How to Pack For a Week in Carry On: 5 Steps That Work Every Time


Wouldn't it be nice if every where you travelled all you had to take was carry on luggage?

The more you travel, the more you appreciate the benefits of travelling light. For one, if you can get away with just taking a carry on bag you don't need to run the risk of losing your checked luggage, or hanging around forever waiting for it at the bag carousel.

Also, by taking less on your travels it makes the ongoing commute much easier. You don't need to lug around a big suitcase, battling with stairs, busy trains or buses, and jostling your way through a crowded tourist area.

Inevitably, the more luggage you have with you, the greater risk of getting stressed or flustered, when all you want to do is enjoy your trip.

In this post, we'd like to share a simple 5-step process that will help you pack a single carry on bag for your next trip and make it last a whole week.

If you're going away for a week, this process will set you up for the entire trip. On the flip side, if you're planning a vacation that is longer than a week, with some smart clothing choices and a willingness to find a laundromat, you may be able to avoid the dreaded checked luggage as well.

So then, let's take a closer look at the process for packing for a week in carry on.

Step 1 - Plan for all 7 days

The key to packing for a week in carry-on comes down to how well organised you are for the trip ahead. If you can plan out all 7 days in advance, with somewhat certainty, it will help you pack only the things that you will need for those days.

How you plan will depend on your reason for the trip in first place. For example, if it's for business then you will likely have a set of meetings in your diary, and perhaps some client or staff lunches. What clothes will you need to wear for those?

Or, let's say you are going on a beach holiday. What activities do you have planned while you are there? Can you confidently estimate what you'll need for each day in the week?

This weekly plan won't necessarily be perfect, but it will help you make some important decisions about what to take, and what not to take in your luggage.

Step 2 - Write a list

Before you start throwing everything you own into a carryon backpack and hoping it will fit, write down the things you think you will need to take.

When you're writing your packing list, refer back to the 7-day plan you just came up with and make sure you have the things you will need for each day.

So that your list doesn't get out of control, make sure you choose versatile clothing and footwear to take with you. If you can manage to mix and match your outfits and repeat them across the week ahead, it will save room in your luggage for other important things.

Step 3 - Pick the right bag(s)

Picking the right carry on bag is an essential part of making sure you can comfortably pack for a week, and still include those trip essentials.

When choosing a bag, consider some of these criteria:

  • What is the baggage allowance with your airline of choice? Make sure your carry on luggage size meets the required dimensions and weight restrictions imposed by your airline.
  • Choose a versatile travel bag that has multiple departments and can take your clothing, footwear, electronics and other essential items.
  • Consider bags with anti-theft protection, such as slash proof material and RFID blocking technology, so that your belongings stay safe for the entire trip ahead.

The Zoomlite Road Warrior is a good example of a diverse backpack that will tick a number of the boxes you are looking to with your carry on.

Step 4 - Lay everything out on your bed

Even with a list, a strict 7-day plan, and the right bag, it can still be challenging to fit everything you need into a single carry-on. That's why you need to lay everything out on your bed, or another flat surface, and really scrutinise every last item.

Do you really need that sweater? How about that extra pair of shoes?

When you have everything laid out on the bed, go back over your plan for the trip and cross check everything with your packing list. If you're unsure about any of the items you have laid out, cull them. Usually you can get by with a lot less than you actually think, so make some tough choices and take much less than you originally thought was necessary.

Some things that might be worth considering when doing this final audit are the following:

  • Don't waste space with books or bulky papers, make everything you can into a digital format and save the space.
  • Plan to wear your bulkiest items on the plane, this will allow you to take that extra jacket, or pair of shoes that you really want to.
  • Minimise the amount of toiletries you are going to take. Use small bottles that only fit enough for 7 days, or simply plan to buy the things you need when you arrive at your destination.

Step 5 - Pack your bag

If you have followed our advice above, this final step should be a breeze. Now it's time to actually pack your carry on bag.

When packing your carry on, it's vital to use every last bit of space you have available. To do so, consider using packing cubes to condense your clothing and organise it within your bag. For example, you could even organise your tech items such as chargers and adaptors in something like the iCube, which has been uniquely designed for this type of room-saving packing.

Bonus Tip: Another packing hack that is a gem when trying to stick to a carry on for a week is the 2-bag trick. Most airlines will let you take two small bags with you as carry on - a main piece and then something like a handbag or a laptop bag. Make use of this extra bag and save the space in your primary carry on for everything else.


Travelling with just a carry on is not always possible. But with the right planning, packing techniques and some strict guidelines, you'd be surprised at just how far a simple backpack or duffle bag can take you.

What other tricks or tactics do you use to travel with carry on luggage? 

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