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Whether you’re a size 2 or a size 20, it’s possible to travel carryon only. Don’t believe me? Watch this video to see how!
Plus Size Packing Carryon Only
Recently, I showed you how I packed carryon only for a four-week trip to Colombia and Portugal including a two-week Transatlantic Cruise. In today’s post, I’m going to show you how to do the exact same thing but with a travel wardrobe in a different size.
My travel wardrobe for my 4-week trip to Colombia, Portugal, and 2-week cruise
When I showed you that I packed carryon only for a four week trip many readers found this inspiring but others felt disheartened. They felt that it was impossible for them to pack like this due to a difference in clothing size.
“That’s great if you’re a size zero but not for us that are plus size.”
When I read these comments, I knew I needed to take action. I don’t want any of my readers to feel discouraged at the idea of traveling carryon only.
Just take a look at one reader’s awesome plus-size carryon packing list!
I made it my mission to prove to you that IT IS possible to travel carryon only regardless of the number on your clothing label.
An Equal Comparison
I teamed up with one of my best friends, Victoria, to put together a functional, fashionable, and size-friendly carryon wardrobe.
We took the travel wardrobe I created for my four-week trip to Colombia and Portugal (including the cruise) and replicated it using a capsule with size 18-20 clothing.
We went shopping online and in her closet to choose clothes that worked for the same weather, activities, and destinations. To make this the most accurate comparison possible, I also packed the exact same toiletries, makeup, and accessories I used on my trip.
The only things that were not included were my laptop, laptop charger, and business cards as those items are specific to working while traveling, not vacation.
Read our tips about how to create a functional but minimalist capsule wardrobe with Pack Light Stylishly!
Vince Camuto skirt with Dolman Sleeve Blouse, similar (both in modal fabric)
Also, instead of taking just one party dress I added a versatile skirt that could be paired with a black top to create a “little black dress” look. (The rest of the clothes are pictured below.)
The clothing that I packed was a size 4 whereas the clothing for this capsule wardrobe is a size 18-20 and the shoes are a size 9 instead of a size 7. We used two packing cubes and this 19″ international carryon suitcase.
WATCH THIS VIDEO BELOW OR ON YOUTUBE:
Product Details in order shown in video:
1 International Carryon Suitcase: 19” Delsey Chatelet
- 1 Flat Iron
- 3 Shoes: Heels, Sandals, Ballet Flats
- 1 Travel Brush
- 1 Makeup Kit with all items from this post
- 1 Blazer (in place of the Wanderlust Wrap I took as a secondary layer on my trip)
- 1 Small Pouch with a couple of pieces of jewelry (I accidentally said “daily essentials” in the video)
- 1 Toiletry Bag with all items from this post
Packing Cube #1: AmazonBasics size small
- 1 Pajama: Long Black Tunic Top
- 1 Workout outfit: Old Navy Leggings, Old Navy Fitness Top
- 1 One-piece Swimsuit
- 1 Sports Bra, Regular Bra, and 10 Underwear (1 Additional Bra to wear on flight not shown)
Packing Cube #2: AmazonBasics size medium
- 3 Bottoms: Denim Shorts, Skinny Jeans, Vince Camuto Black Skirt
- 4 Tops: Blue Short Sleeve, Print Short Sleeve, Dolman Sleeve (similar), Vince Camuto coral blouse (similar)
example for plus size packing in winter
What about if it was winter clothing? How is it possible to still travel carryon? True, packing for summer weather is always easier but a few things would change if you’re traveling in cold weather:
- In the video I packed three pairs of shoes but in the winter, you’d wear your bulkiest pair on the plane and only pack one or two other pairs of shoes like ankle boots or sneakers.
- Instead of packing jeans, you’d be wearing them on the plane and the pair of shorts that I included would be a second pair of pants, instead.
- Instead of three dresses and four tops you’d take five long sleeve tops you can re-wear as explained in this packing strategy.
- I also brought a workout outfit and this can be replaced with thermal underwear for winter – the secret to traveling carryon only in cold weather.
- You’d replace the swimsuit for socks and tights, the flat iron for a beanie, and ditch the makeup and toiletries that wouldn’t apply to your trip.
- You’d probably also want to wear your thermal layer onto the plane not pack it inside the suitcase like I did with the blazer.
- I also didn’t maximize the suitcase space because it had several awkward gaps that could’ve been used more efficiently with specific luggage organizers.
- Read this post to learn how to stay warm in cold weather and still pack light.
Suitcase with other plane items not included above: purse, jacket, and shoes (4th pair)
One last thing to note is that I also included what I would’ve worn as an “airplane travel outfit” inside the suitcase so there would be even more space available once actually traveling.
The only items that I would’ve used as part of the “airplane travel outfit” that were not included in this suitcase were a second regular bra, leather jacket, and a fourth pair of shoes.
Can you travel carryon only?
I know not everyone’s the same clothing size (I used a size 20 in this capsule), but my only hope with this video is to encourage you to give things a try. It doesn’t matter if I used two slim packing cubes instead of one medium size one and if you need three instead of two.
The purpose of this post is to exemplify that there are certain techniques all travelers can use to improve our chances at packing in a carryon suitcase. Read these tips:
We’re all different so we need to adjust packing tips according to our personal needs, trip requirements, and style preferences, too.
Want some tips on where to shop? Here are the best online shopping sites for all clothing sizes!
Ultimately, you can travel carryon with any clothing size the only thing that varies is your suitcase and packing cube choices. In fact, every single item that I brought on my trip in both my Travelon backpack and my Rebecca Minkoff purse was packed inside this one single carryon suitcase shown in the video.
Just as is suggested in this plus-size carryon packing list, follow these capsule wardrobe guidelines to learn how to accomplish your own suitcase goals.
And for every single trick in my packing book, read my full course “Stop Overpacking“. I created the STOP OVERPACKING program to teach you my exact packing process. Every secret, every detail, nothing is spared.
Learn more about Stop Overpacking here!
Do you have anything to add? Please share your comment below!
For more travel fashion tips, please read:
- Plus Size Travel Clothes for Women: 11 Vacation Wardrobe Essentials
- Plus Size Packing Tips: How to Rock a Carry-on Wardrobe
- Need Plus Size Travel Clothing Options? This Brand is Awesome
- 6 Places to Get Deals on Cheap Plus Size Clothing for Travel
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I can squeeze my plus size clothes into cubes. My question is how to do this and stay under 50 pounds. I’m a size 18-20, size 42DDD bra and 11 shoes. After those I’m pretty maxed out. Lol
Hi Tonie, traveling carryon isn’t for everyone. It’s about packing in a way that makes the most sense for YOU and your needs.
A good place to start is to take a look at TFG’s Four Signature Packing Lists for ideas for a capsule wardrobe and how many clothing items you could pack, no matter the destination or the length of the journey: https://www.travelfashiongirl.com/functional-and-fashion-packing-list/
Then depending on your preferences, you can choose more bottoms, fewer dresses, more tops – you can adjust the combination based on your needs!
Start with 10 items focusing on the absolute essentials – the core – and then decide if you need additional items or if you could do with less. If you carefully select your travel clothing choices and, for example, pack 6 tops and 4 bottoms, you’d have 24 ensembles on rotation. That’s 3 weeks’ worth of travel outfits with just 10 pieces of clothing!
You may also find this video useful, where Alex, TFG’s Editor-in-Chief, demonstrates how to pack carryon for winter travel featuring a size 3XL – size 22/24 capsule: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=59vH_URGU3E&list=PL8tCYNxmeAPHSwbu76GYHEeiWsZXTxTfb&index=2
Many times, she adds more clothing in the videos to show the maximum but not necessarily how much clothing should be packed. It’s all about the capsule wardrobe and choosing strategic fabrics.
You may also find this article helpful where one of our readers shared her tips for packing plus size clothing: https://www.travelfashiongirl.com/carry-on-plus-size-packing-list-for-winter/
I would also highly recommend that you join our TFG facebook group and post any questions you have there: https://www.facebook.com/groups/travelfashiongirls/ It’s a fabulous community of helpful female travelers that love to share their travel advice and recommendations.
Hope this helps and have an incredible time on all your travels!
I’m so happy I found this! There’s hardly any good content for fluffy ladies and we travel, too! These have been good tips but I wonder if it’s even more possible to minimalize this for those who have to travel personal bag only? We’re going to Spain in 3 weeks for 3 weeks and as a fluffy person I am hoping to go with my 40L bagpack. I’m hoping to go dresses only, maybe, 5 of them… I’m gonna take all your tips and see if I can make it work. 😬
Thank you for doing this. There’s barely anything out there for fluffy ladies and we travel, too! Is there a chance you can do a minimalist packing for plus size as well?
I looooove this post and keep coming back to it for inspiration! Thank you so much! But I’m wondering if it’s possible to downsize this even further for an indefinite trip — say, to a 30-33L laptop backpack and a large purse. I’d really appreciate any suggestions!
Hi Leah, thank you for sharing your lovely feedback, so pleased you have found this article so helpful!!! ❤️ Have a look at TFG’s signature packing lists for ideas for a capsule wardrobe and how many clothing items you could pack, including our Minimalista Packing List: http://bit.ly/2M0ZOSn The product images shown in the packing lists are simply to provide you with ideas that you can use, you can then adapt the items to suit your own style and preferences.
The key to packing light is choose things you really love to wear at home and choosing very different but versatile items that can mix and match so you can create a variety of outfits. You might be interested in our ebook called Pack Light Stylishly which has tips on how to build a capsule wardrobe (not just a wardrobe for travel) which you may find helpful: https://www.travelfashiongirl.com/pack-light-ebook/ Hope this help! ?
I’ve been traveling carry on for several years and am an XL usually. I started out watching dozens of YouTube videos. Depending on where I go I can dress from skorts to long pants to modest dresses. My best trick is to bring a waterproof stuff sack and hand wash my clothes when they need it. I also notice that no-one really cares if you’re wearing the same clothes or they don’t notice. Also products that double up like shampoo/bodywash or soap for body, and laundry etc. I usually have a rolling back pack as streets can quickly go from modern smooth to ancient cobblestones. My friends are always amazed I take only one bag. Thanks for the tips because I don’t often see these kinds of videos with plus sizes.
Hi Annie, thank you for sharing all your amazing packing advice with us. So glad you enjoyed our article, thank you. Happy travels! ❤️
So, I am small plus size (14, 14 W or 16W).I am also older (63) so perhaps my tastes are different. I am surprised by:
A) the number of sleeveless items. No one has seen my upper arms in public for a very, very long time and that is true for my PS friends.
B) So many dresses! May I see a packing list that is 100% pants. Yes, I wear silk chiffon/or silk jersey pants on cruises even on “Formal Nights”. Yes, even if warm/hot weather I wear pants. I never pack jeans, FWIW. Headed to Mexico next week, with carry on only and 3 pairs of pants for 5 days. Would love to know more about pants!
C) I have a ton of Eileen Fisher and because of the price I pay, I don’t travel with it. J.Jill yes. Also Tunics my Katina Marie, AMMA, Citron Santa Monica.
Hi Mary, the product images shown in the packing lists are simply to provide you with an understanding of the general principles you can use, then because every woman has unique needs and style preferences, you can then apply the principles we have shared and adapt the items to suit your own needs. Here is a helpful guide that explains more about how to use our guides: https://www.travelfashiongirl.com/how-to-use-the-travel-fashion-girl-packing-lists-and-guides/ Happy travels! ?
Thanks so much for this. I’m one who always overpacks, Andy usually when I see videos, and posts like this I dismiss it, because I always think my clothes take up so much room because they and I am so much bigger then what I see in the video. You have given me hope, and a belief that I can learn how to pack lighter. Thanks again .
Hi Annette, thank you so much for your lovely comment, this has made my day! Happy travels! 🙂
Like this! I am plus size and really have to plan my outfits – can’t just “pick something up when I get there!”
Glad you like it Beth!
Thank you for doing a series on plus size carry-on packing! I’m heading on a weeklong trip with all the sisters and our mom/MIL to Utah and I’m the only curvy girl. With it decided only carry-ons, my bodyshame kicked in and I almost backed out. I’m an 18/20…you made me feel normal! I can do this and feel confident that I’ll have everything, too!
thank you for sharing tips for plus size! it can definitely be a challenge… super helpful.!
Glad you like them Lara!
Thank you so much for this list. Totally going to try to replicate it for my next trip!!
glad you like it Shannon! have a great trip 🙂
I wear a size 22 pant and 24-26 tops. Size 18-20 is not considered plus size; it is extra large. Still would like to see how to pack plus size items in carry-on. I will be on a 21 day Mediterranean Cruise in September and a 16 day France land and river cruise in October. Any suggestions.?
I just logged back on looking for some inspiration for holiday packing for summer & I found your plus size lists! Thank you so much!
Awesome! Glad you found what you were looking for! Happy to help!
My little ladies, ages 12 & 14 (& very slim and trim), and I (size 16-18) will travel 2 full weeks to Prague and Vienna over the winter holidays. I found this post helpful, but even too much for my minimal self. I hope to remember to take photographs and provide feedback upon our return of my/our travel packing tips and tricks. ‘Live small, but very well’ is our mantra. Travelfashiongirl is my go-to resource for many travel inspirations.
Thanks for the kind words Paige! Definitely share them on our private Travel Fashion Girls FB group!
This is great! I wear a size 20 and am just finishing up a two week carry-on only in Europe and India (for work, but I’m in technology so it’s a very pretty casual dress code) and have been able to do it carry-on only (4 countries and 5 hotels). The biggest challenge I tend to have is my shoes (I wear a women’s 12/men’s 10.5 … they just take up space.
Please keep the plus-size focus coming, it’s really nice to see that!
Thanks for the comment Nora! We are so happy you enjoyed this content! We want to help all of our readers no matter, size, shape, age or preferred travel methods!! We will do our best to keep them coming! Happy travels!
I’m a size 26 and travel carry-on only. I’m in Mexico right now, and I maxed out my carry-on suitcase and my personal item, which is a small backpack. I prefer to pack a little less, but I brought my watercolour supplies so I could paint here. I’m using Amazon Basics medium packing cubes and slim packing cubes, 2 of each in my suitcase. One slim cube held 2 one piece swim dresses and a Coolibar long-sleeved swim shirt. The other held all my underthings. My backpack held my workout pants and t-shirt, which are plain black and can be used as emergency clothes or sleepwear, with a couple pair of underwear, my journal, pen, book, and all liquids, medications and various packaged wipes, snacks and water. It had room for my rainjacket, without it’s liner. The other cubes held two rayon maxi dresses, 1 cotton full length skirt and slip, 2 tank tops, 1 t-shirt, 1 long sleeve button shirt, 1 minus33 base top and 1 Coolibar Sun wrap. In the pockets of my suitcase were a pair of slippers, pantyhose in their package and a pair of ballerina flats. On the plane I wore cotton pants and t-shirt, cardigan, rainshell and loafers. Once we got here, I picked up a pair of sandles, which my hubby might have to tuck in his bag on the way home 😉
Hi Connie, awesome list! Love that you took summer AND travel-friendly fabrics and took advantage of the warm weather to take dresses and skirts. It sounds like you had the perfect capsule wardrobe. Did you find that you were missing anything on your trip?
Thank you for sharing your packing list with us 🙂