2 Bags and 2 Carry-ons: Is It Possible?

Authored by:
Amy T.

The majority of my classmates think I’m insane for only bringing a carry-on luggage and backpack with me for a two months study abroad program. To be honest, even I think I’m a little crazy because I’m not 100% certain how I managed it. However, I knew it was possible to travel light and not bring check-on bags because I see backpackers do it all the time! Although I’m only halfway through my program, I truly believe that it’s possible to survive 2 months with only 2 carry-ons. If at any point, you’re heading to the Caribbeans for 2 months, my packing list below can help you pack 2 carry-on bags. 


I’ll admit, I’m a clothing aficionado. Narrowing down my clothing options was difficult, but possible. To add, the Dominican Republic is a much more conservative country, so dressing in mid-thigh shorts, pants, longer skirts, and sleeved shirts were the constraints I had to work with. Dominicans also dress to impress on the daily basis. Here’s what I recommend you bring:

  • Long skirt
  • Long dress
  • 7 shirts (a week's worth!)
  • 2-3 tanks
  • 2-3 scrubs (if you’re doing medical work)
  • 2 shorts
  • 4-5 pants (pants are durable and can be reused in the week)
  • 2 swim suits
  • 1-2 light jackets
  • 5-8 bralettes, sports bras, or regular bras
  • 10 underwear and socks (never ever ever skimp on these!)
  • Tennis shoes
  • Walking shoes
  • Shower shoes (flip flops)
  • Sandals
  • Heels for dancing (an absolute must for salsa dancing!)


For males:

I don’t know much about male fashion, but I do recommend that males bring button downs, collared shirts, and board shorts. Dominican dress with button downs and collared shirts every day. Not to mention, at nightclub ms (known as discotecas or discos here), males will get rejected from clubs if they come without a collar on the shirt. Just a heads up in advance. 


Choosing the right liquids to fit in a quarter sized ziplock bag was the hardest part about packing. I discovered that moving certain liquids to smaller containers was key to maximizing space. I downsized on my face sunscreen, concealer, moisturizer (completely unnecessary because of the humidity), and face wash. I changed my hand sanitizer to hand wipes and I changed my body wash to bar soap to save more space. I also utilized travel size bottles. Here’s my advice on the type of liquids to bring:

  • Shampoo 
  • Conditioner
  • Makeup concealer
  • Eye drops
  • Bug spray (a must for the Dominican Republic!)
  • Sunscreen (bring lots because UV rays are stronger in the Caribbean)
  • Toothpaste and other tooth toiletries
  • Mini perfume



Aside from clothes and liquids, there are a couple more important items that I stuffed into my two bags. Here are my recommendations:

  • Playing cards
  • Board games (I absolutely saved space for Exploding Kittens, Coup, Scrabble, and Codenames)
  • Frisbee
  • 1 purse, clutch, drawstring bag, and reusable bag
  • 2 notebooks
  • Writing tools
  • Snacks!
  • Hat and sunglasses
  • Umbrella
  • Bandaids and medicine 
  • Reusable water bottle (save the environment!)
  • Makeup bag
  • Menstrual necessities 


It’s true, I totally forgot some things. I also took out items in order to make sure my stuffed suitcase would close (it still couldn’t). There are definitely benefits to only carrying two bags, but I do wish I had checked a bag as well. If I had checked a bag I would have absolutely brought a couple other pairs of clothes, more bug spray, sunscreen, and another pair of sunglasses (since I lost my only pair to the Atlantic Ocean during week 1).

However, I’m still super happy to prove to myself and others that with some effort and careful consideration, it is possible to pack 2 bags for 2 months. I encourage all who are able to try because it’s a great exercise in minimalist living. To add, packing light pushes you to seriously consider what’s important to you when studying abroad. Next time you travel, try stepping out of your comfort zone and only bring 2 carry-on bags. 


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