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One week in a carry-on – what to pack and how to pack it

You can save money and time at the airport by packing everything you need for shorter trips into one carry-on bag. Here, I will tell you what luggage I recommend to make the trip easier. How to pack for maximum use of space and a packing checklist so you know you won’t leave anything behind.

One week in a carry-on – what to pack and how to pack it

I’ll never forget the first time an airline lost my bag! I was on my way home from a year of backpacking. Everything I owned was in that bag, along with carefully selected presents for my family and my pride and joy, a new dance sword. I had watched like a hawk through multiple plane transfers and saw them load my bag for the last leg onto the plane from metres away with utter relief.

On landing a few hours later my bag was nowhere to be seen, I was devastated. Three months later, after almost daily calls and emails, my bag was dropped on my doorstep by a courier, utterly destroyed. My new sword was damaged beyond repair and the airline would not offer an apology let alone any compensation. I had paid a decent amount of money to have a checked bag and trusted it would arrive at my destination, I felt utterly defeated.

Well from that day on I have never checked a bag unless I had to. I save money, get through customs quicker and have no stress about check-in lines or letting my valuables out of my sight. This is my guide, so you too can experience the freedom of check-in bag free travel.

whick lugage to chose

Which luggage to choose

There are two main types of carry-ons. The ‘in case they lose my luggage’ carry-on and the ‘everything I need for a week’ carry-on. In this post, I am going to focus on everything you need for a week carry on, for when you decide to skip checked luggage altogether and travel light. For this style of travel I prefer a wheelie suitcase, to fit maximum gear in your luggage allowance and still be easy to handle and manoeuvre in tight plane aisles and on and off buses. Make sure to check your airline's weight and size allowances though as they vary airline to airline country to country.

Here are three great options:

Spectra 2.0 compact global carry on - a super lightweight (I always get more stuck on weight than size when travelling out of a carry on) and durable option made by Victorinox the same company that makes Swiss army knives.

Crew 10, 21-inch expanding spinner –this high-quality option from Travelpro has won several consumer awards and is Fodor’s approved for durability and ease of manoeuvring.

Genius Pack G3 22-inch carry on spinner – this is perfect if your prone to forgetting things as it has a specific pocket for everything and even a separate laundry compartment built it. Perfect for techy travellers.

How to pack for maxamum space

How to pack for maximum space

Packing cubes will help you save space by organising and compressing your gear and being a good sign of when you are over packing. If the cube won’t close, you have too much stuff! Consider the size and shape of your suitcase when buying a set.

Have a look at these Eagle creek packing cubes, there are different styles depending on your needs.

You could also try compression bags, but in my experience, the time it takes to roll them properly is an exercise in frustration, unless you need to carry bulky winter items.

For shorter trips, I forgo a full toilet bag for a clear pouch or zip lock bag that will pass through security easily.

This clarity pouch from One Truffle is TSA approved.

If you’re not a packing cube fan, or even if you are and you want to combine techniques to get in the most stuff possible, rolling your clothing is a great way to save space. Take it one step further and try this ranger roll method.

Now when it comes to packing all these items into your suitcase it’s time to put those hours of Tetris to good use. Think about packing smaller items such as socks or charges inside bigger items like shoes if they don’t have a dedicated packing cube.

First off put aside anything you will want to access in flight as these will go in outer pockets. Then sort into three piles; heavy/bulk items, medium items, and light or delicate items.

Place heavy items like your laptop along the centre bottom of the case and bulky items like shoes in the centre. Take the cubes containing medium items like pants and jackets and Tetris pack them into what will be the bottom of the case when standing upright. Lastly, pack your more delicate items on what will be the top of the case when standing. So they are safe whether the case is standing on lying down.

One week in a carry on

One week in a carry-on packing list

This list is for a female, I’m pretty sure you can figure out which items to remove if you’re not of that persuasion. =)

Wear on the day –

  • Tights

  • Coat

  • Scarf

  • Hat

  • Singlet

  • Tunic top

  • Compression socks

  • Bulky footwear hiking boots etc.

  • Comfy bra (wireless) and undies

  • Put your entertainment items along with all the documents you need and your sleep aids in your fold up tote bag for easy access once your carry-on is stowed.


  • Eye mask

  • Ear plugs

  • Travel pillow

Entertainments –

  • Book or magazine

  • Journal

  • MP3 player

  • Laptop or tablet

  • Headphones

  • Phone

Electronics –

  • Laptop

  • Chargers for all your devices

  • Small power bar with a travel adapter

  • External hard drive or USB

  • Camera

Clothes –

  • 2 x t-shirts

  • 1 x long sleeve top

  • 1 x dress

  • 1 x shorts

  • 1 x pants

  • Cardigan or sweeter

  • Sunhat

  • Swimsuit

  • 1 x undies

  • 7 x socks

  • 1 x bra + sports bra if active

  • Formal wear if required

Medical –

  • Plasters

  • Paracetamol

  • Traveller’s diarrhoea stop

  • Tea tree oil

  • Tape

  • Antihistamine

  • Medications

Shoes –

  • Supportive sandals

  • Either casual shoes or runners depending on destination

Food/water –

  • Collapsible water bottle

  • Snacks for flight – nuts, fruits, snack bar etc.

Toiletries – (if space is at a premium you can buy most of these items on arrival)

  • Toothbrush and paste

  • Coconut oil or moisturiser

  • Razor /shaving oil

  • Sun cream

  • Insect repellent

  • Shampoo/conditioner

  • Makeup

  • Deodorant

  • Lip balm

  • Sanitizing wipes

  • Hairbrush

  • Menstrual cup

Documents –

  • Passport

  • Visas

  • Copies of travel and accommodation documents

  • Credit cards

  • Emergency phone numbers

  • ID

  • Boarding pass/tickets

  • Insurance card

  • Pen

Other –

  • Small travel towel

  • Small fold up tote for a day bag

  • Sunglasses

  • Headlamp

  • Sarong

  • Luggage lock

  • Umbrella or rain jacket

carry on packing

I have never wanted for anything travelling out of a carry-on. In fact, every time I go, I discover something that I don’t use as much as expected and should’ve left behind. If you use the packing tips above, space should not be a problem. I always make sure and weigh my carry-on the night before a flight however, as some airlines are strict about weight and it is one less thing for me to be stressing out about at the airport. The freedom of not having to check and manoeuvre multiple bags is well worth the time it takes to plan what you’re taking and with a little practice, you will discover how quick and stress-free carry on packing can be.

Do you have any carry-on packing tips I’ve missed here? Please comment bellow I love anything that makes travel easier so I can get on with the adventures. =)


Author of Stress Free Adventure Planning

If you enjoyed this post check out this article on how to deal with your period while travelling or click here to get my FREE travel budget calculator and monthly tips to save money on your travels.

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