How To Pack For Four Seasons In Just A Carry-On

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I ain’t going to lie.

There are a thousand articles on how to pack.

Hell, I’ve even written a few of them.

But none of them address a common problem among travelers…

How to pack for all four seasons in one easy-to-carry bag.

While it might sound like an impossible task, it’s actually pretty simple with these tips…

How to Pack

With my carry-on bag, I’ve traveled through Europe for six months; I’ve seen summer in Greece, fall in France and winter in Istanbul, and have managed to dress comfortably through all seasons.

By packing versatile items, letting go of garments when their time has come, and adding to the collection without adding an extra suitcase, you can learn how to pack for a year of travel without lugging around too much luggage…

Pack in Layers

If you’re going to encounter a variety of climates, pack items to dress in layers.

This means tank tops, t-shirts and long-sleeves, a lightweight sweater (or two) and a jacket.

When it’s nippy and my legs need extra warmth, tights can double up under jeans to provide the heat.  For really chilly places, consider a set of long underwear. My favorites are Terramar Sports silk underwear, but Patagonia & Mountain Hardware also make a great variety of lengths and weights, too.

Consider Colors

Coco Chanel once said that black has it all, so who am I to disagree with the queen of fashion?

Many basic items in my bag are black:

  • a long sleeve tee,
  • a jersey cotton little black dress (LBD),
  • yoga pants,
  • a tank,
  • both pairs of shorts, and
  • a pair of cropped leggings.

But to avoid looking like a Goth girl or vampire, pair black with a dash of color.

Nearly all of my tops are solid colors that can easily go with black, and the patterned garments I have are very colorful so I can effortlessly pair them with any bottoms — even green ones.

Coco also said, that “the best color in the whole world is the one that looks good on you.”  So know the colors that look good on you and pack items with a similar color pallet.

I happen to like earthy tones, so brown and green make a number of appearances in my wardrobe.

Don’t Fear Dresses

Dresses are great for travel: they’re generally lightweight, fun, flirty and easy to sight-see in, especially if you have good sandals to match.

You can dress them up with some basic jewelry or dress them down with a pair of flip-flops. Plus, they’re super comfy!

Even in winter, dresses can be your fashion friend.  Warm up with colorful leggings, a pair of boots (these you’ll wear while flying so you don’t have to worry about stuffing them into your bag), a scarf, a hat and gloves.

And poof… you’re all set!

Pack a Versatile Jacket

Jackets can vary a lot depending on your style.

For ladies less worried about glamour,  practical interchange or multi-climate jackets from companies like Columbia or The North Face are a great solution. These coats usually come with a removable liner and shell that zip into one another and are perfect for outdoor activities.

For the more fashion-conscious, pea coats are always classic and sophisticated.  Leather and faux-leather jackets can be cute and easier to pack than wool, but keep in mind that any coat too bulky may not fit into your carry-on and you’ll be stuck wearing it through security even on summer flights.

Pack Convertible Items

Creativity is key in packing for travel, so I love multi-functional garments.

A pashmina or cotton wrap can serve as a regular scarf, a wrap for the beach, a shawl for churches or mosques (or just a night at the theatre), and even a towel if you’re in a bind.

“Infinity” skirts and dresses can be used as tops, skirts, dresses, and wraps sometimes in more than 100 styles – all from one piece of clothing!

I love my Patagonia Kamala Skirt that turns into a summery halter dress, but also pairs well as a skirt with boots or sandals.

Pack to Toss

Pack items that you wouldn’t mind:

  • getting ruined over the course of your adventures,
  • ending up lost or stolen (hopefully not!), or
  • that you can say goodbye to when the seasons change.

It’ll be easier to let go of them when the temperatures rise or fall so you can make room for the right replacement. But if you have serious attachment issues, you can always ship it home.

Think Before Purchasing

Ask yourself these questions before packing it in your bag:

  1. Does this match anything else in my bag?
  2. Will I want it when I get home or am I okay with leaving it?
  3. Will I wear it while I’m traveling?

I inherited a chunky brown wool sweater from a friend in Alsace, and it has been a perfect winter weather addition.  It fits under my coat, layers well, and blends with my color scheme!

To make room in my bag for the dress and boots in the photo above, I got rid of t-shirts that had seen too much wear-and-tear, donated a dress that didn’t make sense for the snow, and was able to diversify my wardrobe in the process.

Keep Them Doggies Rollin’

So what’s the secret to fitting everything into your carry-on?

Roll your items.

Bags with compartments are the best.  If you have a backpack, packing cubes can be the way to go.

I separate my socks & undergarments to go in the mesh zip pocket, scarves and accessories go in the side pockets and roll the rest.

Maximize Your “Personal Item”

Most airlines allow a carry-on and one “personal item,” although this depends on the size of the plane and the airline (budget airlines often restrict flyers to one carry-on, period).

I pack all my electronics, toiletries, and purse into my personal item. For a long trip, I always start with travel-size toiletries and purchase regular-sized ones after I land.

There you have it!

Packing for all four seasons in one carry-on doesn’t have to be a challenge.  Now that you’re armed with these packing tips, what are you waiting for?

Buy a ticket and try it out!

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