For as long as I’ve been traveling, I’ve always made it a goal to pack light. I typically only travel with carry-on luggage, unless I’m flying trans-atlantic (when checked bags are generally free!). So for my big 6-week trip this summer, I told myself my goal was to pack just a carry-on. I was so nervous before I started packing, but I did it! I survived the entire trip with just my large carry-on Osprey backpack, and my smaller black backpack (which I’ve had for 10 years through 8 years of school and 4 years of extensive European travel).
Packing light is an art that will take years to refine and master. The truth about packing light? Honestly, you’ll just wear a lot of clothes over again and again. I always overpacked clothes—I wanted to have lots of “options” and felt like I needed to bring certain items to go with other items to make them work. Once I got over that, packing has been pretty easy. Check out my 5 clothing essentials here!
My number one suggestion for packing clothes is to buy simple, basic pieces in neutral colors that you can wear a number of ways. I frequently wear all black when I travel, because black goes with everything! Buy staple pieces that you can mix and match, and make sure you can wear every top with every bottom (and vice versa).
I seriously struggled with packing clothes for my trip, since I was going from drastically different climates. Starting off in Moscow, I knew that the temperature might be as low as 50˚F. When I ended the trip in Varna, it was 100˚F on the beach at the Black Sea. I needed clothes that would cover possibly 50 degrees of difference—from potential rain in chilly Russia, through to oppressive heat in Romania and Bulgaria. So I made the decision not to bring a pair of jeans, and just accept the fact that I’d wear my leggings nearly every single day for 2 weeks in Russia.
And there’s more to packing than just clothes! I also tried to cut down on the gear and “stuff” I brought. I also bought barely any souvenirs on this trip, which made a huge difference in the amount of space I had in my bag.
So what all did I actually bring?! I thought it might be helpful to share my packing list here on the blog. Here’s what I packed for 6 weeks of travel with just a carry-on:
- 1 pair leggings (black)
- 2 pairs denim shorts (denim/black)
- 1 pair running shorts (which I also wore for sleeping)
- 1 skirt (black)
- 1 sweater
- 1 denim chambray shirt
- 1 nice top (for going out)
- 4 t-shirts (including 1 for sleeping)
- 3 tank tops
- 1 cami (to go with my sweater)
- 2 dresses (one with sleeves, one without)
- 1 swimsuit
- 1 pair spandex shorts (for under dresses/with tights)
- 1 pair tights
- 1 scarf
- 1 real bra
- 3 sports bras
- 8 pairs underwear
- 8 pairs socks
- 1 fleece jacket
- 1 rain jacket
- 1 pair running shoes (which I wore nearly everyday)
- 1 pair boots
- 1 pair sandals
- 1 pair flip-flops (for hostel showers and the beach)
- Towel (I always bring my own towel when staying in hostels!)
- Contact lenses for 6 weeks (I wear daily contacts)
- Makeup: mascara, eye shadow, eyeliner, 2 lipsticks
- Jewelry: 2 pairs earrings
- 3 oz/100 ml containers of: shampoo, conditioner, body wash, sunscreen
- Mini tube of toothpaste
- Hairbrush, comb, toothbrush
- “First-aid kit”: Band-aids, q-tips, cough drops, painkillers (ibuprofen/Tylenol), immodium, Neosporin (anti-bacterial)
- Medications (enough to last for the entirety of my trip)
- Bar of laundry soap (for washing my clothes in the sink)
- Delicates bag (how I separate my dirty laundry in my bag)
- 1 book (for fun reading)
- 2 Lonely Planet guidebooks
- 2 European adapters + 1 British adapter
- Laptop + charger
- Camera + charger
- Phone + charger
- Random plastic bags
So there you have it! That’s every single item that I rolled, folded, maneuvered, and stuffed into my carry-on for 6 weeks of travel in Eastern Europe. It was a challenge, but I’m proud that I’ve mastered packing light. If you’re interested in general tips for preparing for a trip, check out my post on good travel practices here.
Do you pack light for trips? Have you ever traveled with just carry-on luggage? Share your tips in the comments below!