How To Pack For A Week In A Carry On

Checking bags can be a huge hassle and adds a lot of additional time to your traveling, so here's some advice on how to pack for a week in just a carry on.

When I travel I rarely check a bag, whether I’m gone for two days or two weeks. Part of this is the fact that I hate the hassle of checking bags, but also over time I have developed a certain way to packing that ensures I won’t need more space (or at least, most of the time. If you’re looking for tips on how to pack for moving check out this post). I tend to get a lot of comments at check-in desks by people who are surprised that’s all the luggage I have, so I thought it would be good to pass along some of my wisdom for packing and hopefully you guys can save some money and a bit of time the next time you travel.

Pack clothes that can be paired with each other.

The biggest thing I see people do when packing for a trip is packing with certain outfits in mind or specific pairings. While there’s nothing wrong with that, if you’re limited on space you’re going to struggle if you’re down to one top, one cardigan and a pair of pants– none of which go together. I find it’s best to pack things that can be paired with almost everything else and you’ll be pleasantly surprised by how much less you’ll need.

Only one or two paris of pants are necessary.

I love my clothes as much as the next person, but at the end of the day I really only alternate between two paris of pants normally so there’s no point in packing things on the off chance you might wear them when you’re away. They take up the most space, so cutting back on this will save you tons of space.

Layering is crucial.

It’s a lot easier to pack multiple tops and cardigans than a bunch of more flimsy clothes and a bulky jacket or coat. Normally when I travel I try to only take one jacket or coat and bring clothes that I can layer underneath if it gets colder. Although it may sound counter-intuitive to pack more clothes for layering, you’re saving yourself a lot of space if you’re can forgo the second sweatshirt or jacket.

Be strategic about your footwear.

I think the most ridiculous thing I see when people travel are bringing half a dozen pairs of shoes. So not necessary! Depending on where you’re going, what you’ll be doing and the weather, the types of shoes you’ll need will change, but you’re maximum should include comfy everyday walking shoes, casual shoes (or warm or cool shoes), and maybe a pair of nice shoes if you think you’ll be going out or going to be somewhere that requires a nicer outfit. But what you don’t need are two paris of boots, flats, sandals, heels, and athletic shoes.

Be practical, don’t pack anything you’re not going to wear.

We are all guilty of doing this, even me, but never pack something that you only think you’re going to wear. I find it’s always best to go with my trusty usual clothes, the things I’m always happy wearing. If you can’t see when you’re going to wear it or what you’ll wear it with, leave it behind.

Only take a small makeup bag with the essentials.

In general I don’t wear much makeup, but when traveling I usually bring the bare essentials because a whole bag filled with makeup I only use for special occasions is a waste of space and weight. Only bring your everyday makeup, whether it’s a lot or not, just leave behind all of the extra things that rarely get used.

Don’t forget about your personal item.

A lot of people forget they get a personal item as well, which includes a purse, backpack or laptop case. If you need a bit of extra space for a few bits and bobs it’s important to remember that you get this as well. Normally when traveling I keep my wallet, iPad, glasses and liquids bag in my purse.

Wear your heaviest items.

This doesn’t always work, but if all else fails, wearing you’re heaviest shoes, sweater or coat can sometimes clear up the little bit of space you might need. I don’t advise this as your first go-to, but if you just need a bit of extra space it can be a life saver.

These few tips will hopefully help you travel lighter, easier and quicker. Personally, my favorite carry on is the Le Pliage Longchamp, it’s incredibly roomy and comfortable to wear and I absolutely love how it folds down into absolutely nothing to pack away when you’re at home. I rarely use the zipper extender, but if you need a larger bag it can come in really handy since you have two sized bags in one. My packing skills will be put to the test this week since I’ll be gone for a week in Scotland and France!

Don’t forget to follow my Instagram account where I regularly post photos from all of my adventures! This week I’ll be in Scotland and Marseille, so some great photos will be posted! 

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  • This is so great! I’ve only recently been getting better at packing all things that go together for numerous outfit options. We just posted about what to wear on the plane yesterday so this complements our post perfectly!

    • Awesome post! They certainly go together well 🙂 It really is a struggle sometimes to pack because there’s always that feeling of: “but I MIGHT want that!” Lol.

  • Chloe

    Enjoy your travels Hannah! 🙂
    Chloe | | @hayitschloeblog

  • Alanna @ Alanna & Company

    Wearing the heaviest items is so key!

    • It is! I always make sure to wear my boots if I’m taking any and a sweater or something versus just a regular top. Even if it doesn’t help a ton it makes me feel like I’m being more space efficient haha!

  • I have done this before – it’s tricky but possible! I’m so with you on the pants thing, I don’t take many when I travel.

    • It is possible! I think my record was two weeks in Asia with just a small over the shoulder carry on! It was only possible though because of the lighter and thinner close I had to pack.

  • Great tips! I definitely agree about the shoes! They take up so much space and you don’t need to have that many. I try to make sure that I have comfortable walking shoes and another pair that I can wear day-to-day if I’m not walking all over the place, but that will also look nice if I need to dress up. And I always wear my heaviest pair of shoes on the plane. I tend to get cold, so it actually works well, because it keeps me warm and I don’t have to worry about packing them.

    • I’m with you, Crystal! I get super cold on planes too so it works really well when I wear my boots on and pack a pair of flats and walking shoes or something. Shoes can be so hard though because they take up so much space but normally you really do need more than one pair!

  • Kerona Ledgister

    Great tips

  • Mariah Liszewski

    “Be practical, don’t pack anything you’re not going to wear. ” hahahahaha this made me LOL considering I always pretend I’m going to wear it all! Sometimes ya just never know. Awesome tips though Hannah, I wish you could be in my ear as I’m packing.

    • Hahaha you and me both, girl! I’ve been in Scotland and am heading to France now and by the time I’ll be back I’ll be gone a week and I already know there’s plenty of stuff in my carry on I’m never going to wear! Lol.

  • I am pretty sure we did every single one of these on our 5 week Europe trip and we only used one small backpack each! Packing all things that go with each other was huge. We were also big fans of packing cubes. We were able to squeeze so much more in when we used those!

    • I’ve heard of those, Lauren! But I’ve never actually used them, definitely something I should look into!

  • Sabrina Fox

    Great tips! I am always finding myself packing wayyyyyyyyy too many clothes!

  • Hil D

    I always need at least two pairs of pants because I spill on one! I don’t think I could ever pack for a week like that though lol!

    • Haha I feel you! I usually bring two, but it also depends on raw weather!

  • I love this. I’m a former flight attendant and I still could use help with this. I’m getting better. It’s true to wear the heavier items, or like one person I saw while working: She got told her suitcase was a few pounds overweight and was going to get hit with a hefty fee….So she took out about 5 different kinds of shirt and another pair of pants and a jacket and started just putting it on over the top of what she was wearing, haha. But it worked!!

    • Hahaha that’s hilarious!! But fair play! It really can be so hard to make it all fit but I really don’t like checking bags so I’ve made myself work it out!

  • I always overpack, like a month’s worth of clothes for a week. I need to work on just fitting everything in a carryon!

    • It’s hard, that’s for sure! Takes lots of practice!!

  • These are all great tips! I’ve gotten much better about packing in the last few years. My biggest win was packing for 10 days and having room for souvenirs in a carry-on!

    • That’s awesome, Rachel!! That’s real aren’t right there 🙂

  • Lori Lyons Luhrman

    Man, such good tips…I am guilty of ALWAYS over-packing, even when I promise myself I won’t! But your tips are spot on and I PROMISE that when I travel over the next few months I will remember this post. =) Thanks for sharing!

    • Thanks, Lori! I hope you will! The most important thing is to just continually ask yourself “do I really need this.” Happy travels!

  • I am totally with you on avoiding check bags but I am also guilty of over-packing. I always feel oh I might need this if we go here instead of there and do this instead of that, haha that type of thing. But I have been working on it, and yes my biggest space consumer are my shoes, I love ’em!!

    xx, Kusum |

    • Me too, girl! It really is my biggest struggle. This last trip I took 3 and one I never even used- fail haha.

  • Dana Brillante-Peller

    I used to pack enough for a week long vacation when i was going away for 3 days! I’ve gotten better as I’ve gotten older – partly because vacations aren’t the fashion show I used to think they were when I was little!

    • I feel you, Dana! I still do that sometimes when I’m only going for a night I end up with the same sized bag as if I were going for a week! It’s madness! It definitely takes some practice, but I’m glad you’re getting better 🙂

  • Such great tips! I am a fellow carry-on-aholic who loves her clothes too, so I’m completely with you on this! I have been wanting to get a Longchamp bag – what color do you have?

    • Thanks, Jessica! Oh the Longchamp is my favorite bag ever, I have it in the featured link above and the Le Pliage as well, both in black. I quite like some of the other colors like maroon, grey and navy. I love them, I think they’re durable and practical and there’s nothing better than a simply elegant bag 🙂

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