This post has affiliate links. Please see my full disclaimer for more information. All opinions are my own and I only recommend products and services I truly believe in and use myself. If you click on a link or make a purchase, I may get a commission at no additional cost to you. Thank you for your support!
Everyone has that one friend who can’t seem to travel light. Hint: If you can’t think of her, you probably are that friend! Traveling with multiple suitcases and bags can be a real headache and end up pretty expensive depending on your airline. Don’t worry, it’s totally possible to go on a week-long vacation without packing everything you own. Keep reading for my tips on how to pack a carry-on for a week-long vacation!
Pick the Right Size Carry-On
Do your research and find out what the maximum size carry-on your airline allows and make sure your suitcase fits those dimensions or you may have to check your bag and pay a fee. Samsonite is a luggage brand that has a great variety of soft-shell and hard-shell luggage options to choose from. I personally like this hard-shell and expandable model with spinner wheels.
Have a Packing Plan
Know your vacation itinerary so you know exactly what you need and what can stay at home. No sense in packing heavy hiking boots if you’re spending the week relaxing on the beach! Check out the weather forecast for your destination and make note of things you’ll need to be comfortable. Take a look at any activities you have planned and be sure to write down any accessories you might need. Knowing exactly what you need will help you pack smarter.
Pack Low Maintenance Clothes
I can’t stand when I unpack my suitcase to find that all my clothes are completely wrinkled, so I try to mainly pack wrinkle-resistant clothes and thicker fabrics. You can work around wrinkles by rolling clothes or checking that the hotel has an iron or steamer, but nothing beats the convenience and simplicity of ready-to-wear clothes out of the suitcase. Honestly, who wants to sit there and iron their clothes after a long flight to a beautiful destination? Not me! For wrinkle-free clothes, look for fabrics that contain spandex, lycra, lyocell/ rayon, and polyester. Blends of these materials should be resistant to wrinkles too, so be sure to check the fabric label.
If you really need to pack wrinkle-prone clothes, I highly recommend Downy Wrinkle Release and a compact travel steamer like this one. If you’re packing your hair straightener, you can use that in a pinch for little wrinkles too.
Pack a Capsule Wardrobe
A huge space eater for me is definitely my clothes. I used to overpack outfit options and end up with tons of clothes I didn’t wear. The capsule wardrobe method is so simple once you get the hang of it. Instead of packing a separate top and bottom for every day of your trip, mix and match a limited number of pieces to create different outfits. You’ll save room in your carry-on and find new ways to wear your favorite pieces!
Use Packing Cubes
Packing cubes are a great tool for keeping your stuff compressed and your carry-on organized. I use my packing cubes to hold and compress my capsule wardrobe and pretty much everything I pack in my carry-on. These packing cubes have an extra zipper to compress its contents so you get more suitcase real estate. Another huge benefit to using packing cubes is preserving your privacy if airline security needs to open your luggage for inspection, and they make re-packing your bag as easy as zipping up your cubes and going on your way!
Embrace Your Natural Hair Texture
Beauty and hair products are the second worst space hogs in my luggage, so when I’m trying to travel light, I opt to leave my hair appliances behind. It’s amazing how much space I can save just by leaving my curling iron and heat protectant at home! A vacation is a great time to give your hair a break from your usual styling especially if you use a lot of heat, so embrace your natural texture and the extra suitcase space for souvenirs!
Go Mini and Travel-Sized
If you really can’t go without your hair care arsenal, pack travel-sized products and smaller tools. Ulta, Sephora, and Target all have mini hair and beauty products that are perfect for travel. NuMe, my favorite hair tools company, has two incredible hair tool sets that are perfect for ladies on the go. The Jet Setter Pro-Mini Tools set measures about 6×8 inches and features all mini sized tools perfect for touch ups. The Travel Set measures about 6.5×11.5 inches and features a full sized curling wand and straightener and a mini hair dryer. NuMe hair tools are high quality and durable, so they’ll last for years to come.
Use Double-Duty Products
Pair down what you take on the plane by packing products that can serve more than one purpose. Think 2 in 1 shampoo and conditioners, SPF tinted moisturizers, and color sticks for face, eyes, and lips. Get creative and don’t be afraid to skip products you don’t really need. If you’re planning on lounging by the pool or tanning on the beach, you should definitely pack sunscreen, but you can probably leave the full-coverage foundation at home.
Wear your Heaviest Shoes on the Plane
When packing for a vacation, you’ll no doubt need footwear options, but they can be heavy and take up a ton of room in your carry-on. To save space, I usually wear my sneakers on the plane and only pack one or two other lightweight pairs of shoes. For summer vacation, sandals are a great space saving option because they’re flat and lightweight, making them super easy to pack.
Pack up Your Personal Item
Domestic travelers within the US are typically allowed to bring a carry-on bag and a personal item on the plane with them. Don’t underestimate the storage capacity of your personal item! I always bring a decent sized backpack to carry all of my in-flight essentials, and some awkward items that don’t quite fit in my carry-on. Just keep in mind that your personal item should be able to fit under the seat in front of you, so don’t go too crazy. I love bringing my Longchamp Le Pilage Medium tote. It’s roomy and fits perfectly under airplane seats.
Focus on the Experience
Travel is all about the experience of going to a new place, exploring a different culture, and making unforgettable memories. Don’t get so caught up in packing everything you might need that you miss the bigger picture. Focus on what you’re really traveling for. Are you visiting a different country for the first time? Is this your first trip to a national park? Maybe its your honeymoon or anniversary! If you refocus on the experience of traveling, what you bring will matter less and you’ll be jetset with an efficiently packed carry-on in no time!
Now that you have all this extra room in your carry-on, check out my 5 Travel Essentials for stress-free traveling! There’s nothing like the feeling of stepping on a plane stress-free, so if you want more travel and packing tips, don’t miss a post! Subscribe to my newsletter and follow me on Instagram and Pinterest to stay up to date on all my happenings!