In this post I talked about being a good host, and likewise I think it’s…
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.
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!