How to Pack: Carry-On Only

For a long time I took a large suitcase filled with everything I do (and don’t need) wherever I went around the world or within the country. Actually sometimes I’d even pack a small suitcase for a weekend road trip! Needless to say, I was overpacking, as well as wasting time and effort with every extra jacket I just didn’t need to pack. So I started travelling with carry-on only on trips of up to 10 days. Any more than that and I’ll still take a full size suitcase, packed 50-70% to allow room for shopping (some habits are hard to kick).

Here’s how to “do” Travel with Carry-On Only…


Here’s the most important step: planning and being logical/rational about what you should AND SHOULDN’T take with you.

The best way to plan is to write a quick list, starting from the bottom and working your way up your body. Then think of extras like: technology (laptop, phone, chargers, camera, etc.) and think of ways they can be reduced in size/weight. For example, I have stopped using a DSLR camera and switched to an Olympus PEN camera (pictured below) which saves a tonne of space and weight.

Adopt little tricks, like downsizing typically heavy/large items.

The Essentials Only

While writing your list, remember the golden rule: PACK ONLY WHAT YOU NEED. Everything else you can buy when you’re there. Anything that brings an “I might need this” thought to mind, leave it out. Here are the bare necessities for a 3-10 day trip:

1 pair of comfortable (walking) shoes

2 pairs of bottoms (trousers/jeans/shorts/skirt)

3 tops

1 jacket

A day bag (backpack or handbag)

3 pairs of underwear (before you freak out, see below on “washing your clothes in a sink”)

2 pairs of socks (unlike underwear, you can get 2-3 days out of socks if you’re not sweating up a storm)

Make-up (don’t overdo it – BB cream, concealer and mascara will do the trick)

Skin (moisturiser with SPF, cleanser or make-up wipes and lip balm)


Now, to the packing. Some people are “rollers” while some people are “folders”. So the argument goes, “rolling” your clothes saves space and wrinkles, however I’ve tried both and tend to just fold my clothes to save time/effort as I’m travelling so much nowadays.

The Perfect Carry-On Bag

Here’s another big space saver: pack your heavy items (laptop, camera, etc.) in your handbag, as well as your cosmetics if you like to have them on hand. Below are some great sizes for carry-on handbags:

Washing your Clothes in the Hotel Sink

Here’s precisely why you will only need a few pairs of underwear and a few tops — recycle them! The easiest way to keep your clothes on rotation is to wash your clothes in the hotel sink, using the bar of soap (seriously, it does the trick!) So that you don’t always appear to be wearing the same clothes in photos, pick neutral tones or simple black t-shirts that go unrecognised when paired with a light scarf or a jacket over top.


Et voila! What are some of your tips for down-sizing your travel luggage!? Share below!

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Brooke Saward
Brooke Saward

Brooke Saward founded World of Wanderlust as a place to share inspiration from her travels and to inspire others to see our world. She now divides her time between adventures abroad and adventures in the kitchen, with a particular weakness for French pastries.

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