How To: Pack for a Two Month Trip in Two Suitcases

So, tomorrow morning, I'm flying home to Phoenix for two weeks, then heading to Newport for the rest of the summer. I'm so excited to spend time with my family and friends, and to relax in California! I'm not going to lie, though, packing for 10 weeks was a major challenge. I decided to do a little post about it, to help anyone else that faces this challenge. Two summers ago, I interned in New York for the summer, so I've faced this packing problem before, and I definitely learned from it! With the rising cost of checking luggage, and the general pain of toting around a bunch of bags, my goal was to pack everything in one carry on, one check bag, and one tote.

Here are some of my tips: 

  • Make room. It's so much easier to pack when you have some room to see what you actually have. I cleared a section in my closet about a week ago, and have been adding and subtracting items from there. Yesterday, I commandeered the couch, and spread everything out to fold and actually pack into the suitcase. 
The room I made in my closet to pack
  • Start early. I'm usually a packing procrastinator, but for a trip this long, you want to make sure you have everything you need. 
  • Do your laundry first. Yeah, this sounds like a no-brainer, but I thought I was good to go, space wise, looking at my hanging rack space, and then I realized: I haven't done laundry in two weeks!
  • Pack enough sleepwear, workout clothes, and undergarments to last at least a week. This may seem like an area you can skimp on to save room for "fun" clothes, but you really don't want to be spending a couple hours every few days in a new and exciting place doing laundry. 
  • Check the farmer's almanac for historical seasonal weather where you'll be, but bring a few "out of season" items, too. The summer I spent in NYC, it was rainy and really chilly for a good chunk of the summer, and guess who only brought two pairs of pants? Yeah, that would be me. 
  • Only pack clothes that can mix  and match, including shoes. This isn't the time to pack that skirt that only goes with one top and one pair of shoes (that don't match anything else). That's taking up way too much valuable suitcase real estate!
  • Buy toiletries, especially those of the drugstore variety, when you get there. For instance, if you know you'll go through a bottle of face wash, and a bottle of shampoo, save the space in the suitcase, buy it when you get there. If an item is pricey and it takes you forever to go through a bottle, pack it. One thing to note: if you happen to have allergies and won't be somewhere where products are familiar (like in a foreign country), you may want to pack your own toiletries, to avoid an allergic reaction. 
  • Pack a variety of shoes, and make sure they are shoes you can actually wear and walk in. If you can't, don't bring them. They'll sit there taunting you the whole trip while you wish you brought your trusty wedges. 
  • Bring accessories! I almost always forget this, but it's an easy way to change up the way that black dress looks after the 10th time you wear it for the trip! Just be sure to put them in your carry on if they have any sentimental or monetary value, just in case your luggage gets lost. 
  • I packed one carry on rolling bag, and had one large check bag. I'm also carrying on a small tote with my computer, etc. in it. In the rolling bag, be sure to pack any information about where you're staying, a change of clothes (keeping in mind what you're supposed to be doing the next day) any medication, and any camera equipment you may bring.  In case your luggage gets lost, you'll have something to wear the next day, all of the important papers you need, and your camera, laptop, and other expensive equipment will be safe! Also, be sure to pack your phone charger, in case you get delayed and want to phone a friend! 
  • Things are going to get wrinkled, no matter how perfectly you fold. If you won't have access to an iron, a travel steamer can be a lifesaver! 
  • Consider where you're going, and what you'll be doing on the trip to guide what you pack. But make sure you bring at least one swimsuit and one fabulous dress- you never know who you'll meet or what opportunities may come up, and you'll want the option to dress up! 
  • When you're done packing, check your weight! Even if it all fits in the bag, you'll get slammed with a heft fee if your bag weighs more than fifty pounds. 
Phew! So those are my basic tips, but here is what I actually packed for this trip (which, for me, will entail seeing a lot of friends, going to dinner with Brett, and hopefully hanging out at the beach a good deal): 
  • 5 pairs of jeans (one wide leg, two cropped, two skinny)
  • 2 pairs of shorts
  • 2 skirts
  • 3 short sleeve tops
  • 8 sleeveless tops
  • 4 long sleeve tops 
  • 8 day dresses
  • 1 romper
  • 2 cardigans
  • 1 jean jacket 
  • 5 belts
  • 2 dressy dresses (which went in the hanging bag that Brett's bringing)
  • 9 pairs of shoes (3 flat sandals, 1 pair of wedges, 1 pair of lower heeled sandal, 1 high heeled sandal, and 1 dressy, 2 ballet flats) 
  • 1 watch, 3 sets of earrings, and a necklace (I'll be picking up most of my jewelry in Phoenix)
  • 2 swimsuits
And for beauty stuff: 
  • Regular makeup bag
  • Flat iron
  • Shampoo and conditioner (it takes me forever to go through a bottle, and it's pretty pricey, so I'm packing it)
  • Blow dryer
  • Brush/comb
  • Mani/Pedi kit, with a few polishes
Mani-Pedi essentials
  • The rest will be purchased there! 
Yikes! It seems like a lot. Well, I guess it is a lot! 

As far as the actual packing process went....
  • I put my shoes in first, and nestled in little things like socks and belts among them: 
Shoes all nestled in, with socks and belts filling up any extra room
  • And then layered workout t-shirts on top of them (something just doesn't seem right about laying pretty dresses on top of shoes to me!
  • After that, it was pretty simple: I neatly folded my dresses, pants, tops, and skirts, and stacked them on top of each other. 
  • On top, I put my shampoo, blow dryer, etc.
  • In the carry on, a majority of the room was taken up by my cameras and medication i take, but I added some more clothes, too, kind of where I could fit them. 
  • My books, magazines, and laptop went into the tote bag, so I have easy access to them the whole flight! 

In the spirit of full disclosure, I didn't pack running shoes, because I left a pair at my parents when I moved to Virginia, and I may pick up a few pieces of clothes that are currently being stored at their house, but I definitely think I could be fine for the summer with what I packed! 

What's the longest trip you've taken? How do you think I did with my packing (I don't leave til morning, so tell me if I forgot something)?! 


  1. Such a great post Brookelyn! I am pretty good in economical packing and your post gave me such great tips to be even more efficient!
    Sometimes I envy guys (actually its only time I envy them!)- they can really pack 2 months in one suitcase - case in my point, my husband! LOL..
    Have fun with your family and enjoy summer in California!

  2. I am not a very good packer. lol I always don't bring enough shirts, I always forget to dress for the cold weather (because I forget how cold my hometown really is.) and I never pack the right shoes. But I always have enough makeup. haha

  3. Great work! I was so proud of myself for fitting two weeks of cute honeymoon outfits in a backpack, then that backpack got stolen while we were in the airport in Germany! :-/

  4. You are a packing EXPERT! I love looking at what people pack - have a fabulous trip!

  5. So smart of you to take pictures and list everything - for when you pack it all back up both in CA and AZ; that way you are certain not to forget anything!

  6. The longest I've had to pack for was 4 or 5 days and even them I felt like I had my whole life in my bag! You don't realize how much stuff you really need on a daily basis, it's crazy to think of going without!

    Hope you enjoy your trip!


  7. This is a fantastic post- so many great tips and tricks! =) A few months back I had to pack for two weeks in just a carry-on and a personal item and I did about post about it too- I would love for you to check it out!

  8. Great tips! The closet sorting is a good idea. When I pack, I have to try the full outfit on, head-to-toe including accessories! It's a total process (glad I live alone) but I feel like when I'm going on vacay I have to bring my most stylish stuff and have to visualize it all together

  9. You are quite the expert packer! The only things I would add are to put your toiletries in a plastic bag if they are going in a checked bag just in case they leak, and store your cosmetics in a cute clutch instead of a taking a separate makeup bag.

  10. Great tips! Well...the longest trip I have taken was when I moved to Korea for a year...but I ended up going over to South America after that and didn't come back to the UK for two years! It's too long to write here but definitely having mix and match clothes was best to start with then as I was in one place for a while I could buy more and give it away to friends/ship it home when I moved on!
    Is it Newport Beach, CA you're going to? I'm British but more boyfriend is from Newport beach. Hopefully going out there again this summer too. Have a great trip!xxx

  11. wow, 9 pairs of shoes for 2 weeks?
    I guess it depends where you're going, helpful tips...

  12. I appreciate a lot of your tips. ESPECIALLY the one about a color palate that coordinates...

  13. I usually only pack for a week or two (besides a stint as a camp counselor, but dressing is much different in that kind of situation). You seemed to cover all the basics - good work. Especially throwing in a swimsuit, even when going away for a weekend it is advisable (if you love swimming, at least)There has been a number of times where I went away for a night or two only to discover the hotel had a great swimming pool and I didn't even think to bring a bikini.

    For packing wrinkles, yes, pretty unavoidable, but rolling certain types of items instead of folding helps and putting a bit of tissue paper in between garments can also cut down on wrinkles too.

    I think I would have a panic attack, trying to pack for 2 months - seriously - good job!

  14. Though I hardly ever take extended trips, this was super helpful! When I do take trips, I'm always that person who packs a months worth of clothing for a 3 day trip (hey, I'm guilty of being undecisive). Your tips are great. This totally fits in with the FBFF meme for this week over at ModlyChic-the topic is 'packing for a vacation'. You should check it out!

  15. Thanks for the tips, I;m off to Australia this summer so I need them!

  16. At the end of the year I am going to England for 3 months as I have done twice before. The problem with packing for this is that it will be winter and therefore I will need to pack coats, scarves and layers! I always struggle to pack everything I need so I end buying a lot and then having two bags to bring home!

  17. I just got back from a holiday and I realized the trick is to fill only half the suitcase. Of course, this is because I planned to buy a lot of things at my destination! Your guide will work perfectly for work-study trips and I've printed a copy for my mom. She definitely needs tips for her corporate trip! Thank you!

    Arianne from A + B in the Sea

  18. I found your blog by Links a La Mode from IFB and I love it!

    If you follow me and comment on my blog saying you did, I'll follow you back. xoxo

  19. In the winter I'm going to Paris for six weeks--using only carry on. Some of these tips are great, so I'll be remembering your post when the time comes!

  20. Thanks for the comments, everyone!

    @Anna- the post is how to pack for two MONTHS, not two weeks. I definitely wouldn't need 9 pairs for 2 weeks!

  21. This would have been sooo helpful about 4 weeks ago when I was packing for a three month trip. Still helpful for the future though! I would add though that you should only bring clothes that you know FIT well and that you like! Seems like a no-brainer, but I made the mistake of taking a pair of jeans that I had just bought. I must have been having a "fat day" when I bought them, so now they're always loose and I hate wearing them!

    Also, the weight limits for luggage vary from place to place. 50 pounds is a good general number, but some places (like Brazil where I am!) have higher weight limits and some can have lower weight limits. The limits should be posted online!

  22. I travel for anywhere from 6-8 months at a time, in and out of the US, all climates possible-- Florida in summer, the Midwest in winter, etc... I have sensitive dry skin, and I color my hair. The group I travel with has dressy occasions periodically, and we sometimes go nice places for birthdays and such. The, for work, I have to wear all black with steel toe (or composite toe) shoes... That is just about the most awkward way to pack. Winter, summer, work, dressy, day off... Ugh! It's hard as heck to pack for tour!

    Also, for international travel, pay very close attention to the weights of carry-on's too.. In Europe, most airlines only allow 10 kg (about 22 lbs) for your total carry on weight. I have an overnighter/laptop security friendly bag plus a roller bag... They made me check my roller bag, as well as my 2 big bags, coming back from Holland to the US this past spring.


  23. Sorry to be critical, but after toting cases all over Europe I learned many lessons. First, 3 pair shoes maximum, and buy 1 pr. At destination: Comfy Tennies a must; Merrill Black Sandals for boarding plane, as slippers, etc.; one pr. Dressy sandals, black.
    1 PR. Black ponte- knit pants
    1 Pr. Jeans
    2 3/4 sleeve black poly-knit tees
    1 Black Cardigan sweater (longer is best)
    1white no iron blouse
    2 bras, 2 nylon panties, 1 sleep shirt
    1pr earrings, bracelets, necklace (wear on plane)
    2 extra cotton tee-shirts, 3 pr. Old socks (buy new as needed toss old ones)
    Several good quality scarves (Hermes)
    Shampoo, deod., razor, bandaids, hair spray; buy at destination or pack travel sizes.
    Cosmetics, pack in zip-lock bag.
    Extra zip-lock bags.
    Electric toothbrush, curling iron, electrical converter if needed. Hotels have hair dryers.
    1 small black bag for evening, 1black leather day bag/tote.
    Rx, aspirin.
    All fits in one carry-on and one shoulder bag, with computer if necessary...i-pods,etc. plus handbag.
    This will take you anywhere for 2-3 weeks looking great, no sweat! Get pedi/mania at other stuff and mail home.