A Week in a Carry-On: Putting It All Together

packing everything in one carry-on
Alright, we’re in the homestretch. We’ve learned about planning the outfits, shedding what’s not necessary, being strategic about toiletries, and thinking through the extras.


But today is the biggie: we’re putting your outfits, toiletries, and extras all together in one piece of luggage that weighs less than 22 lbs/10 kilos!


First things first, plan on wearing your bulkiest and / or most comfortable pieces on the plane or in the car…one full outfit won’t even make it into the bag, might as well make it the heaviest. That should include your boots (which I’m just going to assume you’re bringing), your jacket, your scarf, and likely one of your sweaters. Set those to the side, because they don’t count in this process.


The bag.

Your. Bag. Is. Essential. They don’t weigh just the contents, you know…the weight is inclusive of you bag. If you chose something that’s heavy in and of itself but still within the dimensions, you’re going to have an issue. My favorite bag, which I’ve used for my last 5 trips and every overnight since I’ve had it, is the Longchamp Le Pliage Travel Bag. There are so many great things about it…it folds up into almost nothing (not sure why you’d need that in this instance, but it helps for storage when the trip is over), it’s super light, it’s easy to clean, it’s chic, it’s durable, and it expands greatly if you come back with way more than you left with. The only real downfall with it is that you have to carry it with the handles or the cross-body strap…no wheels. So you have to be willing and physically able to carry a bag of up to 22 lbs, given our standards. If you’re in Paris, pick one up – they’re much cheaper there than in the States! I purchased mine last-minute at the airport, and every time I think about how close I was to coming home without it, I cringe.

Packing the clothes.

Here’s the secret sauce…you need to get some Ziploc carry-on travel bags. There are several sizes, but the carry-on size should be what you need. Fold your clothes as neatly as possible, and place everything in the bags. Don’t overstuff them, or they’ll rip! You’ll be surprised how much you can fit in, though. If you have extra room, add some socks or underwear to the smaller spaces. Seal, and squeeze the air out. Aim to fit all your clothes in 2 bags – that will fit perfectly in the Longchamp bag and leave enough room for everything else you have to pack.

Adding in the extras.

The great thing about duffle-type bags is that they’re malleable. You can stick stuff in the empty spaces, and the bag forms around it. Once you have your Ziploc bags with clothes in the bag, start packing them in by filling the extra space with socks, rigid items, and other extras.

Finishing off with a personal item.

Ideally, your personal item is your purse. But, if you need a bigger tote as your personal item, be sure to pack an everyday purse within it. I typically leave my toiletry case (and liquids) out of my main bag and stash it in my personal item. It’s just easier to access for security or immediate needs while traveling…the goal is to not have to open your main bag at all because it likely takes a little work to get it all zipped up. ; ) Add in your essential extras – your wallet, passport, headphones, and iPad at minimum (and snacks…snacks are key). There will likely be a few items you need to play around with between the two bags, so just go with what is most convenient for your travel needs and you’re good to go!


This formula has served me well on multiple international trips, giving me the flexibility to make tight connections, saving me money, and providing me a stress-free framework for packing each time I gear up to leave. Plus, I haven’t lost a bag or had to wait for the luggage carousel to start turning for the last 2-3 years (so annoying when all you want is to be home!). Win-win-win.


So…how’d you do? Did you get it all in? What didn’t make the cut that you thought you’d need?


Miss any posts in the series? No fear, catch up here: Intro | The Outfits | Shedding | Toiletries | The Extras


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