Packing in Carry-on Luggage

Hello travelers! As you know, my husband and I just returned from the biggest/longest trip we’ve ever taken out of country. It required LOTS of planning and organizing, which happen to be strong points of mine. Whether it was Pinterest inspiration or people doubting me, my goal was to pack for the entire week long trip in carry-ons. I didn’t create any new ideas, but these are some that I think are most important. In this post, I’ll go over how I packed and include some extra tips.


I’m definitely an over-packer, and I love a challenge, so this seemed like the perfect opportunity. I actually doubted myself at first, but it all worked out awesome in the end! We weren’t worried about lost luggage, damaged possessions, waiting at baggage claim areas, lugging huge, heavy suitcases around airports and destinations. We had all of our possessions with us at all times on the airplane. It also allowed us to skip a lot of time going through customs departments, which required you to collect any checked bags, run them through security, then recheck them. Obviously, you will buy things, so you will return with gifts and souvenirs. So I suggest not over-stuffing your bags; leave yourself some room. I’ve had a lot of haters/doubters along the way, but people should remember that trips aren’t about all the crap you bring and more about the wonderful experiences you will take home. Enjoy being away from home; don’t try to bring your house with you. Downsizing is so much more convenient!


Most airlines let you carry 2 bags on the plane: a carry-on suitcase (within dimensions) and a personal item (large purse, laptop bag, backpack, etc.). Check each airline’s details for exact carry-on dimensions allowed. So for us, this meant 4 bags total, which was totally possible, so my husband and I each had a rolling suitcase, backpack, and a neck pillow. Most airlines will allow extra items like jackets, blankets, and neck pillows and not count them as a separate item. Below is a pic of the luggage that I took. This 21″ American Tourister rolling suitcase, which I borrowed from a family friend, is absolutely amazing…lots of compartments to organize and separate clothes, shoes, and toiletries. I will definitely be buying one for future vacations. Backpacks are great to bring for your “personal item” because they can double as a day bag when you go on a tour or when you’re out the entire day. 



Don’t just throw a bunch of random clothes into a suitcase! This of course doesn’t apply to men…my husband did the exact opposite of what I did, but hey, that’s how they roll. A week before I left, I did all my laundry and began to set out my outfits. Anyone that knows me knows I’m a huge fan of neutrals and more simple clothes, so I chose items that could be mixed and matched with each other or dressed up with jewelry. I only brought along outfits and shoes that were cute, comfortable, and didn’t wrinkle. I included a variety of casual and a few more dressy items, because you never know what kind of situation you will be in. At the end of my planning, I ended up with about 15 outfits and 5 pairs of sandals/shoes (in retrospect this was WAY TOO MUCH). We actually found a self service laundry place and did laundry half way through our trip, so I recommend this too. Looking back, I would have brought a lot less outfits (didn’t even wear 5 of them) and only one pair of sandals (we walked most of the time anyways & needed more comfortable shoes). Below is a picture of all the clothes and shoes that ended up in my bag…I had a good bit of clothes along for the ride! **This was for a summer trip, so I would have downsized much more if it were during winter to account for boots, jackets, gloves, etc.**



At first, I was skeptical about all this “rolling technique.” Did it even make a difference? YES. It does, so just do it! It is the best way to squeeze clothes together in a suitcase and keep them from getting wrinkled too. Some people spend money on packing cubes also …but I used gallon ziplock bags, and it worked the exact same way. And you can squeeze the air out of them, sort of like a space bag. The main compartment of the bag was two layers deep with rolled clothes. I was definitely impressed!


Remember, you are most likely NOT going to a third world country, so you should be able to purchase anything you run out of or forgot. You may not get your exact brand of shampoo or toothpaste, but hey don’t be so high maintenance. 🙂 We had no other choice but to bring travel size items, because regulations only allow 1 quart-sized bag of liquids of 3 oz or less in carry-ons. Check out the TSA website for more details and also a list of items NOT allowed in carry-ons. You can get ripped off easily if you go buying sample sizes of all your toiletries, so I just bought clear plastic bottles, labeled them, and filled them up with my soap, shampoo, etc. that I already had. I love to bring oil blotting sheets on trips because they are great to make your face feel a little fresh after a long day or flight! I also bring a small pack of antibacterial wipes on the plane (came in handy when the German chick upchucked in the seat right next to me!) and some facial wipes to freshen up after a long flight.


Like I said, don’t get carried away with packing your entire house, but do plan for some unforeseen circumstances. The most important, I think, is a rain jacket or mini umbrella. You never know when an afternoon shower could come, and it actually rained every day that we were in Italy and England. I also like to bring some meds & band aids just in case you get a stomachache, headache, blisters from walking, etc. I recently started bringing Vitamin C along too, which can help boost your immune system when you’re on a plane or in a foreign country. And my last would be aloe vera (and sunscreen if you wish) if it’s summer time. A sunburn can make for a miserable vacation…

I also think those nifty neck pillows are a MUST, especially on overnight or longer flights. If at all possible, leave those hairdryers at home to save a bunch of space. Most places have them, so just check before you go. I do, however, recommend bringing a straightener. They pack great and can be used to straighten or curl your hair. If you don’t know how to curl with a straightener, look it up on YouTube…very easy! All of my clothes and toiletries were packed in the rolling suitcase, and money, documents, camera, phone chargers, etc. were in my backpack. Sometimes I transfer toiletries to my backpack if possible to freshen up before landing after an overnight flights. Brushing your teeth and washing your face can make the biggest difference after a long plane ride!

So far I’ve made it 8 days in Italy and 2 weeks in England/Scotland in carry-ons only!

I hope this will help some fellow travelers out there. Be on the look out for my review of Italy and tips on traveling abroad!


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