Traveling Light

Luggage for 3 people for 3 weeks

In 2011, Kevin and I took one of our first flying trips as a married couple.

We were heading to California for a week to celebrate our niece’s 1st birthday.

As we began packing I remember Kevin blurting out, “We will not check any bags.”

Weird, I thought, but okay I’ll do it.

So we managed to pack 1 small travel bag for two people for a week of travel.

I was hooked.

I loved getting off the plane and heading straight out of the airport.

No waiting in line to check bags, no dragging heavy luggage, and no baggage claim!!

We also didn’t need to rummage through multiple bags to find items once at our destination.

Everything was in one place.

Since that trip we have continued our “carry-on only” rule, even with children.

Here is how we make it work:

Backpack Personal Item

Most airlines allow a free personal item. So we each bring a backpack.

This bag holds items we want on the plane (snacks, toys, books, wallet, etc) and sometimes a few random items that didn’t fit in the carry on bag.

If you have smaller children, your diaper bag could be your personal item. And if your child has a seat on the plane, they can have a personal item…even if you carry it for them.

Pack and Repack

I have been teaching my daughter this trick while we prepare for a 3 week visit to see grandparents.

I make a pile of 5 days worth of clothes for each person.

The pile starts very big. Then I slowly chip away at the pile asking questions like this:

  • Will I actually dress up? (No, so don’t bring fancy clothes)
  • Can I rewear things a couple times? (Yes)
  • Are multiple layers needed? (Yes, but only pick ONE sweatshirt).
  • Can I borrow items if needed? (Yes, when we stay with family my mom shares her clothes with me)
  • Can I purchase this item if absolutely needed? (Usually yes)

So after I ask these questions I usually have a pile of stuff to put back.

Then I pack everything and zip it up like in my photo above. I walk around with my backpack and carry on and make myself feel the weight of the stuff.

Usually this walk makes me repack one more time and remove more items.

Pack Clothes that go with everything

Jeans, plain shirts, gray sweatshirt, tennis shoes.

Universal clothes that always work. I don’t try to be trendy on vacation (or ever, really).

Practical is best!

High Impact Items

These will be different for everyone, but these are unique items that make your trip more like home.

For our kids it’s a nightlight and sound machine to get a good nights sleep.

For ourselves it’s healthy snacks that might be hard to find in a different grocery store. Or a special Moka pot for Kevin’s espresso.

On a trip I have rarely found myself in a position where I forgot something and I could not purchase it.

I remind myself of this when I feel tempted to bring every single thing I might ever need.

When I bring the right amount, I feel lighter.

I feel free to enjoy my trip instead of digging through bags or trying to decide what to wear.

More time for experiences!



  1. Enjoy your trip. We also do carry one only for plane, train or car travel. Makes life so much easier. As you state, you can usually get an item at your destination if needed – that I s how our youngest ended up with a favourite hoodie.


  2. I wish I could get better at this. In the most recent couple of years, I have definitely improved the number of clothes I pack, but my shoe needs seem to always be so diverse. Last trip I took 5 pairs and wore all of them multiple times. But my worst problem is being Type 1 Diabetic, I have an entire bag or suitcase just for diabetic supplies. (No Joke). That will always be my carryon since it’s clearly more important than clothes…so i will always have to check a bag, and it’s very frustrating. Add to that, major food and skin allergies, mean I always have to take all my toiletries with me, as I cannot guarantee there will be something at the other end I can use. Suffice it to say, I mostly prefer to stay home. 😉

    Liked by 1 person

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