How to Pack 2 Weeks in a Carry-On

Welcome to the Little House, Pinterest friends! If this is your first time to Little House. Big Heart. be sure to check out our other travel related posts here! Please feel free to ask any questions you might have about packing light in the comments below; I’ll answer them as soon as I can! You can also email me at littlehousebigheart {at} gmail {dot} com.

It can be done. Let’s just start there. It is possible to pack for a two-week European vacation of uncertain weather in a standard, airline approved carry-on.

How to Pack 2 Weeks in a Carry On

Before you start packing light there’s a few things you need to consider.

First, take a look at the forecast. For us, the weather is really uncertain. It’s supposed to be cold and rainy in Munich and Innsbruck, but then get warmer and sunnier as we go south to Rome. This means that we have to plan for packing rain boots, rain jackets, and lots of layers.

Next, consider how you’re traveling. We’re allowed two checked bags each on our international flight, but aren’t using them. Why? Because the idea of lugging gigantic wheeled suitcases on and off trains, through cities with cobblestone streets, and up and down stairs at  B&Bs is a nightmare  – one that we lived on our Europe trip last year and have no desire to repeat.

Take a look at your carry-on bag. The ideal carry-on has crazy wheels (that spin in all directions), tons of pockets, and reinforcing on all the external seams. We got my carry on from Tuesday Morning for about $90. It’s London Fog brand and is, if you’ll allow a little nerdy humor, a little like a Tardis (it’s bigger on the inside). This puppy has more pockets, nooks, and crannies than any suitcase I’ve ever seen. It’s sturdy and unique looking; I’m not likely to walk off with the wrong luggage.

[EDIT]: After receiving tons of comments on this post (keep ‘em coming!), it’s been drawn to my attention that not all airlines have the same rules regarding carry-on sizes, especially those outside the US. Be sure to check the size and weight limitations of your airline before assuming you’ll be able to carry on. Never fear, though! Even if you have to check your bag, packing light will still help your trip go more smoothly!

London Fog Carry On Suitcase

London Fog Carry On Suitcase Inside

Next, contemplate what you plan on packing. Before this trip, I’d take an outfit for each day. Now, I take just enough clothes to get me through a week. Yes, this means that we have to do laundry mid-trip, but we don’t mind. If we can’t find a laundromat, we’ll just hand wash everything and hang it to dry. As for detergent, we plan on grabbing some once we land. No point bring it along for the flight if we can just pick up a bit later.

So what exactly did I pack for two weeks sightseeing in Germany, Austria, and Italy?

I packed four pairs of pants: one pair of colored jeans, one pair of skinny jeans, one pair of boyfriend capris, and one pair of (longish) shorts.

4 bottoms

I packed one maxi skirt and one dress.

2 dresses

I packed six tops: one long sleeved striped tee, two basic V-neck tees in white and black, one black camp shirt, one chambray button down, and one tank top.

6 tops

I also packed three jackets: one jean jacket, one olive military jacket, and my Columbia rain jacket.

3 jackets

I’m surviving with only three pairs of shoes (not counting my rain boots): one pair of flat sandals, one pair of heels, and my Sperrys (for walking).

3 pairs of shoes

I also packed a few accessories: three belts, two scarves, and a few (cheap) necklaces.

accessories

I also packed enough unmentionables and undershirts to get me through a week.

To pack all this, I folded and then rolled each piece as tightly as I could. This method not only saves space, but keeps your clothes from getting too wrinkled. Once rolled, I packed everything into three packing cubes. [EDIT]: My packing cubes came with an old luggage set, but if you’re looking for some I’d suggest these from eBags. They have the same sizes I used here and have some really fun colors.

packing cubes

I’ll be wearing the jeans, chambray shirt, and Sperrys on the plane. Everything else tucks away nicely in my carry on. I make sure to use every avalible bit of space: stuff belts in shoes and socks anywhere you see a void.

Suitcase Packed

Finally, I threw my rubber boots in on top.

Suitcase Packed with Wellies

Everything else – my toiletries, makeup, kindle, and whatnot – live in my tote bag.

2 weeks

And that’s it. Two weeks in a carry on!

We’re so excited to be going and even more excited for all of the FABULOUS guest posts coming in the next two weeks! I hope you enjoy reading their posts as much as we have!

Have you ever packed for two weeks in a carry on? Could you do it?

175 comments

  1. Ainhoa says:

    Awesome tip about the packing cubes! Makes everything neater and easier to find. I have to say though, I refuse to wear jeans on the plane – too uncomfortable. My mom, who travels a lot, once told me to wear a long, loose dress and that’s what I’ve done ever since. It’s super comfy : ) although I’m pretty sure people think I’m weird for wearing a dress on the plane, I swear it’s like wearing a nightgown.

    • Emma Kay says:

      That’s kinda funny because my husband, who is a very casual Aussie bloke took years of convincing to let my kids (boys) wear anything other than a collared shirt on a plane! And I’m talking right from when we started having kids, so from babies.

      Plus, since I’m a very casual Aussie chick, I find jeans much more comfortable than a dress :) But the longest I’ve ever been on a plane is just a couple of hours, so I can’t talk about flights that would go longer. But one day I’d like to go to Hawaii so I will definitely be trying your tip (might wear jeans and pack a dress in my carry on, just to see which one is better).

    • Liz says:

      Ditto. But I dislike wearing jeans most of the time. I always wear dresses, leggings and tights on the plane. I like to “dress up” for flights but in a comfortable way. People look at me funny, yes, but I’m used to that.

    • nancy says:

      I have never seen packing cubes/where r they found? Also, carry on hair liquids..shampoos..I usually put mine in the check bag all taped up for leakage..travel size aren’t big enough…but I’ll give this a try before I drag out the BIG ONE!!

      • jessica.m.beals@gmail.com says:

        Nancy,
        I got my packing cubes as a gift, but these on Amazon are really great!

        And I feel your pain for shampoo! The good thing is that unless you’re going to a developing country (and really, it shouldn’t be a problem in most of those) you should be able to find hair care products at just about any market. They may not be “your brands,” but you won’t have to do without!

      • Abby Tirado says:

        I pack the 3 oz. liquids in a sturdy plastic see through zipper bag that came with some thing else in one of the outside pockets of my carry on.

      • Debbie Wilburn says:

        Packing tonight for a month long trip to Ireland, England and Wales using my ebags, colorful, lightweight. Another tip for liquid makeup such as foundation or other creams take them out of the heavy glass containers and put the creams into your extra contact lens case. Doesn’t spill and every ounce adds up when you have strict luggage weights…Ryan Air only 15kg, 33 pounds.

        • KC Bjornsen says:

          My brother and I took a trek around the planet in November, 2009. We hit Hong Kong (hot) Kathmandu (moderate climate),Qater (so hot it was unbelievable), Egypt (hot), Israel (chilly and rainy) and Rome, (cool). We had a 20k (40 lb) weight limit, and we did check a bag (med. sized) a piece. So! November–we were expecting cooler temps, and of course the hot. Didn’t have cubes but had duffles with rollers. Carry-on was any souvenirs we purchased (few). We had less clothes than the author suggested, but head scarf (I’m female) for arab countries. Long wrap skirt (again, the modesty). Small rain umbrella vs raincoat. With the above type of packing we could probably have packed in a carry-on. I’m traveling in the US in 3 climates in June, and am adapting the author’s suggestions to a med. checked luggage, as all my peripherals go on the plane with me (computer, I-pad, etc plus cords) in my ancient Eddy-Baur backpack. And, a bright carry-on or purse. Thank you, everyone, for your comments. I didn’t think I could have gone around the planet in one month with 44 pounds. KC

      • Esther says:

        Instead of buying packing cubes, go to the store isle where suit bags-blanket bags are found. I use sweater bags for my more bulky items and 2 gal zip loc bags for shirts, blouses, etc. I cut the corners to let the air flow. It sure is less money that the other things. For my moving preparation, I used a dress bag for blankets. May as well make use of things on hand, than to buy more things.

  2. Amy says:

    I am in LOVE with the print on the tote bag! I bought the ruffled top and have been coveting the bag too…you convinced me! I hope it’s still available! Have fun on your trip!

  3. annabelvita says:

    All the budget airlines in Europe (easyjet et al) charge ridic amounts for checking baggage, but also only allow ONE item of luggage – no handbag or tote, just the large bag. They’re pretty militant about it too.

    I’ve been away for quite a few five day trips with just that amount of stuff… Most of the stuff I like to pack I take no matter how long I’m going (like toiletries, kindle, things like that) for so longer would probably be ok (and like you say, you can wash clothes).

    I often carry loads of things in a tote and then wear them all / stuff them all in pockets for boarding. That’s my tip!

    Have fun!

    • littlehousebigheart says:

      That’s a great tip, Annabel! We fly a budget airline here in the States that only allows one carry on, as well – but it has to fit under the seat. If you put it in the overhead, they charge you $25!

      And I had enough room in my roller to fit everything that’s in my tote, so if we did need to downsize, I’d be able to!

  4. Kristen | Popcorn on the Stove says:

    When I was 16, I went abroad for 3 weeks and brought a GIANT suitcase (I could’ve fit in it). We traveled all along the Mediterranean and it was so obnoxious dragging/carrying such a big thing. Never again! On our honeymoon, we had one carry on and one checked suitcase (although it was on the small side) which was manageable since there were only 3 hotels.

    Love the tip about packing cubes (I had never heard of them before!). I usually wear the heaviest clothing items on the plane so I would’ve been that girl with rain boots :) I do have a question – what about things like razors or misc. items you’re not allowed to travel with. Do you buy them once you get there?

  5. Amanda says:

    I love that you roll your clothes! Whenever we have to pack a lot we do this! It saves so much space! I hope you two have an awesome trip!!

  6. Rebecca says:

    I’m mega impressed! For my 2 weeks in Italy my mom and I both had a carry on (think backpack/large bag not luggage) and each had a full size suitcase. We also bought a carry on sized luggage when we bought more than would fit in our current luggage for the way home. Thankfully our trip was fully chartered on a bus so there was little luggage carrying to do ourselves! :)

  7. redesigned says:

    When traveling in Europe, I ONLY bring a carry on, like annabelvita said (about the budget airlines), no matter how long I’m there. I have different packing requirements depending on the location I travel to. For Europe, I’ll pack everything I need because the exchange rate is greater than ours, therefore more economical to just bring stuff from home. However, when going to London, I always leave a bit of space in my bag for Primark purchases. ;) For Asia, I pack all the toiletries I need because I don’t know if I’ll be able to find the same stuff, but leave behind a dress or top so I can pick some up while over there since they have such great bargains. Traveling abroad with a backpack is much better as the roads are not always even, making traveling with wheelies a pain in the butt – plus there are SO many stairs everywhere! Traveling in North America is always fine with a wheelie. I love packing cubes – I even use them on weekend trips. Have a great trip in Europe! I’d live there if I could. ~M.

    • Jessica says:

      I found that when I went to the Philippines on a mission trip, I fit six heavy pants,six shirts,gloves,shoes,a dress and toiletries in my carry on size bag by using Ziplocs. The nurse had warned that there might be bugs so we might want to keep unused stuff in our suitcase. I found that if I used the Ziploc freezer sized bags they saved SO much space. Just make sure to squeeze the air out!

  8. Amanda says:

    I packed for a month in a carry on. Pack your bag. take everything out get rid of half your stuff and then re-pack. I took six pairs of long pants, A soft unlined leather jacket, Nylon rain coat, 2 pairs of shoes, six tops, two sweaters, one belt, sufficient underwear and I still had room to buy a couple items to bring back. My niece said to me “Aunt, how can you pack for a month in a carry on bag and still be appearing in different stuff everyday? How do you do that?’

      • KC Bjornsen says:

        Hi, I see you wrote this a year ago–but I have to say that in Europe/England, when we were there, there were zero laundromats, and by Greece (several countries down the line) I had to hand-wash my baby, and toddler, clothes (plus a teen and we 2 adults) in a bathtub, and lay them out in the sun on our large white-washed patio on Crete. Whew! That was a few years back, maybe the laundry situation has improved, but hand-washables (light-weight cotton or synthetics) are the way to go. My trip to see my kids/g-kids in Houston (hot), Central Coast CA (chilly) and Reno (moderate) means some variations, BUT they all have washers and dryers. One airline I’ll be on charges $30/bag for check on, but all other flights are SW so–I’m still taking just one bag. Backpack for my carry-on and a bag or purse. Good reading all these tips!! KC

        • Jessica Beals says:

          We didn’t have any issues with laundry while we were there, but we used my husband’s smartphone to find them out and get us there.

          In Venice, we did handwash a few necessities and hang them around the room to dry, but since it was only the two of us, we didn’t mind.

  9. becky says:

    For our 10 day trip to Scotland last year I went thrift store shopping (which is the only way I’ve bought regular clothes for years anyway) for about half of what I packed. I bought stuff I liked but could stand to part with. No one item over $3.50. On the last day I bagged up about half what I packed and asked one of the women at the hotel if she would mind taking to a charity shop for me. This left lost of extra space for stuff we bought to bring home. And yes it was an under the seater!

  10. Liz says:

    True story: I packed for a 7 week study abroad in a carry on 2 summers ago! Honestly, I’m not really sure how I did it, but it made me feel awesome when the flat I was staying in was on the 9th floor of the building. Rolling is definitely a life-saving technique, and I definitely packed in a minimalistic way (I was prepared to re-wear the same thing quite a few times). Still, I had space to bring home souvenirs for my family! (Plus, I threw away 2 pairs of shoes before I came home…they were thrashed.)

  11. Jess says:

    I love this post! It is very similar to what I do but I always seem to throw in extra tank tops at the last minute. And I have a toiletry problem. Oh bother.

    ANYWAY, I want to ask what you do for a bag/backpack when you’re out sightseeing. Do you use that large tote (or do you recommend using ones “sightseeing” bag as the second carry on/ personal item)?

    Thanks!

    • littlehousebigheart says:

      Hi Jess! So glad you stopped by!

      Kevin packs his toiletries, iPad, etc in a small backpack (I think it was a freebie from his job) that we use as his second carry-on and our daypack. Anything of his that doesn’t fit in that I throw in my tote (for the flight, that is).

  12. Hillarie says:

    I am traveling for an 8 week clinical affiliation in Italy at the end of this year, during those 8 weeks we will be making weekend trips. At the end of the 8 weeks, my boyfriend is then coming over for 10 days to travel to Austria, Germany, and Belgium. I was planning on packing a checked bag as well as a carry on, but after your post I question if this is a good idea. Tips and or suggestions on how to survive for 10 weeks in a carry on? In Oct/Nov/Dec?

    • littlehousebigheart says:

      Hi Hillarie! That sounds like an amazing trip! Congrats!

      10 weeks is a long time, but I’ve heard of people packing for longer in a carry-on. I think the keys for you would be LOTS of layering materials, wearing your bulkiest things on the plane (especially your coat/boots), and taking a duffel for taking souvenirs home. Also, you might consider taking some items you’re okay parting with along the way should you happen to find something you like more out shopping.

      If you’d like more explicit help, email me at littlehousebigheart (at) gmail (dot) com and we can break it down to the nitty-gritty!

    • TeaLa says:

      Also, you can plan on shipping back some of your earlier purchases(souveniers) so you have the space for your needs for the length of your stay. Or even waiting till you’re ready to leave and mail some of the sweaters etc.-

      • jessica.m.beals@gmail.com says:

        Great tip, TeaLa! I would just check how much shipping from your destination is before you leave; you don’t want to count on shipping while you’re there only to find out that it’s too expensive!

  13. Kerri says:

    When my family travelled to England when I was 13, we each had one carry on each (all duffels). We did the laundromat-halfway-through thing and it worked great. I still travel carry-on only whenever I possibly can. Knowing that I can usually pick up anything I’ve forgotten once I get where I’m going really cuts down on the stress of packing “everything”.

    • littlehousebigheart says:

      So glad you stopped by LHBH, Kerri! We are complete converts to carry-on only packing, too! Now that we know we can do it, there’s no reason not to!

      And I agree; you can get anything you need once you land at most destinations, especially European cities. You might not end up with the brand you’re familiar with in the States, but it’ll get you by!

  14. wanda says:

    I would love to learn how to do this for a trip in winter time, I’m thinking it will be a nightmare because winter clothing is not something I even wear where I live.

    • littlehousebigheart says:

      Hi Wanda! I’ll definitely do a winter version if it would be helpful! We don’t really wear winter clothes down here in Dallas either, but since my folks are in Indiana, we do quite a lot of traveling with winter stuff (and always in a carry-on)!

      They key, though, is layering. If you take several thin layers rather than one bulky one, you can maximize the combinations/outfits you can make while still keeping the amount you have to pack carry-on sized.

  15. Jaime says:

    We traveled to Istanbul in March and I wish I had found this before that trip. I felt as if I did a good job of only packing essentials, but the cubes would have been so useful! I think for anyone who is planning on staying for a few days at a time at multiple places they would come in so handy and make repacking between destinations a breeze too!

    • littlehousebigheart says:

      I hadn’t used them before, but I won’t travel without them now! It forces you to stay organized and helps repacking for the return trip: I just dedicated one to dirties! So glad you stopped by, Jaime!

  16. Edward Gallagher says:

    When looking for carry-on luggage when traveling in Europe, check the height! Many European airlines only allow 20 inch bags in the overhead, while most US-based airlines allow 22 inches. Many baggage companies offer both sizes, so if you plan a European vacation, you may want to consider a smaller bag or risk having to check it in–Air France is notoriously stringent about this.

      • KC Bjornsen says:

        Hi, same here–others made it through England to Ireland–I was traveling with 2 other adults and we were charged, too. Some items were delicate, but made it through. Except for the Italian wine–bet that was a mess. KC

    • Nina says:

      Lufthansa grabbed our carryon bags we had used all over the world and said they were too big. Also, the weight limits were way less than on many airlines. Luckily we each had day packs to carry on important things. Will have to check each airline website before we go from now on.

      • Jessica Beals says:

        Hi Nina!

        The more comments I receive on this post, the more I’m realizing that! It looks like airlines here in the States are much more lenient as to the size of your carry on! I had my carry on (which I travel exclusively with here in the US) grabbed by British Airways for exceeding the size limits (even though I had measured it and checked their regs before leaving for the flight).

  17. Lea Lena says:

    When I lived in Europe, i learned really fast how to travel light but no way did I think you were gonna get all that and rain boots in a carry on. Wow!! I have never seen the packing cubes…going on a 10 day trip in a few weeks, I am going to have to look for those. Thanks for these awesome tips!!

  18. Dawn says:

    What is your suggestion for packing for a cruise that includes formal night? There’s laundry/pressing service on the ship.

    • littlehousebigheart says:

      Hi Dawn!

      I think this one really depends on the dress code of the particular cruise line you’re on. Some require dress as fancy as tuxedos while are lax enough to only request that you don’t wear shorts. Most of the bigger lines like Royal Caribbean and Carnival tend towards the less dressy side, but be sure to check your cruise line’s website.

      When we cruise (and it’s always Caribbean for us), I usually take one or two jersey knit dresses. They don’t wrinkle, they’re great for throwing on over a bathing suit when you go on a shore excursion, and they’re cool and comfy. For dinner I’ll pair them with a big bingy necklace, some fun heels, and a wrap (it’s always freezing in the dining room). That way the dress serves double duty.

      As for men, my hubs usually packs a pair of golf pants. They’re lightweight, typically don’t need pressing, and roll up small in his luggage. He’ll also bring one or two buttondowns shirts to wear to dinner and couple of different ties so he can change up the look from night to night (he loves ties).

      I hope this helped! Let me know if you have any more questions!

      Anyone else have tips for Dawn?

  19. Sharon says:

    My husband and I went to Germany & Austria for 15 days in May 2012 with 1 carry-on roller bag, 1 small backpack & 1 messenger bag, all our travel in Europe was trains & public transportation. We did laundry once in the bathtub of our hotel. We took 3 bottoms each but no jeans, they take up too much room & take too long to dry, I took 2 pairs of long pants that convert to capris & 1 black yoga pant that I could also use for pajamas, my husband took 3 twill type pants & 1 sleep shorts. We took 4 tops each, all short sleeves, 1 long sleeve sweatshirt each which could also be used for pajamas, 1 hoodie each which we wore on the plane & 1 extra pair of shoes each, we wore our bulkiest shoes on the plane. Our connections from western Colorado through Denver and Dulles to Munich were tight enough that had we checked a bag, it never would have arrived with us.

  20. Kelsey says:

    I would love to see a winter version… I travel to see family in Maine over Christmas (I’m from North Carolina) and it’s freezing there! I usually use a carry on but sometimes it’s too fat to fit in the overhead bin.

  21. Vickie says:

    These are some really great ideas. This is something I do to save space for goodies to bring home. I save all my underwear that’s ready to throw away. I pack this for my trip and throw them away as I go. I’ve also done this with a shirt that might have a spot on it. Pack it and throw it away after you wear it. I love to travel!!

    • littlehousebigheart says:

      Great idea, Vickie! Kevin did something similar with all his dingy, old white undershirts and boxers and it worked great!

      We love to travel, too! Once the bug bites you, it’s all over. You’re a traveler for life!

  22. Elle says:

    Thanks for posting this! I’ve been looking into traveling for 2.5 weeks with only carryons and I think I am up for the challenge! I love your ideas! I need to invest in some packing cubes, because they seem to be great for staying organized and neat during a trip.

  23. Rhiannon Wirth says:

    I am super excited to try this out for my next trip (Israel). I just got back from 7 weeks traveling Europe and you’d think i learn to pack later from last time I was there but I didn’t. I noticed that you didn’t mention shampoo and conditioner, do you just get it when you land? Also if you are taking it on the flight how do you because of the liquid restrictions when going through security with a carry on bag..

    • littlehousebigheart says:

      Wow, Rhiannon! Israel sounds amazing!

      Since we were only in Europe for two weeks, we were able to get by with the typical travel sized toiletries Although because neither of us could find “our brands” in travel sized bottles, we bought the refillable 3oz. bottles in the sample section at Target. We refill them for each trip (we’re using them this weekend, actually) and they work wonderfully.

      Have a wonderful time in Israel!

  24. Marie says:

    I once packed for two weeks in hot (Middle East), cold (Prague in the winter) and moderate (southern Italy) in a carry on. I even had to include a business outfit. It can absolutely be done if you layer properly and bring multipurpose shoes.

    If you’re unsure if you can get detergent when you get there, Target sells little single packs of Tide that are small enough to slip inside a pocket. Also, ziploc bags are a lifesaver! Put anything liquid inside them so you don’t have any spills onto your clothes.

    • jessica.m.beals@gmail.com says:

      Hi, Pamela!

      To keep the worn clothes distinct from our clean ones, we make sure to turn the dirty ones wrong side out. We then pack them back in the packing cubes with the rest of our clothes. If that give you the willies, you could slide them into a one gallon Ziploc before repacking. You could also bring a garment bag along for your dirties and either wash everything at once and repack or repack once everything is dirty (if it’s the end of your trip).

      Hope this helped!

      • Pamela says:

        Thanks so much! This blog was soooo helpful. My fiancé and I were arguing just the other day about being able to travel with just a carry-on lol.. turns out he’s right. I had never heard of packing cubes before. This was great.. God Bless!

        • jessica.m.beals@gmail.com says:

          I’m so glad it was a help to you! Please let me know if you have any last minute packing questions! You can email me at littlehousebigheart [at] gmail [dot] com!

  25. Ashley says:

    On wed I will be leaving for trip for two weeks and I am only packing a carry on as well for the sake of baggage fees and not dealing with lost luggage … I ordered some vaccuum shrink bags that will hold way more than I will need plus plenty of room to buy stuff on my trip :) I almost feel my carry on is huge now !

    • Jessica Beals says:

      Have a great trip, Ashley!

      And great idea with the vacuum bags! We would have gone that route, but we didn’t know if we’d have a way to vacuum them up for the return trip!

  26. Donna says:

    Great tips! We also only use carry-on luggage for flights and long trips by utilizing the space-saver vacuum bags to pack twice as many items than if we hadn’t used them. Most hotels have an iron available to iron wrinkles out of your clothing if you request one. If there is no vacuum cleaner available to use when repacking for the return trip simply place the space-saver bags filled with your folded clothing on a chair and sit on it to release the air while zippering it closed. That works almost as well as vacuuming the air out. We also wear heavy jackets, big shoes during the flight and buy the majority of our toiletries when we reach our destination then toss them before the return flight. My husband uses a small collapsible ice-chest/tote to pack his toiletries in as his personal carry-on bag during the flight which doubles as a beach bag or sight-seeing tote when we get to our vacation destination. Never had a problem.

  27. Debi says:

    This is great as long as you don’t go Lufthansa airlines. They no longer allow this size carry-on. Just one large tote-bag and then you are required to check carry-ons this size! We just kind that out the hard way.

    • Jessica Beals says:

      Oh, that’s good to know, Debi! We usually only fly American (and their One World partners) because Kevin earns miles through work on American, but you never know! Thanks for sharing!

  28. Betsy says:

    This is a great idea ! I salute you for packing lightly for 2 weeks… We went for a skiing holiday in canada , i have used up hubby’s space for luggage since i have too many extra clothes and shoes ( i ended not using them anyway) …we also bought a bigger bag since i got lots of souvenir stuff that can’t fit into the bag…i will use your tips next time!

  29. Lizzie says:

    Love the ideas, but…I’ll be flying on Emirates to Perth in October and they allow ONE carry on that must weigh less than 15 lbs. So I will Have to check a bag through :(. But I do intend on getting a rolling tote to take the place of a purse with a change of clothes and meds AND my purse in it :)

    • Jessica Beals says:

      That’s a bummer! Even though you’ll be forced to check your bag, you might still consider packing light! It’ll make your travel transitions easier and save your back in the long run!

  30. Marilyn Revell says:

    I love sites like this as I am always looking to packing more efficiently. However I did struggle a bit with the concept here. Air New Zealand allows a carry on of 7kg and most wheeled bags weigh 3kg before you even start. That doesn’t leave much spare weight for shoes let alone enough clothes for two weeks, and I find the liquid restrictions difficult to keep to with a carry-on. I have replaced my carry on with a light weight nylon bag, but admit it wouldn’t be so convenient when walking too far.

    • Jessica Beals says:

      Hi, Marilyn! I understand your concern! This packing list was geared towards American Airline’s regulations, which only limit the dimensions of a carry-on bag, not it’s weight. 7 kgs (or ~15 lbs) isn’t much, though, so good luck!

      Have you looked at a wheeled duffel bag? You’d have to sacrifice a half kilo for the wheel gear, but it would save your back trekking through a city!

      • Marilyn Revell says:

        Hi again Jessica, in New Zealand we are restricted by size as well. It must be no more than 7kg (15lb) and 118cm (46.5 linear inches) length + width + height. I think the US is very generous, so you have to be careful travelling overseas. I note that cut price airlines are thinking about charging for carryons now

  31. Kayla says:

    Can you put your souvenirs, dirty clothes and/or a smaller, yet, empty purse within a “personal item” carry on? Could be a great space saver on the way back!

  32. Mary Ann says:

    Am going to Ireland in a few weeks and bring both my sons, age 12 and 14. I was going to pack for them together in a bigger suitcase and a smaller one for me. I never overpack and plan to wash while there. would it be better to pack 3 suitcases?

    • Jessica Beals says:

      Thanks for stopping by, Mary Ann!

      It’s really entirely up to personal preference, but asking yourself these questions can help clear it up:

      1. Do you want to have a checked bag on the way? Checking a bag means your sons won’t have to worry about being responsible for their own suitcase, but you risk having your luggage get lost at the hands of the airline.

      2. What are you doing while in Ireland? Are you staying in one place once you get there or moving around the country? If you’re settled in one place, having a larger suitcase won’t pose as big a problem. If you’re traveling around the country though, you might want to consider having to drag a larger bag over the cobbled streets and in and out of a car.

      3. If you’re traveling around, how are you doing it? By tour bus or by car? If you’re traveling by tour bus and your driver will collect and load bags before moving on, then lugging a large suitcase isn’t an issue. If you’re driving yourself around the country, a large suitcase could pose a problem. Not only will you have to lug it around, but many rental cars are too small for large luggage AND someone in the back seat (we learned this from personal experience driving around France).

      I hope this was helpful and enjoy your time in Ireland! It’s a wonderful country!

  33. Sandy says:

    Small tip. When traveling, take your old undies that need to be replaced. Pitch them in the trash as you go. Also when I went on an archeological dig, I took old tennies and left them in the trash as we departed…..very dirty.

    • Jenn says:

      I do this too. I keep undies, socks, bras and pyjamas that really should be thrown out and take them on my trip for 1 final wear then throw them out in whatever country I’m in. My unmentionables are in England, Europe and the Carribean. Then I have extra space to bring home new purchases!

  34. Kellie says:

    I spent 10 days in London & Paris when I was 16 … I used Ziploc bags to keep things together. Fold an outfit together then put it in a gallon or 2 bag and let the air out of it. Not only do you have more room … you have less wrinkles! Then when I was done I put it back.

  35. heather says:

    I spent a month in Thailand with a carry-on. Loved it. Will never travel with more. I even folded a massive soft duffel in the bottom to check on the way back for gifts I picked up the last two days.

  36. Helene Wood says:

    Thank you, great ideas. I used to make sure everything matched, so I would have more outfits, I would pick a color theme. I went to Costa Rica for two weeks with a carry on and a tote, like you. The trip included trains and boats, etc, no carrying heavy luggage. For washing, I used to bring Dr Bronners soap, so I could use it for my hair, bath and to hand wash things, it has more than one use, so it worked for me. .CamphoPhenique , is an antiseptic, and works on any bites or stings, and it helps itching. A tiny bottle, some band aides and you have a mini first aide kit, and I use Avon Skin so soft oil, not marketed as a insect repellent, but it works, in Costa Rica I brought a strong and very toxic tube of bug off or something like it, but it was not working, so I put on the Avon oil, and no mosquitoes bit me again, so I threw away the other, and the oil has two uses, for bugs, and for moisturizing your skin. Last, I often brought old tank tops and got rid of them and had more room in suitcase. Plus a Sport Sack bag, as it is a large tote, that fits in a small tote, that can be used to bring things home in, or to use as a day bag, etc. And, I always know I am going to buy a tee shirt,, so leave some room for that too. Thanks for your great ideas, i bet you had a great trip.

  37. Sofia Kyriakopoulou says:

    I copy the following tip from a friend. When travelling , the whole family ( 2 parents , two 13 year old kids) in Southern Europe with car for three weeks she loaded the car with small duffel bags containing the staff for 3-4 days each . So when they stopped for the night in different hotels they only had to carry one small bag up the stairs.

  38. Colleen says:

    Awesome ideas for the carry on but as for the toiletries in your tote bag, if you plan on going by plane anywhere that’s not gonna work.

    • Jessica Beals says:

      Thanks, Colleen!

      In the US, the TSA allows you to bring one quart-sized, clear, zip-top bag with toiletries less than 3.4 ounces each. We’re able to fit everything we need for two weeks in that bag and it goes through US security with no issues. You just have to take it out of your bag and put it in the bin to go through the scanner. For the specific TSA rules, click here.

      If you live or are traveling outside the US, you might want to check your countries rules before packing your toiletries.

  39. Beth says:

    Great tips! I went to Europe for a month and had to look pretty decent every day because we were with my husband’s professional colleagues a lot. I bought 2 pair of pants (one colored denim, one tattersall plaid in black, grey and white) and I had one pair of black polyester type fabric slacks. I added three blouses and one sweater that would mix and match, ONE pair of walking shoes that also looked good, two necklaces, one pair of pantyhose (for warmth, not looks) and three sets of underwear. One bathing suit, one sleep shirt. Done.
    A couple of tips, though. You want to take panty liners with you. You can get a couple of days out of a pair of underwear and three out of a pair of pants if you use the liners. Also, taking jackets and rain gear seems excessive to me. I used an oversize scarf for warmth, an umbrella, and I rain proofed my walking shoes.
    Anyway, all that fit easily in a modest sized back pack. And when I got home, I took one look at my closet and heaved it all in the car and took it to goodwill! After all, if you can look good for a month without benefit of laundry machines, what do you need with a closet full of stuff that wasn’t good enough to take with you?! I’m a middle aged woman, btw., so my standards are high, but not high fashion.
    Oh, one other tip: if you take prescription meds, put all the labels on one bottle with all the pills you’ll need for the trip (plus a few days) and you’ll save lots of room versus those dumb pill boxes that always pop open anyway.

    • Jessica Beals says:

      Thanks for the tips, Beth!

      We took the rain gear because we wanted to be able to be outside exploring no matter the weather. And believe me, they definitely came in handy when it rained the entire time we were in Venice (seriously, it never stopped). We were able to be out and about comfortably even during the heaviest downpours! We also were very thankful for them in London!

  40. Melissa smith says:

    Love all the ideas! Will be traveling to San Francisco the 1st week of April. Does anyone have any hints on what to pack. Also, what about souvenirs, will need room for those on the return trip?

    • Jessica Beals says:

      Thanks for stopping by, Melissa!

      I think the key for packing successfully is to check the weather, then layer accordingly. Rather than take big bulky sweaters if it’s supposed to be chilly, take several layers. That way you can wear the layers separately when it’s warm and together when it’s cool. Anyone else have ideas for Melissa?

      Also, Kevin and I usually only get one souvenir each when we travel: I get a cookbook and he get cufflinks. It’s a great way for both of us to remember where we’ve been!

  41. Laraine says:

    I always roll my clothes and our trip to Italy I was advised to put the rolled items in zip lock bags for the dollar store. This worked really well. So much easier to see what you want through the bag without messing up the clothes to find what you want. A large zip lock bag holds three tops or three skirts. I am definitely going to try this with just a carry on next trip. thanks for the advice.

  42. Melissa Smith says:

    Thanks Jessica, I will definitely be checking the weather ! The problem with souvenirs, is we buy for both our boys, my mother in law who house and dog sits for us while we are away, and this is a semi business trip, so we buy for my husbands secretaries (6 total)!
    May have to pack extra tote bag for souvenirs.

  43. Marie-Hélène à Madrid says:

    Thank you very much for your good ideas. One think: shoes are to be put in a paper bag or plastic bag to avoid touch clothes. It’s not good that shoes which go in the street, go after with the clothes. My english is not very good but i hope you understand what i want to say. Thank you to share your good ideas.

    • Vicki N says:

      Well that would be wise, however if you have your clothing in zip bags or the packing cubes like she has, then it really doesn’t matter because then your shoes aren’t actually touching anything.

  44. Jan9588 says:

    Great ideas! I ‘d like to add a couple. If you are going to Europe, the shoo is in hotels have the perfect Ph balance for handwashing garments, unlike in the U.S. Also there are virtually no wash cloths in Europe. Go to the dollar store and look for
    Those washcloths that are compressed into a 2″ square or ball that usually cost no more that $1. I take one for each destination and toss before leaving. I also throw one in my purse for any spills on day trips. One more idea-I get pill pouches at the drug store. About 2″ x 3″ and put one day’s meds in a pouch. Toss it into your purse or day bag and you have what you need for the day without taking up extra room. Thanks again! For those that realize travel is life-changing, we are always looking for tips. On my first trip to Europe I took a huge suitcase, a garment bag, and backpack. My last trip was a 17 day trip with only a carry-on! Wow, what a victory.

    • Jessica Beals says:

      Good tip on the washcloths! We change out our washcloths every year for new ones, so we save the old ones to pack for trips and throw away as we go!

      And travel definitely is life changing! It forces you to take a look at your life and to see what you really need! My first trip to Europe I brought a huge suitcase, a carry-on wheelie, and a day pack. Now we only ever pack carry-ons, no matter where we’re traveling!

  45. Rebecca says:

    I love your tips! This spring, I’m going on a vacation and was looking for a good tote. Where did you get your flowery one from? It’s so cute!

    • Jessica Beals says:

      Hi Rebecca! We went a little crazy and wrote an entire post about your comment! You can check it out here!

      To make a long story short though, I got that tote last spring at Target, but they’re not carrying it anymore.

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  47. Linda Biederman Hink says:

    My question is about the hair stuff–hair dryer, curling iron. I put my curling iron in an old oven mitt (usually packing it when hot) but they take up space. Brushes are also hard to find space for.
    Love your tips.

    • Jessica Beals says:

      Hi Linda! Thanks for stopping by!

      I typically don’t take hair stuff – I tend to just throw my hair into a braid and go with it and leave my straightener and blow dryer at home. That being said, I know everyone can’t do that!

      Check in advance to see if your hotel will have a blow dryer. Most do, even overseas, and this will save you a ton of space. For straighteners/curling irons, there are some really cute heat proof bags on Etsy that don’t take up too much space. There’s also a lot of travel-sized curling irons and straighteners out there if you’re really trying to save on weight and space. There’s several good ones listed on this site.

      Also, be wary of the voltage requirements overseas for blow dryers and straighteners: even with adapters you could have issues! Some adapters only change the shape of the plug so that it will fit in the socket without modifying the voltage going through it – you want to make sure that the voltage/wattage rating listed on your appliance (usually near the cord) is provided by the country you’re traveling to. If it’s not, you’ll need a transformer as well as adapter!

      Oh, and on the brushes, I have a tiny one that folds up on itself and has a mirror for a handle. It wouldn’t really work if I were trying to do a blowout, but works great for general detangling/ponytail wrangling. (It’s like this one from Sephora, but from Walmart and CHEAP).

  48. Kathy says:

    My favorite thing to pack is all my clean “old” underwear and nightgowns. Everyday I put on a pair of clean undies and throw away the old. I also use panty liners to help keep pants fresh. After you’ve slept in the nightgown I just leave it behind and this creates extra room in my suitcase for “bring homes”. One other thing I do is take wool socks as they dry faster than cotton when washing them in your hotel room.

  49. Marilyn Z says:

    I buy a bottle of camping detergent in the camping section of WalMart. It works great and one capful does an entire load of laundry. I pour it into a 2 oz plastic bottle and wrap some dryer sheets around the bottle with a rubber band and I am ready for the laundromat. A few drops in a basin and I can do some underwear. It helps to pack fast drying underwear….heavy cottons, other than handkerchief weight take forever to dry.

    You have some great tips here and I vow to try to cut down on my packing, too. The worst part of any trip for me is the packing and I get so frustrated that I end up with a big mess and nothing matches.

  50. Laureen O' (@ViBarkley) says:

    Wow, I am loving these packing tips! I hate dragging heavy stuff, and because of some health issues, I’m a little more high maintenance (bi-pap machine, tons of medications, cosmetics, lol), so I’m really enjoying the other light packing ideas. Here are a few of mine:

    1. I use the really big zip lock bags – the ones for closet storage. They have handles on them, and I sit on them to get all the air out. Plus, once my suitcase was left out in the rain on the tarmac, and while my suitcase got wet, my clothing stayed dry.

    2. I plan my wardrobe around either black or navy, then mix and match all the pieces.

    3. I tend to like dressier things, rather than jeans (I’ll maybe take one pair, if that), plus jeans take a long time to dry. I’ve bought several things on Travelsmith.com, which has lots of clothing that doesn’t wrinkle, and washes and dries easily.

    4. After a few years of experimenting (and several hairdressers), I finally figured out what my hair wants to do naturally, and got a good wash wand wear cut that looks good on me. Ta da! Fewer hair care products and appliances, and it’s still long enough for a (short) pony tail.

    5. I have 2 foldable, pretty backpacks, one floral, one ruffled. They work great as day packs, and did I mention they’re pretty?

  51. Allie Carr says:

    In the summer me and my guy have to pack for 2 weeks in 1 bag and a small accessories/makeup and toothbrush and stuff for us to stick on the back of a motorcycle. I had to learn quickly as I had never done it before until 2 yrs ago so am still learning on some things one being my makeup and accessories bag. Do u happen to know or anyone who might know of a bag that is small enough but flat and big enough for me to get a website or help to find it. Thanks

  52. Sarah says:

    I’m loving the travel cubes! These are certainly on my to-buy list. After several years of travelling home from England to Ireland for long weekends and week-long trips I’ve started to get my packing sorted. My own top tips are:
    * Invest in a suitcase with 4 any-way wheels. There’s nothing worse than dragging a suitcase that wants to flip over itself constantly. I’ve used mine on all sorts of surfaces – cobbled streets, pot-holed rural roads, the Tube and the only kind that caused any hassle was gravel. I picked mine up in TK Maxx so it wasn’t much of an investment either.
    * Really analyse your make-up needs. This is where I always go overboard. Only take your basics and when possible scale those down using the lens case tip someone else suggested. Then separate into liquid and dry ziplocks, this means you have more room in your liquid bag.
    *Use a tote bag to pack anything you need to pull out at security. I often take my laptop so I put this, my liquids bag and my kindle in the one bag so I can pull them all out easily without having to rummage around.
    *Be realistic about where you are going – I have a ton of sisters so if I forget something the chances are they can sort me out. Likewise, if I’m going to a city then I’m sure I can get an alternative for whatever I’ve forgotten (and there’s always the opportunity of exploring the local shops!)
    *I got a great little usb charger that can fit all of my devices and take that with a plug-in charger that a usb fits into. It’s hard to describe, but saves me taking a separate phone, ipod and camera charger.

    In saying all that, I’m far from a perfect packer and have yet to get away with a week’s trip with anything less than a hold bag. I’m going for five days next week with only a carry-on so getting closer!

  53. Carolyn says:

    About the packing cubes, don’t they take up extra space? I love the idea of being organized but don’t want to give up even an inch. Now if they compress, that’s another matter.

  54. Julie says:

    Great tips, thank you! I’m packing for a 2 week trip to Europe right now and we have quite a few connecting flights/layovers. It will be nice to be able to handle our own luggage the whole way.

  55. Deborah says:

    I’ve been travelling for YEARS with this same method: roll everything up and put it in plastic baggies. I have several different sizes (I can’t throw anything away, it seems), but the best ones are the gallon size and the XL size (not sure what the capacity is, but they are about twice the size of the gallon ones). I put shoes, clothes, underwear, everything in them. Since they’re clear, they are super easy to see what is in each bag.

    We were leaving Madrid the morning of the start of the Iraq war and needless to say, security was super tight at the airport. I was pulled out of the line for a full baggage check in the Security Room and having everything in the plastic bags saved me! Instead of rummaging around in all my belongings and making a huge mess, the officer just picked up each clear bag, looked at both sides and put it back in the suitcase!

    I will also put one day’s clothing (everything I would need, including underwear, jewelry, etc) in my carry-on for a “just-in-case”. This also works for days that you’re traveling from one location to another. It makes tomorrow’s clothes quick and easy to find and you can do the same thing for the next day that evening.

  56. Faith says:

    … Where are your pajamas or pair of sweat pants for sleeping? I don’t see any of that type listed … I give you a lot of credit for packing so well… I don’t know if I could do it …

  57. Scribbling Sarah says:

    I annually pack for 10-11 day trip only in carry on and last year I managed to do so for a 17 day trip! Most people think I’m crazy, but I don’t want to pay to check a bag, and it works for me!

  58. erin brumbley says:

    I was think the same as Faith… No pajamas? How much sleepwear do you take? I am one of those people that needs my hair stuff but I have a Revlon mini straightener, it works great. I also have to wear undershirts everyday- I would like to know suggested # of undershirts… On the bright side it probably makes the shirts last without washing! Last, I insist if going traveling I take my DSLR camera with minimal attachments but doesn’t seem like many people mention a camera. I usually take my camera bag as a carry on tote and fold my purse up put in the suitcase, but the contents go with me in the camera bag. Of course this eliminates the ability to keep toiletries in the camera bag. Any suggestions? Going to Sri Lanka next year for a week but staying with friends not at a hotel.

    • Jessica Beals says:

      Erin,
      We always take our DSLR with two lenses (the 18-135 it came with and my favorite 50mm). We have a great insert that fits down in our day pack that keeps us from needing to bring along our whole big camera bag.

      As far as PJs go… I’m a bit of a minimalist there. I take a pair of ridiculously skimpy shorts and sports bra to sleep in (just my personal preference for sleeping) and pack them in with the rest of what I think I called my “unmentionables.” :) Hope this helps!

  59. Patti says:

    I have traveled to Europe twice only taking a carry on. One thing I do is take old underwear & some of the layered shirts are also older. After washing once ( to have for the second week) I wear again & then toss them. My pjs are the thinnest thing I can find, they roll well & if old I also toss after the last wearing. Gives me room to bring new items home.

  60. Michelle says:

    I had the joys of trying to wheel a large suitcase through the streets of Venice last year……..uuuugggghhhh. As well, the hotel did not have a lift & I was on the 3rd floor…. Your ideas have definitely helped for my next overseas trip !!! Thank you !!!!

  61. Lana Sturgon says:

    Several comments about multiple wears of clothing. I wear jeans at least twice before washing, even at home. However, I spritz them with febreeze and let hang overnight to “air out”. a small spray bottle (target/walmart) filled with Febreeze could cut down on the need for laundry by at a couple of days.

  62. Penny says:

    I do this too! I’ve been from Florida to Europe 4 times (London, Portugal, Italy and Germany) with never more than a carry-on and a backpack. My friends think I’m crazy but who’s the one NOT waiting at the carousel? ME! I don’t use packing cubes but I do make liberal use of gallon sized Ziploc bags. Squeeze out the air and you can easily fit even more into your case. I also do that thing where you leave behind old underwear and pants to make room for more souveniers, I try to shop at thrift stores for “disposable” clothing right before a trip to make sure I don’t have to leave my nice pants behind

    • Deborah says:

      Ooooh! I love the idea of getting clothing from thrift stores and then leaving it behind! Thanks for mentioning that –

  63. Karen says:

    Do you know what the weight of your bag was with everything in?
    I seem to remember that Carry on luggage in Europe can’t exceed 7kg (it may be 12kg in the US?)

  64. Irish Cottage Rental says:

    The Ryanair rules are as follows: One cabin bag weighing up to 10 kg with maximum dimensions of 55cm x 40cm x 20cm, plus 1 small bag up to 35 x 20 x 20 cms may be carried per passenger. These details are fairly standard and if you are doing Europe on a budget worth bearing in mind!

  65. Nirs says:

    Hi,

    Love all the comments and tips. Anyone traveled with Alitalia before? My husband and I will be going to Italy in September for our honeymoon yaye! And we are planning on using a duffel rolling bag and a backpack each. When I check the airline’s website, they only allow 1 carry on. We are returning with Air France which allows a carry on and a personal item so we should be fine.

    • Penny says:

      I have, and I only traveled with a backpack so I can’t really comment on your luggage. But I will say, I encountered the most rude flight attendants on both legs of that journey. I hope they were all just having very bad days and that’s not their normal attitude towards their jobs, but since it happened both ways I have to question it. Good luck to you on your travels!

    • Jessica Beals says:

      I hope they work for you, Nirs!

      That reminds me… also check the weight limit for your airline! I double checked Alitalia for you; your hand baggage can only weigh 8kg (that’s roughly 17.6 lbs for those of us still using the Imperial system)! You might try cutting weight by wearing your heaviest things on the plane (think rain boots, coats/jackets, jeans, blazers, etc)! You can be your own carry on!

    • Jessica Beals says:

      Rebecca,

      I got my jacket at a Bass Pro Shops outlet store a long time ago.

      On the cheaper side, you might try H&M or Forever 21. I’ve seen them in their stores before.

      You might also look at places like Nordstrom (or Nordstrom Rack) or online. Happy shopping!

  66. Nina says:

    Very useful post, but it could have been improved by giving the final weight of each carry-on. I just used this post to pack a similar carry-on suitcase for a two-week trip, but I don’t have a scale, so I’ll just have to cross my fingers…

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