How to Pack for 5 Days in Only a Personal Item

Luggage fees are like my own personal vendetta. It feels as if the universe is saying, "Amanda, there is no possible way you can fit a week's worth of clothing in one carry-on bag." And in response, I have done this successfully many times. (Take that, universe.) 

So many even, that when my recent bookings with Frontier and Spirit airlines threatened to charge for my usual one carry-on item, I raised my eyebrows, and hovered my mouse over the "no carry-on" button. I could do that, right? A five day trip in one personal item? I looked up the requirements: must not exceed 16 x 14 x 12 inches. I measured my Madewell tote. I was in the clear. Here's what my recent trip to San Diego looked like:

The fees vary for each airline, but to give you some idea, Spirit charges $26 online for a carry-on bag, and $100 at the gate. So at the very least this little experiment was saving me $52 on top of my base fare price. And on the other side of it, I'm here to tell you it's totally possible. I just takes a little bit of planning:


01  Strategize

I recommend packing in neutrals. I found the key to bringing less items is making sure that most things go together. Bonus points if it can be dressed up and dressed down. Don't think it's possible? Google around for a "capsule wardrobe" such as on Caroline's blog Unfancy and see how she created an entire season's wardrobe with 37 pieces. If she can do that, you can do five days.


02 Grab the Necessities

It's easy to get so caught up in the process that you forget the things you absolutely need. Read: pack your underwear now. Same goes for prescriptions. I trust you to be able to pack those on your own, so they're not in the mix above ;)


03  Lay it all out

I find that when I try to edit while I'm packing, I get frustrated that the process is taking so long. My solution is laying it all out on the bed. Not sure if it's a keeper? Pull it out anyway. It's easier to get a comprehensive idea of what you're bringing when you can see it all, rather than when it's rolled in your bag or suitcase.


04  Edit

Now it's time to pare it down. Think about where you'll be going and what you'll be doing on you trip. Start combining outfits. You'll find that some items are easier to match than others. Ditch the ones that don't work. Hint: a pair of black jeans and a classic dress are lifesavers. And don't forget your makeup and toiletries. I used to travel with my entire makeup bag until I realized that I used my five favorite items consistently. Now I try to travel with those only.

And remember: if you don't normally wear it, you're not going to on vacation either.


05  Roll with it

I find the most effective way to pack is to roll my clothing, pairing outfits that I would likely wear together in the same roll. Anything that needs to be hung when I get where I'm going is also rolled together for easy access. I'm sure to keep a smaller purse, iPad, magazines, and anything else I might want on the plane near the top.

Don't forget to wear your bulkiest items on the plane!

Shop the look above: 01 Madewell Tote  02 Blue Tee  03 Gray Tee  04 Eyelet Tee  05 Lightweight Sweater  06 Chambray Top  07 Sleeveless Top  08 Lace Top  09 Baseball Tee  10 Ecru Jeans  11 Black Jeans  12 Legging Capris  13 Swimsuit  14 Flip Flops  15 Black Sandal  16 Nude Heels  17 White Denim Shorts