Packing For 8 Days in a Carry On – T-Rex Travel Tips, Part 4

I’m known in my family has the one who always has too much stuff. No matter where we go, I’m a person who likes to have options – I can’t stomach the idea of bringing one pair of pants, one skirt, and 3 shirts for an entire trip overseas. No, I’ll never be a backpacker. Recently, I decided to issue myself a personal challenge. I wanted to pack for my trip to Japan (technically 8 days long) using only my handy-dandy Ricardo Elite suitcase!


When AJ and I went to Ireland, we had a lot of bags – at least one carry-on suitcase each, plus two backpacks, plus a checked bag to share between us. I knew I could do better, so I started reading a ton about tips and tricks of packing.

img_20140217_143919_151-e1392723582140-741x1024-1 This suitcase is 20.5″ high by 15″ wide and is the perfect size for overhead bins!

The first order of business was to figure out what I was going to bring and pare it down. I obsessively researched (of course) and found tons of great tips on packing like here, here, and here. I checked out all different packing lists for all different seasons and then compiled all the things I thought applied to me (and you):

  1. You don’t need to bring as much as you think you do. Too often, overpacking is a result of us bringing things we think we might wear. My first rule for this trip was to only bring clothing I knew I would wear. If there was even the slightest doubt in my mind, I didn’t pack it. While we all like to have options, there are plenty of ways to get creative and mix-and-match your clothing so it doesn’t look like you’re constantly wearing the same thing.
  2. Pack in the same color palette. This might seem obvious to you, but it wasn’t to me. Pack mostly neutral colors (black, white, grey, brown, etc) with several colorful pieces that all go together. My entire wardrobe for this trip is black, white, coral/orange, and turquoise. That’s it. All my accessories go with all or most of my outfits, which all match with each other, so I didn’t need to pack 8 different scarves.
  3. You only need one pair of jeans. No, really. Just one. Jeans are heavy, don’t dry well, and take up a lot of room in your suitcase. Consider packing leggings, khakis, or other materials that are lighter and more versatile. I would never go anywhere without jeans, but many seasoned travelers don’t pack them at all. If you’re going to pack them, keep it to one pair – no one will notice, and jeans don’t need to be washed that often.
  4. Carry your coat onto the plane. Don’t pack your coat unless you just have a ton of extra room in your suitcase. Otherwise, it’s a waste of space. Carry it with you onto the plane and then stuff it under your seat or use it as a blanket on a long flight. Don’t waste space.
  5. Accessories can make an outfit look totally different. If you pack a lot of simple clothing, like I do, scarves, necklaces, ties for the guys, etc. can make a plain white or black shirt look dressed up and different from the one you wore yesterday and help you wear the same thing more than once without anyone noticing.

So buy now, I’m sure you’re just dying to know what I packed. Well, here you go:

img_20140217_143856_853-1024x576-1 All my clothes for Japan

Ok, that picture is not super helpful. Here’s the list:

  • Running clothes: Two race shirts, two tanks (for under race shirts), two sports bras, arm warmers, socks, capris, tights, a skirt, and my Headsweats hat. (use TREXRUN25 for 25% off!) – Note: I could probably have gotten by with less than this, but with two races while I’m in Japan, I wanted to have cute outfits.
  • Bottoms: 3 pairs of leggings, 1 pair of jeans, 1 black maxi skirt.
  • Tanks: 1 black, 1 white
  • Tops: 7 shirts. Probably too many, but I had room.
  • Sweaters: 1 long black cardigan, 1 short grey cardigan
  • Dress: Simple black dress for nice dinner or theater (we are going to Kabuki Theater on Friday). Worn with leggings and a sweater.
  • Accessories: Two scarves, 3 necklaces, two pairs of gloves
  • Pajamas: thin leggings, t-shirt, yoga bra

In order to fit all of this stuff in there, and most importantly, to keep it organized, I used my packing cubes from e-Bags. While some people use the rolling method and some fold their clothes, I’ve found that a combination of the two is normally what works best for me, depending on the thickness of the item.

img_20140218_070636_092-e1392725390144-1024x576-1 Inside one of my slim packing cubes – 3 pairs of fleece leggings, 1 pair of thin leggings, yoga bra, sleep shirt. Combination of rolling and folding.

So when all the rolling and folding and packing was said and done, this is what it looked like.

img_20140217_150635_103-e1392725527812-867x1024-1 That’s 3 slim-fit cubes and 2 “assorted” sizes, with the smaller one holding only accessories.

Of course, I still had to pack my shoes. This is historically a sticking point for me, as I love shoes, but I was determined to only bring the shoes I would really need and none that I would wear just once. I also wanted to be practical. For me on this trip, that meant no heels and no super tall boots that would just give me blisters. So I ended up with my running shoes, a pair of Toms, and some dressier flats for evenings.

img_20140217_154325_361-e1392725784461-1024x576-1 The shoes/accessories/toiletries side of my bag

And finally, the finished product:

img_20140217_154200_926-1024x576-1 Shout out to Lenny and Larry’s Protein Brownies in one of the pockets!

My suitcase closed quickly and easily with no sitting required! I’m pretty sure I brought less on this trip than I did to Phoenix, and I still know I’ll have plenty to wear. Perhaps you’re wondering what I wore on the plane, too! Many people wear their bulkiest clothes or shoes on the plane to save room in their luggage. While this isn’t a bad strategy, I’m not wearing stuff like that on a trip across the world to Japan. I dressed in layers, with comfortable shoes that I can easily slip on and off.

img_20140217_115221_971-576x1024-1 Ugh, this picture is so creepy.

Ok, so that’s a pair of fleece leggings, a long white tank top (now I have an extra for the trip), a black 3/4 sleeve tunic, a chambray shirt to layer in Japan and a scarf to look cute/wear in case it gets cold. I wore this outfit with my Toms.

Now for my “plane bag,” that I’ll be putting under the seat in front of me! This has all of the essentials that I might need during the flight:

Yes! All that fits in this little bag, although the laptop isn’t pictured because I’m literally typing on it right now in the airport.

img_20140218_072346_245-1-1024x576-1 Obsessed with this bag

SO that’s how I packed to go to Japan for 8 days! Just two bags, neither of which I have to check, neither of which is completely stuffed, and neither of which is ridiculously heavy. Japan, here I come!

img_20140217_155019_969-1024x576-1 That’s all, folks!

LEAVE A COMMENT: How do you maximize space when packing? Are you an overpacker or a minimalist? Would you bring more or less stuff than me?