1 week, 1 carry-on suitcase, 2 trips; How to pack for both ends of the travel spectrum


Over the next seven days, I will be visiting opposite sides of the country, experiencing big differences in weather, and traveling for very different purposes.  I am scheduled to return home on Thursday evening from a work trip in Washington, D.C., and then will fly out for a fun weekend away in Las Vegas on Friday morning.  But, because I suspect the challenges of traveling in winter weather will be in full force, I’m fully anticipating a missed connection for my return flight home on Thursday night.  So, I’m packing for both of these trips in one small carry-on suitcase just in case I have to fly from a different airport to Vegas.

D.C. will be cold, snowy, and all business.  Vegas will be warm, sunny, and all fun.  So, if you’re like me (and really like clothes), and you find yourself wondering how two pack for two totally different trips in one small bag and still leave a little room to do some shopping, here’s what I did…

I lay out everything I plan to take because I like this method of visually checking everything.  Then I throw what’s left into my suitcase, just to see how it fits if its all clumped up instead of compressed.  Then, I reassess my items and narrow them down by removing a few extra pieces if not everything fits at that point.

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My clothing packing list:

  • 2 long sleeved dresses for the conference
  • 1 pair of thick tights
  • 1 pair of jeans
  • 1 pair of black cargo pants which convert to capris
  • 1 t-shirt
  • 1 tank top
  • 1 cardigan sweater which can go over the t-shirt, tank top, or dresses
  • 3 light weight shirts 3/4 sleeve shirts
  • 1 light weight wool sweater
  • 1 set of lounge clothes
  • 1 pair of workout pants
  • 2 workout tank tops
  • 1 swimsuit
  • 4 pairs of socks
  • 1 blanket scarf and pair of mittens
  • 3 pairs of shoes; 1 pair of dress shoes, 1 pair of flip-flops, 1 pair of tennis shoes
  • Jewelry

While I may pack different items depending on where I’m going, the general premise of clothing for travel remains the same – Pack things that can mix and match, and plan to wear them more than once.  The dresses and shoes I wear at the conference will be the same things I wear out at night in Vegas.  The jeans or black pants that I wear during the day in Vegas will be what I wear during the evening hours in D.C., as well as what I wear on the flights.  The tennis shoes for the gym will also be used for activities which require them in Vegas.  I also set aside some of my bulkier items, which I will wear on the plane.

Once I’m done with that, I take my smaller things and fold them in my suitcase around the casing for the handle on my luggage to use up that empty space.IMG_6648

All other items are rolled nice and tightly into a space saver bag and stacked on top of each other.  I also put a dryer sheet in the bag to keep these things smelling fresh.  Then I roll out the air.IMG_6655

This bag, plus my hanging toiletry bag are packed into my suitcase.  I put my shoes in a bag and place them on top of that, leaving room for my makeup and curling iron.  My top mesh pocket holds assorted things like an extra travel space bag and coupons for the shopping I hope to do, any papers I need to take with me, and all those other small things.  I still have a little extra space in the main compartment of my bag, and I can unzip the expander pocket if necessary, plus I have the front pocket for items too.IMG_6656

I keep my messenger bag pretty light. I keep my travel purse, and all my gadgets, a few snacks and my foldable water bottle, and my TSA-size carry on liquids.  Here’s my packing list for that:IMG_6654

  • 4 packs of shampoo/conditioner
  • 4 make up remover wipes
  • 1 each of the following – toothpaste, face lotion, body lotion, hairspray, body wash, eye makeup remover, shave cream, eye drops, and perfume
  • And, because the last month at work has been stressful and I’m anticipating some downtime at night in D.C., I’ve packed a lavender face mask, bath salts, foot soak, and skin cream capsule for a little spa time!

Most of these things are one-time use items, or will be empty soon, leaving me room to replenish my supplies with the travel sized items provided by the hotel.

And, voila! Everything fits! In my ideal world, I will make my connecting flights home on Thursday night and can rearrange my bags a little if needed, but if not I am prepared. Although it takes some planning and I had to concede on a few things (mostly shoes), I was able to pack for a cold business trip and a warm leisure trip in one bag with room to spare!  IMG_6652