Wondering how to pack for one week in one carry-on bag? I got you covered. 

The carry-on bag is one of the most essential pieces you’ll need for your upcoming trip.

I prefer traveling with just a carry-on for several reasons.

First, I have an unhealthy fear that my checked bag will get lost.

I know, it’s unlikely, but the thought of being in a foreign country without my clothes, toiletries and clean underwear unnerves me.

Second, traveling with a carry-on only maximizes your time.

With limited vacation days, I prefer to spend 20 minutes at a coffee shop in Paris, not at baggage carousel #2.

Third, having a carry-on only allows flexibility so if you get bumped from your flight, miss a connection or volunteer to take a later flight in exchange for compensation, you won’t have to worry about a checked bag in that equation. 

Finally, and most importantly, airlines are charging an arm and a leg these days for checked baggage.

I prefer to take advantage of the limited airline freebies (or low-cost options) we’re still afforded. 

That said, traveling with a carry-on only is not easy, especially when you’re a girl or you’re taking winter attire or going for longer than a weekend.

But it can be done! Take my word for it, I’ve been all three. Packing light can save you a lot of time and hassle on your trip.

Here are 12 tips to help you pack for one week in one carry-on bag.

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1) You get one carry-on and a personal item 

I emphasis that “and” because the personal item you chose makes all the difference.

I have a weekender bag that I purchased on Amazon and it is absolutely perfect.

It fits underneath the seat in front of you and the material has some give so you can squeeze in extra souvenirs if need be.

Definitely leave that tiny purse tucked away and don’t squander your personal item.

Small duffle bags are allowed so long as they fit within the airline’s size restrictions. 

Backpacks are an excellent choice as well since they’re malleable and can fit under the seat in front of you if need be.

2) Roll your clothes 

 

You will save space if you roll your clothes instead of folding them.

This ensures that they get packed as tightly as possible and you minimize any leftover spaces or crevices.

Try to pack synthetic fabrics that won’t wrinkle easily.  

3) Embrace the magic of space saver bags 

 

I purchased space saver bags on Amazon knowing I was going to need to pack winter attire and couldn’t afford the bulk.

They were a lifesaver!

I didn’t need a vacuum or anything like that, they worked by manually squeezing the air out of vents at the bottom.

This is a great way to condense your clothes and free up twice the space. 

They come in different sizes and last for multiple uses.

4) Get packing cubes 

 

Those who are fond of organization should consider getting packing cubes.

They are an easy way to keep your clothes separate and have access to clothing you may only need for a particular day.

You can keep all your workout attire separate, for instance, or pack the clothes you’ll need for the first two days in one cube to avoid having to unpack your entire bag.

Beats digging around in a suitcase every time.  

5) Beware outside pockets

 

You want to avoid making outside pockets bulge by cramming extra things into them, since this makes it harder for your bag to fit into an overhead compartment.

Many international flights don’t actually have gate check, so your bag could end up heading towards the dreaded baggage claim if you can’t make the overhead work.

If you must use the outside compartments, save them for flat souvenirs like postcards or smaller things like your toothbrush.

Pack round or bulkier items into smarter places, like your shoes.

6) Wear/carry your heavier clothing

 

If you’re traveling with a coat or hoodie, wear that instead of putting it in your bag.

Same goes for any outerwear like scarves and gloves –you can usually stuff these in your coat pockets. 

I usually wear sneakers when traveling but if you have heavy boats, consider wearing them to get onto the plane and then switching shoes for the journey, donning slippers instead if the journey is several hours long. 

7) Utilize crevices

You can usually find a crevice or two in your roller bag — this is where I like to squeeze in things like sandals, socks and underwear.

Make sure that if you have closed-toed shoes you’re filling them with smaller items like chargers.

This way they’re secure in your tennis shoe, less likely to explode and taking up less space.

8) Pack an extra tote bag

 

Sometimes, staying compact for the duration of your trip can be challenging. 

I always bring an extra bag, like a tote bag or a foldable daypack to carry extra things.

This helps when I’m moving or didn’t want to repack so precisely. 

It also helps me separate out things like dirty laundry during my trip. 

9) Store your electronics in your personal item

 

As I mentioned, if for any reason the plane runs out of overhead bin space or is too small to accept standard luggage, your roller bag will be the first to be checked.

I like to keep all of my most valuable electronics in my personal item on the off chance this occurs. 

This also allows easier access in flight versus having to unzip your roller bag. 

Be aware that items such as tripods usually trigger additional security screening.

If possible bring more compact items like a GorillaPod instead. 

10) Research your destination beforehand

 

Scope out the weather at your destination ahead of time.

In most cases you shouldn’t need more than one hat/pair of gloves/scarf.

Plan your outfits ahead of time and bring pieces that you can mix and match. 

Check to see if your lodging provides a hairdryer and avoid bringing your own. 

Same goes for umbrellas — many hotels lend these out when it rains so you don’t need to waste space packing one.

11) Don’t pack your accessories

 

If you’re bringing a pillow, latch it to the outside of your personal item and allow it to hang loosely, not taking up space in your bag.

If you have a blanket, lay that on top of your carry on bag/personal item. 

Got a hat? Wear it.

If it’s a bigger beach hat, place it nonchalantly on top of your bag. Even if you’re told to consolidate, you stuffing the outside pockets with these leftover items won’t look as conspicuous if it’s on request. 

12) Keep all your beauty products and toiletries in one bag

 

This not only makes it easier for airport security, it keeps damage to a minimum in the event of a spill. 

I like toiletry bags that are made with plastic and easily washable.

Since a toiletry bag is compact and not typically accessed during flight, I’ll usually keep it in my roller bag. 

Make sure all of your liquids are 3.4 ounces or less to avoid having to toss them at security or pay to check them. 

With these tips, you’ll be able to pack for one week in one carry-on bag and avoid exorbitant baggage fees. 

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Till next time, safe travels!

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