One Bag Packing: How To Travel Light

By Laura Fiebert | Updated: June 6, 2022

    A few months into our relationship, Andrew invited me to travel to London with him and his family. I was super excited about this overseas trip and needed to buy a suitcase. I was thinking BIG. Then, he breaks the news to me. His family only travels with carry-ons.

    Of course, I thought this was a joke because how could I fit all the stuff I needed into a tiny bag. I was freaking out, but his family was awesome enough to take me with them, so I went with the flow. Carry-on suitcase it was. I taught myself how to pick lightly since I have been a carry-on-only traveler.

    I never looked back. I can’t remember the last time I waited at baggage claim. Even when I went to Australia for two weeks, I went with only a carry-on. So many people suffer from over-packers syndrome. If you are one of those people, stop packing so much and learn the art of one bag packing.

    Come Out of the Closet

    Stop. Just stop what you’re doing and make a list. It will help immensely with over-packing. The most crucial step of the packing process is picking your clothes. Something new I have been doing is choosing a color scheme. I pack primarily neutrals that can be mixed and matched with colorful accessories to add some pop.

    I choose fabrics that are less likely to wrinkle. Even if it’s my favorite piece, I leave it at home if I know it wrinkles easily. I don’t even own a clothes iron at home, so my hair is the only thing I plan on ironing while on vacation.

    First, check the weather and activities you will be doing on your trip. You probably do not need that sparkly dress and stilettos if it’s an outdoorsy trip.

    I always bring heels with me and never wear them, EVER. So leave them the home you can.

    If you need to go to the gym when you’re on vacation, call the hotel before you pack your workout clothes. Some will provide them for $5-$10. Now that you have figured out how many outfits you’re going to need, lay it all out and subtract one. I bet you still won’t wear everything you pack. This is my go-to for a ten-day trip. Yes, I re-wear stuff.

    • Four bottoms, including a pair of blue jeans and black pants
    • Seven tops, including a black tank and white t-shirt
    • One skirt, most likely black
    • Two dresses; one solid, one print
    • Two cardigans or swap one out for a blazer or light jacket
    • One pair of flats, one pair of comfy shoes for walking and boots for a cold place or wedges for warm
    • Some colorful accessories- scarves, necklaces, hats, belts, etc.
    • Underwear, bras, and socks

    Roll With Me

    Start the packing process by putting all your shoes on the bottom and sides of your bag. You can set your socks inside as shoe trees. It will prevent them from getting smushed. I save those bags that bed sheets come in to keep the shoe soles from touching my clothes, but shower caps work. Wear them on the plane if you’re bringing boots to save space.


    All pants get rolled, and tops can be folded neatly or rolled small. Skirts and dresses can be a little trickier. I haven’t tried them yet, but I have heard air compression bags are great for saving lots of space.

    Always bring some plastic bags to store your dirty/wet clothes in. Most hotels have dry cleaning bags in the closet, so I take them too for dirty clothes. Lastly, stick some dryer sheets in so your stuff will smell fresh.

    I wouldn’t say I like Saran wrap, but it’s good for many things. Lay your jewelry out between two sheets of plastic wrap to prevent it from moving around and tangling inside your bag. Straws around necklace chains also work.

    Traveling Beauty

    Hair tools are big, heavy, and 100% necessary to bring on vacation. Check your hotel website and see if they provide a hair dryer. I like the Hot Tools Stowaway travel iron. It’s only 20 bucks – an excellent investment.

    You do not need to bring ALL of your makeup. You’re on vacation – give yourself and your face a break.

    Pick your essentials; it will be different for everyone. I can’t live without mascara but could live without foundation and blush. I usually bring some eye makeup and lip gloss; that’s it. I used to leave my perfume at home because most were over 3 oz. Unfortunately, too many people lose their favorite scents to the TSA.

    Try going to Sephora and ask for some free samples of your favorite perfume, or if available, buy the roll-on version. I bring my shampoo and conditioner for toiletries, but I use what I can from the hotel, like bar soap and body lotion.

    Coconut oil can be used for so many things like makeup remover, moisturizer, shave lotion, hair mask, etc. If you are short on space, you can always buy your toiletries when you get there.

    You don’t need to bring your whole life on vacation with you. It’s a time to escape and get away from your day-to-day life. The fun of traveling is out of your comfort zone. Whether on vacation or a business trip, it pays to travel light. It won’t cost you extra for checking luggage, no waiting at the dreaded bag carousel, and your stuff will never get lost. Happy Travels!