How to Fit it All in a Carry-on Bag for a Week’s Vacation

How to Fit it All in a Carry-on Bag for a Week’s Vacation

Let me just start by saying that I am the Queen of over-packing. However, I’ve learned over time, and with the added fees of baggage handling on most airlines, it’s great traveling with just a carry-on bag.

First off, you can check-in on your phone and avoid the lines at the ticket counter and head straight to the security check point, which can save you lots of time at the airport. Plus, when you get off the flight, you don’t have to wait around at baggage claim for your bags. Not to mention the horrific possibility that your bags actually get lost and then you are on your trip with nothing that you need.

I know it can be a pain to lug your carry-on items through the airports, especially places like Atlanta and Dallas where the connections can be a 30-minute walk away from each other. But, I’ve invested in a great carry-on suitcase and it has the kind of wheels that you can just sort of push your suitcase next to you. I put my carry-on backpack on it and save the stress on my back and shoulders.

How can you get it all in those bags?

Well that is the process over time I’ve been working on perfecting. Let me just say, sometimes, it’s impossible. If you have to bring a bunch of suits and dress clothes, you are going to need a garment bag at the least.

However, let’s take a typical week for example on a cruise. On a cruise, you almost need 3 outfits a day; in the morning you need a cover-up or shorts and a shirt, in the afternoon you need bathing suit and cover up, in the evening a dress or (for men) nice shirt for dinner. Men have it so much easier. They can get away with almost the same outfit for the whole day. Women on the other hand don’t have it so easy.

I’ve now invested in lots of clothes that travel well and don’t wrinkle which is also a plus.

Here is the list of what I would normally pack in my bags for a 5-day cruise

  • 3 pairs of shorts
  • 2 cover ups
  • 2 bathing suits (so you always have a dry one)
  • 5 sundresses/dresses that don’t wrinkle
  • 5 shirts (mix and match these with the shorts)
  • 9 pair of undies (because you probably don’t want to put on dirty ones after you wore them and the pool can be in the middle of the day)
  • Nice pair of heels that match all the dresses, ex. black or silver
  • 1 pair of “dressy” flip flops in case you want to dress down a sundress or dress up your shorts outfit.
  • My most comfortable tennis shoes for excursions if you need it, or exercise
  • My favorite yoga pants
  • Makeup, hair brush, toothbrush, curling iron (you don’t need a blow dryer, they usually have them)
  • 1 nightgown
  • 1 sun hat or visor

Items to Leave at Home

  • Lots of heels: You only wear these generally at dinner and otherwise you are either on an excursion, exploring town, or working out. Especially when touring European countries with cobblestone streets and lots of hills.
  • Excessive makeup: I only pack the essentials – a foundation with 40 SPF, waterproof mascara, Covergirl all-day wear lipstick and gloss (2 colors) and a small palate of eye shadow and blush (for dinner time).
  • Excessive jewelry: You should always keep this in a safe, but if you can, pick one neutral necklace and earrings for the trip. Some diamond studs and a simple necklace that goes with everything saves a lot of risk and less to carry.
  • Gobs of mini toiletries: Almost every resort provides you with shampoo, conditioner, and soap. You may want to get a small tube of sunscreen if you want to save a little money. I always have to bring my own conditioner. I have super long hair and there is never enough conditioner anywhere I go. But leave the rest at home.
  • Tons of medications: Grab a little tube of Tylenol or pain reliever of your choice. Pack prescription meds for only the days needed plus 1 or 2 more days for emergency. No need for the whole medicine cabinet. God forbid you need it, they usually sell most of what you would bring at the resort gift shop.
  • Computers: Unless you absolutely need it for work (which hey, this is supposed to be a vacation). Most resorts also have a business center where you can go if you absolutely need to get online for something that you can’t get from your phone.
  • BIG handbags: Keep your big Louis Vuitton at home (unless it’s your big carry-on instead of a backpack), and opt for the smaller purse that will hold your camera/phone, some lipstick, and a couple of business cards. That’s all you need. Most places you won’t want to carry around a purse at all.
  • Excessive credit cards: Only bring the couple of cards you will be using on the trip. Leave those Costco cards at home. Your Pier One credit card probably won’t be worth much where you are going! Especially if, God forbid, your credit cards or wallet is stolen, you will know what you had. (Oh, also take a photo of those cards, front and back with your phone or your travel companion’s phone, so just in case they are lost or stolen you can call and cancel right away).

Packing light is the answer

In the end, traveling light is a great feeling. There’s not a lot to pack up and not a lot to lug around. Most of the time when I travel now, they will also check my rolling bag at the door free of charge to keep the overhead compartments from overflowing.

I keep my phone charger, and books in my carry-on backpack. Also, my make-up so that I can do a quick freshen up before we land. I clip my visor to the outside of my backpack and keep my glasses and sunglasses there. My mini purse gets placed inside of my backpack which contains my ID and passport credit cards, etc.

Worst case scenario, if you run out of clothes, it’s a great excuse to go shopping!

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