It’s taken me a week, but I’m finally back in the swing of things post-vacation. To everyone who’s asked, Spain was amazing! It was a really phenomenal trip and I promise to put together some photos and share our favorite experiences soon. Until I get those proverbial ducks in a row, I’m excited to share some packing tips with you.

To set the stage: I am not a light packer. I insist upon packing running clothes and sneakers anytime I’ll be gone more than one night. I get cold easily, so even when I’m going to Florida in July I pack a sweatshirt or a jacket. Most importantly, I feel very strongly about having the right shoes for the right occasion, so I refuse to travel with just one pair. Because I am convinced the airlines have a vast conspiracy of flight bumping and luggage mishandling designed to strand me in a new city with nothing to wear, in spite of my long list of “must-haves,” I never travel with more than a carry on. Which means I went on a two-week trip with a single suitcase. Here are my tips for packing smart.

A good carry on is a MUST
My parents got my a luggage set years ago, and it was one of the best gifts I’ve ever received. The larger suitcases have facilitated my many moves; provided storage in one too many tiny NYC apartments; and carried my entire world when I studied abroad. The carry on has been my vacation/work travel/long weekend accomplice for more than a decade. Whenever I attempt to travel without it (for example, heading home for the holidays), I end up packing multiple smaller bags and making a mess. Invest in a good carry on and commit to it.

Master Packer AF

Lay it all out
Embracing outfit permutations is the name of the game for travel; however, most of us need a visual to see what will and won’t work. I lay out everything I’m thinking of packing and decide what fits. If a piece of clothing doesn’t work for multiple outfits, it doesn’t go.

Packing Smart

Don’t forget your travel day
You have to wear clothes and shoes through the airport, so you might as well make sure they fit in with everything else you’re packing. Lie that outfit out with everything else! This is also an opportunity to save space on bulkier shoes. Wearing my sneakers on travel day meant I didn’t have to make space for them in my suitcase.

travel kicks

Ziploc is not just for brown bag lunches
Take yourself over to Bed Bath & Beyond or Harmon Face Values and pick up some Ziploc Travel Bags. These will change your life. Not only do they save space, they help keep your suitcase organized, and protect clothes from the bottoms of shoes and any leaky toiletries. I also use standard quart sized ziploc bags for things like undies, bras, socks, etc.

Ziploc Space Bag

Keep your toiletries in your “personal item”
You have to take your liquids out at security anyway, so I keep my toiletries in my backpack or purse instead of my suitcase. It makes getting through security less of a hassle, and I have access to my contact solution, moisturizer, etc under my seat during the flight.

Packing Smart Step 2

Do laundry while traveling
Since we were going to be gone so long, I made sure to book at least one Airbnb with a washing machine during our trip. It was a huge help. However, we ended up needing to do laundry before we got to that stop, so we threw a bunch of the Tide travel packs my parents gave us into the hotel bathtub and got old school. It was a little ridiculous, but it worked, and we had a pretty good laugh looking at all our clothes hung to dry all over the room.


I wore or used everything I packed at least once and never felt like I needed something I had left behind. Getting through airports and train stations, to and from rental car companies, in and out of hotels, cabs and public transportation was no sweat. When we landed back in New York and sped through customs with Global Entry, we didn’t have to sit around and wait for checked luggage to come through. It was luxurious.

I know that it’s very different if you travel with kids or older adults, but if you can swing it, I’m a firm advocate for the carry on only.¬†Buen viaje!

Aubrie in Castille

About the Author Aubrie Fennecken

Aubrie Fennecken is the Chief Alchemist at Opportunity Kitchen | work + wellness strategist | nonprofit fundraising expert | providing productivity and self-care support for mission-driven humans

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