If you’re headed home for the holidays post-college, this might be the trip where mom + dad make you pay for your own ticket (“But! But! But Mooooom!”). You’re growing up, and in the real world, people learn to budget for travel, she tells you. You know the family will never forgive you if you don’t make it home for Thanksgiving or Christmas, so your trip is booked. You also know the airlines will charge you for a checked bag — so how do you make it all the way home — and look good — with just a carry-on?

We reached out to New York City-based organization expert and stylist Jeni Aron for packing hacks and wardrobe tricks to make this year’s holiday traveling that much smoother. Here are six #minimalist travel tips to add to you pre-trip to-dos so that you make it all the way home and back without skimping on style — in just one bag.


1. Check in with your hostess for travel essentials she already has: Jeni says, “the most common thing people do wrong is pack at the last minute.” She recommends that you prepare a few days in advance and start with a list. “Think of the events you’ll attend during your time away and ask your host if there is a hair dryer, ask if there are shower products you can use. Think of any bulky item that you don’t have to bring to save room in your bag.” This will save space already — if you’re visiting family or staying with friends, chances are there are plenty of things you just don’t have to pack… so don’t.

2. Get the most out of your outfits by packing your darkest bottoms: “You don’t have to bring entire outfits for each day — pieces can be repeated throughout your visit,” Jen said. “Black pants, dark wash jeans or gray pants can be worn two or three times during a visit and nobody will notice.” Consider a few key pairs of pants and then bring special pieces and pops of colors to punch up your top half, like something cute in red or burgundy — it is the holiday season after all! “For both men and women, what is more noticeable in an outfit is the top,” Jeni says. That’s basically a green light to pack your favorite statement necklaces + patterned cardi.


3. Label + group items in your carry-on by event: Rolling is a huge space-saver — this we know — because this method allows clothing to lay flat and prevents the bulk created by each and every fold. Plus, it prevents wrinkles, and a non-wrinkled shirt = instant grown-up! What you didn’t know is that rolling by event or by day can make it easy to find things when you arrive at your destination. Jeni also recommends using packing cubes or plastic seal bags (easy to label using permanent markers) to group your items, a strategy that can also be helpful when wrangling everything for the return trip. “Packing in sections like this saves room and saves time rooting around for a piece you’re sure is in there somewhere. It also cuts down on wrinkled items.”

4. Reduce your makeup + toiletries to 10 products or fewer: This might seem like a big ask, but paring down your beauty routine to a max of 10 products or fewer will lighten your load big time. Consider little hacks like slipping your toothpaste into an old contact case and re-using old hotel shampoo bottles for your hair products. Chances are you can borrow hair gel or perfume from Mom once you get in, and coconut oil has a million uses — pack a tiny glass tub of that and you’ve got a makeup remover and moisturizer in one. Avoid packing things like nail polish (do your nails before you leave) and bring a max of four eyeshadow colors and two lip colors. You won’t need lipstick to watch Saturday morning cartoons, and a family trip will probably mean lots of lounging around, so leave your beauty Vlogger alter ego behind.


5. Wear your bulkiest boots on the way there. Ugg-style boots or waterproof winter choices are going to be pretty big, and difficult to pack in your carry on bag. If you can’t make them fit, you don’t have to — just wear them on the way there. As for the rest of your steppers, bring one casual shoe and one heel, max (and save room for that pair of snuggly slippers you asked Santa for on your return trip).

6. Hack your one personal item: Remember that airlines let you bring one carry-on bag and one personal item, so if you choose a backpack as your personal item, sometimes you can fit an extra sweater or rolled coat in there. Wear some extra layers on the plane, possibly even a pair of leggings under your jeans — a style hack that can help if the plane gets too cold besides being a good foundation when you step off the plane in a colder climate.

What are your packing tips? Share your ideas in the comments below!