With holiday travel just around the corner, I wanted to share How to Pack for a Week in a Carry On with you today! This has been one of the most popular posts on Alicia Wood Lifestyle for a few years. Also, don’t miss my Tips for Organized Travel here.
On a girls trip a few years ago, my friends were amazed that I had packed for 8 days in just these two pieces. When I went to Punta Mita in last November, I “made” all of my friends pack this way and they say they’ll never go back!
For years, I folded my clothes in neat stacks and put them into my suitcase side-by-side lining the edge with belts, shoes, hairdryers, curling iron, etc. The funny thing is, my husband had always packed things completely flat, one item at a time. Of course, I thought he was crazy and he thought the same of me! We have laughed so many times because on most occasions he ends up saying, “You were right!” but not this time. I had to tell him HE was right! Packing flat is the key to getting more in your suitcase no matter the size!
The clothes you see in these photos were from our trip to Cabo. I did the exact same packing method for the 8 days I was in Malibu and Aspen just a few weeks later. I took this Hartmann 7R Spinner Carry On (Similar Carry On) and the MZ Wallace Large Metro Tote Deluxe with luggage handle sleeve I got everything you see (and a bit more) in this post in those two bags. I put the Straw bag to double as beach bag in the MZ Wallace Bag first and other things inside and around it. The new MZ Wallace Large Metro Tote Deluxe has fabulous built in sleeve on the back that attaches it to your suitcase handle so it doesn’t slide! It also has two more exterior zipper pouches and a slot on the front that is perfect for your phone! I’ve loved it. I only bought a new one because my dog got into my closet and decided to chew on all the leather trim of this silver one! UGH!
For Cabo, I packed:
- 5 swimsuits,
- 4 coverups,
- 6 dresses,
- 4 shorts,
- 3 shirts,
- 6 pair undies,
- 3 night gowns,
- 2 pairs of sandals
- 1 pair of Updated Style of Chloe Espadrilles ,
- 1 beach bag, and
- 1 small bag for evenings.
- my laptop,
- make up and skincare bags,
- travel hairdryer,
- curling iron,
- favorite travel wrap and
For 8 days in Malibu and Aspen using the Paravel Aviator Plus Carry-On Suitcase, I packed:
- 5 pairs of jeans/cargo pants,
- 4 sweaters,
- 3 tops/t-shirts,
- 4 pairs of shorts,
- 1 fleece,
- 1 cardigan
- 2 nightgowns,
- 8 pair undies,
- 2 work out tops,
- 2 sports bras,
- 2 workout leggings,
- 1 clutch for evenings,
- 1 pair Golden Goose,
- 1 pair Nikes,
- 1 pair heels,
- 1 pair tall boots,
- 1 pair of sandals,
- make up and skincare bags,
- favorite travel wrap, and
- Rowenta Travel Steamer
- Both times a crossbody day bag that fit in the tote, too.
Oh! I don’t go anywhere without my Rowenta Travel Steamer which is another key to this type of packing. Packing flat actually does prevent a lot of wrinkles but I am obsessed with this steamer and my clothes remaining wrinkle free so it goes with me everywhere. I purchased the dual voltage travel version for our trip to Italy. Believe it or not, this method of packing got me through 12 days in Italy using my 29″ Hartmann 7R Spinner and a tote. One thing’s for sure, my steamer stays in my suitcase so it’s never forgotten.
I love these Truffle clarity clutches for makeup and skincare. They are my new obsession! I shared Five Tips for Organized Travel and more details on how I use these in this post.
I know a lot of people are big believers in packing cubes. I currently use the Paravel Aviator Plus Carry-On Suitcase are both great because one side of the suitcase acts as a large packing cube. (The Hartmann 7R Spinner is also seen here but discontinued.) I place everything completely flat and unfolded on that one side, tucking the clothes under the sewn in cover (over stuffing just a bit) and then zip it up. It compresses perfectly, similar to a packing cube. The Hartmann has leather trim but come with covers that quickly slip over and actually help identify your bag at the airport! I love My Paravel Aviator Plus Carry-On Suitcase also and use it the most now.
On the other side, there are straps where I put the travel steamer, shoes, T3 Travel hair dryer, T3 single pass curling iron, pouch with nightgown and undies, loose shoes and cosmetic bags. In the MZ Wallace Metro Tote, I am able to pack more in the three pouches provided with the tote.
Hartmann 7R Spinner Carry On (Similar Carry On) / MZ Wallace Large Metro Tote Deluxe with Luggage Sleeve / Cuyana Make Up Bag Set / Rowenta Travel Steamer / White Staud Shirley Bag (available in cream or black) / Straw bag to double as beach bag / Updated Style of Chloe Espadrilles / Personalized Planner (Updated links if you are coming from IG stories: Paravel Aviator Plus Carry-On Suitcase / Truffle Mini Clutch for Passport and Money / Truffle Small Clarity Clutches for Liquids and Beauty – TSA approved!)
For the beach, in the largest pouch, I put my espadrilles, a pair of flip-flops, a swimsuit and cover up. This way, I was ready to change for the beach just in case our room wasn’t ready. It also kept me from having to open my suitcase. In the medium-size pouch, I packed additional swimsuits and coverups. The small pouch stored all of my electronic cords for my computer and phone.
It amazes me that after the three zipper pouches were filled, there was still room for my computer, calendar, a small purse, my favorite travel wrap and a book.
I tend to pack a bit more than needed on most trips! Packing an extra outfit or two is something a girl just needs to do in case she changes her mind! Even with adding sweaters this method always seems to work.
Being organized is the key to packing light and one way to do this is to planning each days outfits. I create an Excel spreadsheet with what I will wear for each day: mornings, afternoons and evenings. I know it sounds like a bit of overkill and Type A but I’ll own it! Plus it helps with over packing even with the extra dress or two to have some flexibility.
If you aren’t wanting to check your luggage, there are luggage shipping services. I’m trying Luggage Free for a trip for New Year’s. We are going to Kansas City for a week and then skiing so we need a lot more than we can fit in a carry on. Because we also have connecting flights and I don’t want to hassle with lost luggage, we are shipping all of our ski gear. I’ll be sure to let you know how we like it!
I hope these tips will help you whether you’re packing in a carry-on and tote or in a larger suitcase and tote for a longer trip. Please let me know if you have any questions. I’m always happy to answer!
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Thank you for sharing this great post Alicia! I am always overpacking and would love to not do that and be able to use a smaller suitcase. I need to get that travel steamer pronto!
I so needed this! I’m going on a girls trip for 5 days. Before there was no way I could just do a carry on. I’m going to try your flat method. My friend said to try the roll up method, but it didn’t work for me. I always did your method of folding & stacking. Thank you!
At the airport now with only a carry on! Great post! With the airlines being such a disaster these days, I am trying to carry on only. Big test coming up…Vienna in November!
Thanks for all the great tips!I love your jeans, what brand are they?
spinners are the best, I just bought a piece of luggage that literally glides across the flow w/little effort
great post!!!! can you share your top you are wearing
Could you please share where you got your cute jeans?
They are old Veronica Beard but they have some similar right now with the pockets on the front! Here’s the link. You’d have to cut the hem but that is what I do to most of my denim!
Thank you! I always refer back to your travel posts. I still haven’t been able to use the carryon only for a week long ski trip (sigh!), but I just bought the metro tote and took it this week to Deer Valley and LOVE it! And PS- The Montage has a Tata Harper facial, and it was fabulous. I started using the eye cream you recommended, so I was very excited to get the facial and try a bunch of the products.
I would love to see a video of how you lay your clothes flat. What about dresses and pants that are longer than the case? I assume you have to fold those?
Question about the MZ Wallace large metro tote deluxe- does it fit under the airplane seat?
Yes! It fits easily under the seat. Since it is soft sided it can squeeze if needed. I pull it out a bit after take off and use it as a footrest since I’m 5’2″!