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How to Pack a Week’s Worth of Clothes in a Carry-On

If I could, I’d only ever travel carry-on only! It only takes the airline losing your luggage once to never want to check a bag again. Add on to the fact that it’s an extra line to wait in when you arrive at an airport, precious time spent waiting around baggage claim, and that it often costs $50+ extra to check in a bag…there’s a lot of incentive to do carry-on only especially if you’re gone for a week or less. Even us moms can manage that once the kids get over a certain age!

Here are some tips to consider when packing a carry-on for a week of travel.

How to Pack for a Week of Travel in a Carry-On

Double check exactly what you’re allowed to bring.

Every airline may be slightly different and some airports are stricter than others. For example, I’ve noticed French and British airports can be absolute sticklers about your liquids bag and may make you remove some items even if other airports were fine with them! Furthermore, some airlines will be very strict on your carry-on suitcase’s size and weight while others are a little more forgiving. Whatever airline you’re flying, just go to the carry-on bag page and go over their rules so you have no rude surprises at TSA. 

As a rule of thumb, I stick to carry-on luggage that’s 22″ or less like my spinner pilot case. If you’re flying any budget airlines in Asia or Europe, I’d go even smaller, like my 19″ mini spinner.

Bonus for new parents: TSA specifically allows you to travel with “formula, breast milk, toddler drinks, and baby/toddler food (to include puree pouches).” They do not need to be under a certain size nor do they have to fit into any kind of baggy! Check here for full details, but take a breather that this is something you do NOT have to stress out about.

Write down everything you plan on doing for your week trip. 

I find it helps put my packing list into perspective if I have a rough idea of what my week of travel will entail. Sometimes my trips are more leisurely and other times it feels like I’m running a marathon everyday. Suffice to say, planning a family trip walking around major European sites in the middle of summer is going to have different packing requirements than cruising around Christmas Markets in the middle of December. 

Pack complimenting clothing.

If you stick to a complimentary color palate, you can make just a few pieces work double or triple duty. For example, a button down could work with jeans and sneakers for a casual day of sightseeing and then work tucked into dress pants with some low heeled boots or cheerful flats for a nicer evening out. 

I have a simple equation for a week of packing – three tops and three pants that all must match each other. This way I get nine outfits from six articles of clothing! Throw in a little black dress, and you’re ready to take on any destination. 

Bonus Tip for Those that Sweat: This tip is for anyone who read this section and thought, “Yeah, ok. If I wear a top out while sightseeing, it will be far too sweaty and smelly to even think of wearing again.” Consider doing a little sink washing! You can use soap from your hotel or pack a few detergent sheets. Pack items made from quick dry material like linen, nylon, or polyester. Some lighter cotton shirts may dry quickly too. Usually you can do a quick sink wash the night before and they’ll at least be dry same time the next day if not earlier.

You do not, I repeat, do NOT need more than three pairs of shoes.

…And this includes one pair that’ll be on your feet! I know shoe lovers are gasping in horror, but remember this is a week’s long trip in a carry-on. There is simply no reason you’d ever need to bring more than three for a week. 

Depending on the season, I like packing comfortable sneakers, a chic pair of flats, and something that can be dressed up or dressed down (i.e. a good pair of boots). If it’s summer, I might swap out the flats for some sandals, and if it’s a snowy destination, I’ll make sure I have winter boots. 

Whatever is the hardest to pack is worn on the plane, and then I put the other two in cloth bags so they’re not pressed up against my clothes. 

Accessorize, accessorize, accessorize

Accessories are a great wait to gussy up an outfit as my mom would say. Pack some statement necklaces, funky earrings, silk scarves, and some sparkly bracelets to make any outfit feel fresh. I also never travel without a scarf – especially with those airplane temperatures. 

Pack your jewelry by wrapping it up in a T-shirt so nothing gets tangled together. Plus you can use that T-shirt for the gym or to sleep in once you unpack at your hotel. 

Bonus Tip:  Don’t underestimate a statement lip. It really can change your entire look in mere seconds! I prefer a beautiful red lipstick but really go with whatever color (or colors) you like best.

Packing cubes for the win.

No, packing cubes are not some extra, unnecessary item travelers try to make you buy. They are serious game changers! Seriously, if you’re not using packing cubes, you’re doing it wrong. Not only do they keep your luggage organized, they add an extra layer of protection to your clothes. As soon as I get to a hotel, I like to just take my packing cubes out and put them right into the dresser drawer. Because I’ve rolled my clothes into the cubes, I can see all the items at once, and none of them touch the inside of a drawer (how often do you think those things actually get cleaned?!)

I recommend buying packing cubes with a clear top, like my 3-piece set, so you can see everything in your cube at once without having to unzip anything.

Waste no space.

Every suitcase has nooks and crannies that are often overlooked. For example, the space on the bottom of your suitcase between the sides of the roller handle. If you just plop your normal packing cubes in, you’re losing out on a ton of space! I use my slim packing cube set to really line those overlooked spots, and only then do I begin placing down my packing cubes. Every square inch counts!

Minimize your liquids as much as possible.

When it comes to carry-on only, I like to minimize the need for my toiletry bag as much as humanly possible. It just makes it easier going through TSA and the smaller my liquids bag, the less I worry about an agent pulling me aside and making me repack the whole thing or potentially have to throw something out. Here are some quick tips on how I do it:

  • Use cotton balls for perfume – Instead of getting the roller balls or trying to figure out how to squeeze your perfume into your toiletry bag, douse some cotton balls with the scent and put in a plastic baggy. Make sure the baggy is sealed tight so the alcohol doesn’t dry out but otherwise you can pack in your suitcase as normal! 
  • Embrace detergent sheets – Instead of making a little bottle for your detergent or fitting in some tide pods, embrace detergent sheets! Can you believe these guys exist? Even if you don’t think you’ll have to wash any of your clothes in a week, I like to have some just in case. You never know when a spill could occur – especially with kids!
  • Swap toothpaste for toothpaste bits – These really do work great if you can get yourself used to changing up how you brush your teeth. Both Bite and Lush make great ones.
  • Try solid lotion – Now, this comes with a caveat. Do not try solid lotion if you’re going somewhere hot, the lotion will absolutely melt. However, if you’re sticking to cooler temps, try out a solid lotion bar instead of trying to pack a small lotion. They work wonders!
  • Utilize contact lens cases – Buy a variety pack from any drugstore, and you’d be surprised at how much product can go into one. One contact case could hold a week’s worth of foundation.

Forget toiletry travel sets.

Big box stores offer lots of great travel items, but reusable containers for your shampoo, conditioner and soap are not one of them. Unless you’re traveling for a month, you do not need much of any of these products (plus, I am tired of decanting my shampoo!). I say pack sample sizes of your favorite goods. Talk to folks working at the beauty counter, at stores like Sephora or Ulta for free samples; or buy smaller containers of favorites at the drug store or Target.

Be sure to pack your toiletry bag in your front zip or in your personal item for easy access.

Compression bags for laundry.

If you’re not staying in one place for your week of travel, this means you often have to pack dirty clothes in with your clean clothes. While a packing cube offers some protection, you’ll most likely want something separate to help contain the used clothes. Cue: compression bags! Not only will the plastic contain the scent, the compression gives you just a little more room for souvenirs.

What are your best tips for carrying on for a week or travel? Share in the comments!

This Post Has 104 Comments

  1. Big fan. Washcloths are a necessity for me, an opinion not shared by European hotels. I find disposable facial clothes (the dry ones that lather up with water, not premoistened makeup wipes) to be a convenient substitute. Also a great way to get the dust of a day’s adventure off your face before bed. My alternative is buying a stack of inexpensive washcloths at Walmart and tossing them in the trash daily after use. At the end of the trip I have the space they took in my suitcase available for treasures I’m bringing home.

    1. Great point….although I realize European hotels are not favorable to supplying washcloths, I always bring my own; with the exception of my last trip to Ireland a few months ago when I forgot to pack washcloths. Try finding a store that sells them, no such luck. The thing of it is, is that I knew better.

      1. I really like to travel with Norwex face and body cloth. It drys super fast. And you only need one. ( no I don’t sell Norwex . Just love the product. )

    2. I totally agree about the washcloths and buy a pack and throw them out as you do. I just don’t feel like I can get clean without a washcloth and European hotels do not have them. They think we’re crazy!

      1. I take a few of my old washcloths with me when traveling in Europe and dispose them on the way. I found small pelleted ones that expand when wetted. They are a great single use alternative and super packable.

    3. I do the same thing with washcloths – one for each day of travel unless I will be staying somewhere that has a laundry. The Walmart cheapies are great for that purpose.

    4. I fold my clothes envelope style, the Marie Condo way. My shirts are standing up so I can see everything. This really helps me find the clothes in my carry on bag so I don’t have to unpack my suitcase to get things on the bottom. I also wear my heaviest shoes on the plane. I pack one pair of heels that can really elevate an outfit. I bring two pairs of ballet flats and one pair of plain trainers that go with dresses , pants and shorts. I bring an old pillowcase for dirty clothes. And I pick a color scheme so that almost everything can go with everything else. Some of my favorite outfits are ones I came up with on vacations with what I had to work with. I always bring a navy blazer. I have traveled 20 days to two weeks in several different countries and fit everything in my carry on and personal item. Fellow travelers are amazed that I am not wearing the same thing every day and don’t have to lug bags around. Good advice here Samantha.

        1. For people with oily or combination skin, I like the Cetaphil travel packs of disposable soap wipes(aniti-bacterial). They come in a small baby wipe type of packaging and lather up when wet. Great for teens (or not so teen:) traveling, since different weather and foods can cause breakouts.

  2. Some of this is valuable. A lot is useless. For example:
    * Some of us have health issues and must carry our medicine, medical equipment, assistive devices. If we’re going to be gone more than a week it means carrying bottles of medication. So where, exactly?
    * Some of us wear larger size clothing and it doesn’t fit into tiny cubes quite as nicely.
    * Where did she pack her makeup?
    * What are you supposed to do if you are traveling to different climate conditions. She hasn’t packed either a sweater or a jacket. One of my recent trips took me from the Arctic Circle to the tropics.
    * Nowhere in this “helpful” video does anyone ask what to do if the limited supply of clothes get dirty or torn. Personally, I travel with a pretty complete sewing kit and travel size detergent.
    * Nowhere does she suggest you carry some way to wash dirty underwear–or even a means of keeping it away from the clean clothes. What if menstruation makes its presence known? Assuming your cycle is regular, and you know when it’s coming, where do you put your tampons or pads? What if your cycle ISN’T regular and it comes while you’re away with your one carryon bag?

    I could go on, but you get the idea.

    1. Read this after watching the super-helpful packing video. I’m definitely getting cubes and will now be using of the space between the rails. Thanks!

    2. To be fair, this simply categorized under “Tips” as How to Pack a Week’s Worth of Clothes into a Carry-on. It’s not an exhaustive list for all your personal and individual necessities on a cross-climate trip.

    3. Wow, I hope you don’t travel a lot, as you sure seem quite unhappy! This was meant for a light packing tip, so knowing all the issues you brought up in your negative comments clearly makes it impossible to pack in such way . You know the old saying, can’t pack a 10 pound of potatoes in a 5 pound bag.

    4. You pack based on the climate zone you are traveling to. If your going somewhere cold you wear your heave jacket and pack things to layer…I’m not petite either but once you have traveled a few times you learn what you really wear and leave the rest behind…also I always rent apartments where there is a w/d to clean my clothes after a weeks wear

    5. I try to go carry one exclusively, even for longer vacations. And, I take EVERYTHING, I am well prepared for almost any situation (ie. Small umbrella, lightweight package down jacket, first aid kit, lots of shoes, etc) so, to be able to take everything I want, I also take a backpack (which counts as your personal item). The combination is equivalent to a larger suitcase. Of course, I want a cute purse to use at my destination, therefore I pack it empty on my suitcase. Make sure the backpack you choose has a slit to Slide Over your carryon handle.

      1. When my husband was alive we went on 23 cruises in 10 years. Started out taking a large suitcase each. After about the 5th cruise we downsized to a carry-on each. At one airport one guy was pulling 4 large suitcases. He said 1 was just all his wives shoes. I would only take 3 pair, 2 pr. flats for dinner dressing and 1 pr. canvas for walking off the ship. For formal night I wore a black dress and either wore a bright scarf or fancy necklace to make it look different. Usually kept my colors coordinated like red-white-black or yellow-white-black. One one cruise I took a small sewing machine to sew a log cabin quilt I was working on. When it went thru the scanner the TSA lady asked if it was a breathing machine. (????)LOL! I usually took1111 a quilt to work on by hand. On one cruise a guy asked if I could fix the hem on the skirt of his wife that had come out. I told him sure.

      2. It is fine to travel carry-on only if you are allowed 10+ kg, but the airline we’ve booked only allows 7kg, plus a small personal item. So it is quite a challenge to fit a week’s clothing into a carry-on trolley-case, which takes up about 1/2 the allocated 7kg weight. We’ll be doing laundry as we go and will take light-weight clothing as far as possible. I suppose we’ll find out on our trip if it works out….

    6. Danny, Let me address your points:
      – I take double the amt of my normal meds, in a 7 day pill sorter. Fits in a zip loc bag between the 2 handle supports of the carryon, along with a lot more!
      – I wear plus size clothing. Search YouTube for “Ranger roll”. It’s a packing game changer!
      – Makeup is pared down to daily essentials. Love the bare minerals starter pack sample size. Makeup for 4 weeks! Moisturizer is put in a travel size container (you don’t need 6 oz for 2 weeks!) It fits in a baggie inside a shoe.
      – Climate changes: I wear an all season hooded car coat, with a removable lining on the plane. Beret hat and cashmere lined leather gloves are in the jacket pockets. It goes in the overhead compartment. Under that I have on a blazer (usually navy.) A tan blazer is put in a compression bag and becomes the first “layer” in the carryon, underneath the packing cubes.
      – Laundry: A quick tip is to use disposable underarm shields in your clothes. I bring 1 oz of Dawn in my liquids bag, along with 2 Tide Pods. When I’m rolling my clothes, I put a dryer sheet in the middle (cuts down on wrinkles and clothes smell great.) You have your fabric softener if needed.
      – Underwear protection: pads are a fact of life – either for menstruation or urinary leakage. I put them in zip lock bags. These go between the handle supports of the carry on, under the cubes/ blazer bag.
      – Toilet Paper: If you’re going out of country, especially across the Atlantic, then you need to bring TP with you! I do “pulls” of tp and roll them up, putting 4 pulls into a zip lock snack bag. They get tucked into the cubes between rolls.
      I hope this helps!

      1. Katy, thank you for the tip about TP. I completely forgot about it. When we went to Germany/Paris in 2004 they didn’t provide TP. Thank God I had tissues in my bag otherwise I would have been in a shits creek. literally!!. Now I’ll be going to Paris in July for a Wedding and I’m already packed. LOL everything is in zip lock bags and mini container for shampoo & containers. I wash the empty containers and refill them up. I don’t continue to buy the minis. I also take a pack of wipes, Lysol spray and mini fabric spray. buying the mini towel is a Great idea. I will have to get some. Thanks for all you wise advise.

        1. I was in France last year, and several times to Germany since 2012, and I have always been provided TP. I stay in mid-priced boutique hotels usually.

      2. Ditto to your entire reply 🙂 It truly can be done.
        Acouple extra…
        1) I bring a VERY VERY small rechargeable nebulizer.
        2) Also, look into pill “wallets”. I started using in 2022 and works better than big plastic pill boxes. I, too, bring double the meds my hubby would typically need.

        1. Just an ask, regarding meds… doesn’t TSA require them to be in their original rx bottle with the label? If so, do you have any tips for that?

        2. **update on earlier comment/reply… I found the answer I was looking for. *note to self LOL, do research first, then ask questions! I have really enjoyed reading all the comments here and have written down some great travel tips! Thank you all. Happy traveling

      3. TP: In the very rare case that it’s necessary you can buy at your destination, I wouldn’t take up valuable space with that. But where were you staying Europe that did not provide TP?! I’ve always found TP everywhere I’ve stayed in Europe in the last 25+ years (Sweden, Denmark, Germany, France, Czech Republic, Austria, Italy, Spain, Finland, Estonia…). I now live in Europe and I’ve never stayed anywhere where they don’t provide TP, even public toilets in the street have it 90% of the time (but I always have tissues in my purse for public bathrooms in any country, you never know). I do have an Indian friend that told us that if we ever went to India, we should bring TP.

    7. It sounds like you prefer to travel with more, that’s OK. But there isn’t anything wrong with these suggestions—they will probably work best for people who feel confident that beauty lies on the inside.

    8. Yes…we get the point. Do you really have nothing better to do than criticize someone offering assistance to others? Well it’s very annoying 🙄 and unnecessary. Take the advice or don’t, but no need to be belligerent.

    9. I agree. I’m 6 ft tall, and use a walker. and I’m traveling to Germany at the end of Match. So i’ll need a jacket and some sweaters. I I wish I could use a carry on, but it just doesn’t seem possible. I’m going to figure out what I’m packing a few weeks before time and see which suitcase I’ll need.
      Good luck and happy travels!

    10. DannyJane,
      If you need to carry medical devices, maybe this blog post is not for you and instead of making obvious and asinine comments, you might consider refraining just to keepthe world a nicer place. Again, if your XXL clothes can’t fit into the suggested containers, maybe not pointing out the OBVIOUS is better for everyone here. Some ladies don’t need or want to wear makeup especially when they wear makeup all day at work and vacation time is a good time to let the skin rest. Carry your coat on the plane, troll! Buy a sewing kit LATER if you bust through your outfit. Why would she mention washing underwear after a menstruation accident, Danny If you’re prone to accidents, surely you don’t need a tv host to help you out. Be a big girl. Take a gallon bag, some soap, and a clip to wash and dry your underwear or chunk it and buy more, idiot I bet you breathe through your mouth and have zero friends I packed for Europe in JANUARY in a carry on and one large purse for 16 days. I had a large puffy coat, tall boots, and workout gear as well. It can be done. Move along if this information doesn’t fit your needs instead of calling it “useless”.

    11. The tips in this article are for 1-week trips. The title says it. And it’s obviously intended for a city trip and not one that requires outdoor gear.
      If you can afford the kind of trip you mentioned, you can afford to buy toiletries at your destination if you have your period…
      As for those who have a medical condition, this is, again obviously, not intended for them. Nowhere in the article does it talk down to those who don’t choose to pack light. She is just sharing tips for those of us who want to save time when circumstances apply.
      If you don’t like the article, move on. No need to be a troll.

    12. I’m 71, have medical equipment and medication . I manage to carry everything I need in a personal item bag and a small bag for my equipment. I always end up being the go to person for my family for something they forgot. We all have our own personal style. The above are just suggestions so thanks everyone.

    13. Wow. People get behind a keyboard and say the most unkind words. Not everything in your head needs to be spoken. Just be a nice person.

    14. Hi Danny, so these tips apply to certain type of trips and obviously need to be adapted to individual needs. Like all advice geared to a general audience YMMV. Also you have a personal item in addition to the carry on suitcase. Of course if your equipment takes up too much space, this is not applicable to you, but it is to many people and certain types of trips. And addressing your other points from my and my husband’s experience:

      – Larger clothes: same concept, those packing cubes compress clothes VERY well. You can see hers are pretty floppy since they still have tons of room left, and when you really fill them up and them zip them closed everything is compressed. My hubby packs in one carry on, too. Also put socks, belts or other small items inside the shoes you pack.
      – Makeup and medication: I pack that in my personal item (backpack or large tote bag with cross body strap… but always with a sleeve to slide on the suitcase extendable handle) + chargers, documents, wallet, keys, Kindle, phone….(laptop only if really necessary at my destination). I pack a small lightweight purse in the suitcase to use at my destination. I don’t wear a ton of makeup, and for my skincare I bring the bare basics, it’s just a week or 2, no need to bring the 47 step Korean skincare routine.
      – Jacket or sweater: you wear it on the plane and/or bring one of those compressible down filled jackets. And layer to adapt to any changing conditions, bring a fleece sweater or cotton cardigan (according to the temperature), a scarf or pashmina (I put it in my personal item to use as a blanket in the plane). A thin waterproof jacket is also something we always bring. Also the bulkiest/heaviest shoes are the ones you wear on the plane.
      – Most clothes you will have to wash once or twice during the trip, at least that’s what I do. Bring a small container of detergent or even better one of those zero waste thin detergent sheets (like Tru Earth brand) and rip a tiny piece to dissolve in the sink and wash (underwear and tops). For trousers and jeans, I rewear and if necessary have them laundered at the hotel. Also bring one of the Tide pens to treat small stains. I also got one of those drying lines you can hang in the shower of hotels.
      – Dirty laundry: bring another empty cube or a small thin bag (even a grocery bag works) to store dirty laundry (or unpack and use one of the cubes storing dirty laundry).
      – Menstruation: I use a menstrual cup, and bring a few disposable panty liners if I think there is even a chance I will get my period (I’m not very regular). Alternatively: bring a few disposable pads and buy more at your destination if needed.

      I’ve done up to 3 weeks with just carry on and love traveling like that. I feel free! Also one of the few recent times we did check luggage (traveling to a family wedding with our kids, and then vacation), the airline lost one of our bags. The stress and hassle of that put me off checking luggage if I can avoid it. Of course when my kids were younger it was impossible to travel without checking in luggage, we had to carry a ton of stuff! But sans kids, or now with older kids (each one brings their own carry on), it’s absolutely doable on most of our trips now. But I’ve also moved internationally with 9 suitcases, carryons, backpacks and our dog! You adapt to each situation.

      My carry on suitcase is super lightweight and very roomy, I looked high and low for one to maximise volume at the lowest possible weight (I believe It’s about 1.5 kg, definitely less than 2 kg).

      I believe that most people come back from trips and find they didn’t use half of what they packed. And if you suddenly find you need a certain item, sometimes it’s more convenient to buy it at your destination.

    15. A wise older friend of wine tilde me a long time ago, to pack old underwear and throw them out at the end of the day! It works great!

    16. I hear you. I agree with a lot of what she said but to solve a couple dilemmas you proposed: You saw where she put the leopard-print shoes. Stick a plastic bag in there and that’s where I put dirty underwear, in with my 2 pair of shoes. I agree with her on that; I only bring 3 pair of shoes and I wear the bulkiest of them on the plane, usually the sneakers.

      On my recent April trip to Ireland I wore a navy cashmere turtleneck sweater, swing-open Irish cableknit sweater over it, and a lined hunter green trenchcoat over that, onto the plane. That gave me the layers I could add or take off during the trip.

      I organize around colors. On this trip it was navy, hunter green and ivory. Two pair of pants (hunter green & khakis) plus jeans worn on the plane. Two jerseys with long sleeves (one ivory, one navy & cream stripe) and two teeshirts (ivory and a green/navy print); two long-sleeved shirts (chambray and green-and-white striped linen) and two skirts that have matching tops, so worn together they become a dress, worn apart you have different skirts & tops for more outfits. The matching skirt-top combos are my secret weapon. I had a fancy dinner at Ashford Castle in one of them as a dress, and a day later put the same abstract navy print top with the jeans.

      I think a tiny sewing kit can be really helpful and I use the hotel soap to wash clothes if needed. I wear almost no make-up, brought two pair of earrings and wore the third pair on the plane, and threw in 3 scarfs, two of which were able to double as a shawl. I filled those crevasses she described in the suitcase bottom with navy tights, a couple panty hose, a few socks and a couple bras, and a dozen silky underpants. A pair of soft pajamas got in there too.
      About suddenly needing feminine products, as my husband (rest his dear heart forever!) had said to me when we went for 4 weeks to Europe years ago, and I had only a small backpack~~~”I will find you a pharmacy!”
      Enjoy your travels! I am trying to do so again even without him.

    17. Exactly! I have 14 prescriptions and if going out of the US, they’d have to be in original bottles! Inside the US, I carry a pill case for a weeks trip. I wear size 18 ( sorry if I offend you size 4 and 2’s. My clothes are just a little bigger than yours. Also my shoes are sturdier than a little pair of ballet flats. If you’re over 40, I doubt you can walk all day in ballet flats. Ok, nuf said, but again…you get the idea. Thanks 🙂

    18. We now own a travel cpap… Game changer!
      My husband and I prepackage medications in small daily plastic medication bags sold at pharmacies. Copy your medication lists in case a custom’s official becomes curious…it’s never requested.

      1. Hi Nancy,
        I splurged and bought a travel CPAP as well…no need for water and its dual voltage. Huge game changer…saves tons of room. I also package my daily pills in little baggies and have all my scrips on my phone with a pic of the pill beside it. But luckily have never been asked either.

    19. I mean, you can be negative or just move on if it doesn’t work for you. I only bring carry-on, and I’ve done it that way for multiple 2-week trips in Europe. She didn’t mention every possible item, sure. But most places I’ve been sell anything I needed that I failed to bring.

    20. I believe Samantha meant this to be helpful article to encourage travelers to reduce the amount of excess luggage that we often overpack. I myself have been able to go from two! What?! Yes 2! checked luggage and one carry on, down to a single carry on and backpack for several 2 week trips and it has been liberating! However, to address your questions, here are my thoughts….
      Medical- yes, if required, assistive devices will add extra luggage to your trip. However, medical devices cannot legally be counted towards carryon so you would be able to bring them, your carryon and a personal item. As far as pills go- decant them to small Ziploc bags and take pictures of your prescriptions if needed to present documentation.
      Larger size-I’m not tiny but my daughter is and my clothes do not take significantly more space than hers. Pack lighter ie synthetic rather than heavier cotton etc
      Makeup- Sam mentioned the contact lens case for makeup. Again decant- you need to bring much less product than you think.
      Heavier clothing- Sam mentions wearing a jacket and heavier items. Pack a “Packable” jacket – these shrink down to nothing. Others traveling to varied climates have purchased inexpensive or thrift shop coats and donated them at the location. Or pack them leave older or items you currently own but no longer wear at the destination.
      Washing and sewing? Bring laundry sheets as mentioned and a sewing kit
      Menstruation- again laundry sheets and the world is a small place. There’s very few places you cannot buy basic supplies!

      Happy travels!

    21. Here’s a tip that works for me: Look closely at the photo where she has a backpack slid over the handle of her carry-on. I have a wonderful one that zips wide open on top, has a padded laptop section, just the right amount of pockets, and exterior cup holders. That’s where I pack my medication, tech devices/power bank & chargers, makeup, toiletries, spare prescription glasses, crossbody for daily use, reusable insulated tumbler (think Hydroflask, Stanley, etc.), and still have room to spare. While packing judiciously isn’t an option for everyone, maybe my tip will help you find more space. Happy travels!

    22. Your personal carry on is where you stash all that you mentioned. Samantha did mention taking laundry sheets & a compression bag for dirty clothes. If you roll your clothes I’m sure they will fit in compression cubes. There is always the exception to the rule, but for the majority of us this is BRILLIANT ~BTW in most countries you can buy feminine hygiene products and you can wear a liner for those “just in case” days. I always have a tiny sewing kit, mole skin & tea tree oil. I’m sure Samantha wears layers when needed.

    23. I know this is an old thread but maybe this will still help somebody. I have a solution to one of the issues named. When I went to Mexico this last summer I racked my brain on how to fit all of my pill bottles along with everything else in my cary on. The solution I came up with was this. I picked up a pack of the little pill baggies they sell in the pharmacy at Walmart. They are aprox 1.5”x2”. I then had the pharmacist print out new labels for all my meds. I took them home and placed the labels on the baggies. This way I had a container that had all the RX information that my be needed if questioned about them, without taking up as much room as a bottle. I then put all 11 pill baggies w a week’s worth of meds in a snack sz baggie. Then instead of a pill organizer I took some extra pill baggies I had labeled with the days I would be gone. When we got to the hotel I sorted my pills for the week. Also since the baggies are so small they can be hard to open. I put a small piece of colored tape on one of the flaps above the seal strip to make them easier to get ahold of. It took a bit of prep but it was worth it for the extra room. The label should be good for a year from the dated that’s on it. So depending on how much you travel you may get several trips out of your baggies.

  3. I ❤️ to travel. The one thing I did last summer traveling to Europe is to not waste your personal item on a purse. Use a larger size bag to fit important items AND your wallet, etc, from your purse. Also, I started buying very small reusable containers for hair products that come in larger “pretty” containers. I try to always keep travel size toiletries ready to go for a quick 2-3 day trip.

  4. On a recent trip to Australia and New Zealand, I had 4 intracountry flights on JetStar and Quantas.
    They each allowed 7kg (about 15#) in carryons, including any handbag. And they weighed your stuff at the check in desk and again at the gate in some cases. I used an underseat bag for this trip which was lightweight and I’m so glad I did. My husband used a standard 19 inch carryon and had a hard time keeping under the weight limits. We brought a luggage scale and used it before every flight. Alternative would have been paying excess baggage charge (not a small amount) on every flight. Samantha’s tips are fine for standard flights but check the airline requirement for carryons (dimensions and weight) very carefully.

    1. Barb I’m so glad you mentioned taking a scale! My husband and I are planning a trip for two weeks to Italy and we have an intracountry flight as well and the carry on is only 16 lbs per person. There’s no way we’re gonna make the weight if they weigh our bags lol. But we’re taking a backpack to shift some of the weight and we’re taking a empty suitcase just in case. If the airline looses it at least it’s on the last leg of our journey before heading back home to the US.

  5. Thanks so much, Samantha. Your advice is terrific and with a few minor changes with regard to clothing, works just as well for men as it does for women. Keep up the great work and I’m really enjoying “Places to Love”.

  6. Sweater? Pool/beach sandals? 3 tops? Are things not being washed? Swimsuit? Makeup?
    I would add:
    Pashmina style wrap
    2 more tops either mid-long, or long sleeves
    Do not bring light colored pants! Too vulnerable for stains!

  7. I love my samantha brown carry on bag. But when traveling to different climates my suitcase is loaded and heavy. I’m short also and lifting it to the carry on compartment is difficult . Sadly , no one , not even stewards want to help. I now fly Mostly on southwest and always check my bag. I bring a smaller piece that will fit under the seat on the plane.

  8. Wondering if bag featured is one of SB’S line or a stock photo. I love the throw back shabby chic look.

    Loved article and video, by the way. I have always wanted to be SB when I grow up!

    From someone who’s followed her via travel videos before her blog. A teacher who really wants to be a travel host lol.

      1. Yes, that was one of Samantha’s bags. I have one just like it but in navy. I love the bag. The TSA bag she was using comes with the bag. I also use a PacSafe backpack as my personal bag. When in Europe, I buy my Christmas presents so I also take a foldable bag which folds into its own pocket. If I have have too many gifts/sourvenirs I put all the clothes, TSA bag, paper stuff, etc in my carry on and check it. I then use my folding bag as my carry on and my backpack as the personal bag.

  9. I have found that using the “Kondo” folding method is the best for packing. You can fit a lot in a little space and you can see everything you have at one time.

  10. I, too, bring facial washcloths with me on trips. I have found the Erase the Face brand from Beth, Bath & Beyond to be excellent. To save space, I cut the cloths in half and hem them and get more bang for my buck. Doing this also saves space. The fabric is very soft snd squishy and they pack well. They are designed to be used without soap for removing makeup but I like to use facial soap anyway.

  11. I have always gone by the three shoe rule as well when packing. It does really help. When it comes to washcloths, microfiber ones work really well. You can buy them at the dollar store. They remove make up really well without make up remover or cleanser.

  12. Dollar tree sells little folded washcloths that unfold when wet….perfect for packing! Loved the flat shoes! Do you know the brand?

  13. We all get tired of decanting shampoo, but buying sample-sized toiletries encourages the manufacture of more plastics, most of which are not recyclable, and invariably these end up polluting the beautiful places we want to see during our travels.

  14. When flying you can have a carry-ons, plus your purse. I usually use a large tote-like purse. That way I can have a book/e-reader, scarf or sweater/light jacket, extra belt, etc. and it still counts as my purse.

    1. I am a flight attendant in Australia and most of the domestic flights allow 7kg for carry on including your purse. I found it the same in the UK and Europe except you had to put your purse inside your carry on as they only allow 1 piece. If you don’t want to get charged $60 per kg overweight at the boarding gate then I’d recommend paying $35 to check in 20kg (domestic).

  15. I’m a reduce/reuse type so I’ve found that baby washcloths get the job done, take up less room and dry quickly when laundered.

  16. For up to 14 days I use a carry-on bag and a backpack (as my personal item) to bring on the plane on my way out. I put a large folded up canvas bag in the backpack. Then on the way home I put all my clothes in the canvas bag and check it and then I carry on all my souvenirs in my carry-on and backpack and can take those on the plane with me. That way my souvenirs are safe with me and make it home all in one piece.

  17. I use one large packing cube for my rolled up shirts and extra pair of pants. My second large cube goes empty in the bottom of my suitcase. Then dirty clothes get stashed in this cube during the week. By the end of your trip you should have one empty cube again! Sorry, but throwing away washcloths or underwear sounds wasteful. Bring one washcloth and reuse it. Fold it up to pack in a ziplock bag in the pocket of your suitcase before you leave. I always have a couple bags stashed there. Yes, refilling small bottles gets tedious, but I try to use less plastic when possible. Oh, and a small cube fits my clean underthings, then folds flat when empty. I have only brought along one extra pair of shoes and been fine, though I admit I am not a shoe person. Thanks, Samantha, I really enjoy your shows!

    1. If you’re using a washcloth just for your face, reusing it is fine. But if it’s for your entire body, you really shouldn’t reuse it without proper laundering. I throw mine away unless I know there will be a place to launder them.

      1. Maureen, Of course you can reuse a washcloth if you’ve used it on your entire body! Wash your body, then rinse the cloth, then put soap on it, then squish it, then rinse it and hang dry. What’s the difference between laundering it and washing it out in the shower – soap is soap, Maureen. You are wasteful if you’re throwing washcloths away after one use.

    2. Throwing away old underwear on a trip is t wasteful since they can’t be donated and would end up in the trash anyway.

  18. I will be traveling to Europe for 5 weeks this fall. I will pack a carry-on and a knapsack as my personal item. I pack a small daypack in my carry-on. My best tips are to get compression packing cubes, pack easy to wash and dry underwear (Bali has some wonderful lightweight bras with interchangeable foam cups) so I can pack 10 bras and 10 pairs of underwear in one small compression packing cube. I also pack nylon pants and tops and can generally get a weeks worth of clothes in my bag. Two pairs of shoes max. I keep my bag weight to around 30 lbs. My knapsack gets my kindle, chargers, medicine, headphones, passport, etc. I generally check my bag on the way home. That leaves me with my two backpacks as carry-ons on the way home. I’m okay if it takes awhile for my dirty clothes to get home if they lose my bag on the way home.

    1. Wow, 10 bras? I bring three at most because I can get a couple of days use out of one and then wash it in the sink.

    2. Hi Nancy I know you posted your comment so long ago and I’m not sure if you’re just visiting Bali or if you live there but I have a random question by chance do you remember where you purchased your bras and do you know know if they have a website or some way to order their products?

      1. Bali is the name brand of a line of bras. You can find them at retailers such as JCP, Kohls, and other dept stores.

  19. I stuff my shoes with “stuff”—socks, jewelry in little pouches, crinkly-fabric scarves, etc. Not only is this a space saver, stuffing the toes helps keep their shape. Naturally I wear the bulkiest shoes on the plane.

  20. Regarding the carry-on … I also use a backpack as my personal item, carry a small purse inside, but keep my meds close. Also, always roll a pagmina that is multi use …even as a small throw on the plane. My itinarary and toothbrush. Lastly, it has pockets for chargers, and a water bottle!

  21. I always bring flip flops for hotel room. Don’t like walking barefoot on floor, carpet or bathroom. I do have thong sandals that can work as well and can also be used to walk around. Between meds, chargers, small toiletries bag and clothes, I need at least 22” and backpack.

    1. Agree with you about the hotel floors. I bring a pair of Walmart ballet slippers that can be thrown away after my last hotel stay. They are about $8 for two pair and very lightweight and easy to pack.

  22. When I may need to wash undergarments or do some sink laundry, I carry an all purpose soap, un scented liquid soap that is for washing my body but is a passable detergent for some quickie laundry.,
    The person who suggested packing a canvas bag for clothing so souvenirs can go in the carry-on on the way home is brilliant! As someone who loves buying souvenirs for people back home, this is very useful information.

    1. Shrink bags. Dirty clothes go in shrink bags. It keeps dirty clothes from clean and makes room for souvenirs at the same time. Packing cubes are essential. Especially if they’re compression cubes. Roll up anything that doesn’t fit well if folded. Packing folders are best for nicer shirts and blouses to keep them less wrinkled and easier to access, especially if living out of a suitcase. I use tissue paper and/or dry cleaning plastic to fold and pack between my husband’s nicer shirts.

  23. I don’t think I could pack a week’s worth of clothes in a carry on but I do have a tip to share. Before I travel I buy all new stuff – underwear, socks, t shirts, shoes….etc. When I travel I pack all of my OLD stuff. On vacation, at the end of each day, I throw out the old things I wore that day. At the end of my trip I have so much extra space!

  24. When my husband and I traveled in India, laundry was done by hand, inexpensive and amazing except it really wore out my clothes. So I would leave clean, folded, clothes on a chair in our room when we left- hoping someone could use them. More room for souvenirs!

  25. Check out TruEarth laundry sheets. One sheet is about 1.5×3”. I tear a small piece off for a hand washing in the sink. Easy to pack, take up no space, environmentally friendlier than large plastic bottles. I use them at home all the time too.

  26. I carry a small empty spray bottle that I fill with water at my destination. lightly mist clothes to release wrinkles. works great.

  27. I wear a travel vest with 42 pockets. I don’t necessarily fill them all. The back turns into a backpack if necessary. You can make it heavy or light, as you wish. Especially useful if I’m in a bulkhead seat and have no luggage nearby. I like to wear it instead of carrying a purse, especially if I’m going someplace tricky, like a flea market.

  28. Instead of dragging cotton wash cloths to Europe and throwing them away as I go, I take a quick drying mesh face wash and reuse it daily. Or a flat mesh back scrubber cut to size. A quick zap with a hair dryer or pressing it in a bath towel dries it enough to pack it.

  29. As far as skin care…I’ve bought the Cadence brand of jars. They are magnetic and will attach to one another. I can get more than two weeks of all my skin care in them AND go through TSA. Bar shampoo and conditioner are also great!
    I’m an over packer and trying to get better at packing light. I just spent two weeks in Scotland and came back with a stuffed, heavy suitcase. ..well, some of that might have been the three bottles of whisky! I used packing cubes and compression bags to help with all the yarn and souvenirs I brought back-I did get all my Christmas shopping done!

  30. To save space in your tsa bag and not have to decant, there are solid shampoos and conditioners (like Gemz), or shampoo bars that are like a bar of soap. The gemz are individually packaged so you can take actually what you need. You can also get bar lotions.

    Normally at home I use the 7 day pill containers. But I figured when they were empty they would take up the same amount of room. So when I travel I use little pill baggies. I use either the ones in the pill container section or little baggies in the crafting area of stores. I use a permanent marker to label am and pm. You can keep them to use again or throw them away.

    Those 7 day pill containers also make great containers for rings, earrings and necklaces.

    When I went to Italy last year, I purchased a package of disposable ponchos (5 of them were only about $6 on Amazon). They were much less hassle than an umbrella. I had to travel with a portable oxygen concentrator. The poncho would protect me and the concentrator. If I wanted I could just throw it away when I was done or keep it for another day.

    1. I agree with using bar shampoo and conditioner – they’re a great space saver and leave my hair feeling no different from my regular liquid shampoo and conditioner. I’ve gotten them both online from The Earthling Co. and at the Lush store.

  31. Thank you all for the tips. I’ve gone from a serial overpacker to a carry on packer. Weight is a consideration for me since some of the European flights have a carry on weight limit. Here are some of my carry on tips: solid toiletries such as shampoo, conditioners, lotions, perfume, sun screen, etc are on the market and don’t count as liquids, laundry sheets are great for washing a few items and lite weight, bath gloves take the place of wash cloths and are quick dry, package vitamins and medications in small plastic (little)bags. Your pharmacist can print a label. Plan a wardrobe with neutral colors and add a scarf or belt for a flash of color, wear heaviest items on the plane, Hygiene wipes are good replacement for a roll of toilet paper, make up remover sheets don’t count as liquids, layer clothes if going from cooler weather to warmer climates.. there is a science behind layering that is helpful. Good luck everyone! Any way you get to see the world will be fun!

  32. It is no wonder we have a trash problem with all these folks throwing away washcloths. Sure, bring them along…but figure out how to bring them home and use again. Holy cow people.

  33. Very good ideas,Samantha! I personally have a solution for my packing:
    I pack black & white clothes. One red Pashmina, a black pair of casual pants I wear on the plane with a white shirt, a cardigan and warm jacket and my heavier shoes( short boots). In my case are 4 white tops or black n white patterned ones. 4 sets of underwear.And a dressy pair of slacks or long black skirt. I accessorise with colourful jewellery and a thin scarf and I also fit in a pair of flat ,neat shoes and my make up( very basic stuff) and medicines.. I have had my large suitcase gone on a trip without me! Not fun!
    That big suitcase has actually seen more of the world than I have!😁

  34. An elderly friend, now gone, took groups from her university traveling all over the globe. She allowed only backpacks. She insisted each bring an inflatable hanger for quicker drying of hand washed clothing. Another friend always saved her worn out underwear for future trips. Then while on a trip, once used they went into the trash. No smelly underwear in her suitcase.

  35. My “personal item” is a backpack that fits under the seat but packs like a suitcase, lots of room for an extra scarf, maybe an extra pair of sandals with my toiletries, makeup, chargers, cords etc) ipad and reading material and a small purse that I use once I am at my destination.

  36. Would love a suggestion for leak-proof moisturizer containers. I bought one online that said it was leak-proof but after most flights the moisturizer has leaked on the other toiletries and is messy.

  37. Dr Bonner’s Castle bar soap – body, hair, clothing. Hemp based unscented. Bandanas or men’s white hankies for wash cloths, wrapping food from market, cotton, wash overnight & air dry. Laundry sheets great as well. For cool weather, 2 wool sweaters that can be layered, or used as scarf in merino or cashmere. Good, large silk scarf. Also cool weather – light long underweer, silk or poly. For under any clothing.

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