Efficient packing doesn’t seem like a skill until you realize that you can easily pack your entire closet for a few days away. And while it’s no simple feat to organize a week’s worth of luggage, it’s a true accomplishment to fit everything you need for a weekend into a carry-on.
If you’ve spent some time reading my travel stories, then you know that I grew up with parents who taught me never to check a bag. This lesson stuck with me when I spent a college semester in Prague, and then it was perfected when moved to London a few years later.
The trick I learned from restricting myself to light packing is to be strategic—everything that gets tucked away should be versatile, minimal, and light. The two things you should ask yourself is, “Do I need this?” and “How many ways can I use it?” The answers should help you create a carry-on that’s easy to manage while you’re on the go.
Here’s a cheat sheet of what to pack for a weekend trip, from the gear you need to the clothes and makeup to wear. Hopefully these 15 essentials will still leave you with enough room for souvenirs.
Fits everything you need into one stylish suitcase.
This should hold everything you need to keep on hand, including a light jacket.
Pick a small crossbody bag that holds only the essentials so that you’re not held back during adventures throughout the day.
These packing cubes will keep you from bringing too much stuff.
Fit all of your toiletries in one place with a cosmetic bag—bonus points if there’s a hanger.
High-waisted jeans are versatile, flattering, and can be worn while traveling—saving you space in your bag.
I try to pack one dress that can work for either formal or casual occasions.
Most of what I pack is on the minimal side, and that’s especially true of a standard white shirt. My general rule for packing clothes is that they have to be versatile enough for multiple outfits. It’s best to stick to a color scheme, if you can.
The less room pajamas take up, the better. So consider packing the sleep shirt, which can be rolled for extra efficiency.
Because shoes are particularly bulky, only pack the ones you know you’re going to wear multiple times. You probably won’t need as many shoes as you think.
I pare down my nighttime skincare routine a lot while traveling, and for me, this cleanser makes up the difference.
All the makeup I bring along is travel size, including my concealer.
Rollerball perfume is a travel necessity.
A powerful electric toothbrush that’s also stylish and efficient.
This cosmetics company’s whole philosophy centers around space-saving products, including this travel-ready set.
Subscribe to our newsletter for more travel tips and style advice.