One of the biggest fights I ever got in with my ex-boyfriend was because I completely over packed for our vacation and we missed our flight because we had to deal with checking my overweight, overstuffed bag.
I can still hear him screaming, “Do you really need all this stuff? Do you really need two maxi dresses? Are you kidding? Oh, and thank god you brought four books” like it was yesterday. Memories! Like the corner of my mind!
It’s true: I am not naturally a good packer. There are some people who manage to predict everything they will need for a weekend like its no big deal. I am not one of those people. It’s not that I’m high maintenance (I mean, I am high maintenance, that’s just not why I’m bad at packing).
I just am sorta a hoarder and I am incredibly indecisive. How could I possibly know that I’m going to want to wear that dress on a night that is three nights away? And what if I get bored of that book and need another book? I know I probably won't even have a lot of time to read, but what if?
For one reason or another, I’ve wound up on a plane about once a month for the past six months. Quickly, it became clear that checking a bag is both a time and money suck. I realized that if I wanted to make my time in the airport as easy and cheap as possible, I needed to get my act together and learn how to pack a carry-on like an adult. Here’s what I learned:
1. Only pack that which you love. Like, love.
You know those mornings when you wake up with 15 minutes to spare, but you still have to look like a functioning member of society, so you grab an outfit that you've had forever and know works? Yeah. That’s the stuff you should be packing. When you have limited space, you shouldn’t be wasting it on those printed pants that you were sorta iffy about because they’re a bit tight, but you’ve wanted printed pants forever. Pick a few outfits you know you love and that you know are comfortable.
2. Consider getting a blowout before you fly.
I know, I know. Who do I think I am? Kate Middleton? But it takes one blowdryer, one straightening iron, two different products, and three different brushes to style my naturally curly hair. Those are things that mama just doesn’t have room for. Instead, I get a blowout the night before I fly or the morning of the day I’m flying, depending on flight time.
Of course, this doesn’t work for vacations longer than a weekend, but who do you think you are taking a vacation longer than a weekend? If you can afford to leave your life for longer than three days, I am so jealous that I don’t even care that you’re going to have to pack a blow dryer.
3. One word: dresses.
I wear a lot of dresses and dudes are always like, “Are you going to prom,” and I let them in on a Lady Secret: Dresses are really the easiest way to look like you’re put together, when really you just put one thing on. Pick a dress you can easily transition from day to night, or can style for lots of different occasions. During the day, you can wear a chambray or sweater over it, and then at night you can throw a statement on it. Boom. Instant sexy time.
4. Stuff things in other things.
Stuff jewelry into your shoes (I like to put the jewelry in a plastic baggie before, just in case). Stuff underwear in a purse. Stuff socks in bras. Just put things into other things and you will save all the room.
5. Downsize your make up bag. Like, by a lot.
I have three large make up bags that hoard all my make up, but bringing those three small children in my suitcase would be a huge waste of room. Instead, I use two zip lock bags: One for products (just the essentials, whatever those may be for you) and one for brushes, since sometimes products will explode and you don’t want that ruining your brushes.
I am very specific about what products I put on my face, so I go the extra mile and fill up those travel sized containers with the products I need. If you do that, just be sure to label them with a Sharpee, so you’re not sitting on the bathroom floor, trying to figure out if the little white bottle you’re holding is face wash or conditioner.
6. Do your homework.
Is the hotel you're staying at going to have a blowdryer? Does your friend's apartment have a straightening iron? Is there a computer where your staying that you'll have access to? Where's the nearest drugstore? Figuring these things out ahead of time can save a lot of room in your suitcase.
7. You don't need to pack a purse.
Unless you're packing a clutch (in which case WHO ARE YOU THAT YOU'RE GOING ON VACATIONS THAT REQUIRE A CLUTCH? DO YOU ALSO TAKE VACATIONS LONGER THAN A WEEKEND?), just use your "personal item" as the purse you plan on using throughout the trip.
Go for something that's large enough to lug around your books, headphones, snacks, pepper spray (Kidding! Kinda! My dad totally bought me pepper spray!), and wallet during the day, but will also be appropriate for the night. I usually bring a large-ish black leather bag, since it matches everything.