and shirt for men

Outlier pants and shirt for men

Secret #3: Layers of complementary colors are your friend

There was a chilly spring day in Florence last year when I wore just about everything I had packed! And you know what? I called that a success!

When deciding whether to pack a particular piece of clothing, think about how it will play with other pieces you’ve packed. An easy way to do this? I choose black as my foundation clothing color and stick with clothing that will pair well with my tried-and-true black pieces.

Wearing so many layers, I can barely move...

Wearing so many layers, I can barely move...

Secret #4: Packing cubes are great for limiting yourself AND staying organized

Packing cubes [LINK] really do keep me organized, and perhaps more importantly, sane. Packing cubes provide a small, finite amount of space that I know I must stay within. If I can’t zip an overflowing packing cube, then I know it’s time to edit down and decide what to keep and what to leave at home. Cubes also work great when you arrive at your destination, as you can simply place the cubes in a drawer and your suitcase can be put away!

  • Our favorite packing cubes: Tortuga

Tortuga packing cubes

Secret #5: Stick to 2 pairs of shoes (and a small pair of flip-flops)

Shoes are usually my downfall. I am bad at deciding what shoes to pack, but I’ve worked at getting it down to a bit of a science. I wear sneakers on the plane that are dressy enough to wear around during the day, yet are also supportive enough to play double duty for working out in. I then pack a pair of comfy wedge heels, plus a dressy(ish) slip-on.

I am also very prone to blisters on my heels. Knowing this, I always throw in a lightweight pair of flip-flops, which play many potential roles: they serve as slippers to wear around the Airbnb or hotel room, are perfect for the beach, or if I need to give my sore heels a break, I’ll throw on the flip-flops while sightseeing around town.

Secret #6: Bribe yourself

I mean this as in, try to keep space clear for all the goodies you’ll want to buy on your trip and bring home! Like wine perhaps?! Of course that would mean you must check your bag on your way home, but hey, for wine I’ll do it!

Tuscan wine tasting

So there you have it…our tried and tested secrets on how we have cracked the code on packing light enough to be carry-on only.

I can now admit that over time, I not only learned to pack carry-on only, I actually now love it. Packing in this way helps me put my best foot forward when on the road. It forces packing decisions to be made before the vacation even starts so the vacation time can be spent being in the moment, not deciding what to wear.

So now that you’re in the know, go forth and pack light!

packing light
Photo courtesy of  Icon8

Photo courtesy of Icon8