Photo courtesy of MIRTH Caftans

Have you ever showed up at your travel destination with half of your closet in a giant suitcase but still had no idea what to wear? Or worse, has your luggage ever been lost in transit leaving you to make do with the clothes you wore on the plane? I’ve experienced both (including lost luggage during our honeymoon last month), which has converted me into a carry-on traveler. As many of you know, Caroline’s dad is a commercial airline pilot and she grew up exclusively packing a carry-on so that she could fly stand-by. Between the two of us, we’ve developed efficient packing tips to be sure our luggage gets to where it’s supposed to, and contains exactly what we need without an overwhelming assortment of “maybe this will come in handy”. Read on below for 10 helpful packing hacks to take into account next time you’re jet-setting!

1. Plan Your Outfits in Advance

The worst mistake you can make when packing is to randomly throw individual pieces from your closet into your suitcase. This caters to “What’s one more shirt?” mindset, which leads to overpacking and arriving at your destination with too many pieces but not enough outfits. To avoid this, lay out all of your clothing in outfits before packing, and write out each outfit by day, evening, or any specific events. Be sure to include accesories and shoes in your written descriptions. This strategy also helps you to get creative about re-wearing something multiple times. For example, if you have a pair of pants set for your “Day 1 Outfit”, think about how you can dress them up for your evening outfit on the third day. Caroline likes to take iPhone pics of each outfit so that she can easily flip through her photos when deciding what to wear.

2. Stick to a Color Scheme

The key to light packing is being able to re-wear pieces again and again. To make this easy, select items that follow the same color scheme. I would even go a step further and say to stick to a neutral color scheme – white, navy, black, tan – and add in a couple of bold colorful, pieces to the mix (like a floral dress that can be dressed up or down).  You can also add pops of color through accessories that are easy to pack – like a red statement necklace to keep things fun!

3. Pack Staples That You Actually Wear

I’ll be the first to admit that I love buying new pieces for vacation. It’s so much fun to pick out clothing for a specific destination – whether it’s tropical swimsuits, new boots for New York, or a Parisien hat. What I’ve come to realize though is that I end up feeling most comfortable and confident in an outfit that I would usually wear at home. A favorite pair of jeans, button down shirt, cardigan, lightweight jacket, and chic sneakers are reliable essentials that will work on just about any trip.  Plus, you can keep wearing them when you get back home.

4. Rely on Accessories

To keep your outfits feeling different, even while re-wearing the same pieces, play with your accessories. A white button down paired with cropped denim and chic sneakers is a completely different look than when tied in a knot paired with a midi skirt and a statement necklace or scarf tied around your neck.  Accessories will help you dress pieces up or down, and can also play off of your destination. If you’re at the beach, opt for a straw bag, bright earrings, and fun sunglasses. If you’re visiting an international city, pack chic silk scarves, a leather crossbody, and delicate layered necklaces. Pro tip: store your jewelry and other small accessories in your handbags and clutches that are already taking up space in your bag.

5. Be Realistic About Your Shoes

We all know that shoes are what end up taking the most space and weight in your bag, but it can be so hard to narrow down the selection! If you’re like me, you end up traveling with six+ pairs of shoes only to wear three of them the entire trip. Stick to one shoe in each necessary category — you don’t need two pairs of wedges, or booties, or sneakers. Also, be realistic about your destination. If you’re going on a casual beach vacation, you can probably leave your high heels and loafers at home and stick to a pair of flat sandals, wedges for the evening, and tennis shoes for comfort.

6. Wear Your Bulkiest Layers

A good rule of thumb when packing light is to wear your bulkiest layers on the plane. The good news is that planes are generally freezing, so layering is needed anyways. Start with jeans and a long sleeve shirt, followed by draping a sweater or lightweight jacket over your shoulders, and wearing your heaviest shoes (usually sneakers or boots). If you’re heading somewhere cold, carry your coat and scarf with you instead of trying to cram them into your bag.

7. Roll Your Clothes

Save space and prevent wrinkles by rolling your clothes instead of folding. Simply lay the item face down, fold back the sleeves and then roll from the bottom up. If there are some items you need to fold, fold in pairs to give each item some extra padding so it’s less likely to crease.

8. Pack a Travel-Sized Steamer & Hand Wash Detergent

To pull off wearing the same clothing pieces multiple times during your trip, pack a travel sized steamer and hand wash detergent (in a travel size bottle). This way you’ll be able to wash and refresh your clothing easily throughout your tip. Having hand wash detergent on hand also comes in handy when traveling with kids without a washing machine readily accessible.

9. Stick to the 3.4 oz Rule

If you’re used to checking your luggage and not thinking twice about your cosmetics, it’s important to remember that TSA allows you to bring one quart-sized bag of liquids, creams etc. in your carry-on bag. Don’t forget to buy travel-sized containers and products that are 3.4 ounces or less.

10. Pick a Structured Carry-On

Of course, your carry-on bag has a lot to do with how well you can fit everything into it. We suggest a structured carry-on, like this one from Away luggage, which helps all of your items stay neatly packed while in transit. For your second carry-on bag, go with a large tote that can easily hold a scarf, cosmetic bag, or even a pair of shoes in addition to your laptop, airplane read, etc.

Do you have any other packing tips that help you fit everything into a carry-on? We’d love to hear them in the comments below!


*Today’s post is by HoH team member Kathryn Worsham Humphries. After working in PR and marketing in New York for nearly 5 years, Kathryn followed her Texas roots home to Houston. As a House of Harper team member, Kathryn creates original content, facilitates brand partnerships, and works alongside Caroline to strategize the HoH marketing and editorial calendars. Outside of work she can be found decorating her Houston Heights bungalow house, practicing the art of hygge, and planning trips that revolve around food. She will happily create a dining itinerary for anyone traveling to either New York or Houston.