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As exciting as traveling can be, it can also be very stressful, especially when it comes to packing. As a lady who loves fashion, deciding what to bring along—and setting reasonable limits for myself—can be particularly difficult. Although I’ve managed to whittle down my once-obscene load over the years, I still find myself struggling not to overpack—not to mention pack things I’ll actually wear.

So, in the days leading up to a weeklong international trip that would involve everything from a gala dinner to a woodsy hike, I challenged myself to travel only with a carry-on, and to really think about what I was putting into it. By replacing my usual last-minute rush with a well–thought-out plan and clear limits set by my luggage size, I ended up feeling far more satisfied with what I’d brought along than ever before.

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It may seem tedious, but writing out everything you plan to do on your trip—whether it’s going to a fancy dinner or on a morning run—will ensure that you cover all the important bases, but nothing more. You can try to keep track mentally, but I’d recommend scribbling down what you plan to wear for each event as you go. If there's anything left over that doesn't apply to an event on your schedule, don't bring it with you.

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The first step will help you with this, but planning specific outfits is crucial when packing with limited space. If you forgo this step, you’re more likely to end up with an excess of clothing that leaves you unsatisfied. By pre-planning each outfit, you can leave for your trip with zero uncertainty about what you’ll wear to specific events.

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This may not be a groundbreaking tip, but we tend to pack so last-minute that we end up throwing in our normal-size toiletries anyway, which are heavier and take up a lot more space. To really make the most of your carry-on—and avoid buying new products—you’ll want to scoop up those empty travel-size bottles (usually found at your local drugstore) to carry your favorite products in.

Want more tips on how to travel with only a carry-on? Read the rest of this story on