How to pack for a weeks trip with only one carry on bag


How to pack a carry on bag. How will I fit all this in my airline carry on bag?

How to pack a carry on bag.
How will I fit all this in my airline carry on bag?

Have you ever got really excited at finding a Ryan Air (or any other low-cost airline flight) at a really low price, so you decided to book that cheeky holiday / break away….to then find that the cost to take a bag/suitcase in the hold could cost over double the price of the flight?

Yes. You feel gutted. You feel you can’t stretch that already stretched budget another 50 pound? And quite frankly don’t want to because now instead of feeling like you have a bargain, you feel ripped off?

Well, fear not, I too have come across this very same scenario and I too said NO to overcharging on hold bags!

In this post I’m going to share some tips and tricks on ‘How to pack for over a week of travel’ in a carry on bag that fits in the ever decreasing overhead lockers…and you can still look different everyday! Yeah!

I travelled around the world for one and a half years with one (rather large) rucksack, so I’ve learned a thing or two about:

What to pack
What not to pack – see one of my first blog posts here on this major dilemma
How to pack
Why less is more
AND when to cheat and how to cheat if absolutely necessary…Oops.

So I decided to set myself a challenge. Could I pack everything I needed using myself and a carry on Ryan Air size bag for 8 days, taking everything I needed AND NEVER look the same twice!?

Well, the answer is yes. It can be done. And it can be done without leaving out those girly ‘non traveller’ type items that a typical westernised girl just can’t live without.


But I must take this dress with me...

But I must take this dress with me…

When I was packing up my house and selling my stuff to lead a nomadic, rucksack yielding lifestyle, one of my good friends turned to me wearing her most serious expression saying
” But how will you cope withOUT hair straighteners?”

I must admit, I had worried about it. My hair is very thick and if left untamed, is a wild mass of frizziness. If tamed slightly…it’s curly and if smoothed with straighteners…almost manageable. So It was a concern I admit it. However, when you have to carry this big bag day in, day out and weight is a concern and you realise that the majority of the countries you will probably visit are going to feel hotter than the surface of the sun…you realise that your hair will be the last thing on your mind and quite frankly when you’re in those extremely hot places ie: Burma…you start to feel jealous of all the monks with no hair…then your glad you left the straighteners at home!

A hair dryer, a Spare phone ( who knows) and yes...that is a 'she wee.' No one wanted that...

A hair dryer, a Spare phone ( who knows) and yes…that is a ‘she wee.’ No one wanted that…

I did however take a hairdryer. Again, proving completely pointless and a dead weight to me which I finally (After nearly 5 months of carrying it in denial)I gave it to a lovely, very grateful lady with masses of hair.
For me, when my hair was wet I felt cooler, if I ever attempted to dry my hair the sweat was pouring off me…totally pointless.

However, saying all of this, I am now back in Europe, back in the UK and back to seasonal weather and my challenge was set in the beautiful season of Autumn. I love Autumn, the colours and the feeling of renewal in the air but it’s also an awkward month in Europe. What to wear as who knows what the weather will do?
- It could be very cold and windy
- Then sunshine with no wind means it can be extremely pleasant
- It can rain suddenly and rain hard!

It can be all seasons in one day. In Autumn, in my handbag I am always prepared for all-weather eventualities, so I tend to carry a few things; my umbrella of course. My sunglasses – the sun can be so blindingly bright one minute you must be prepared. A fan. Yes, a beautiful fan which I purchased in Vietnam. I know I’m getting older now, but I am by no means going through ‘the change’ yet but sometimes, when the wind drops – it can get really warm…so warm that I can start sweating! I also have tissues – well because.

So here are some of my tips and tricks of how I pack when I’ve only got one teeny, tiny cabin bag:


What can I squeeze in...

What can I squeeze in…

What to pack:

1. Don’t duplicate

What I do first is get out all the outfits I want to take and start to eliminate those ‘ just in case’ outfits for example those black trousers because I already have black jeans. You just don’t have room for 2 of the same bottoms.

2. Get rid of the heavy or bulky items

I’m not getting into the ‘should I take jeans travelling with me debate’ but in Europe you would probably always take jeans with you on a trip if jeans are your thing. However, they can be heavy, so you would travel in a pair. You would travel in your biggest/ heaviest shoes and wear any bulky items ie: a cardigan/ hoody.

3. Take layers.

If the weather is cool you will be glad of that extra top and likewise if the sun does come out a sleeveless top might be nice.

4.Keep things light were possible

Choose lightweight materials for tops or dresses.If you take material such as Chiffon or thin cotton you can probably take 3 tops versus one thick, heavier shirt.

5. Invest in miniature items

Treat yourself. After all you’ll never pay the additional suitcase charge again therefore you’ll be going on more trips!
So, do you really need that big hairbrush? Must you have your gigantic beach towel? Must you take that 100ml bottle of perfume? The answer is no to all of the above. Tiny hair brushes do the trick, A travel towel is perfect and those perfume testers they give out in department stores do come in handy.

6. Small or no toiletries.

Do you really want to chance taking that giant bottle of ……(insert as appropriate) Shampoo in your carry on bag when it will probably be confiscated? I’ve seen it a million times – just don’t bother. You can pretty much get everything you want anywhere in Europe (if not anywhere in the world I’ve found) when you arrive so you don’t have to waste the room ( and weight) carrying it all the way there. If you do take them – make them small and light.

7.Save the weight for personal ‘essential items’

Ditch the hairdryer. If you are in Europe you WILL find one. As for hair-straighteners – I take mine! Oh yes and my DSLR camera with one extra lens too.

8. Handy items

I always travel with a small shoulder bag that can go from day into night and I pack a canvas shopping bag too – there are so many reasons that comes in useful.

9. Must haves

Last but not least my make up, tooth-brush etc, an eye mask and ear plugs!

How to pack:

Look at the size of my umbrella compared to my bag - teeny, tiny bag

Look at the size of my umbrella compared to my bag – teeny, tiny bag

The secret to packing lots in a small space…


1. Simple…yes you’ve guessed it – rolling! Just roll up your clothes nice and tight. This method also prevents serious creasing (not that I would travel with stuff that creases too much but occasionally a pair of linen trousers is necessary in life) You will be surprised how much you will be able to fit in if you follow the above steps and Roll…

2. Place shoes at the bottom then fill in the gaps with smaller items like socks, scarves & underwear. Make sure to protect fragile items like your camera. I use my travel towel to cover my camera and place it in the middle of the bag

3. Accessories are key to changing outfits but they can be heavy so my advice is wear them, or at least carry them on you.

Cheat point 1

I always travel with pockets. This way I can stash a few things extra if my bag is verging on the heavy side. So things like my phone, my phone charger and my umbrella might be in my pockets of a lightweight waterproof jacket that I am wearing.

Don’t forget, these low-cost airlines only let you take ONE bag total AND some will weigh your bag too. But a jacket with big pockets…is ok wink wink

Cheat point 2
Sometimes I need to take my Ipad for writing notes etc but its an oldish version and weighs a few kilos that I never have to spare, so what do I do?
I put on my light weight coat with the big pockets and I put the Ipad down the back of my jeans…and no one suspects a thing he he…

8 days = A MINIMUM of 8 outfits.

Try and get an idea of the types of activities you’ll be doing so you can dress for the occasions. If you are having a nice dinner out then a dress may need to be packed, if your walking a lot comfy shoes are a must, if you are at a conference sitting all day – loose-fitting non crease clothes would be good.

Quick change from day time conference to night at Riverdance show. I had this small, lightweight top in my bag

Quick change from day time conference to a night at the theatre. I had this small, lightweight top in my bag

I’ve seen a few packing lists and ‘how to pack’ posts before and here’s where I’m gonna be controversial…You don’t have to take ALL plain boring clothing items just to mix and match!
Sure, I take a couple of plain vest tops that go underneath other tops but I’m not scared of a bit of colour too.

What I do is take say 4 or 5 different bottoms ie: 2 pairs of jeans, 2 pairs of trousers and one skirt
Then take a variety of light weight tops. Then maybe a dress or 2.

The bottom half of what someone is wearing is never as memorable as the top half (unless…) so I stick to mix and match the bottom half and always have different tops!
I love to wear trousers and jeans but taking a skirt with some opaque tights is a great way to save space and always look different with a new top!

Don’t forget what a scarf, a necklace, a different hairstyle can do too.

On my recent 8 day trip to Ireland, I wore most outfits from morning into night but when time and occasion allowed, I was able to change in the evening and still ended up with a few unworn items on my return!

Just call me Wonder Woman!

Just call me Wonder Woman!

Also, a personal thing for me, as I’m talking about a short trip, I don’t want to be washing underwear! I took enough clean underwear to last me the entire trip too.

*My TOP TIP for a longer bigger trip = Packing cubes.

My long term travel partner...the packing cube :-)

My long term travel partner…the packing cube :-)

My other, slightly larger cube...on longer trips 2 cubes come in very handy ;-)

My other, slightly larger cube…on longer trips 2 cubes come in very handy ;-)





8 tops and counting...all neat, tidy and easy to find when placed into a large rucksack or suitcase too

8 tops and counting…all neat, tidy and easy to find when placed into a large rucksack or suitcase too


When I was traveling around the world I loved my packing cubes. Not only did it help me know where all my different items of clothes were and kept them tidy but packing cubes helped me squeeze in more. I’m embarrassed to say I had at least 16 tops in just one packing cube! These are sooo worth the investment.

with only 3 tops in this packing cube so far - now you can see how I had at least 16 tops in here!

with only 3 tops in this packing cube so far – now you can see how I had at least 16 tops in here!

So, if I can pack everything I needed for over a week, imagine what you can take for just a weekend away!

No...not this many...

No…not this many…

Do you have any other tips or tricks I’ve missed here? Please leave a comment below as I’d love to know

Happy lightweight travels ;-)