How to Pack Light When You’re Only Traveling With a Carry-On

Packing for a trip always feels like a dance between art and science—and attempting to pack light complicates things even further. A few weeks ago, I traveled with my high school senior to California for a two-week tour of colleges. Considering we had a stacked agenda and were going to be on the road a lot, I was determined to travel light and enjoy our trip from start to finish, without stressing over what I left behind. I also didn’t want to be concerned about lost luggage, so I opted to bring only a carry-on. My mantra while packing was that every piece of gear had to be multi-functional in order to maximize space. Here’s how I did it, and my tips for packing light on any trip.

A key consideration for any trip is choosing the right luggage to fit all your essentials without weighing you down. If you're traveling with just a carry-on sized bag, you want it to be lightweight yet roomy—expandable options are always helpful. For this trip, I opted for the Monos Carry-On Plus, a 7.8-pound hard-shell suitcase sized to fit in overhead bins. The wheels have a 360-spin, making it a breeze to maneuver in tight spaces, and the side handle made it easy to lift into the overhead bin and in the rental car. The padded front compartment is perfect for things like a laptop, power cords, or a book—I fit my 15-inch laptop, a scarf, and a book in there easily. The suitcase comes with an antimicrobial laundry bag and two shoe bags that further help with packing and organization.