The Travel Light Method

The Travel Light Method by Jessica Doll. Learn to pack for any trip in a single carry on suitcase. #packinglight #travellight #minimalism

For the last year or two, the most popular posts on my blog have been of my Travel Light series. My Travel Light posts usually share packing lists for specific destinations and times of year, but today I’ve partnered with Swiss Gear to share with you the simple formula I use when packing for a trip or when doing my Travel Light packing lists.

The Travel Light Method by Jessica Doll. Learn to pack for any trip in a single carry on suitcase. #packinglight #travellight #minimalism

Travel Light Method

Step 1. Plan Your List
Where are you going? What are you doing? Think about the weather and your activities. Don’t forget to think about your layovers(!!!) On our last trip we went to Turks & Caicos which is warm, but our layover in Seattle was not. We came prepared with easy layering pieces that could work in either destination.

Packing light is easiest if you think practical first, and fashion-forward second. If you are going to somewhere that won’t be very cold, you won’t need to pack things like a heavy jacket. If you are going somewhere that is cold or wet you will need to keep in mind that these items take up more space. I always try to stick to a few colors in my palette so it is easy to mix and match items. If you need help, you can download this handy travel planner.

The Travel Light Method by Jessica Doll. Learn to pack for any trip in a single carry on suitcase. #packinglight #travellight #minimalism

Step 2. Gather & Organize
I’m going to sound a little crazy here, but stay with me because it will make sense in the end. When I pack I always, always use a grid system. My grid system consists of the layout in which I do my packing. The columns are days, and the rows are people. Each day square counts for one person, for one day. So you end up with a giant imaginary grid to use as a guideline for packing.

In the example above I am only packing for one person, so each square is for a single day (hover to see). It is easiest if you use a bed (I do) to lay everything you want to pack out, and if you have multiple activities per day, you can use small sheets of paper or post its to label your days.

Once I start, I lay everything out and think about what I really need, what is easy to pack, doesn’t take up much space, that I can wash easily on the go, or that can be worn again without notice. I lay out all of my basic items and mentally note if I’m going to wash or wear them more than once.

One of my favorite tips for packing light is to pack lighter fabrics that can be hand washed in a sink and left to hang dry while you enjoy your day. I use fabric zippered bags to organize certain items like electronics or hair brushes, a clear quart size bag for liquids, and use a reusable shopping bag to separate my dirty clothes while I’m traveling.

The Travel Light Method by Jessica Doll. Learn to pack for any trip in a single carry on suitcase. #packinglight #travellight #minimalism

Step 3. Details & Edit
When my grid feels full enough, I begin to evaluate which items I really need or if there are any I can remove. For the photos in this post, I’ve followed my Copenhagen packing list post. As a general rule for a 10 day trip to a moderate climate I will pack a hat, a scarf, 2-4 bottoms, 4-7 tops or dresses or other item that can be worn as a top, 1 light sweater or jacket or both pending weather, 2-3 pairs of shoes (depends on activity, usually 2 is just fine), and a simple purse or clutch that can go from day to night.

I like to look for versatile items when I’m packing. Sometimes you can wear a dress over a pair of pants or leggings to create a new look, or you can add a sweater to the top so it appears as a skirt and top combo. A tunic can be worn as a swimsuit cover up, as well as over pants or tucked into any other bottom. A one-piece swimsuit can be worn with pants and a blazer or sweater to act as a top. A lighter scarf can be used as a swimsuit cover up if need be. I really like nicely made black jeggings because they are very light but look like black skinny denim to everyone else.

I usually pack around 20 items total, but that’s not a hard number and doesn’t include items like undergarments.

The Travel Light Method by Jessica Doll. Learn to pack for any trip in a single carry on suitcase. #packinglight #travellight #minimalism

Step 4. Fine Tune
Once you have all of your basics laid out, it’s time to add in details. On each square of my grid I add the necessaries like socks and intimates, jewelry, and accessories. I always try to pack at least one “statement” item, usually a nice piece of jewelry or scarf. On my trip to Cabo San Lucas, Mexico it happened to be a floral hat since I knew we’d be poolside or at the beach often. I just want to encourage you to keep it simple, so that it’s easy to mix and you don’t end up over-packing.

At this point I use my phone to snap a photo of the outfits before I begin the next step but if you’d like to take it a step further, you can download my free printable outfit planner.

The Travel Light Method by Jessica Doll. Learn to pack for any trip in a single carry on suitcase. #packinglight #travellight #minimalism

Step 5. Pack
I always aim for my carry on to be a little smaller than standard size, that way there is no question whether or not it will fit in the sizer or overhead bin. So far I haven’t had any issues when trying to fit items I want to pack. If you do, you should revisit step 3.

As far as luggage, I really, really love this 20″ hardside spinner from Swissgear (pictured above). The dimensions are perfect, and it has compartments on the inside, so you don’t even need packing cubes. There is also a built in TSA compliant lock that makes it easy and secure if you end up having to gate check your bag. It even comes in different colors like teal or red in case white is not your thing.

Don’t forget to leave your first day’s travel outfit out (unless you’re already wearing it, of course)!

The Travel Light Method by Jessica Doll. Learn to pack for any trip in a single carry on suitcase. #packinglight #travellight #minimalism The Travel Light Method by Jessica Doll. Learn to pack for any trip in a single carry on suitcase. #packinglight #travellight #minimalism

For my personal item, I prefer to carry a backpack. I love this one this one because not only is it light, it has a padded sleeve for a tablet or laptop. It also has an external pouch for a water bottle, which is handy because I hate letting my water bottle just float around in my bag. I pack all of my electronics and such in my personal item, as well as these in-flight essentials so I can access them easily when I am on the go.

If you are going somewhere that is colder you will probably want to wear your heavier items, or leave your jacket out of your suitcase. They don’t count it in your carry-on limit. On the way home feel free to roll all of your dirty items so that you have lots of extra room in your suitcase for goodies.

The Travel Light Method by Jessica Doll. Learn to pack for any trip in a single carry on suitcase. #packinglight #travellight #minimalism The Travel Light Method by Jessica Doll. Learn to pack for any trip in a single carry on suitcase. #packinglight #travellight #minimalism

Quick Tips to Travel Light

  • Think practical, then fashionable.
  • Lay your items out in a visual grid so you can see all of them at once.
  • Edit, edit, edit!
  • When packing, use small gaps to fill with other small items.
  • Wear your bulkiest shoes for the flight (depends).
  • Carry your large jacket on the flight so you don’t have to worry about space.
  • Keep your valuable items with you in your personal item just in case you have to gate check your bag.

The Travel Light Method by Jessica Doll. Learn to pack for any trip in a single carry on suitcase. #packinglight #travellight #minimalism

I hope that a look into my Travel Light Method has given you some insight when it comes to packing light and how it really can be done quite easily! I once packed for a 16 day trip to Denmark for a family of 4 in 3 carry-on bags. I even had room for all of the diapers I’d need during the trip, too. If I can do that, I know you can too.

Want to keep the conversation going? I’d love for you to join me in sharing my holiday travels over on instagram using the hashtag #swissgear!

This post was sponsored by Swissgear. To learn more about Swissgear products, please visit their website. Thank you for helping to support the sponsors that make life here a little sweeter.

37 thoughts on “The Travel Light Method

  1. hi
    i loved the swissgear light grey backpack , i couldn’t find it on the site…
    also what size luggage is the suitcase?

    thank you!!

    1. Hi lala, Thanks for the kind words. I’m glad you found it. It’s really lightweight feeling and I love the color. I had a heavier one before but it was SO heavy when it was empty it felt like a million pounds when I had it packed.

  2. You are a far better person than I! I struggle with myself constantly when it comes to pack – for some reason I get too scared to leave things behind. This post is inspiring me to be better – I need to challenge myself on the next trip! Where are those white / light wash pants from? I need them!!

    Sportsanista

  3. Love these tips! I always try to pack in a carry on as well. I’ve lost my luggage twice now and it’s such a terrible feeling. 🙂 And I love your suit case as well! Hope you’re having a great week! XO

    Anna || A Lily Love Affair

    1. Thanks, Donald. I’m gonna add this new book of yours to my Christmas Wish List. If I’ve been good enough to get it on December 25th, I’m sure I’ll dog-ear it, highlight certain passages, write notes to myself in the margin, and hawk it to the students in my writing classes.Yes – enjoy being a new dad. Try to live in the moment with that kid because those moments are fleeting.Blessings to you as you encourage writers.Like? 0

  4. Can you just shop and pack for me? Loving your tips – and I seriously love all of your clothing items you share in your posts!
    Karen | GlamKaren.com

  5. Great tips! I plan to use them for my trip to Boston.
    Love the double zip wallet in this post. Can you tell me who it’s by? Thanks!

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