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12 Tips to Pack Light & Minimal in a Carry On Bag (for a Weekend or Round the World Trip)

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12 Tips to Pack Light & Minimal in a Carry On Bag (for a Weekend or Round the World Trip)

Tired of lugging around too much on each trip? Whether you’re heading out on a weekend trip or packing for your round the world trip, here’s 12 tips we’ve learned and use when packing.

We used all of these tips when packing for our two year round the world trip in a carry on bag. These tips saved our backs and made travel days more enjoyable with less stuff!

12 Tips to Pack a Carry on Bag

for a Weekend or Round the World Trip

1. Choose a Small Piece of Carry on Luggage

First, set yourself up for success in packing less by choosing a small carry on bag whether it’s a rolly bag or backpack. (You can see what we used here and each of our packing lists: Lindsey’s for women & Adam’s for men).

12 Tips to Pack Lighter in Carry on Bag for Weekend of Around the World Trip.jpg

You'll fill whatever bag you choose, so choose a small carry on. We like to only pack and take carry on bags so we save time and money throughout our flight by not having to check a bag and not having to wait at the luggage carrousel. We also choose carry on bags so we're not at risk of losing our luggage! We've heard horror stories...

2. Pack Clothes to Layer for all temperatures

This is a big one especially when you're going somewhere that's hot during the day and cold at night, like Colorado. My layering goes: a light rain jacket, over a fleece or long sleeve, over a short sleeve or tank top. I always pack one light rain jacket (for rainy days, cool nights, restaurants, and for on the plane), a fleece to have some cozy warmth if needed, and a couple t-shirts and tank tops for summer days.

3. Pack Clothing that Can be Mixed & Matched

Pack tops and bottoms that can be re-worn and mixed and matched amongst each other. I tend to pack neutral white, navy, and black tops with jeans, jean shorts, and green shorts. Everything’s neutral and I can mix and match the tops and bottoms together.

4. Try Everything On

This was one of the best pieces of advice I received to help me minimize my packing. Take the time to try all your clothes on before you head out and make sure everything matches so you can rewear and mix and match your clothes. This will help you put aside really unique items you may not need or will wear a lot.

5. Plan for Laundry

If you're traveling over a week, plan to do laundry. This will help you pack less tops and bottoms. You may have a laundry room accessible to you on your trip, or you can do laundry in the sink. You can use soap or water or we really like Tide travel sink packets.

Pack Clothes that can Be Washed in One Load

Who wants to spend time doing a laundry when you’re in an exciting new place? Not us! Make sure you pack clothes that can be washed in one load together. This will save you time and money only doing one load versus several.

Don’t Pack or Buy Red Clothes

We’ve made this mistake by putting red in with our other clothes and everything coming out pink! Adam bought red Thai pants when we were in Thailand and they tinted all of our lighter clothes pink. If red’s your power color, then pack loads of red. If it’s not, we recommend leaving red clothing at home.

6. Roll or MariKondo Fold Your Clothes

Roll your clothes like a taco or fold MariKondo style. I used to only roll my clothes, but now I prefer MariKondo's folding techniques so I see everything I have when I open my bag and I'm not making a big mess pulling out my clothes while I search for a specific item.

If you have nice clothes for a wedding or cruise that you don't want to roll or fold into a tiny square, carefully fold them like an official letter in plastic from the dry cleaners and place them on top of all your other gear. I recently did this on our trip to Jamaica for a friend’s wedding. 

7. Use Plastic Bags as Compartments

If you’re using a backpack, use plastic bags to help compartmentalize your gear and clothing.

When we traveled around the world with backpacks, we tried to be strategic in our storage system. We used gallon size ziploc bags and vacuum storage bags to store all of our clothes and gear. With a backpack, you’re consistently pulling everything out, so it's nice to have compartments to pull out all your shirts at once without sending your underwear flying for everyone to see. And, we learned having fewer storage compartments is easier than a lot of little ones as you unload your backpack to find something. Also having clear, see-through bags is nice so you can see what you’re trying to find.

8. Pack a Reusable Water Bottle

12 Tips to Pack Lighter in Carry On Bag for Weekend or Round the World Trip. NuventureTravels.com

This saves the planet and money! Pack a reusable water bottle to have extra water on your flights and to save money and plastic from continuously buying plastic water bottles.

9. Wear the Bulkiest Items to the Airport

To save even more space in your bag, wear your bulkiest shoes, pants, jacket, and top to the airport so the smaller items are in your bag.

10. Prepare for the Security Line

Prepare for the moment of going through security where you have to undress and unpack your bag just to repack it. Remember to wear socks with your shoes. Also, pack your computer, ipad, snacks, and any liquid toiletries that are easily accessible and you don’t have to move other stuff around.

11. Don’t Pack toiletries (or Only Pack the Essentials)

To save even more space, only pack the essential toiletries you’ll need. Or, don’t pack them at all and get them when you arrive at your destination. We have friends that do this.

12. Carry Your Own Devices

When we set out to travel the world and wanted to pack light for our trip, we thought we could share a computer and ipad. However, now after our experience, we recommend to all couples taking off to travel the world to each carry your own laptop and devices. Adam and I are both more efficient working and searching for hotels on a laptop than on an ipad. We would argue about who would get the laptop first, how long they’d been using it, and we ended up staying at coffee shops longer than you’d want in a cool new place.

We bought a second laptop in Malaysia and it made a world of difference to our efficiency deciding on travel logistics and for our marriage! If you are a couple it’s good to have your own stuff and do things on your own. Here’s 5 Reasons It’s Okay to Take a Break from Your Travel Partner & Explore Solo that we’ve learned from our travels.


We hope these tips make packing easier and lighter so your travel days are more enjoyable instead of spent sweaty and stressed!


make packing easier!

1. Pin this for later here.

2. And, download this packing list to have for later, too.

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12 Tips to Pack Lighter in Carry On Bag. NuventureTravels.com.jpg

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