How I pack for a weekend in a “personal item.”

How I pack for a weekend in a “personal item.”

When budget airlines started emerging in my college years, I was really excited to finally be able to afford to travel without breaking the bank (my poor little college girl piggy bank). At that time, I remember that you were still allowed a free carry-on item, or at least an item that wasn’t measured to make sure you weren’t taking advantage of the system. Now, airlines like Spirit, Frontier, and Allegient make you shove your purse into a little box to make sure their personal item standards are met. 

In the beginning, I used to just suck it up and pay the fee- usually a checked bag because it was cheaper than a carry on. Then, after deciding that I didn’t want to add $60 to the $100 weekend round trip I had found to visit my now husband, I thought I would try my hand at packing for a weekend trip in just my purse. After doing this for the last 7+ years (and adding a toddler into the mix), I have some great advice on how to pack a weekend into a personal item. 


Proper organization is key.  

First and foremost, bring the biggest purse you have! I love my Longchamp tote because the black doesn’t get stained and the vinyl cleans easily. There are a lot of other affordable options too. Since you’ll be carrying this on the plane, you don’t want your clothes and toiletries getting in the way of your airline tickets and lipgloss. I’ve organized this in a couple of different ways. If I had the extra space, I would just bring a smaller purse that would fit inside my tote when I was boarding the plane. This did a great job keeping everything separate. Now, as a more advanced packer with a toddler side-kick, I have invested in some packing cubes. (I love these ones from Amazon.) I pack all of my clothes in one cube and my toiletries in another. Then, I either l have my purse contents free floating, or I put the content in another cube/ small purse. The idea is that your tote is mostly just holding other smaller bags.


Think capsule wardrobe. 

Since you won’t be able to pack 3-4 individual outfits, you need to strategically choose items that will mix-n’-match. I usually start with one pair of pants that I wouldn’t mind wearing the whole weekend, pair them with shoes that I would wear the whole trip as well, then I add in different tops and accessories. I will then add in a pair of leggings that can be used for outfits or pajamas. (I have forgotten sleepwear before whilst trying to fit in one more cute option.) And remember, you also have to wear your selections on an airplane both ways, so I would skip the cute heels. You may be able to pick more for a weekend in a warm place, since shorts and bikinis take less room.

I just packed for a weekend in Chicago, which takes a little more creativity to fit bulky winter clothes into a tote. My go-to color scheme is usually monochrome black. I know everything matches, and I don’t have to worry as much about getting things dirty. (Things you think about when traveling with a toddler.) Here is what I packed: black skinny jeans, black leather leggings, black yoga pants, black rain booties, an oversized plaid scarf, a black sweater, a tan sweater, two t-shirts, and a black trench coat. This seems like a lot in a list, but remember that I am wearing the jeans, black sweater, boots, scarf, and coat on the airplane. All of my lighter items will be in the bag, and it only takes up a medium packing cube, including my unmentionables. 


Essentials only, you hoarder.  

You’re not going to be able to bring your blow dryer, that extra smokey eye pallete, or your bottle of can’t-live-without body lotion. Actually, disclaimer here, you won’t really be able to use this method if it’s any kind of special trip. There’s no room for hiking gear, a formal dress, or even blow dryer. The make up and toiletries are down to the bare minimum and all in travel size. I will sometimes bring a curling iron if there’s room, and a small brush. Ideally, you would make arrangements to have those items where you are going. Ask if the person your staying with has them, or if someone meeting up with you can bring them in their bag. (I was staying at my brother’s house and made due with what his wife has.) If worse comes to worse, a blow dryer costs $15. Just buy one- it was less than the check bag. 

For electronics, I will opted for the iPad instead of bringing my laptop. I even went as far as switching to a smaller wallet- you don’t need all those discount cards for one weekend. Remember Chanel’s quote about getting dressed then removing one item? This is the way to think with minimalist packing. Honestly, think of all the times you’ve packed for a trip when you didn’t wear half of it. And if you’re being really honest, you’ll admit that you just wear you’re favorite outfit over and over again as long as you aren’t meeting up with the same people. This way of packing just takes the guesswork out of it for you, and you get to wear the “I wore everything I packed” Medal of Honor after your trip. 


Now, there are a few items that I always pack that I could never live without, and I think these are worth looking through. 


Now, as for my toddler, I packed her little packing cube and toys into a fold-up backpack. This was a little larger than the regulation size, but the airline didn't give me a hard time about it. If they had, I could have just folded up the backpack, threw it in my purse, and just carried the packing cube on. 

All in all, this is the best way to pack if you're trying to save money on a budget airline. Also, it takes the guesswork out of choosing outfits, and I find that to relieve some stress that I get during trips. (Also, as I joked about before, I really just wear the same outfit most of the trip anyway.) What are some of your packing essentials? Leave a comment below!

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