1 Week in a Carry-on

I’m a nervous traveller. It’s not the flying. In fact, when I finally sit down on the plane, I feel a wave of relief wash over me. It’s the schedules, security checks, the long lines, and though it all, carrying around heavy luggage in hot, sweaty airports. To ease my nerves, I started to ditch the big suitcases, opting instead for a lightweight backpack and a fanny pack (because I like to travel in style).

No more luggage checks, which means less lines and no waiting at the other end for my bags. No opportunities for lost luggage, or worrying about important documents or valuables in my checked bag. No ridiculous checked luggage fees that airlines are imposing more and more these days.

For some people, packing for one week in a carry-on is a simple task, while others might look at this post in horror. A few years ago, that was me. The first time I came to Korea was for just 1 month. I brought 2 full sized suitcases and a backpack. I did bring gifts for my hosts and some Canadian goodies for my cousin, but I largely just overpacked. When I packed my life up for two years in Korea, I brought less than I did for the month long trip. I’d say I’ve made some serious progress in packing light.

The longest trip I’ve done in a carry-on is six weeks, and once you get to that point it’s not hard to add more time to the trip without adding more things. But to ease the over-packers into carry-on travelling (which is so much better in my opinion), here is a reasonable 1 week carry-on guide.

The key to packing (in any size), is to leave a bit of extra room. Not only is it likely that you’ll pick a few things up along the way, but it’s also hard to repack everything perfectly. The last thing you want at the end of a relaxing trip is to be stressing over getting all your things back home.

Another great way to pack light and stay organized is with packing cubes. I purcahsed two sets on Amazon before I left and they have been a lifesaver. Not only were they great for organizing all my luggage when I moved my life out here, but a great for keeping things organized on shorter trips. They’re especially useful when taking a backpack, which can be tricky to keep organizers with so many different items.

When I go away for more than a weekend, I typically bring my larger backpack. When I finished packing for this trip though, everything fit in my daypack so I opted for the smaller option. This list is fairly minimal so it’s easy to add a few things and upgrade to a larger backpack or a small suitcase and still avoid checking luggage.


Of course, the clothing you bring is going to depend on the nature of your trip: where you’re going, the season, activities planned, etc. This list is geared towards a summer trip (as I am on my way to an 8-day trip to Japan). But this list can easily be adjusted to different needs without adding much volume. In winter for example, you could bring more heavy-weight clothing, but you likely won’t be sweating as much as you would in the summer, and can rewear clothing more. This list includes my travel day clothing as well.

5 tshirts/tanks
1 long sleeve
1 button-up (a light-colour, thin cotton button-up is a great way to avoid the blaring sun without getting too hot.)
3-4 bottoms (I packed 1 pair of shorts, 2 skirts, 1 pair of pants)
4-7 pairs of knickers*
4-7 pairs of socks*
2 bras (1 regular, 1 sports)
Lightweight pajamas

* I wash as I go, but these are small enough to easily pack enough for each day.


I try to coordinate my clothing so that most things can be mix and match.

Bathing suit
Running shoes


Use the classic tricks like rolling rather than folding, and wearing your bulkier clothing on the travel day. Planes are often chilly anyway so it’s nice to have heavier clothes on anyway!


All in travel-sized containers:

Multi-purpose castille soap*
Toner & Moisturizer
Toothpaste, toothbrush, dental floss
Contacts, case, solution
Comb (smaller than a brush)
Eyeliner & mascara
Quick-dry towel

* I use this Mr. Woods Tea Tree Castile Soap, which can be used for pretty much anything: dishes, laundry, hair, skin, surfaces, etc. The tea tree is also a bonus for dealing with acne and preventing lice!


A cheap disposable razor can easily be purchased when you arrive. A lot of airports will let you past security with a razor, but just in case it’s better to purchase on arrival.



Important travel documents (passport, airline tickets & info, tour/booking information, etc.)
Phone, charger, adapter
ipod, headphones
Notebook & pen


The miscellaneous items tend to all go in my fanny pack or purse for easy access.


Hopefully this list doesn’t appear too daunting. Of course, everyone is likely to have different travel styles. Maybe you’re really into make-up and want more than eyeliner and mascara, or maybe you don’t need a notebook and pen. This is based on my own style and can easily be adapted.

I find the most difficult part in packing light isn’t a question of whether I’ll need a certain outfit or piece of clothing, it’s more that I think, well this will look good, or I might want to wear this, etc. It’s more a question of want rather than need. Getting past that want is key to keeping it light. You’ll likely forget you even wanted a particular item once you’re out enjoying yourself.


Everything packed-up and ready to go!

What is a must-have item for you when you travel?

One thought on “1 Week in a Carry-on

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