Pack Your Bags and Carry On {Have Suitcase Will Travel}

March 27, 2014

 I have to admit that I am a boss at packing.  In 2012, I completed a three week tour of Spain with a NorthFace pack.  My four week jaunt around Oregon and Minnesota last Summer was completed using a standard carry on with a messenger bag.  This summer I plan my longest trip yet with my trusty pack for a five week five country jaunt around Europe.  If you think I am good, you should see my husbands packing skills.  


Although it pains me to admit it, I used to be terrible at packing.  I packed way too much in things I could not carry.  When I studied abroad at nineteen, I brought more stuff than I did when I moved to Scotland for a year.  On an ill-fated trip to Italy, my luggage was sent to the land of no return.  For two weeks, I lived out of a tote bag during that trip.  It made me realize how little I actually needed.  Besides the monetary benefits, the less you bring the more you can enjoy traveling in it’s own right.

Here are my top ten tips to fit your trip into a carry on:

  • Make a list, and redraft it a few times.  Whether you make a packing list in a notebook, or use an app on your phone.  It is better to begin scrutinizing your choices before you start packing.
  • Packing cubes are your friend.  There are several brands and styles out on the market.  Try to pick on that goes with the size of your luggage.  The cubes I use are short and slender in order to pack vertically in my pack, and also fit in my rolling carry on.
  • Downsize the make-up bag.  Pick a few essentials from your stash, and go with it.  I never think about it when I am on the road.
  • Pick outfits that mix and match.  This is how I survived four weeks out of a carry on this past summer.  I had about six tops that went with all the bottoms I purchased.    Most sites I look at use black, but you are not limited to that color.  I have used both Navy and Brown.
  • Be selective on the shoes you bring.  Besides coats and books, shoes are the bulkiest item in a suitcase.  I suggest limiting it to three.  You are in luck if you travel in the summer since you may be able to get away with an extra pair of sandals.  You can also wear very heavy shoes like boots to your destination.
  • Use accessories to your advantage.  Take a few cute scarves and chunky necklaces with you in order to make your outfits last a little longer.
  • Buy toiletries at your destination.  Forget hoarding hotel sample shampoos or purchasing refillable tubes for face wash.  Just buy what you need at your destination.  There are few places I have been you cannot get decent shampoo or razors.  The only  item I have difficulty finding is deodorant that is not roll on.  This also speeds up airline security lines.
  • Technology can be the biggest space saver in your bag.  There has been a lot of debate in the blog world over the value of e-readers since they came out a few years ago.  However, for the benefits of travel they cannot be beat.  I read on average seven to ten books a trip, and would hate to be at the mercy of hostel book swaps. Also, think of all the things at your fingertips with your handy smartphone, you no longer need to carry paper maps or even reservation information for hotels when it can be stored in the device.  I also enjoyed traveling with my iPad, and loading my pictures along the way on my trip to Spain.  Use your imagination, I am sure you can come up with a few more.
  • Do not overload your carry on when traveling outbound.  As a rule, I do not expand my carry on until I am returning.  The reason for this is because some of my planes coming into Gulfport have smaller overhead compartments. If my bag is expanded, I am stuck checking my bag anyway at the gate.  This is an unnecessary hassle, and besides you need to leave room for souvenirs on your return anyway!
  • Try a packing your bag a few different ways until you find something that right for you.  Most packing tips will tell you to roll all your garments.  I found that if I only roll items that go in my packing cubes, and then fold my thicker items like jeans it works better for my bag.  Get creative to find out what works best for you.



Born and raised on the Mississippi Gulf Coast, I am a lover of books, history, and all things vintage. I am a blogger by night, and librarian by day.  Please stop by and see more of my adventures at The Sassy Starfish.

Mandy L. Hornsby

Writer, Genealogist, Vintage Seller

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