If you’re sick of hearing me talk about packing light, then you should probably stop reading now.  I know I talk about it a lot, but to quote my favorite traveler (for the millionth time) “I have never heard anyone brag that with each trip they take, they pack heavier each time.  You always hear about how little they packed.”  There is something exciting and rewarding about not needing so much extra weight.  Remember that scene from Up in the Air with George Clooney, where he tells that girl how much time she’ll waste by lugging a giant suitcase with no rollers?  (If you’ve never seen it, here’s the clip.  Just watch the first 2 minutes.)  If you haven’t thought about this before, you are most definitely packing too much.  We always over pack without a proper system.  This is why I have my system down to a science.  It takes time to create your own packing style and figure out what you truly need and don’t need for a trip, but it’s worth starting a system of your own.

I thought I’d share what’s in my carry-on for a three-day trip in terms of clothing.  I carry other things with me (such as a curling iron, phone charger, sunglasses, etc.)  But I thought I’d show you my basic bare bones packing list.  No matter how long my trip is, whether I’m flying or driving, I bring one carry-on and one personal item.  This system works for a 3 day trip, or a 14 day trip.  Although a 14 day trip will have a lot more underwear, a few more shirts and one more pair of pants.  Otherwise, this is my basic, no frills, packing system.

 Suitcase items

1Carry-on suitcase. One that will for sure fit into any overhead bin.  I do not want to have to check this!

2Packing envelopes.  These are amazing.  I use them for jewelry, snacks, pens and mini notepads, etc.  They are see-through which makes finding things a lot easier.

3Packing cubes.  Keeps everything neat and tidy.  If you’ve never heard me talk about these, we’re probably never met.  So nice to meet you!

4My personal item.  I usually carry a tote I can fold up, or a backpack.  Whatever is easy, handy and gives me easy access to my snacks.  (Trying to avoid hanger.)

5.  Toiletry bag.  I use one that I can hang up in the bathroom.  I know there are smaller ones, but these keep all the items from sitting around a sink and annoying people I stay with.



  1. Four shirts.  I bring one t-shirt to sleep in, one button up, one cardigan and a tank top.  I can mix and match and layer these all day, which means that’s all I’m going to need.
  2.  One pair of pants.  I usually bring jeans, or possibly a pair of skinny pocketed leggings.
  3.  Three pairs of underwear and a bra.  One pair for each day!  I try to avoid doing laundry on vacation, if possible.
  4.  Two pairs of shoes.  Always two pairs.  If I’m hiking a lot, I may bring three pairs, but the other two will be either flats or sandals to avoid bulk weight.  It’s best for your feet to have at least two pairs to switch it up with.
  5.  A dress.  Dresses are so versatile, in my opinion, that I wear them in all my travels.  I can wear them when it’s warm or when it’s cold with tights and a cardigan.  I can wear them sleeping, over a bathing suit, in a box with a fox, with the cat in the hat.  You get the idea.
  6.  A scarf.  Scarves are great.  Wear around your neck or just as a shawl.  They look cool, plus they keep you warm if you’re chilly.  Win-win.
  7.  Jewelry.  I always bring a necklace, in addition to one I’m wearing.  I like to add something if I’m wearing solid colors while I’m traveling.

So that’s what’s in my carry-on for a long-weekend trip.  Do you ever find it hard to pack light?  If so, what are you biggest issues?

Nina Thomas

Travel lover and writer

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  • Amber May 23, 2016 on 12:36 PM Reply

    My biggest issue is I pack emotionally and at the last minute. So I’m in a rush to get to sleep before our trip and while I have an outfit for each day of our trip, if there is an inch of space left over I’ll just start stuffing clothes in bc it’s “cute” or “what if I feel like wearing this one day instead?” It’s more about style instead of practicality – bad choice!

    • Nina Thomas Amber May 26, 2016 on 2:46 PM Reply

      This is EXACTLY how I used to pack. And sometimes, I would even bring things that I had never worn because “maybe I’ll wear this!” And I always ended up lugging all this stuff around only to wear a few things. I know my travel style enough now, that I just pack what I know I will wear and need to wear. One thing I come to terms with is that I have to wear what I brought, even if I don’t “feel like it.” At home, I can dress by feelings… when I travel, I gotta wear what I brought!