Solved: 6 Pro Tips to Packing Light

kaitlin mcelroy suitcase colombia

If you’re like me, you want to enjoy every moment of travel – including the journey.

Through backpacking, business travel, and adventure travel with my friends, I’ve committed to never checking a suitcase again. I am confident that anything I need for a 2 day, 2 week, or 2-month trip can fit in my carry-on.


Honing packing skills is the same as honing #konmari joy checking skills – it’s a process that teaches you about yourself, and challenges you to live outside of your comfort zone – with huge reward.

While traveling, the reward is freedom to take any mode of transportation, make decisions on a whim, and dance on your toes – not thinking about what you brought and what’s literally weighing you down.

Can you feel my passion? Great! Ready for takeoff, here – we – go!


Even the most experienced traveler will pack whatever bag s/he is carrying to the max. So, the first key of how to pack light is to bring a small bag. We love the top-rated Carry On from AWAY, with built in USB charger.

Pro tip: ROLL your clothing to maximize storage space. Put heavier items in the corners to distribute the weight evenly.

photo cred:

photo cred:


Packing light really has to do with thinking through outfits and bringing HUI (High Usage Items) that can be worn day and night.


  • ONLY pack what you wear in my daily life, and you know sparks joy (starting with a capsule wardrobe helps!).
  • Limit fantasy pieces (sequin jacket) to one item. Instead, opt for power pieces (those that you're 100% confident look good on you, that won’t stretch out, are within your palette, and compliment other pieces you're packing), in a variety of fits and lengths.
  • Think through complimentary silhouettes, for example: tight pants + loose top, baggy jeans + fitted turtleneck.  
  • Layer up to make your outfits feel fun and different (shorts, pants, t-shirt maxi dresses, hoodies).


  • Bring lots of fantasy pieces - if you haven't worn them in your day to day life, you likely won't wear them on vacation.
  • Pack uncomfortable shoes, or brand new shoes.
  • Add more items on your way out the door. Resist the temptation!

Pro tip: When choosing your clothing, stick to a color palette, interchange tops/bottoms/sweaters/layers with ease (sample from my trip to Colombia: white, black, nudes – pink & blue).

kaitlin mcelroy packing image


Find somewhere to do laundry , it's a much easier and lighter solution to packing enough clothing for 14 days. Save yourself the headache and the weight of carrying around dirty clothes!

Pro tip: One of my passions is to collect global treasures, leaving room in my suitcase helps ensure I have room to carry something special home.

kaitlin mcelroy cartagena


Hats, scarves, jewelry, sunglasses, LIPSTICK! Any one of these items can take an outfit from day to night, cool to warm, casual to sexy. When you start envisioning yourself on your upcoming trip, and you get selective with what you bring, you really start to picture your ideal lifestyle and your ideal look. What makes you feel amazing? For me, it’s usually a bold lip on vacation.

I bring the minimum amount of clothing, and change the look of each outfits with my accessories.

When I backpacked for 8 months these are the accessories I carried:

  • Bronzer, mascara, a bold lip
  • Scarf (doubles as an in-flight blanket)
  • Statement earrings (global/locally purchased), rings
  • Sunglasses
  • One nail polish (doing my nails always makes me feel good)
MAC morange - my favorite tropical lipstick

MAC morange - my favorite tropical lipstick


While your luggage is stored overhead, your in-flight bag will keep you comfortable, organized and healthy in the air.

My in-flight bag never changes, I store these items in one travel bag that lives inside my suitcase at all times. When I start packing for a trip – I know exactly where it is and that it will be ready to go without my having to think about it.

Here’s what’s in my bag:

  • Above all – hydrate! I never travel without my 500mL ‘little’ bottle by BKR (bring a few vitamin packs to toss in your water for an extra immune boost)
  • Beauty: under eye cream (apply during takeoff), hand cream (apply to hands, cuticles and elbows), lip balm, teeth whitening strips
  • Comfort: eye mask, headphones, tea bags (I’m tea over coffee everyday), light socks (keep those toes warm for a restful journey)
  • Logistics: pen, passport & holder, phone charger, toothbrush, hair ties
  • Entertainment: kindle/iPad, download my fave show on Netflix
  • Valuables: jewelry, cash, card
500mL bkr in winter white

500mL bkr in winter white


My go to loungewear is a onesie! A onesie is a substitute for a 2-piece set of sweats, and for pajamas. It can even be worn to a casual breakfast on a cooler morning (ahhh, coffee, crisp air - I'm so ready for an adventure!).

photo cred:

photo cred:

That’s it, you’re ready to take flight! You’re armed with 6 pro tips to pack light. I challenge you to try these out, and live with intention – focusing on experiences, not things.

Download your cheat sheet (packing list included) here.

Please share your successes in the comments below!