Packing List- What’s in my Family’s Luggage

If you follow my blog, you probably know that I’m a huge advocate of traveling light so I don’t have to check a bag with airlines. As a family of three, we haven’t checked a bag since our daughter was old enough to carry her own luggage, many years ago. We’ve gone on multiple 3-week vacations around the world without checking a bag. I’ve gotten asked many times how we manage to do this. The key is to only bring a week’s worth of clothes at the most and do a load of laundry mid-way on your vacation.

There are several advantages to not checking luggage with airlines, the most obvious being the money it saves you from not having to pay a baggage fee with airlines but there are other advantages as well. I’m in the process of running a half marathon in all 50 states, and over the years we’ve flown 3 or 4 times a year for races (in addition to flying to other places purely for vacations vs. racecations). By having all of my running clothes and gear on the plane with me, I don’t ever have to worry about my suitcase getting lost and not having those things for the race. The first time I flew to a race without checking luggage, I remember what peace of mind it gave me to know I would have all of my running things with me and there was no way my things were getting lost before the race.

My family’s main carry-ons


Having your carry-on luggage on the plane with you also has other perks. I remember being on a flight that was the absolute coldest I’ve ever been on in my life. It felt like I was at a ski resort instead of sitting on an airplane. I was able to pull out several articles of clothing to layer-on and keep me warm, and I was so thankful to be able to do that. I’ve also pulled out sweaters from my carry-on in freezing airports on more than one occasion.

But I don’t want to lug around all of my stuff, you say! Trust me, you get used to it. I always tell myself I really just have to carry my bag through the airport and from the airport to the rental car once I get to my destination. It’s really not that bad. Besides, with the size and weight limitations on carry-ons from airlines, it’s not like you’re going to be lugging around 100 pounds or anything crazy anyway. Speaking of carry-on rules, many airlines limit carry-on luggage to 9 inches by 14 inches by 22 inches ((22 cm x 35 cm x 56 cm), including handles and wheels. Some airlines do allow slightly bigger but some have even greater restrictions, so you should always check the airline you’re flying with in advance.

Since most airlines allow one carry-on bag and one personal bag, I always have my Patagonia backpack with handles and a cross-body strap for my carry-on bag and a backpack for my personal bag. I use the cross-body strap so I can still have a backpack on my back. Since my carry-on is a soft (i.e. flexible) material instead of hard-shell, I’ve always been able to stuff it on the plane, even small planes. My daughter recently asked for her own Patagonia carry-on like mine to replace her small roller bag, so she also has that plus sometimes a backpack but sometimes she’s been able to pack everything in her carry-on and didn’t need a backpack. You can buy the Patagonia Headway MLC from eBags here.

My husband recently down-sized from an already small carry-on bag to an even smaller roller carry-on bag. He also has a backpack for his laptop and other electronics, but he’s debated several times if he should leave his laptop at home so he wouldn’t have to lug it around (I doubt he’d ever leave it behind, though).

My husband’s little roller bag


One of my husband’s new favorite things for travel has been a 100% Merino wool shirt I got him from Amazon. Wool is great for travel because it absorbs odor from sweat so you can literally wear it for days without it stinking. He even wore it on multiple days in Charleston, South Carolina in August when it was hot and humid with no smell. That was definitely a test for this shirt! Find the shirt here on Amazon.

I also am a huge advocate of rolling my clothes and using packing cubes. I like the 3-piece set of packing cubes from eBags, which you can buy here.

The large packing cube unzipped

OK. So you have your carry-on bag and your packing cubes. Now you just need to fill the packing cubes. The great thing about the 3-piece set is you can use the bigger one for shirts, pants, undies, socks, and a small pair of shoes. The medium-sized one is great for when I’m traveling to a half-marathon and I can fit all of my running clothes and gear in that cube. If I’m not going to a race, I’ll use it for my swim suit and a couple of pair of athletic clothes for runs or working out in, or I’ve used it for things like warm hats, gloves, and a fleece jacket for layering if we’re going somewhere cold. The small cube can be used for beauty products or snacks for travel days or undies and swim wear if you don’t have enough room in your larger cube. The point is, you can categorize your clothes and things so that when you reach your destination, it makes unpacking and finding things much easier.

That covers the larger carry-on. As I mentioned, my husband and I also carry a backpack, and our daughter sometimes carries one. In my backpack, I have my tablet, my camera, cell phone, a paperback book (I’m old-school), medications, my baggie of liquids each 100 ml or less, headphones, snacks, and water bottle. My husband has his laptop, cell phone, sometimes a couple of paperback books, earbuds, snacks, baggie of liquids 100 ml or less, and water bottle.

And that’s it! Nothing complicated, just your basics really with some specifics but nothing crazy.


Here’s a simple break-down:

  1. Patagonia Headway MLC carry-on for me and one for my daughter, roller carry-on for my husband
  2. 3-piece set of packing cubes typically containing:
    1. 5-6 shirts
    2. 1 pair of pants (if cold) or 2 pair of shorts (if warm)
    3. 6 pair of undies and socks
    4. 2-3 athletic shirts, 1-2 athletic shorts, 1-2 pair athletic socks
    5. Bathing suit
    6. Tank top and shorts for sleeping
    7. Eye mask
    8. Water bottle holder & bottles, running watch & charger, cell phone arm band, Nuun, snacks for race if running a half marathon
    9. Snacks (usually nuts, dried fruit, crackers, sometimes jerky, cereal bars)
    10. Small pair of shoes (slip-ons or flip-flops)
  3. quart-size ziplock bag with liquid toiletries, each 100 ml or less
  4. hair brush
  5. camera
  6. tablet
  7. cell phone
  8. 1 or 2 paperback books
  9. medications
  10. headphones
  11. water bottle

On the plane, I’ll wear a shirt with a lightweight cardigan-type sweater or hoodie, my most comfortable jeans, and my running shoes. If I’m going somewhere cold, I’ll also wear my winter coat and have my scarf, hat, and gloves in the pockets or stuffed in my backpack. I always wear my most bulky clothes and shoes on the plane, to save room for smaller items in my bag.

What about you guys? What do you like to travel with? Anything you’d never travel without?

Happy travels!



Target Beauty Box- Travel Tip for Packing

For you guys who see this and think you’ll skip reading this post because it has “beauty” in the title, let me try to convince you to keep reading.  How many of you have been “asked” by your significant other to carry one or more of their bags when traveling because they have packed so much stuff?  This post is really about minimizing what you pack and one way to do that is with Target’s Beauty Box.  Whether or not you buy Target’s Beauty Boxes, you can pass along this information to your significant other and even friends, co-workers, siblings, your mother, or anyone else you know who travels.

Truth be told, I haven’t checked a bag with an airline in years.  Even when we flew to New Zealand from the east coast of the United States, and were there for over 2 weeks, I only had one carry-on bag plus a small backpack; see New Zealand- My family’s North Island Adventure.

None of us from my family has checked a single bag in so long I can’t even remember the last time but most likely it was when my daughter was too young to carry her own bag.  Not only has this saved us money, it’s also saved us time by not having to wait at the baggage carousel after our plane lands.  We just get off the plane and go straight out of the airport. For more on packing see Never Check a Bag with an Airline Again.

One way I’ve been able to pack minimally is with help from the Target Beauty Box products.  Not to say this alone is going to radically change the way you travel but I look at it as a time-saver because I don’t have to refill those tiny bottles before a vacation and it’s a fun way to explore new products.

About once every season, Target releases what they call a Beauty Box filled with travel-friendly products Target Beauty Box link.  These are typically higher quality products of anything from shampoo to lotion to makeup and hair styling products.  The boxes range in price around $7-$10 and includes free shipping.

I have been receiving the Target Beauty Box for about a year now and have been happy with most of the products I have received.  There was a lipstick that wasn’t my shade in one box but it was a nice quality lipstick, just not my color.  I’ve often received full-sized products, especially for things like mascara and lipstick and a couple of times for shampoos and lotions, but for the most part, the shampoos, conditioners, and lotions have been 100 ml or less, which is perfect for travel, especially on airplanes.

Without any further ado, here is the latest beauty box:


L’Oréal Advanced HairCare Volume Filler Thickening Shampoo
This rich formula permeates and expands every strand to make hair look and feel twice as thick.

Andalou Naturals 1000 Roses Beautiful Day Cream
Alpine rose stem cells, pomegranate, hyaluronic acid and aloe vera nourish, tighten and revive skin on a cellular level.

HASK Keratin Protein Soothing Deep Conditioner
Moisture-rich ingredients work to repair damaged, over-processed hair while helping reduce breakage and static.

Laneige Water Bank Soothing Mask
A non-slip sheet mask infused with hydro-ionized mineral water that delivers intense moisture while soothing skin.

W3LL People Bio Brightener Stick
This illuminating cream creates an instant glow with premium natural ingredients and organic botanicals.

L’Oréal Voluminous Primer
A lightweight primer that enhances mascara, helping it go on smoothly for visibly longer, thicker lashes.

Revlon ColorStay Eyeliner
A retractable, waterproof pencil (with a built-in sharpener) that keeps lines neat all day long.



This is what I would call a typical Target beauty box as far as contents included.  I usually don’t use eyeliner so this is the only product that I may end up giving to a friend, but I’m pretty happy with the rest of the products.  I’ve been saving up my previous beauty boxes for an upcoming vacation and will definitely be taking them along.  When you pack light every little bit helps!

Never Check a Bag with an Airline Again

There are many reasons to not check luggage with airlines.  The most obvious ones are the cost savings and not having to worry about the airlines losing your luggage.  By not checking luggage, you also don’t have to wait around at the baggage claim after your plane has landed.  It’s nice to just step off the plane and leave the airport immediately.

For me, the biggest reason why I stopped checking luggage when I fly is that I was worried about my suitcase not reaching my destination or not reaching it on time.  I run half marathons and have the goal of running one in every state.  I’ve ran 39 half marathons in 37 states to date so I’ve traveled to races quite often.  Initially, I would wear my running shoes so I knew I would at least have those but I would worry if all of my running clothes and other racing gear would actually make it to my destination with me or if my bag would get lost by the airline.

The first time I tried not checking a bag when I flew, I had a wheeled duffel-type bag.  It was definitely nice having all of my things with me the entire time on the airplane and to just grab my bag and leave the airplane.  However, it still wasn’t exactly what I was looking for.

My black Patagonia bag along with my clothes plus running gear

I did a lot of research on travel bags and ultimately decided to get a soft-sided bag that can be worn as a backpack or a cross-body bag using a strap or even like a briefcase using handles.  I bought the MLC (stands for Maximum Legal Carry-On) by Patagonia and have loved it.  You can buy it from ebags here: Patagonia Headway MLC.  It is a 45 liter bag that weighs only 3 pounds.  It has multiple zippered compartments, with the main one opening fully for easy packing and unpacking.  The nylon material is super-tough and my bag still looks brand new even though it’s been all over the United States with me including Canada three times, Germany, Austria, Greece, and New Zealand.  Even on the smallest of airplanes, I’ve never had to gate-check my bag.  My husband and daughter who both have small wheeled carry-ons have had to gate-check their bags on small planes however.

My clothes plus a pair of flip-flops in a large packing cube

There is a great debate going on whether you should roll or fold your clothes.  Personally, I roll mine and combine that with packing cubes.  You can also buy packing cubes at ebags here:  Packing Cubes.  I have the three piece set that includes a large one, medium, and smaller one.  These packing cubes are guaranteed for life under the ebags lifetime warranty.  I’m not part of any affiliate programs and I don’t get any kind of money or anything for mentioning these things here.  I just have had great experiences with them and have been very pleased with my Patagonia bag and packing cubes.

Running clothes, running belt with bottles, watch, charger

The great thing about having different sizes of packing cubes is I can pack all of my running clothes and everything else race-specific that I have together in the medium cube then come race prep I can just pull out that cube and I don’t have to hunt for things in my suitcase.  I pack the rest of my clothes including shirts, pants, socks, underwear, and bathing suit in the large cube.  My family and I use the small cube for food-related items like napkins, hand wipes, extra spoons, etc.  Another great thing about rolling your clothes and putting them in packing cubes is when you get to your destination and unpack, your clothes won’t be wrinkled.  I always ended up with very wrinkled clothes when I tried the various ways of folding them.

My running gear neatly zipped up in a medium packing cube

One big tip for packing lightly is to only pack one week’s worth of clothes.  When I went to New Zealand for 16 days (New Zealand- My family’s North Island Adventure), I only packed one week’s worth of clothes and did laundry at the end of the first week.  It’s really not as difficult or as much of a hassle as some people might think to do laundry on vacation.  Many hotels, hostels, and resorts have laundry facilities available on-site and many places in the United States through Airbnb have a washer and dryer you can use.  If that’s not an option, you can drop off your clothes at most hotel or hostel front desks or at a local dry cleaner although those options will be more expensive than doing it yourself. I’ve never had to resort to going to a laundromat to wash clothes while on vacation, but that would be another option.

Another way to save space in your carry-on luggage is to pack toiletries lightly as well.  A fun way I’ve found to do this is with the Target Beauty Box.  It allows me to try new products, most of which fit into a small quart-sized ziplock bag.  Most hotels and inns also come stocked with a hair dryer in the bathroom so you don’t need to bring yours and leaving that out will save a ton of space.

Finally, one way to not take up so much space in your luggage is to have an e-reader or if you’re like me and really just prefer good old-fashioned paper books, only bring one small paperback.  If you finish reading it during your vacation, take it to a local Goodwill or other donation center and buy another one.  There are many options for book exchanges. Just ask some locals or at the front desk where you are staying.  Chances are good they have books there you can borrow during your stay.

The longest vacation I’ve ever packed for with carry-on luggage only is 3 weeks.  For that case, I was staying in three different places, each for about a week each.  I made sure there was a washer and dryer at the first and last place so I would have to do laundry twice, but to me that’s far and away better than having to check luggage and deal with all of the hassle and stress involved with that.

My Patagonia bag with my packing cubes and 2 pair of shoes inside

So what all did I fit inside this bag?  Here’s the list:

6 shirts, 1 pair jeans, 1 pair shorts, 6 pair undies, 6 pair socks, 1 pair flip-flops, 1 pair casual shoes, 1 pair pj’s, 1 bathing suit, 1 running shirt, 1 pair running shorts, 1 sports bra, 1 pair running socks, 1 sports watch and charger, 1 running belt with 2 bottles, 1 container sports drink mix, 1 pair running sunglasses, 1 running hat.  Usually I’ll pack more than one running outfit but for this particular instance I really only need one.  I’ll wear a light-weight jacket on the plane.  All of this will get me through a week, upon which point I will do laundry.

I have a small backpack in which I will put my toiletries which are mostly items I received from the Target Beauty Box in a quart-sized plastic bag, plus a hairbrush, toothbrush, my phone, wallet, camera, 1 small paperback book, and tablet.  Honestly, all of this would fit into my Patagonia bag, but I prefer to have a small backpack for hiking and things like that when I travel.  Oh, and of course I also have some snacks for the airplane and a water bottle in my backpack.  I don’t carry a purse when I travel by plane.  I’ve found it’s just not worth the hassle and I really don’t need it.

I’ve heard of people who travel for much longer- months or even up to a year with only carry-on luggage and they buy and discard things as needed along the way.  If they can do it for that long, anyone can for a couple of weeks or so for sure!