What’s In My Luggage: How I Fit a Week into a Carry-on
Have you ever been traveling and the airline lost your bag? No? Well, me either, and I’d like to keep it that way! I always worry that my bag will get lost. So, over the past few years of traveling, I’ve mastered the skill of packing everything into my carry-on luggage and my one personal item.
A friend recently said to me that they can’t fit everything into a carry-on because they’re gone longer than a weekend… HELLO - I’m usually gone 7-10 days. If I can do it, you can do it!
Not only am I going to show you what I pack in my carry-on for a week abroad, I’m also going to show you how.
STEP 1: MAKE A LIST
I make lists for everything. Daily to-do lists are my jam. When you’re about to embark on a big journey to a foreign country where things aren’t as easily accessible if you forget something - you need to make a list.
STEP 2: GATHER ALL THE ITEMS ON YOUR LIST
Before you even begin to pack anything, it’s important to gather everything you have on your list (everything you think you need). Once you have it all in front of you, especially when it comes to clothes - ask yourself if you really need all of it. If you do, no problem. If you don’t, that’s cool too.
I like to write out and plan loosely what I am going to wear each day so that I don’t overpack. It’s also great to take articles of clothing that you can wear multiple times, in different ways.
*TIP: Skip shampoo, conditioner and soap. Most hotels and Airbnbs have basic toiletries.
*TIP: Embrace your natural hair. I don’t pack flatirons or hairdryers for two reasons - 1) most voltage converters won’t work, and I’ll blow up my hair tools anyways and 2) it’s a big space and weight saver in the carry-on.
STEP 3: SEPARATE ITEMS INTO TWO PILES - ONE FOR CARRY-ON LUGGAGE AND ONE FOR PERSONAL ITEM
Most airlines allow you to have one free carry-on bag and one personal item. My backpack is my personal item. Why? You can fit SO much into the right backpack. I use the Little America Mid-Volume Herschel backpack.
Determine what on what your list needs to go into your smaller personal item. These should be things of importance and/or things you want to be able to access easily. For me this includes my camera, medications, travel documents, my purse (I have a small crossbody that I travel with, and it fits inside my backpack), and any medications or vitamins. I usually gather these items, but don’t pack them until the end, just incase I need to add something.
STEP 4: FOLD YOUR CLOTHES
This part seems like common sense, but there is a folding method that I use that has helped me get the most out of the space that I have. It has helped me not only in packing, but also in my closet.
A few years ago I started minimizing the things in my wardrobe, my apartment and my life. With this came a new way to maximize space by folding more and hanging less. This new way of life was brought on by a book I read called The Magic of Tidying Up. Click here to see this folding method in action.
STEP 5: PACK YOUR CARRY-ON
Now you’re ready to start packing your carry-on. I start with my shoes. I stuff socks and undergarments into my shoes. You can use something to wrap them in if you’d like. For my undergarments I wrap them in a small, cloth drawstring bag.
Pack your shoes like they’re in the box - heels on opposite ends. I put my shoes on one side because they’re harder and I don’t want them to be squished down. I pack my makeup, bras, and any other little extras on the same side as my shoes.
*TIP: Wear comfy walking shoes to the airport. I am usually in my Air Max or Huaraches. If you have to run to catch a flight, you don’t want to be in flip-flops or shoes you can’t run in. You can take them off on the plane, no worries.
Now for your clothes. If you’re using a carry-on that has wheels and a handle, there will be dips in the bag where the handle slots are. This is where I pack my smaller items. The small space helps to hold these items in place.
Next, you want to put your bigger clothing items in. This is where you may start to see that your things aren’t going to fit. If this is the case, ask yourself what you can eliminate. What don’t you really need? Can any of these items go into your backpack or personal item? In this case, I removed my jean jacket to put in my backpack.
Make sure you pack your clothes like you’re trying to solve a puzzle. use every inch of space (if you need it). I like to leave a little bit of room to bring back gifts.
STEP 6: PACK YOUR PERSONAL ITEM
As I said before, for me this is my Herschel backpack. Take those items you separated earlier and put them into your personal item in the order of what you’ll need to access the least to what you’ll need to access the most. I put my camera bag in first. After I get through airport security, I won’t need to access my camera until I arrive. Next I put my medication in (I’m using my cute mini blush away case to hold these. Then I put my jacket in, then my purse. There is a laptop slot in the Little America backpack that I use. I put my toothbrush, toothpaste and travel documents in here. My liquids and deodorant go in the little compartment on the front of the bag. You want to be able to access your liquids easily at security. If you want to put them in your larger carry-on after you’ve passed security - please do so.
STEP 7: SNAP ON YOUR TRAVEL PILLOW AND YOU’RE READY TO GO!