HOW TO PACK LONG TERM IN A CARRY ON + 5 PACKING TIPS
I’ve been traveling full time for two years and I only travel with a carry-on. One question I get asked time and time again is “how do you fit everything you need in just a carry-on”. Well to tell you the truth, it took years of travel experience, but I have it down to a science, and the bare essentials for when I travel now. And today I’m going to share with you exactly how to pack long term in a carry-on (and my personal item) as well as 5 packing tips I swear by.
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So when I first started traveling I would travel with a huge suitcase (probably bigger than myself) and I would never wear everything that I brought with me. Half the time I even came home with clothes that have tags on them. The more I started traveling the more I realized what I really needed and started leaving more and more things back home.
When I started my nomadic journey I packed up my entire apartment into one suitcase and a backpack. Though I soon realized that traveling fulltime actually requires a lot of traveling (who would have thought haha), and constantly traveling with a suitcase gets not only expensive but tiring too. So I picked my favorites from my already downsized life, sent my suitcase to my grandfather’s house in Poland, and only took my backpack with me. Soon the backpack started hurting my back and I switched it out for a rolling carry-on.
Alright, so what exactly do I travel with then? Let’s start with the basics.
2 pairs of shorts
4 pairs of pants (2 pairs of leggings and 2 casual or dress up pants): I
love having a variety of clothing to wear, and this is why I chose these bottoms to wear. I think this is the perfect combination for every season and you can dress them up or dress them down. I usually just wear leggings during the winter and shorts in the summer but having two pairs of pants that you can dress up or down as well works great. Leggings are really great as all-purpose pants too, they’re great to workout or wear when you go out.
Notice I don’t have any jeans. Jeans are super bulky to travel with and I travel to warm climates 90% of the time, I just wouldn’t wear them enough to travel with them.
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1 short skirt
1 long skirt
I love skirts and dresses, having one neutral color short skirt and long skirt is important to me, these are great to wear out, and to dress up any outfit. You can choose a whimsical long skirt or something a bit more fitted. The options are unlimited
TIP 1: Roll your clothes: I found that rolling your clothes you really get more to fit into your bag than if you were to fold your clothes. I’ve had people ask me about the clothes getting wrinkly, and for the most part I found that rolling your clothes keeps them less wrinkly. Depending on the material though, some wrinkle more than others.
6 universal black tops
(3 tank tops + 3 dress up tops)
I love wearing black, always have and always will. I found that this combination is perfect for me. I have 3 tank tops that I can wear underneath clothes or to the gym, and 3 other tops that I can dress up or for a casual look.
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5 colored tops
I love dressing up, so the tops that I do choose are a bit on the nicer sides. These are great to wear with leggings or my skirts.
TIP 2: Bring low pattern or solid color clothes so you can mix and match. You will be surprised at the different outfit combinations you can make if you stick with solid color clothing.
1 beach dress
1 little black dress
1 simple black romper
1 short summer dress
1 long summer dress
Again, I really love dressing up, I love having the option of a nice evening gown, or summer dress for when I go out. And you can’t go wrong with a little black dress or romper.
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1 long sleeve blouse
2 long sleeve tops
For those cooler summer nights, something with long sleeves, I don’t like having too many options because I have sweaters and cardigans as well, but this is great for keep you on the warm side.
2 comfortable t-shirts
Perfect to sleep in or go workout in.
1 black cardigan or 1 black cardigan
I love a good-looking cardigan or blazer. These are great to keep you warm and dress up any outfit. I usually just throw a blazer over any top and I feel automatically put together.
2 neutral sweaters
I love a good hoodie or sweater! They’re perfect for cold plane rides or for those unexpectedly cold evenings. I usually put the sweaters together and bring them on board with me instead of putting them in the carryon.
1 universal lightweight coat
Something light and perfect for any occasion. I love this cold as it’s super thin yet warm at the same time.
9 pairs of underwear
2 bras: one black and one beige, to match any outfit
5 pairs of socks: 3 pairs of sports socks for gym shoes, and 2 pairs of short socks for my everyday shoes
2 sports bras
4 bathing suits: beacuse I travel mostly to warm climates I wear a lot of bikinis, I love having the option of 4 different ones
These are the best sandals ever. They look super cute dressed up or you can wear them as regular flip flops too. I love that they have a strap around the back too, which keeps them on your feet easily and you’re less likely to lose them.
Perfect for any occasion, I love a good pair of comfortable shoes that you can wear out with any outfit.
Comfortable gym shoes that you can wear for working out, hiking, or normal day walking around.
I went back and forth with heels for a long time. I used to wear A LOT of heels but when I started traveling I never wore them. I ended up getting a pair of super cute comfortable heels (with a short heel) and keep them with me for emergencies. The goal is to find ones that are comfortable and small enough to pack up.
TIP 3: use zip lock bags for loose items. I put everything in zip lock bags. My toiletries, tampons, medicine, band aids, and more. I always carry extra ones with me as well, just in case I ever need them.
I only travel with the basic toiletries, and everything else I purchase wherever I’m at in the world. This includes makeup remover, travel toothpaste, moisturizer, and travel hair products.
I’m a gal so I travel with my full makeup bag, thankfully I don’t wear too much makeup so I can fit everything in one small bag.
But I do have a lash problem, I travel with about 10 different pairs of extra lashes, because I wear them so often.
TIP 4: Keep everything important in your personal item. This comes in really handy when going through the airport. Sometimes you have to end up gate checking your luggage, or anything else might happen to your actual carryon, it’s important to keep everything important in your actual personal item vs your carry-on.
Sony Mirrorless Camera
My most recent addition to my collection, I’m in love with this camera because it not only takes amazing photos, but it also takes great videos too.
Because I can’t live without one.
2 External Hard Drives
I use one hard drive for my photos and videos and the other one to store my projects.
So I can always have battery life on my phone
Hard Case Carry-on
I love a good hard case carry-on. These are great because they are light weight, they can hold more clothes, and I love the ones that you can extend an extra bit if you need the extra room.
TIP 5: Wear your heaviest clothes while you travel. I always try to wear my heaviest clothes, this means I wear gym shoes, I keep my hoodies with me or on me, and I wear a pair of leggings, sometimes I wear my hat or other items are bulky to save as much room as possible.
BONUS TIP: Pack your favorite clothes, then take half of those, then look at your half cut favorites, and cut it in half again. Most likely you will never end up wearing what you originally thought you were going to wear. You can always trade out clothing while on the road and buy new clothes if really needed. But most likely you will only need a third of what you originally planned to bring.
Do you think you can travel full time in just a carryon? I’d love to hear about your packing style.
Xoxo Ania Travels 💜
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Disclaimer: This post was not sponsored. As always, all opinions are my own. This post contains some affiliate links which will earn me a few cents to contribute to the running of this site if you make a qualifying purchase at no extra cost to you.