Tips for Packing Everything in a Carry-On Suitcase

Hi from Denver! I have a quick layover and then I’m off to Park City, but I wanted to pop in and say hello! I spent some time working on the following blog post on my last flight and wanted to share it with you this afternoon. This post has been a long time coming!

Tips for Packing Everything in a Carry-On Suitcase

Every time I post a picture of my suitcase on the blog when I am packing for a trip, I’ll inevitably receive a few comments or emails from you guys asking me for my tips on packing everything in a carry-on. I hate checking a bag and want to do everything I can to avoid the fees airlines are charging for checked luggage these days, so I have a handful of tips and tricks I use to ensure I can carry-on nearly every time I travel.

Carry On Suitcase Packing Tips

Here are some of my go-to tips:

  • Rely on dresses

Packing mostly dresses is probably my number one space-saving tip! By packing a dress, you’re essentially packing a top and a bottom, but you’re saving a ton of space in the process. You can also change the appearance of a basic dress by throwing on a cardigan and belting it or wearing a cute top over the dress so it works as a skirt, too. I did this a lot when I traveled to Europe with my family in 2011.

The same black dress, worn many ways, as seen in my What To Pack for a Trip to Europe post:

Different ways to wear a black dress

  • Keep pajamas simple

Sleep naked! Just kidding… unless you’re a nudie sleeper and then you’re clearly good to go! Since I don’t sleep in the buff, I do my best to keep my travel pajamas very simple. I will often rely on a soft long-sleeve shirt that I wear when I travel to a destination as my pajama top once I arrive at the destination so the only thing I have to pack for sleepwear is a small pair of sleep shorts. (My favorite super soft sleep shorts are American Eagle’s aerie brand. They’re crazy comfortable and take up practically no space.)

  • Choose black OR brown shoes and purses

By planning your outfits around black OR brown (not both!) shoes and purses, you can limit the number of shoes and and handbags you bring.

  • Pack a purse that doubles as a crossbody and a clutch

Crossbody purses with removable straps are the best! I love the ability to wear a crossbody purse in the day when I’m traveling around town and want my hands to be free, but a clutch is fun for the evening when I might want to dress up a bit and carry a bag that looks a little more formal.

Stitch Fix Crossbody Clutch

I almost always only bring one purse with me when I travel and I try to make it as practical as possible! Some crossbody clutch purses I found that I think would be great for traveling: Kelsi Dagger Crossbody Clutch (I love the mocha color and think it would pair well with a lot of different looks), Mondani Flap Convertible Bag and, for higher budgets or a big splurge, this beautiful Tory Burch bag

  • Limit the number of bottoms

I can usually get away with packing a smaller number of bottoms when I travel and typically limit myself to one pair of jeans and a pair of shorts or a skirt (if weather permits) or leggings since pants can take up a lot of room. (I usually don’t need many bottoms since I often rely on dresses.)

  • Take advantage of a “personal item”

Most airlines allow you to bring a carry-on and a “personal item” onto the plane with you. I always bring my roll-on suitcase and take serious advantage of my “personal item.” I never make a purse my personal item because I can bring so much more if I use a backpack or a duffle bag.


As long as it’s small enough to cram under the seat in front of you, it’s a go! And you better believe my bag is filled to the brim! (For those who asked, the duffle in the above picture is Sonia Kashuk and while that pattern is no longer available at Target, a new floral print and geometric pattern can be found online and in stores.)

  • Share with friends/family

If I am traveling somewhere with my sister, only one of us will pack certain items like a straightener or a curling iron. We’ll also plan to share jewelry, cardigans or other items we know we’ll both use. I try my best to communicate with friends and family ahead of time and consolidate as much as possible so we don’t end up somewhere with four hairdryers!

Question of the Afternoon

  • What are some of your space-saving travel tips?


  1. says

    HA! I could have used this a few days ago! I had 4 carry ons and the guy at the counter was FURIOUS WITH ME – and made me shove everything into one bag, until I crossed over a specific door frame. I was pissed. PISSED I TELL YOU. I threw out some curse words and then made the plane delayed to prove a point, LOL – I think I did too, AH HA HA HA!


  2. Rachel Waggoner says

    I love this post! Being a frequent traveler in Europe it is hard to pack because the weather is so different from country to country.
    When flying I always wear my bulky shoes and coat, that way if I am hot I can just stuff it by my feet and I don’t have to worry about it taking up lots of space! Plus my bulky shoes include my tennis shoes and so that way I am comfortable traveling through the airport and my feet aren’t killing me by the time I end up at my destination.
    I also pack some laundry detergent, I buy the wash-n-go sheets that you can use as a detergent, softener, and a dryer sheet all in one. That way if I need to do laundry I can and it is very simple. (:


  3. Vanessa says

    A little late commenting on this post, but I absolutely loved these tips! Thanks so much. Where do you shop for your dresses? They are always so cute! I need some for my upcoming trip to Cali!


  4. Brittany says

    These tips sound awesome. I am going to Disney for my honeymoon in April and I am a little concerned about what to pack. I live in Maine so totally different weather. I don’t know if I would be comfortable wearing dresses although they might be more comfortable in the heat. Also I plan to wear sneakers so that wouldn’t go a long with dresses very well. I was thinking of just doing khaki shorts and tank tops for the week. Maybe you could offer some advice since you live in Florida?



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