Packing Smart For a Weekend Trip

Whether you’re visiting friends at their colleges, going to Vegas or Gulf Shores with your Vandy crew, or just getting out of Nashville for the weekend, I think we all can use a little help with packing. Packing an overnight bag when flying away for a weekend trip hovers over the delicate balance of TSA carry-on size limits, maximizing clothing options with the little space in your bag, and making sure you’ve got all the necessities for your normal routine. 

Obviously if you’re driving to your travel destination, cutting back on how much you bring isn’t much of an issue…. but I’m writing this smart-packing guide for those Vandy students out there that need a little more help maximizing their bag’s space while still being able to bring all the necessities and still look stylish for their #VacationSnap. First, we’re gonna start with your carry-on bag choice. 

Pay Attention to What Bag You Bring 

Most airlines have size restrictions on carry-on bags, which come free with the flight (if you’re flying American Airlines, Delta, Southwest; otherwise, you have to pay up for that too). My advice is to choose the bag you prefer most whether it be a duffle or roller, and make sure its within carry-on limits so you don’t have to worry about grabbing it after the flight and paying extra. 

Even on a 4-day weekend, you should have plenty of room in these size bags for everything you need. Also, bags with extra pockets on the inside and outside are your best bet as they help keep you organized for your weekend away. 


Swissgear 9000 20” Apex Duffel Bag & Patagonia Black Hole® Duffel Bag 40L

For the personal item you can bring alongside your carry-on, I highly suggest bringing a bag large enough to fit your laptop, its charger, phone charger, camera, or any other electronic you decide to bring. This way, you have easy access to them during the security checkpoint and they’ll be close to you at all times while at the airport/plane. 

Check Weather for Destination at Least Two Days Before Leaving

I almost made the mistake of not checking DC weather before my trip there last weekend, which would have left me running for the nearest boutique to find a jacket. I had originally checked the weather a week before I left, assuming it would stay in the 70s range. But things took a turn two days before when my app predicted it would be mid 50s all weekend. I made sure to add a jacket and take an extra pair of jeans rather than a skirt. 

So a word from the (newly) wise, look at your destination weather the night before you leave, especially if it’s a coastal city- these are more likely to have drastic temp changes. 

Check out this link to see the best and most reliable weather apps:

Lay Out What You Want to Bring, Then Edit 

Something my mother taught me about packing when I was younger was editing. Do you really need a completely different outfit each day you’re away? Depending on if you’re traveling somewhere with cool or warm weather, your options will be different but the rule still stays the same: 2 pants/shorts, 3-4 tops, 2 pairs of shoes, and 1-2 jackets. 

Obviously, you’ll have to pack all the other things like underwear, socks, bras, etc, but by editing your main items, you’ll create more room in your bag for the essentials. One way to edit is to create outfits the mix-and-match essentials while utilizing accessories or tops to create a new look each day. 

Personally, I edit by sticking to neutrals and basic items. For a four day weekend in DC, I bought two pairs of jeans (black & white), two shirts (day-night transition tops), 1 comfy sweater, 1 night shirt, 2 pairs of shoes (black booties and tennis shoes), and my white teddy bear coat. By editing your options down, you also make it easier to get ready each day so you can enjoy more time exploring during your weekend. 

Dividers May Be Your New Best Friend 

While this section applies mainly to those with a structured roller bag, dividers can be helpful in duffel bags as well! Whether you choose a packing soft/hard cube or an actual divider, these items can really help maximize the space in your bag and keep you organized while you travel. 

The Insider Packing Cubes


Go Crazy with Accessories 

Because you’ll save room by editing your weekend wardrobe down to the essentials, there will be plenty of room for accessories. On top of jewelry and belts, this can include things like an extra jacket (maybe one that’s not super warm, but too cute not to bring), scarves, shades, hats, gloves, vests, or small purses. 

Put Liquids Into A Separate Bag in Your Carry-On 

As I’m sure you’re aware, TSA requires you to take any liquids out of your bag when you go through security. Save yourself the hassle to fishing around for your travel-size shampoo, conditioner, and makeup items by just putting them in a little Ziploc/makeup bag near the top of your carry on. 

Something that I struggle with when I’m going on a weekend home or to get away for a few days is that I want to bring my entire morning/night skincare routine. This would require me to bring at least ten different containers of various ‘liquidy’ things that essentially are just a waste of space. Instead, try to prioritize your skincare or makeup routines (depending on what you’re doing over the weekend) by bringing only what you know you’re going to use. 

For me, that would just be my toner, cleanser, and moisturizer–I can deal with going three days without my face being exfoliated. If you’re going somewhere cold, moisturizer is a must

While this is just advice coming from a 20-something college student, I hope this post helps you plan + pack better and smarter for your next weekend getaway!

By Emma Fennel, Vanidy Fair Blogger, Class of 2021