Packing Better

Every year I find myself traveling more and more. In college, I did a lot of back and forths between DC and NYC, and when I was working, I didn’t have the time or money for many trips. Now it feels like I have a trip planned at least every month. I’m so grateful to be able to travel, but I do find it exhausting. I almost always joke that I need a vacation from the vacation when I get home. I’m jealous of people who can come home from a weeklong trip and hop right back into their routine. Please, teach me your ways!

Above being tired from the actual travel, the one thing that drains me the most is packing. I don’t know why I find it so overwhelming, but I do. Every time I pull my suitcase out, I wish I lived in a Harry Potter world where I could shrink my entire closet into my suitcase or use Floo Powder to travel back to my closet whenever I forgot something. It’s on my mind all. the. time. Both leading up to and during the trip.

Packing Tips

Monogrammed Luggage // Trench Coat // Jeans (c/o) // Ballet Flats // Sunglasses // Longchamp

With every completed journey, I feel like I hone in on my packing skills a little more. I have done packing posts in the past; this one is just a tiny bit updated. I know I’m always going to be an over packer*, but I do get a little better every time. I definitely pack better now than I ever have in the past, mostly in part to all the practice I’ve been having.

* In high school, I went on a trip with my chorus group, and I packed all my outfits for each day perfectly… but then we get there, and my friends all have multiple outfits for every day and night. I felt so lame and left out. I will never pack one outfit per day again. Hahaha, high school insecurities STICK.

Monogrammed Luggage


Whenever I go on a bigger trip, I always start a packing pile. It’s normally a chair in my office, and it’s not totally streamlined, but it works. Leading up to the trip, I start to “collect” the outfits I’m going to wear and things I don’t want to forget. Besides just getting a head start on the packing, it helps ensure that those pants I want to bring don’t end up in the wash the night before. In addition to the list I have going in an Excel spreadsheet (because I’m that person), it also helps me figure out what exactly I need before a trip. Do I need to buy anything? Is the pile getting so big that I can visually see gross overpacking?


The one thing that I implemented this year that is something I recommend no matter how often or how far you travel is to have a “go bag” packed and ready. I used to forget toiletries all the time, and now I don’t because I have a bag packed with travel sized items at all times. (The additional bonus besides not having to pack it, is that you also don’t have to unpack it!) The “go bag” is necessary for overnight trips and long trips. I end up using it at least once a week.

I have a large cosmetic bag that I store in my bathroom with travel-sized toothbrush, toothpaste, face wash, makeup wipes, q-tips/cotton squares, ponytail holders, razor, brush, moisturizer, perfume, shampoo, and lotion. I pack my makeup separately but having all my toiletries ready to go makes packing feel so much easier. Just not having to repeat “don’t forget your razor, don’t forget your razor” four thousand times in my head after showering reduces my stress!


Now… I know packing tips are generally around how to pack less. This tip doesn’t fall into that category. No matter where I’m going, I always bring a comfy outfit. More often than not it’s a pair of leggings or joggers with a short sleeve t-shirt and a sweatshirt. Even if I’m going to Florida, I bring a sweatshirt. At the end of a long day of travel, I like to slip into something super comfortable. Maybe I wear it while I get ready in the hotel before going out. I might even throw it on to run to the Starbucks down the corner. Or for when I’m sitting down catching up on email during downtime.

I will squish a comfortable outfit into the bottom of my laptop bag if I have to. It’s coming with me no matter what!


If you haven’t gathered from this post (or really this entire blog’s history), I’m a control freak. That’s probably why packing is such a nightmare for me. I want to make sure that I have everything I need at all times. Unfortunately, things come up. There might be unseasonal, unpredictable cold weather or maybe I just plain forgot something. I try to remind myself, that I can always purchase what I forgot there. I repeat it like a mantra. Before my “go bag” hack, I used to basically buy hair brushes and razors every trip because I inevitably forgot both.

No matter what, I can pretty much buy anything I need when I get there. Whether it’s a cheap $10 pair of headphone (they’re not noise canceling, but they work) or a pair of flip-flops for the beach. It’s not the end of the world to forget something!


The last tip I have for you today is actually something to take note of when you’re back from your trip. When you get home, take note when you unpack of what you wore and what you didn’t. This always helps me pack better for the next trip. It’s kind of like a post-game analysis. I take a mental note of things I never need and the things I’m glad I threw in last minute.

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I would say that I pack pretty well. When you travel for longer times (e.g. 4-6 weeks), you learn how to travel light.
Here is how I do it:
1) Check the weather (esp. lows at night!)
2) Lay out all outfits on the bed. I make sure that ALL tops go with ALL bottoms! That way, you can be flexible and create more outfits with what you have.
3) Unless it’s Asia or other super hot and humid climates, I try to wear tops for 2 days and bottoms for 3-4 days.
4) Add 1 pair of athletic pants (for lounging), 1 fleece jacket or down vest (in case it gets cold) and 1 or 2 fancy outfits for dinner.
5) I bring max. 3 pairs of shoes: running shoes for daytime exploring, 1 other pair of shoes (depends on location: sandals, sneakers or winter shoes) and 1 pair of “nice” shoes (flats).
6) It goes without saying that I don’t bring stuff like blow-dryers or tons of products.
7) Write it down (control freak, too, haha). I list which combination of tops and bottoms I am wearing on which day and I have a packing list. If it’s a complicated trip, I check everything off as I put it in the bag. I then do the same before going home.
8) The max. amount of clothes I pack is for two weeks. When I travel longer, I just wash everything in the middle.


I totally understand you! I just got back from a big trip and felt exhausted-definitely wanted another vacation after my vacation!


Great tips. I’m an overpacked too and call myself a “procrastipacker” because I wait until the last minute, which I know isn’t good, but I just hate packing!


I’m guessing that is not a carry-on sized bag…how long of a trip would you usually pack for in that size bag? Or do you always check a bag?


This is a checked bag! If I’m doing anything more than four days I generally check a bag but I do a lot of weekender duffle bags for carry-ons!


I was thinking of getting this bag, but it’s 21x14x10, and most airlines only allow up to 22x14x9 (aka it’s 1 inch over the standard requirement). Have you had any problems with it’s size or airlines letting you use it as a carryon without getting a fine? Thanks!

Ellen Agnew

Great tips!!!!! Especially keeping the toiletries ready to go in travel sizes!!!! I like to have a “packing station.” This is where I put my favorite magazine to save for a trip… along with clothes. I use my calendar and make a list of each event and the forecast. For example:
Travel Day 75/sunny
Dinner Casual 60/rain
City Tour 89/cloudy
Then decide shoes and coats.. then choose mix and match clothes and accessories. I love to leave space to buy something unique to that area.


This year..
New York
South Africa… THE BEST!!! (Londolozi)
Telluride Colorado
Duck NC

Thank you for your blogs!!! I look forward to each one!!


The timing of this post could not be more perfect. I leave on Sunday for a train trip across the country and I’m dreading packing. This is soooooo helpful. Thank you so much, Carly!


This is so helpful!! I’m a college student and don’t take too many trips, which I feel like makes packing even more difficult! I’m the same way about not packing less, but packing better, and have been working on keeping my “go” bag stocked up! This post is super helpful, love your blog!! xoxo


Packing definitely gets easier the more you travel, cause you definitely start to develop a uniform. I used to travel 2 out of every 4 weeks a month (yeah, I quit that job pretty quick) and I was a packing machine because I just packed the same clothes for every trip, no matter where I was going. I try to keep everything one or two colors (generally black and white) and then use one accent color (like red) for accessories and extra tops. That way everything goes together no matter what. REALLY smart travelers will stick to all one color (i.e. all clothes black) so you only have to do one load of laundry for longer trips.

Best thing to remember to avoid overpacking, especially on long trips, is that everywhere in the world people need to bathe and wash their clothes, so unless you’re WAY out in the Himalayas somewhere, there will always be a drugstore and a laundromat available. Use them – it’s part of the adventure.


After finally buying a roller carry-on this year I bought some packing cubes too. Do you use them or find that they take up too much space??


Packing cubes are the BEST! Especially if you’ll be taking mini trips out from your big trip. I did weekend trips when I studied abroad and packing cubes helped me keep my clothes separate from the rest of my stuff in my backpack.


Packing cubes! They are a life saver! You do not need the expensive ones either – I bought these ones
from Amazon and they are great. You can fit so much stuff and you do not need a vacuum to get the air out or anything. They just squish everything nicely (not many wrinkles either, but I am the person that packs a small travel steamer with me just in case) You should look into them, especially for long trips. I sometimes pack different cubes with different things (all my casual clothes in 1, all my socks, underwear, bras, sleep wear in another) it helps so when you get somewhere you can grab what you need and go. Also, I have a “go bag” as well and it is a huge help!

Love your blog!


Halie LeSavage

I’ll use these tips on my next trip home to Tampa–thank you! And your HP jokes made me wonder…did you get tickets to Harry Potter & The Cursed Child on Broadway today?


Loved this post Carly! My husband and I are in our early 20s and are constantly on the work week grind, but we love to take weekend getaways! I can sympathize with the always wanting to be in control… blessing and a curse! The “go bag” hack may be a game changer for me now! Thanks for the tips!

Avenlea Bixby

Great post, Carly! I love love love travel and packing tips! I also fall in the “I have to be prepared” category, and I often leave home feeling like I forgot something, and it is only a matter of time before I realize what it is. So, thank you!


Packing is super easy if you imagine yourself there, almost like acting 😄. No overpacking, elegant clothing, nice shoes, fabrick, 2 colours, everything same style and, pack a bold dress. 😉 One bag, no accessories.

Lauren Ashe

Have you ever tried packing cubes? I love the ones from Flight 001 and they make organizing my suitcase and keeping things clean so easy!

Kimfrom3 peanuts

Great post Carly! I think many people let a negative experience from the past influence them into adulthood. We all make mistakes. The important thing is to learn from them- which you did. I was going to say that I like the idea of a capsule wardrobe for travel. For example packing simple, chic clothes in black, gray and camel that mix and match for fall and winter. Choose white and blues for summer trips. However, I realize that as a blogger, you need to photograph a variety of outfits in various locations so I think packing is much more challenging for you.