Not to brag or anything, but I've traveled a lot. I've been to Europe and back multiple times, and I'm fairly comfortable with navigating airports and train stations that have signs in other languages. I've gone on the dreamy excursions like swimming in the Mediterranean Sea and hiking in the national parks of Croatia that remain on many travelers' bucket lists. With every experience, I become more inspired by and passionate about the world and the beautiful places in it. In addition, I find that one part of traveling continues to be an adventure: packing. My latest trip taught me how to pack for a week in Florida using only a carry-on bag, and now I'm here to pass that lesson onto you.
TBH, I didn't think I would be able to do it. I was supposed to squeeze seven days of essentials like tropical-printed clothes, my digital camera, and a jar of coconut oil into a backpack and a duffle bag? Yeah, OK. Keep dreaming, Marisa. The night before my boyfriend and I headed to the airport, I stood over my piles of shoes and beachy accessories and thought, "It's not possible," especially for a classic over-packer like me.
To my pleasant surprise, though, everything fit. The sandals I just bought, the curling iron I wasn't sure was #necessary, and the extra bottles of shampoo and conditioner I wanted to pack "just in case" all had a place. It was all organized, so I knew where to find each outfit or bathing suit when it came time to take a dip in the pool. (I even had some room for the chips and fruit snacks that I inevitably bought at the airport.)
I was beyond proud of myself, and felt so stress-free about my suitcase situation as we jet-setted on our little vacation. Now, I think it's time to send those good vibes, tides, and packing tricks your way. You can enjoy your week in Florida and live your dreamiest life out of a carry-on bag, too — trust me.
Here's how to pack for a week in Florida using only a carry-on bag.
The key to packing everything you need for a week in a carry-on bag is this: Know yourself. Be mindful of the items in your closet you love, and the ones you realistically won't wear. When you're making piles and debating your "must-haves," challenge yourself to answer questions like, "Do I normally wear this," "Did I buy this specifically for this trip," and, "Is this item comfortable?" More often than not, I've found that if I don't wear a piece at home, I won't wear it on a trip.
Then, take into consideration what products you can't live without, and which ones you can pick up at the store once you arrive. The perk of traveling to a destination like Florida, as opposed to a city or somewhere in another country, is that you can likely find your go-to sunscreens and hair products there. You can make a quick stop after getting picked up from the airport, and then be on your merry way to your hotel or other accommodations.
Finding products that can be used in multiple ways can also free up a lot of space in your carry-on bag. For example, I didn't pack my lotion and used my coconut oil as a moisturizer after chilling near the pool instead. I left my bottle of shaving cream behind, too, and opted for the razor blades that have it built-in.
Last but not least, face the facts: Soaking up the sun in Florida doesn't require heavy sweaters, bulky boots, or anything that isn't meant for summer. Your bag is likely going to be filled with bathing suits, sunnies, and a good book for the beach, which are super lightweight and easy to condense into a duffle or cute tote. That alone makes a huge difference, and can keep you from saying, "Ugh, I think I need to check a bag."
I left behind anything that wasn't comfortable, practical, or needed for an Instagram picture.
For me, eliminating the anticipatory stress and, "What if?" scenarios going through my head was key, too. It made me feel like I didn't need to overpack, and like the items I was bringing had a true purpose. Once I answered those tough questions, the piles I laid out were much smaller and only consisted of pieces that were going to be comfortable for walking around the restaurants and ice cream shops in Sarasota and Venice, and practical in the Southern heat.
The Instagram pictures I wanted to take were also accounted for, which made me feel more ready for a week of rest and relaxation than ever before. I wasn't constantly wondering, "Do I have something to wear for dinner later?" or, "Will these accessories match with that black jumpsuit?" I had it all figured out and didn't have to track down my bag at baggage claim. Long story short: It was freeing.
I was able to lay amongst the palm trees, savor plates of penne a la vodka, and happily pose with the saltwater for social media. I was able to enjoy a veggie burger, a bunch of sweet family events, and a beautiful view of the ocean, without a worry in the world. The packing lesson was and is to outfit plan, try on your vacation looks, and imagine situations in your head. That'll keep you from upgrading to a checked bag, feeling disorganized, or struggling with your zipper at the last-minute.
What packing tips and tricks should you know, so you only use a carry-on bag on your next trip?
Do you feel confident you can spend a week in Florida using only a carry-on bag? I sure hope so. But if you're still feeling a little uneasy, let me give you a few more packing tips and tricks.
First, roll whatever shirts, dresses, tank tops, and cover-ups you decide to bring. Jeans should be laid flat, and sweatshirts should be folded in half. Use a couple of packing cubes or vacuum-sealed bags to organize your items as well. That way, you're making the most of the little space you do have.
Second, embrace the space in your backpack — aka, your personal item you'll also bring on the plane — and leave behind the electronics that won't help you disconnect and enjoy the beauty of your surroundings. Living your dreamiest life in Florida with only a carry-on bag and your significant other is possible. You just have to face the inner over-packer in you and follow these little pieces of advice.