How to Pack for International Travel - Carry On Style!

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Hi, my name is Gaby and in my 27 years of life, I have never once checked my luggage.

The Dalkin clan has done quite a lot of traveling in my lifetime, and Bruce (that's my dad!) always insisted on carrying-on. We would hit the ground running no matter where we were going. Tennis tournament - carry it on and then leave the airport to go warm up. A few weeks in Europe - carry on so when we landed we could run through customs and get our vacation started. Surprise Vacation - carry on! Moving to college - carry on! (Although my mom sent me about 3 giant boxes full of clothes a few days later) Basically, you get the idea.

The idea of checking a bag literally terrifies me. What happens if it doesn't arrive? It's just something that I never plan on dealing with. When Thomas and I first started dating, I took him to Jamaica for his birthday and he packed for the trip thinking we were going to check luggage and then WAIT for it once we arrived. Boy was he wrong. I've converted him to the carry on only method and it's been smooth sailing ever since.


The question I get time and time again, is how the heck do you do it for international travel! Easy - I'm about to lay it out for ya!

I'm currently down in South America, specifically Chile on an #onlyinsouthamerica adventure! Surprise!

Only in America

I'm down here for 10 days with some awesome bloggers exploring the country of Chile thanks to LATAM airlines. To say I'm excited is an understatement. I'm pumped! We'll be exploring the entire country - from top to bottom! Desert to Glaciers. The whole enchilada. I wonder if they have enchiladas down here? I guess I'll find out!

Anyways, after traveling to Europe, Africa and South America in the last year, I thought I'd lay out how I pack.

Here are a few pointers:

1: wear your heaviest and bulkiest clothes on the plane! For me, that usually means my big leather boots. Plus they are easy to take off and slip back on while going through security. Jackets too - plus it's usually a little chilly on the actual flight.

2: Travel size liquids and lotions! I don't even bother with full size shampoos, conditioners, perfume (I bring my samples) etc… it's all travel size to make life easier!

3: Layers! I always pack in layers - things I can add to an outfit, take off if needed, mix and match… you get the idea.

4: Bring things you can wear multiple times… leggings, jeans, jackets, shoes, etc. A few lightweight scarves can totally spruce up an outfit too. Which brings me to my next point…

5: Don't pack white or super light things. They show dirt way too easily! (Man I sound just like my mom!! Love you mom!)

6: I pack 1 shirt per daytime, and 1 shirt per nighttime. I'll wear the same leggings or jeans a few times per trip before retiring them, but I try to bring enough tops to last me the entire time. I mean, I'm going to be in the photos after all, I can't look the same each day.

7: Pick a color scheme and go with it! I like to keep things pretty neutral, blacks, blues, greys and then maybe work in a pop of color here and there. I like keeping with a theme and it makes it easier to pack

I organize things like this:

• Drugs!! Pack 'em. Advil, sleeping pills, decongestant, emergen-C, afrin etc. Just a few in case of an emergency.
• Chap stick
• Lint roller - my best friend when I travel
• minimal make up
• face wipes
• kleenex
• toothbrush/toothpaste - obviously

• 2 shirts per day, one for day and one for night
• a few pairs of pants or skirts that can be mixed and matched
• 1 jacket
• 1 sweat to mix and match
• plenty of lightweight scarves
• yoga clothes for travel days
• socks, underwear, and 1 hat.

• I only ever bring 3 pairs of shoes - my comfy boots for daytime chic, running shoes, and a nicer pair of sandals! Done and done! Leave the heels at home ladies! Plus they suck on cobblestoned streets

• computer + charger + ear buds
• cell phone + charger
• camera + charger + upload cord

• copies of your passport - or cell phone pictures of it! I always have a few copies of my passport in different areas of my suitcase in case i lose it. Or I'll keep a pic on my phone for quick and easy reference if needed.
• copies of all your flights and hotel resises

Things to leave at home:
• hair dryer - basically every hotel under the sun has them these days, and if not, I bet if you call the front desk they might be able to bring one up to you!
• super fancy clothes - plus who wants to pay for dry cleaning anyway!
• nice jewelry - no need to make yourself a target

And there you have it! I'm gone for 10 days this time around and I managed to pack everything into my carry-on plus a backpack and all together they weighed less than 33 pounds.

If you have any packing tips - feel free to shout them out below in the comments!


  1. I finally told my husband we were doing this for our next vacation. As a trial I met him in Honduras with my carry on, and it worked perfectly! (Although I still had to wait around because my friends completely overpacked.) This will be perfect on our next trip though!! Now we just need global entry.

  2. Hi , my husband and I plan to have 1 carry on each travelling from Australia, Hawaii , U.S, London, then Europe inc river cruise? So we don't have to pay for checked in luggage in US We will be away 6.5 weeks, any ideas???

  3. 2 tops a day??? That's crazy!! Unless you're doing serious physical activity, you can definitely wear a top more than once. Rarely do I need to wear two different shirts a day. Assuming you shower regularly, a top to sleep in could be worn multiple times. Also, most importantly, if you are traveling for more than a week or two, you can always do laundry, especially if you're traveling with someone else- get enough for a load quicker and save $$. Also doing laundry on a trip reduces the amount of stinky clothes to carry around.

  4. I NEVER check a bag. Went to Mexico for a month with a Bean backpack/suitcase. Took a couple of dresses, about 7 tops, 3 pants, 2 shoes, etc. No problem. A backpack is so very convenient in the airport - two hands free! I even had room in my bag to bring back a 4/7 great rug from Oaxaca!!
    Also went to Germany in January for 10 days. Took 5 sweaters, two pairs of pants, leggings, a dress, nice cadigan, and it was fine! (of course wore my boots and puffer coat on the plane.)
    Just be prepared to wear the same thing several times. Not a big deal

    Also, I'm a grandmother - not exactly a spring chicken, but used to backpacking, so it sort of comes naturally not to bring too much stuff.

  5. Hi Gaby! I'm curious what brand of travel pack you use. I'll be going to Costa Rica this summer for 5 weeks and am having the hardest time deciding on what bag I should buy. I've been looking at the Tortuga (name of the brand and the bag), but I'm very indecisive. Any suggestions?

  6. I love this! I'm about to go to Central America for 10 days and while I almost always only carry on (wasn't possible for 6wks in the Middle East), I like to search around for tips others might have that I hadn't thought of. I'm a little surprised you bring so many shirts, but if you're saving so much space by omitting other things, why not? (I take less clothes than you, but probably more gadgets.) I know you already said minimal makeup, but one thing I'd add to this is tinted sunscreen. You can get a high SPF that's water resistant, light, and non-oily that is tinted to replace foundation.

  7. I have a winter trip to pack for. Any packing tips would be great. I am going to wear my coat, gloves, and boots. How do I pack the heavier winter clothes? Thanks,

    1. wear your heaviest clothes on the plane so they don't take up room in your suitcase for sure!! Winter is for sure harder since the clothes are bulkier - but try bringing things that you can repeat so they get a few wears out of them! xx

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