How I Packed for 5 Days in a Carry-On!

As I’m sure most of our regular readers already know, I went to NYC over fall break with some of my good friends from school! It was a blast and it inspired me to apply to a couple schools in the city for my graduate studies. One thing that I would have never guessed about this trip is that I would have packed enough clothes, shoes, and toiletries for five days into a carry-on. How’d I do it you ask? To be honest, I’m still not sure, but I’m sharing my tips on how I think I’m going to do it in the future.


My Carry On

This is by far the best luggage I’ve ever had. I got the three piece set for my birthday last year. Thanks, mom.

Pack by day and outfit needs.

When I don’t have space limitations, I just kind of pack my favorite pieces in my closet at the time and just stuff everything in, hoping that some decent outfits come out of it. WRONG WAY TO APPROACH THIS GAME. For this trip, I planned specific outfits for each day and made sure to account for activities and outfit changes. I also recommend that you stick to neutrals or things that pair well together that way you can mix and match items to create completely new outfits.

Choose a jewelry set and stick with it for the duration of the trip.

I could pack an insane amount of jewelry if I really wanted to. In order to avoid that, I’ll pick a color scheme for the trip so that I know all my jewelry and shoes will match with all my outfits. For New York, it was pretty much laid out for me what the style I would go for – the more black I could get into an outfit the better. However, I also mixed in some seasonal colors and denim to give it some variety. I only needed to bring my go-to gold jewelry, which I just wore from the start and didn’t even need to pack up.

Wear your heaviest and bulkiest coat and shoes on the plane.

The biggest space-saver is this tip. It’s pretty intuitive once you realize you should be wearing your biggest coat; before I heard this tip from somewhere, probably Youtube, I would sometimes pack a heavier coat because it wasn’t cold where I was. Nope. I wore my bigger jacket and heavy booties on the plane to save space and weight. [This is also a good tip if you are a checking a bag because overage fees are the worst.] I also noticed that this helps me choose airport outfits that are a little more put together. I’m now a big fan of traveling in style and my Calpak luggage make it easy, too.

One purse or book bag will do.

This one really depends on where you’re going and what you’re doing. We were potentially going hiking and then also exploring the city in one trip, so I opted for bringing my book bag as my personal item. I also packed my crossbody bag from Forever 21 in it for city exploring. I also frequently bring my Rebecca Minkoff Mini Mac, but chose the other bag because it had enough space for my DSLR.

Limit your toiletries to one quart sized bag or pouch.

I’m also the one who always forgets to buy travel-sized toiletries. It also means I waste a ton of space and risk the potential of wasting a lot of money from bringing along my full sized products [RIP to my John Frieda hair spray]. If you’re actually expected to limit yourself to the quart sized ziplock bag, you will have the perfect amount of product for your 5-day stay and you won’t have to be sad if you’re $30 Moroccan oil explodes.


Trust me I’m just as surprised as you are that I was able to pack for 5 days in a carry-on. I am the world’s most notorious over-packer; I’m currently packing for a week in Louisiana! If you have suggestions for NOLA, hit me up! How do you limit yourself when packing? Any tips I should know? I need all the help I can get!

keep on keepin’ on,

  • When I went to SF for fall break I was there for 3.5 days and all my stuff barely fit in a carry on. I’m the actual worst at packing. Packing for studying abroad is going to be so fun. Lol

  • Yes yes yes. I’m a notorious overpacker but when I have to pack light, I do these things exactly. I also like laying out outfit combinations before the trip and taking pictures so once I get to my destination I’m not struggling to remember what I had planned on wearing!

    Emma | Seeking the South

    • Wait, the picture things is brilliant!! I always feel like I’m going to remember my combinations and always forget. Such a great tip. Thank you!
      xo, G