I Packed a Carry-On for 2 Weeks: Here's What I Learned

Your flight leaves tomorrow, and you're sitting on the floor surrounded by piles of clothes, attempting to squeeze them all into one carry-on case. Sound familiar? Recently I found myself in a particularly tricky packing situation. I was travelling from New York to California for a week, only to hop on a plane straight back and then on to Paris for another seven days. The catch: With not enough time between flights to check a bag (I had to switch airports—it was a rough day), I had no choice but to carry on for the entire time.

Spoiler alert: What initially seemed to be a total nightmare ended up being a blessing in disguise. Packing light forced me to be ultra selective and taught me a few lessons along the way. I have a bad habit of packing stuff I never end up wearing, but this time around, I actually put everything I brought along to good use. Curious to learn a few of my personal secrets for mastering the art of the carry-on? Check out my eight hacks below and then shop pieces to help you travel light—without feeling like you're missing something important.

Since space is limited, keep statement pieces to a max of three. Opt for styles you can wear multiple times and that will seamlessly work with your basics.

If there's one thing I tend to overpack, it's shoes. But with limited space, it's important to keep in mind that we all usually end up in the same pair every day anyway. Keep your shoes down to three sets: sneakers, heels and one pair specific to your location—boots, sandals or otherwise.

When it came time to figure out what to pack, one trick that helped was Insta-mining the style of the city I was headed to. A little insight into how fancy—or casual—my final destination was, it helped streamline the other steps of assembling my travel capsule wardrobe.

For the majority of my wardrobe, I opted for simple pieces that I could easily layer or style together. I focused on neutral shades and simple prints like stripes to ensure that I could make outfits feel fresh by swapping pieces in and out.

Travelling can be unpredictable, so it's a smart move to have one sporty outfit on hand. Leggings are great if you end up on a hike, but they're also an easy staple to wear on the plane or for sightseeing.

Thinking strategically about how to pack is crucial when every spare inch matters. Instead of packing all your shoes together, tuck them into the sides and corners of your bag. Stuff the nooks and crannies with soft items like socks, and roll your tops instead of folding them. (Bonus: This prevents wrinkling too.)

As much as I'd love to travel with a chic full-brimmed hat, it's better to save room for more versatile wardrobe items. Instead, pack a baseball cap or a hat that can be stuffed away.

To save space and maximize how much you can bring along, wear your heaviest coat on the plane. Bonus: When things get chilly in the air, you'll have something to keep you warm.

shop pieces for mastering carry-on packing

First things first, make sure to pick a reliable carry-on that can handle whatever the elements throw your way.

Definitely bring along sneakers for your daytime activities.

A simple striped button-down is easy to dress up or down.

Be prepared and make sure to pack a pair of leggings.

Skip accessories that take up too much space, and stick with easy to pack styles instead.

If you're headed to a city or somewhere chilly, a pair of boots will come in handy.

Opening Image: @away

This post originally appeared on Who What Wear U.S.