How do we do this? Well, we think through the whole trip and pack as little as possible to cover all the situations. We have bags that fit as carry-ons, namely I have an Under Armor duffel bag which is probably 8 years old and showing no signs of wear despite me using it for nearly every vacation and Mark has a "Cabin Max Metz backpack flight approved carry on bag" which is currently unavailable on Amazon.
|Mark's Cabin Max in the distance|
|My UA duffel, topped with my hat that I didn't want crushed|
Inside these we use packing cubes - you can get them in all sorts of sizes but the largest one I have tightly fits 6 rolled up t-shirts, a pair of shorts, a lightweight sweatshirt, and a set of pjs (shirt and pants). I probably could have fit another rolled up t-shirt.
Tip: pack the shorts, wear the jeans. Weather permitting, wear the sweatshirt too (but it was too warm and I was just bringing it as a habit from growing up in New England).
|Large packing cube, not fully packed|
That's all in the largest of my packing cubes. In my midsize packing cube, I stuff my socks, underclothes, and also a knee wrap hoping if I bring it with me, I won't need it (that's how those things usually work).
|Large packing cube, left, with medium packing cube, right|
I have a small packing cube but it mainly fits toiletries but since we were driving not flying, I didn't need to split up my toiletries so I didn't use my smallest cube. Here are my two cubes on top of my swimming suit and cover-ups in my duffel, topped by my hat.
|Starting to pack it in|
Since we were renting a house and I didn't know what I'd need, I packed my hair drying and straightener in there (turns out I didn't use either of them as the house provided a wall hair dryer like in hotels and I didn't care enough to do any straightening)
|Packing cubes and such|
My duffel has a handy end pocket used mainly for shoes, but I have a canvas pouch that I got from a Stitch Fix order that I use to bag my shoes, so I can use my shoe pouch for other things as well as shoes and not get everything dirty from whatever I've walked through. So in this end pocket I put a lot of liquids. As mentioned, we weren't flying, so I brought my full-size shampoo, conditioner, face wash, aloe spray, contact solution, and such. I put them in the end pocket because if they spill, they aren't near clothes.
Tip: wear the sneakers, pack the sandals.
Tip: bring travel size items to save on space.
|End pocket with liquids and my tan canvas shoe bag containing sandals|
Next to this bag but not really in the picture is a small makeup bag - this contains chap stick, nail file, neutral eye shadows, and a few other things. I add my concealer since I haven't bought a second one to leave in there and my glasses wax because again I just have one of those, and this is good to go.
Tip: buy duplicates, in travel sizes, of toiletry items so you can leave them in your travel kit rather than remembering to raid your shower/bathroom before a trip. But this works best if you travel often otherwise you end up with a bag of expired goods.
Next up is my charger - I got the yellow coated wire from REI I think and it works well to corral cords for transit. I also got a thing to cover my charger cord to reinforce it and make it visually appealing. I usually stash this in the side pocket of my duffel so it is easy to reach and doesn't get tangled around anything.
|Charger ready for transport|
|Fully packed bag, ready to zip|
Note: those are not the ones we have, but the ones we have are out of stock (by The Chestnut on Amazon).
Tip: in a pinch, you can use these bags to vacuum pack your clean clothes to save on space but they may be a little wrinkly on the other side.
|Don't air your dirty laundry, vacuum pack it instead|
We did bring several other bags of stuff for the house, like towels, sheets, beach items like an umbrella, games, sports equipment, food, and such. I didn't include those in this post since there's not much you can do to pack folded sheets, towels, and equipment more concisely - they basically are the size that they are.
I hope you found this post helpful!