Women’s Packing List: How to Pack in Only a Carry-on

Posted By Heather

Packing light

When planning a trip, most people get excited about the destination or the itinerary but feel overwhelmed when it comes to packing.

Here at EPoP, we have tried many different strategies for packing – me more than Trav, because he is much happier with much less – and it always comes down to packing light.

Packing less doesn’t have to be a death sentence for fashion.

Here are my tips to packing less and looking great while traveling.

Want more traveling fashion advice?  Head to Heather’s newly redesigned site – Sartorial Stripes.

1. Neutral basics

This means grey, white, black and navy. This doesn’t mean you can’t pack colorful items – but it simply makes it easier to mix and match outfits if you have a neutral palette.

2. Minimal shapes

Jeans, button downs, wrap sweaters, slouchy pants, and basic dresses.

3. Pack a Punch

This is where you can add that color. Chose a colorful cardigan, sweater or scarf that you can easily throw over your basic pieces. I love the selection and the cause at Jacobs Scarves.

4. Accessories

My current favorite pieces to travel with are dainty necklaces. You can wear this every day for a polished look. I love everything from Layered and Long’s ETSY shop.

Also, I always bring a statement necklace, statement earrings, stud earrings, and a nice watch (silver or gold).

5. Shoes

This is the hardest part for me. I always pack too many shoes – even after agonizing over which ones to cut, I still end up with a number that makes zipping my pack or suitcase nearly impossible.

That being said, three pairs of shoes is sufficient (I guess).

A casual sneaker – such as these Nikes, these grey ones from New Balance or these navy New Balance from Amazon.

A flat walking shoeboot or sandal.

A dressy option – I love these from Zara and these wedges J.Crew (wedges are the most comfortable dressy option, especially for walking on cobblestone streets) .

A plastic flip flop – (for the beach or just in case your accommodation bathroom is not up to par) My favorites are Havaianas.

*See what I did, I even sneaked in an extra pair here!*

6. Outerwear

I try to pack something casual and something dressy.

My favorite picks are:

Utility jacket – for every day use in any country and any situation. It is the perfect jacket that always looks fashionable and put together. (Other options include this from H&M, a removable hood from Nordstrom, and these from Amazon).

A black blazer – this is perfect if you need a nice jacket for a night out and can transition into many different looks with a scarf or accessories. (Other options include this navy version from Zara, this black one from Zara, and this casual one from H&M).

Wool coat – this is only necessary if you are traveling during winter seasons. All other seasons you can layer sweaters under the utility jacket or the blazer.

A packable puffer coat – the compact puffer is great to throw in any bag if you think it’s necessary. Many companies make light, packable ones. I have this one from Land’s End. You can also layer it under your utility jacket.

7. Luggage

Main Bag

I go between using a backpack and a suitcase. Backpacks are great for Asia and South America where the travel is a bit harder and rolling a suitcase behind can be more difficult.

I love my Osprey Farpoint pack.

If we are traveling more slowly and in more developed areas (Europe, US, etc), I tend to pack in a suitcase.

Right now I am using a carry on size canvas Samsung, but it is looking slightly banged up and I would love to upgrade to a hard shelled case.

Tote Bag

If you have been following our travels through my Instagram, then you already know how much I love my Cuyana tote! It has held up perfectly over our last few trips and is well worth the splurge.

This is what I generally cram into my tote (which I use as my personal item along with my carryon luggage).

  • laptop
  • chargers
  • notebook and planner
  • kindle
  • passport
  • makeup
  • lotion
  • facial cleanser

8. Roll your items

If you pack your heavy items at the bottom (shoes and toiletries) and then roll all of your clothes on top, you can fit a lot more into your bag.

The Packing List

Pack in Carryon Longer

//H&M Jacket, J.Crew Blazer, DVF Scarf, Sunglasses, Earrings, Cuyana Tote//

//Topshop Top, Zara Striped Top, J.Crew Top, Topshop Draped Top, Topshop Lace Top//

//Jeans, White Jeans, Drapey Pants, Striped Romper, Zara Dress//

//New Balance Sneakers, Sam Edelman Boots, Zara Sandal, J.Crew Wedge//

//Madewell Shorts, Zara Shorts, Boyfriend Shorts, Statement Necklace//

//MK Watch, Necklace, Earrings, Bracelets, Statement Earrings, Clutch-Crossbody Bag//

Do you have trouble deciding what to pack? What are your packing tricks?

We’d love to hear from you! Leave comments below.

Don’t forget to head to Heather’s site – Sartorial Stripes – for even more fashion travel advice.


  1. Nicolle says:

    Loved how you took the time to explain why each item was packed. Pinning this immediately and will reference on my next trip!

    1. Heather Sherry says:

      Thanks Nicolle! I hope it was helpful. Happy travels! :)

  2. Kris M. says:

    Awesome list, thanks!

    I would add leggings to my list. Much as I like pants leggings take up less space, are easy to roll up, and I can wear with a long slouchy shirt, a short skirt, or a dress. And if you need to hand wash they tend to dry faster. Basic black H&M are my go-to staple.

    And as mentioned above scarves are amazing! They add a splash of color, are very versatile (hair? belt? just a wee bit of warmth? use a pin for fashion statement? sleep mask on the plane?), and can be worn to not take up space.

    Thanks for the list! It’s great to see how women can travel without bringing the whole closet with them. ^^

    1. Trav says:

      @Kris M.- Heather does pack leggings a lot, I’m surprised she didn’t put them on here. Maybe an oversight?

  3. marilyn says:

    This is very helpful! Love your sites and podcasts! working on my travel hacking! need help with credit cards (look out for my emails). thanks as always for the awesome advice and sharing your stories. being able to relate and hear real people challenges make following you guys even easier! you rule!

    1. Trav says:

      @marilyn- Thanks, we are on the lookout for those emails!

  4. Laura Lopuch says:

    Heather (and Trav!), this packing list is awesome! Scarves are one of my favorite things to pack — totally versatile and do a great job of warding off the cold. As a fellow basic-color-lover, I love your packing list graphic.

    Too often packing lists don’t contain links to what you’re recommending. Thanks for taking the extra step to link us up!

    1. Heather says:

      Thanks Laura! Glad you liked it. Packing can be such an ordeal so it’s always nice to have some inspiration. :)

  5. Allyn says:

    Love this list! I tend to pack in carry ons as well, no matter the length of the trip. We leave Wednesday to spend two weeks in Portugal (just listened to you podcast on it!), and I’m so agonizing over the shoe situation. Cute floral Vans, a flat pair of leather sandals (cute, but zero support), and shoes for the beach.
    My question is… the casual sneaker: tacky in Portugal? We’ll mainly be in Lisbon and Porto. I have a pair of Nike Frees and a retro high top Nike. Either worth bringing? Or just stick with what I’ve got?
    Love the blog!

    1. Heather says:

      Glad you liked the post! I would bring the casual sneakers. The streets in both Lisbon and Porto are uneven and a comfortable sneaker would be great. Although, if your Vans are comfortable, that might be enough. Sounds cute. :)

  6. Thank you so much for the recommendations on packing! Your list contains all the important items you may need! Greetings

    1. Trav says:

      @Kimberly Pierce- Glad to hear it!

  7. Anne says:

    Love your list. I look forward to checking out your site, as well! You are much more fashionable than I am – but with good reason :) Backpacker destinations in Asia are hot and sweaty, and that’s where we’ve spent the majority of our extended travels. I also love the Farpoint and Osprey brand in general It has held up so well! Thanks for the tips. :) http://www.theyoganomads.com/travel/travel-essentials-women-packing-list/

    1. Trav says:

      @Anne- Glad you loved the tips, and you’re right…In Asia, you get can “get away” with wearing basically whatever you want (which is a good thing most of the time).

  8. Miranda says:

    Hey Heather and Travis!
    I came across the podcast and blog recently and love the content/ information you both are putting out there :)
    I will be traveling for 6 months in Europe and SE Asia soon. I am having a hard time choosing the right carry-on. I don’t know whether or not to bring a backpack like he farpoint or a roller bag. Do either of you have a recommendation on a carry-on suitcase which meets the strict Ryanair guidelines?

    1. Trav says:

      @Miranda – We are split here. Heather enjoys rolling bags, whereas I’m fine with always just using a backpack. Sure, in airports, sometimes I wish I could roll my bag, but I’m really glad I have it when we are trekking up and down curbs and up stairs and all.

      Soooo….it’s hard to say, it really is. Ryanair is strict, but as long as you don’t flaunt how big your bag is, you can typically sneak it on even if it’s a bit too big. Just try to be nonchalant as you do it.

  9. Giane says:

    Great blog! I enjoyed reading it. Re main bag for your luggage, hard shell case is abolutely a perfect choice. But I would get cubes to fit and organize my stuff in there especially if a very long travel plan. I got my cubes from amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Pro-Packing-Cubes-Carry–Backpacking/dp/B010HBWE5A/ref=sr_1_1?m=A5XN8SUNMPEVK&s=merchant-items&ie=UTF8&qid=1472906001&sr=1-1hope its ok to post links :)

  10. Katie says:

    @Heather Sherry – Do you travel with a voltage converter for your hair appliances? I never pack a hairdryer, but I do like to travel with my curling wand, and my favorite one isn’t dual voltage. I’d love a recommendation for a reliable compact one.

  11. This is the best packing list for women especially on outdoor. Such an informative post you share. As a woman, I got a complete guideline for travel in the worldwide. I thought it is a great list to complete any tour without any doubt.

    1. Trav says:

      @Suhana Morgan – Awesome, glad you liked it!

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