lipault-featireI know. It’s not easy to pack light. I don’t know how guys do it – well, I do know how they do it. They pack one pair of shoes, one pair of jeans, maybe a pair of shorts and two T-shirts. They don’t mind that everything doesn’t match and they have no problem leaving their products (if they even use any) at home. Oh, they just don’t understand us women. The clothes, the shoes, the hair products, the skin products, the makeup, the purses, sweaters if it’s chilly, sundresses if it’s hot … did I mention the shoes? Like I said. I know. It’s not easy to pack light.

But … I will say that I myself have learned from my husband and travel expert, how to pack smart, without having to leave all my fabulous stuff at home. It all started years ago when he and I began planning a trip to Hawaii and Australia, with a pit stop for me in Los Angeles, that would last 16 days. Awesome! Until he called me up one night and said something about only bringing carry-on luggage. Huh? Was he planning a different trip than me? Didn’t he realize that we were going away for SIXTEEN days? I started to argue until he made the one point that was unarguable. We would, he explained, be flying on some small planes, including one puddle jumper to Fraser Island. We simply couldn’t weigh the plane down with excess luggage. Gulp. Carry-on it was.

But how? It was like the riddle of the Sphinx. I was stumped. But with the help of my ever-ingenious mom, we figured it out. The key is rolling.

First, I place my shoes around the perimeter inside the suitcase. Small shoes like flip-flops can easily fit into pockets. That leaves what looks like not-a-whole-heck-of-a-lot-of-room for anything else. Before you start packing your clothing, survey everything you’re planning to take and cut it down by half. OK, maybe by one-third. Then start rolling. Clothing rolled into tight cylinder-like shapes can be lined up in rows tightly against one other and you’ll be surprised just how much fits. Depending on what you’re packing, you may even be able to do another row on top. If you’re heading to a warm-weather destination, this is much easier as summer clothes are so much smaller and lighter than those in our winter wardrobes. But the principle still applies. Packing this way, I can still fit two pairs of jeans along with shorts, skirts, dresses, tops, shoes and accessories.

But what’s the big advantage to traveling light? Well, there are lots of pros. First of all, you don’t have to get to the airport quite so early if you’re not checking a bag. You won’t have to worry about it getting lost in transit (it’s a real pain, trust me!). You don’t have to waste time at the baggage carousel once you’ve landed. It’s safe and secure with you at all times and it gives you added flexibility. Say you want to change flights for some reason (maybe there’s an earlier flight or your flight is significantly delayed); having your luggage on your person means you can make quick decisions and change your travel plans … on the fly.

There are lots of other packing tricks like socks inside shoes. What are your packing tricks? Leave a comment and share! But remember ladies, you don’t have to bring everything but the bathroom sink! It took me a while to feel comfortable traveling without my hairdryer (even still the thought stresses me out), but for the most part, all hotels have hairdryers. They’ve got shampoo, conditioner, soap – so leave that stuff at home. I know you’re partial to your own products. But what would you rather have – your own shampoo or your cute strappy sandals? That’s what I thought.

21 Comments on How to Pack Smart

  1. Kari
    July 6, 2009 at 10:31 pm (15 years ago)

    It sounds like a huge pain but take a few minutes to plan out a few outfits in advance. Then if you want options add another shirt that will go with the pants or skirt you already plan on bringing. And plan on layering! You can make more than one outfit out of a few pieces.

    Good posting! 🙂

    • trendytravelista
      July 6, 2009 at 10:34 pm (15 years ago)

      Thanks, Kari! Packing can be stressful but I think it’s more stressful to be weighed down with too much stuff, especially when you’re trying to navigate your way through airports. I swear by carry-on! Thanks for the comment! 🙂

  2. Name Tags
    November 5, 2009 at 3:53 am (15 years ago)

    I’m always a heavy packer, I like to have extra clothes just in case. This has gotten me in trouble many times, however, I’ve had to pay heavy bag fees and leave things behind. I do roll a lot of my shirts, but my worst fault is I take too many shoes and that takes up so much space in my suitcase.

  3. New Designer Knowles Fashion
    December 13, 2009 at 6:42 pm (15 years ago)

    Hey there I came across your post by sheer luck, I was surfing around for Designer Fashion when I came upon your webpage, I must say your blog is very great I truely think the layout, its amazing!. I’m in a bit of a rush at the moment to totally absorb your blog but I have favorited it and also subscribed for your RSS feeds. I will be back in a day or two. Thank you for a great site.

  4. Andrea H
    December 4, 2011 at 7:03 pm (13 years ago)

    Great advice!

    Rolling is the best! All I wear are dresses with leggings, even to fancy dinners. My staples are Diane von Furstenberg – all of her clothes are easily rollable due to material – silk, chiffon, silk jersey. Forget jeans and pants. I packed 16 DvF dresses in my international carry-on for my last trip to Hong Kong. I looked fabulous and dressed-up 100% of the time.

    The worst part is packing one pair of heels…but it must be done to avoid checked luggage.

  5. Kathleen Pacheco
    June 17, 2015 at 6:07 pm (9 years ago)

    I love reading packing tips. First, if I’ve forgotten something, this reminds me. Second, I can pick up a new tip or two. Aside from my 22″ carry-on luggage, I also bring my backpack with me. On the plane, we always put it in the overheads just ahead of us, so we can keep an eye on it. In my backpack I carry all paperwork, and if possible I keep this with me. I don’t have a smart phone, so I’m not carrying that. I bring a small across-the-body bag (, and my backpack holds a bottle of water. All set!

    • Natalie
      June 30, 2015 at 1:10 pm (9 years ago)

      Love it! Thanks for sharing your tips, Kathleen. I especially love the advice to put your bag in the overhead bin just in front of your seat so you can keep an eye on it. Good thinking!

      • Sandy
        July 27, 2016 at 5:36 pm (8 years ago)

        Also, try the overhead bin across the aisle from you so you can see that one as well.

  6. Kathy
    June 24, 2015 at 7:16 pm (9 years ago)

    Invest in pieces of non- wrinkle clothing. Works great especially for men’s clothing. I usually take a pair of black and khaki pants, skirts, etc. and different tops to mix and match. Investing in few pairs of underwear that is quick drying saves space. Roll you clothes and you will have more room. Happy travels

    • Natalie
      June 30, 2015 at 1:09 pm (9 years ago)

      I agree, Kathy – rolling is definitely key! And so is mixing and matching 🙂

  7. Krista allen
    May 5, 2016 at 1:36 pm (8 years ago)

    I pik 2 colors for clothing, with an accent color for all wearables. For example, maybe black & white with red accent. I pack individual items in plastic bags with rubber bands so that they are really small. No wrinkle clothes allowed. Linen ok if it is steamable from my shower.
    Also, I refer to my ‘checklist’ that I made in excel so that I can easily review and not forget items like swimsuit or sunscreen. Sarongs are good for skirts, beach towels and ‘robes’— or even as a wrap for chilly weather.

  8. Sf seltzer
    June 29, 2016 at 5:47 pm (8 years ago)

    I have packed light for 30 years. I now have the smallest suitcase ever, 20″x8, hardcase. It’s light and I can lift it overhead easily.
    I also carry a LV ever full tote. That is it. Take IPhone and a tablet. Eyeliner that is also brow and shadow. Lipstick that doubles as sunscreen. 2 undies 2 bras 1 cotton 1 silk t- shirt.
    1leggings 1 tea length skirt take a pair of Tieks, silk pjs heels and a few pieces of fake jewelry and scarves. Done. If winter, wear wool slacks, scarf long coat boots gloves and hat. Done. O and be sure most is black or ivory in winter and pastel and white in warm weather. A bathing will also fit.

  9. Rob
    July 27, 2016 at 4:04 pm (8 years ago)

    You Tube! Watched loads of packing videos. You’d be amazed how much you can fit in a small carryon. Told the wife, take as much as younwant I’ll fit it in!

    Biggest issue was my wife’s jacket. A beautiful LL Bean rain jacket but super bulky. While in Switzerland I found a beautiful waterproof spring jacket, expensive yes but at half the volume worth every swiss frank!

  10. Christine Hooker
    July 9, 2018 at 9:37 pm (6 years ago)

    I always wear my bulkiest clothes on my flights, 1 sweater, 1 jacket, long pants, sox and shoes. Saves room in my one very small carry-on!
    Love Johnny’s and your sites! Great info, always!

  11. carole johnston
    December 30, 2019 at 2:15 am (5 years ago)

    I pack a inflatable coat hanger . When blown up it is fat and separates the layers of shirts etc which makes drying faster – usually overnight.


6Pingbacks & Trackbacks on How to Pack Smart

  1. […] 7. Too many clothes There’s an old saying: Pack half the clothes and twice the money. Those are words to live by. As you’re preparing for a trip, lay out all the clothes and money you plan to bring. Then only pack half the clothes and double the amount of money you had planned on. Like so many people, I used to over pack and then I got wise. And don’t use the excuse that you’re a girl who needs more stuff because my wife – the most girly girl I know—used to travel with a suitcase the size of trunk, but once she saw the light, she started using a suitcase that’s smaller than mine and now it’s carry-on only for her. Here are her packing tips. […]

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