How to Pack for a Week Long Vacation in a Carry-On

I like a challenge. Grand or small, challenging yourself is how growth happens. I take it seriously.

I also like to live intentionally. Minimally. Simplifying my life in every way possible, because truth is, I’m easily overwhelmed. Maybe you didn’t know that about me, but that’s what pushed me into the life of minimalism.

I create systems in all areas of my life to avoid the overwhelm. Anything I do I will work tirelessly to do in as little steps as possible so that the next time I do it, it’s effortless.

You feel me?

So, as I said, this carries on into all aspects of my life, travel included.

How to Pack a carry-on

When I’m traveling I want to do it has efficiently as possible. Ditch the extra clothing, avoid long lines, prepare ahead of time . . .

Travel is meant to be an experience and I don’t know about you, but I’d rather have a good experience over a bad one.

All of that being said, this is why I travel with a carry-on if at all possible. To be honest with you, I can’t remember the last time I packed full size luggage. With a carry on I have everything I need, in one spot. Easy access. I’m able to carry it effortlessly through the airport and I can avoid the wait of baggage check-in and pick up.

See? Efficient.

But, like most things, packing for a week long trip in a carry-on can be challenging for many people. Most even? So many unknowns and “what ifs,” we feel like we need to be prepared for it all. While yes, preparation is key, being OVERLY prepared is a thing.

Watch this video to learn my tips for packing for a week long trip in a carry-on, or continue scrolling to read the breakdown.

Have a Packing List

I cannot even begin to tell you how many times a packing list has saved me. It’s easy to forget the small things like hygiene, medicine, etc. But when you have it listed out on a form in front of you, there’s no way you can forget these items.

You can download the PDF version of my packing list here:  Packing List.

Packing List

Use Packing Cubes

It’s probably no secret by now that I need things organized. Every single item in my home has a place as well as a purpose and there are no exceptions while traveling. Using packing cubes allows me to separate everything into categories so I can grab things quickly, without throwing my belongings all over the room. Some examples of categories I pack include shirts and light material clothing; jeans and sweatpants; electronics, hygiene, makeup, etc.

The packing cubes I use are the HOPERAY Packing Cubes from Amazon.

Utilize a Personal Idea

Maybe this is common knowledge, but in case it isn’t, be aware that you are able to fly onboard with one carry-on item and one “personal item.” For many women they use their purse as a personal item. Personally, I avoid the purse and bring a backpack like this one from Yazahi. I keep anything that I want easy access to on my flight in this bag. Including my phone, laptop, wallet, cameras, books, planner, chargers, medicine, headphones, etc. You won’t find me reaching into the overhead bins to dig through my carry-on. Everything I need is right at my feet.


Invest in a Cosmetic Organizer

Probably also common knowledge, but hey! I’m guilty of spending $4o on a highlighter (Becca’s Champagne Pop, anyone?) and having it break during transit because I stored it in a zip lock bag thrown into my luggage. Not anymore! A few months ago I purchased this portable makeup train from Amazon and I use it for all of my trips, big and small. My makeup never gets damaged, and I am able to organize it in a way that is most efficient for my needs by adjusting the separators.

Plan Outfits and Hairstyles

Take it from me. I’m a planner. Once upon a time I tried to be spontaneous and low maintenance and ended up packing tank tops and shorts for the kids and I. Turns out, the weather ended up being in the 40s and below so guess who had to run to the mall and purchase warm layers?

Pro tip: if you’re extra obnoxious like I am, as soon as you arrive find the nearest hair salon. Often times I will find a salon, pop in for a quick double braid first thing in the morning, and boom! I have a low maintenance style that stays out of my face through all of our adventures and meals.

Pack Interchangeable Pieces and Like Color Palettes

This piggy backs onto the last tip, but try and plan your outfits by packing complimentary colors or interchangeable items. For example, pack your nicest, thickest pair of black leggings and wear them with two different outfits. Limit your sunglasses to one pair that works nicely with each look. Personally, I wear neutrals in my day-to-day life anyway so this is a no brainer for me, but if you pack colorful pieces, be sure to pack colors that compliment one another nicely.

Capsule Wardrobe

Wear your Heaviest Layer

You can pretty much always find me in the airport wearing a cardigan or leather jacket and a hat. These bulky or carefully shaped items take up a lot of room in your luggage and can lose their shape during transit.

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Pack an Empty day bag

Inside my carry-on I will pack a small, empty “day bag” like this one from Yazahi. This is convenient for activities where I don’t want to lug around a large backpack. It’s also great for shopping souvenirs or storing fresh fruits and veggies from the markets.


Eliminate any Unnecessary Items

It probably goes without saying, but if there’s something you don’t need, don’t pack it! If I’m going on a tropical vacation, I’m not going to pack my blowdryer. Instead I might pack a small bottle of texturizing spray to transform my hair according to my surroundings and activities. Plan your trip as much as possible beforehand so you avoid traveling with things you won’t use.

So, how do we feel about these travel posts? Want to see more? Let me know what you would like to see next!

Happy traveling! xo, tara

Oh and p.s. this post does contain affiliate links. If you make a purchase using these links, you are not charged any additional charges. I receive a small commission from each purchase that goes right back towards content for the blog. 
Minimalist Packing


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