A packing post (aka, how not to pack…)

Coming at you from O’Hare Airport… current view:

Yes, they brought a fold up chess board. 🙂

It’s 10:33 p.m and our flight doesn’t leave until after midnight, so… I have time to kill.

I had a request for how I packed all my stuff into a relatively small carry-on for a full 2 week vacation.

First, I need to preface this whole post by saying, loudly, I AM NOT A MINIMALIST PACKER. At all. In fact, this could probably be a post titled: “how NOT to pack”. (Changing the title now…). Rick Steves would cluck his tongue at me if he saw this.

But, I did fit a lot in, so I must be doing something right. So, I will share what I did! (Even though I realize I have an unnecessary amount of clothing in my bag(s). I am indecisive!! So I tend toward overpacking by nature.)

1. Tank Tops

I love to wear tank tops. It is my top of choice in any warm weather. So, I have a LOT of tank tops along.

First set of tanks:

These all got rolled up into a bigger packing cube (double layer).

For reference, here it is zipped up next to my size 10 sandal:

Next set of tank tops:

These all fit in a smaller packing cube:

Again, for reference:

2. Other shirts

These other shirts are either “nicer” tank tops (potentially could wear to casual dinner, whereas most of my other tank tops are more like sporty/hiking/adventuring variety), or what I would consider a “top”, or just a less sporty tank top. I also have 1 3/4 length sleeve shirt here, and 2 lightweight long sleeves. (And one non-athletic denim pair of shorts).

These all fit in another packing cube, my biggest one:

Bottom layer

Second layer and then shorts squeezed in on top:

So all three of these packing cubes fit in a single layer in the bottom of my backpack, like this:

3. Sports bras

I have several of these shoved in the interior side pocket (see above).

4. Rain jacket

Rolled up and squished deep into back of backpack, on top of the packing cubes.

5. Lightweight button down shirt (like to throw over a tank, or tie around waist on hike) and travel hair dryer are both in this little pocket on the front of backpack:

It’s a VERY lightweight shirt! Great for travel. Could literally fit it in my purse.

6. Hiking sandals and a tiny roll up all purpose bag (normally use for library books..). Both fit in the interior pocket of the larger front compartment.

A grey sun hat is also folded and in this pocket.

7. Socks and underwear:

Will spare you a close up view, but they are in the front outside pocket. Only packed about 4 pairs of socks as I will wear sandals often and can just hand wash socks in the sink!

8. Sweatshirts and pants

I packed a medium weight Columbia sweatshirt (top left) which goes with almost anything. In the middle are my LL Bean joggers which are SUPER lightweight. Far right top is a lighter weight hoodie- good for if it’s hot but I just want to cover up a little, or maybe out of the pool. And finally the tan sweater on the bottom I have had for years and I love- it’s a Columbia sweater and it’s my favorite “cover up” when out to dinner if it gets cooler at night. Easy to dress up or down.

9. Shorts

I have way too many along. But I couldn’t decide, so I packed them all basically.

First bunch I just folded and laid on top of the packing cubes:

The next bunch I rolled up and combined with a little sundress and a swimsuit coverup. These I stuck in a gallon ziplock bag and put in my “personal item” messenger bag- these are not in the red backpack.

Rolled up:

In the bag!

Also here- my makeup bag, and my “liquids” bag (pink case).

10. Swimwear

Next… the too-many swimsuits. Decided I have nothing to hide, so I’ll share.

Also, my white Title Nine zip hoodie/rash guard. And a hat.

These I stuck in these little zip bags that came once with a couple of Cupshe orders last year.

11. Shoes

Besides the hiking sandals in the front pocket, these flip flops are the only shoes in the bag. I am wearing my sneakers/hiking shoes.

12. Liquids/ make up

Not in red backpack- in personal item

13. Other misc. in personal item bag:

Chargers, concealer, an eyeshadow, portable charger, etc.
Sunglasses in side pocket
2 books
Passports! Boarding passes go in there too.

14. Purse and other bags

I shoved my daypack bag (rolls up tiny!!) and my microfiber towel inside my purse (which I want along for evenings or just whenever I don’t want to be carrying my daypack.)


*I cheated here and stuck this in Ethan’s bag. He had extra room!

15. Plane clothes:

Patagonia fleece (for our 3 nights in the chillier cloud forest region), ankle length pants, top and my hiking water shoes.

Finally, it’s all in:

Oh, and PJ shorts and waterproof phone case too.

Zip ‘er up and PULL straps to tighten and flatten down!!!

Child with no “liquids” to bring gets to carry the sunscreen and bug spray. 😉

And that, folks, is how you bring 20 tank tops and 6 swim suit tops on a carry-on only vacation. 😬😂

It worked! Everything is in, at the airport. 👍

Okay, almost boarding time and I need a midnight snack first. Hope you found that interesting, inspiring, or horrifying. 😅😅


14 thoughts on “A packing post (aka, how not to pack…)”

  1. That’s quite a lot to pack just for you. Hahaha… I usually pack one outfit per day with an extra outfit just in case. In case we use up I’ll wash in the hotel sink. I also like to pack underwear and socks that about to expire so I can just throw them there.


    1. Haha I know, BUT, in the case of this trip, I will probably be hot/sweaty or get wet or have mosquito spray on during the day, so I am not sure I will always want to stay in that one outfit all day. I might want to change into something fresh/clean for dinner and the evening. I agree if it’s a normal trip I usually do aim for one outfit per day plus a couple extra items… but I wasn’t sure on this one if that would be enough. Plus it’s a full 2 weeks, so it is a good number of days, too and I am not sure if we will really have access to doing laundry.


    1. Yes, liquids still have to be under 3 oz and they all have to fit inside an approximately 1 quart sized bag. The bug sprays and sunscreen are 2.5 oz each from the travel aisle at Target. 🙂


  2. Wow, I am impressed! That is some very efficient packing. Usually when we go somewhere for more than a week it’s to a condo that has laundry facilities, and so it’s pretty easy to pack. I am applauding you! I like having clothing choices too so I feel this.


  3. Have a great trip! We have the same packing cubes as you, and I love them.
    I love seeing packing posts! We’re travelling for our spring break – our first flight since 2019 – and I’ve been thinking *a lot* about what to pack for both me and the kids. Ideally carry on only, but we’re going somewhere cold, so I think we’ll have to be strategic. The Husband doesn’t mind checking a bag, so I think I might pack the three year old with him…
    Do your kids have a packing strategy? I’d love to hear what your kids bring!


  4. Thanks for sharing this! I need to get better at using my packing cubes. Also going warm places because summer clothes are much less bulky! Have a fabulous trip!


  5. I need to get some packing cubes!! You fit a lot in – well done! After I read your post the other day, I went and looked at my backpack and it looks like we have the same pack!! Even the same color!

    This is a trickier trip as you can’t really rewear things if you’ve gotten really hot and sweaty and I think you are moving around so might not have access to laundry. So I understand the need for options!


  6. You fit a lot into that one backpack, that’s for sure! I hope that you guys are having fun, as I assume you are there by now!

    I did a round the world trip with one backpack that was probably about that size, maybe a little bigger. I found that for me, it made sense to have less bottoms, as (1) they are not as close to my face so I don’t care if they smell a little and (2) they don’t get as sweaty or stinky as a shirt would. So I brought a pair of “nice” shorts, a pair of running shorts, a pair of “nice” pants and a pair of jammies/sweats. That covered any possibility (i.e. going out to dinner or hiking a mountain) and I figured I could always buy something if needed (and I did have to buy a pair of lightweight rain pants in the end). For shirts, underwear, socks, I brought enough for about 6 days and would hand wash them (or rewear if absolutely necessary). At that time, I also did not have a Kindle, so I brought a lot of books!


  7. Wow! I guess things are a little easier when you pack summer clothes and not winter clothes, although that’s more tank tops and shorts than I own by a significant number. What do you do with your winter gear that you wore to the airport?

    I’m curious about the choice to bring books and not a Kindle. Is there a reason for that?

    I hope you’re having a GREAT trip!


  8. Love how efficient this packing is. I try to fly only carry on too. I hate paying and waiting for a checked bag. Do you know what brand/type your gray personal item bag is? I’m always looking for a good crossbody bag.


    1. I will have to check! I actually had a very similar bag for YEARS that I had picked up probably 10 years ago on a whim at Eddie Bauer, and it became my forever “personal item” bag for travel. It eventually got a hole in it, so I found this replacement on Amazon a few years ago. It is not quite as good of quality- the zippers split on me sometimes and I have to mess around to fix them- but overall it has been a good second place option. I love all the pockets, and the size.


  9. That was amazing. I always contemplate just going with carry-on when I go to Germany, but then I can never make this work…well, it’s a lot colder there, too.


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