Packing Light to Fly with Just Carry On’s

Checking bags when you travel is a recipe for disaster, in my experience. Here is how I packed my bags for a two-week trip to Mexico. This packing style works best for cruises or trips where you arrive…and stay in one place for a more than a day or two. Everything needs to be taken out upon arrival and hung up or put in drawers.

In my experience, rolling clothes does not prevent wrinkles. Nor does layering plastic dry cleaner bags between the clothes.
How To Pack Light ToTravel With Carry On Only
My clothes get organized on my rolling rack. Shoes are packed in soft cloth bags and hats are chosen for outfits and climate. Lingerie, socks and accessories are all out and visible before anything goes into the bag.

I plan each day’s outfit on paper, which ensures nothing is left behind. It also allows me to visualize and be extra creative, mixing and matching different combinations. That means I can bring less clothes.

 I start by folding a few soft knits and laying them down to fill the space on the outside of the long ridges that are caused by the retractable handle.
Hats are then stacked, upside down in the “well”, created by the soft clothes. I carefully lift each side of the hat brim and layer underneath with soft folded T-shirts, lingerie, bathing suits, etc. Shoe bags are then packed flat, also under the brim, at the bottom where the wheels are. I also pack shoes against the spine, which prevents my bag from being top-heavy.
Balance is important. If one pair of shoes is particularly heavy, I separate them into two cloth bags and put one shoe on opposite sides of the suitcase.

The hat stack is then filled with pashminas and scarves. This area can and should be packed fairly full to prevent the hats from crushing.

order of packing suitcase
All remaining clothes are laid flat in the suitcase, pointing in opposite directions with the excess garment overhanging the edge of the bag. I then start with the bottom garment and fold it over the other pieces. It’s a bit like an origami puzzle. Basically, the folds are cushioned by the other clothes. It’s the tightness and crush of the folds that will cause the worst creases.
Between the clothes, I lay a few organic dryer sheets. They help keep everything smelling fresh. When I get to my hotel, I lay the dryer sheets in the bottom of the each drawer before I lay my clothes in them.
In a pinch, if you have static electricity problems, simply rubbing the inside of the offending garment with the dryer sheet works like a charm.
How to Pack Light to Travel With Carry on Only
My small hand-held is packed next. It holds all medications, reading material, liquids in zip lock and important papers. I always put my sleep wear and two change of clothes in this bag. My handbag is full and then packed upright, inside this bag at the top front. This ensures easy access to its contents without unpacking anything at the airport.
How To Pack Light And Travel With Carry On Only
I wear this waist pack during my travel day… which holds my passport, boarding pass, money, credit card, mints, lipstick and hand sanitizer. A bag this tiny never counts as a carry on…so I’m guaranteed that my one handheld and one roller bag will be allowed to be carried aboard. It also keeps my hands free as I navigate security and potential racing through the airport.
Once through security and on board my flight, this waist pack is tucked into my hand-held. It’s small enough to take little space but simplifies airport navigation for me.
My next trip will be mid April and by car… so I can bring everything as much as I want.
I have a post or two planned for while I’m away and I will also be posting photo’s on Intsagram.

Do you have some packing tips to share?
I’m always looking for new ways to streamline my packing.



  1. I find that tying down my clothes tightly really helps with wrinkles. T shirts and shirts other than blouses come out of the suitcase looking like they were ironed. I usually put socks and underwear in the wells that result from the roller apparatus. I can travel for 2 weeks with a 20 inch suitcase.

    1. I do the same in those wells. I also roll scraves to fill that area. Good for you, 2 weeks in a small bag! That’s how I like to travel too.

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