I’ve talked before about how motherhood kinda stole my fashion mojo, but as I planned my month long sojourn in Italy, I was determined to inject a little style into my stay. I deemed it my vacay persona – aka not how I dress in day-to-day life, but rather the best vacation version of myself. Being very intentional about what I what I wanted to wear also meant I put a ton of time and planning into packing – so much so that I was able to carry on over three week’s worth of wardrobe. Now that is a travel miracle.

But don’t you worry, I’m going to share exactly how I did it!

How to Pack for a Month in a Carry-on on apartment 34 How to Pack for a Month in a Carry-on on apartment 34

While I usually only wear jeans, I decided Italian summer heat required dresses. Given that they’re a complete outfit all in one, a dress is actually very practical for travel. The last thing you want to do is waste time worrying about putting an outfit together. A dress does all the work for you. This classic button down tank dress was the perfect piece to dress up with a statement earring and heels or dress down with simple sandals. It’s also crazy affordable and I wore it constantly.

How to Pack for a Month in a Carry-on on apartment 34 How to Pack for a Month in a Carry-on on apartment 34

One of my favorite finds for this trip was this two piece look from Apiece Apart. Made from super lightweight poplin, this outfit became my go-to look for wandering the smoldering streets of Rome. I could also swap in a simple white tank top or tee to create three different looks while hardly taking up any precious cargo space.

How to Pack for a Month in a Carry-on on apartment 34 How to Pack for a Month in a Carry-on on apartment 34

I think I would officially live in a linen shift dress. This one is by Rachel Craven. The midi-length and sleeves were ideal for visiting Italian churches where modesty is often required. The sandals are Zara from last year and the bag a good amazon steal! II used zip pouches for essentials like sunglasses, sunscreen and my wallet.

How to Pack for a Month in a Carry-on on apartment 34 How to Pack for a Month in a Carry-on on apartment 34 

I scored this sweet linen shirt dress from my friend Em’s new enterprise Encourage Vintage. It reminded of what someone might have worn while shopping the local Italian village’s Sunday market in decades past. I modernized the look with a woven belt bag – my new go-to travel accessory. I have sworn off carrying a bulky bag ever again!

How to Pack for a Month in a Carry-on on apartment 34 How to Pack for a Month in a Carry-on on apartment 34

This lace and cotton dress was the perfect mix of drama and complete comfort in the crazy Italian heat. Pairing it with a pair of wrapped sandals (this pair is similar to what I’m wearing) and a cute woven bag offered just the right amount of dressiness I was looking for on this trip.

But now, how did I fit all of this (and more!) into a carry-on?? Becoming a pro packer is actually pretty simple.

Step 1, meticulously plan your outfits. This way you will be sure to not overpack. For 27 days of travel, I created the following packing plan:

  • 8 dresses
  • 2 jumpsuits
  • 1 pair of shorts
  • 1 pair of pants
  • 3 tops
  • 1 set of PJs
  • 1 robe
  • 3 pairs of sandals
  • underwear
  • 3 swimsuits

Combined that created 16 outfits. I simply did laundry throughout the trip or washed my underwear in the sink! I planned to shop if I got really sick of my choices, but I never had to.

Step 2, get yourself some packing cubes stat. Packing cubes are a gift from the travel gods. These little cubes allow you to compress your clothes into the smallest cubic inches possible. This is your primary goal – maximize all the space you have. Additional pro tip – roll your clothes and put them in the cube, rather than fold and stack them. You’re able to fit a lot more in each cube that way.

Step 3, take the time to get all your favorite beauty products in travel size. It made sure I had minis of all my necessities – toothpaste, haircare, skincare, all the things. You can still have all your favorites at the ready SpaceNK was my go-to for hair and makeup. Additional pro tip: there is so much amazing skincare in Europe (and the EU bans 1,328 chemicals from beauty products while the US bans just 30) so instead of weighing your suitcase down, scoop up as many goodies as you can while there.

Step 4, wear all your warmest, bulkiest clothes on the plane. Sneakers, jeans if need be, jacket, sweater, etc. You know it’s going to be freezing anyway.

Step 5, wear your sun hat on the plane too. You can usually find room for it in the overhead bins on international flights as so many people still check their bags.

A few other little tips – look for wrinkle resistant fabrics if you can. Wrinkled dresses drove me a bit crazy, but luckily I could get an iron almost everywhere we stayed (details on that coming next week!). Also avoid synthetic fabrics. I had one poly-blend dress and it made me sweat like crazy! I also packed my belt bags in a large, but light purse that served was my “personal item.” Things like my camera, computer, makeup pouch (I only used make-up items, are you interested in what they were??) and my travel wallet.

If I, a consummate over packer, can be reformed, so can you. I’ve rounded up some of my favorite summer travel essentials below. If you have any failsafe travel or packing tips, please share them in comments. I just booked my next international adventure and I want to do even better on the next trip!

photography for apartment 34 by andrea posadas creative

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  1. You’ll appreciate this story of our return. In Iceland on the stopover Tracie, David, Christina and I needed a cab for 4 to airport. We approached a sedan. He said, “the sedan won’t fit your luggage” before seeing it. Like you we had a roll-on each. It fit easily. He said, “Usually Americans have huge bags and lots of them.”

  2. Love this post! Where is the linen shift dress from and the lace up sandals??

    1. The linen dress is by Rachel Carven and the sandals are Ancient Greek. I’ll add links into the post. Thanks for reminding me!

  3. Shawl! You need a shawl that is SO versatile. Can be used as covers on the plane. Or as a sarong by a pool and even as a scarf around your neck and shoulders in the evening. Maybe as a grecian dress for a night out? Possibilities are endless. Just a thought…..