Pack for a week in one carry-on backpack
Wouldn’t it be great if you could pack for a week in one carry-on backpack? Not only will you avoid paying ridiculous airline luggage fees, but you will also avoid the long wait at the luggage carousal, the airline will never lose your luggage, and you will be more mobile wherever you go. Rolling luggage up and down the crowded, uneven cobblestone streets of Europe is not my idea of fun.
If you don’t think you can let go of your checked luggage, don’t worry, I didn’t think I could either – but it’s a lot easier than you might think! The past six months in Europe have taught me a thing or two about traveling light, and even when we take the train instead of a plane, I still pack like a minimalist. There’s something freeing about only having to worry about what’s on your back.
After trips to Portugal (5 days), Spain (6 days), Greece (6 days), and Italy (10 days), I feel like I have mastered the art of simple, stress-free travel. Here are 12 tips to help you pack light the next time you go traveling:
1. Find the perfect backpack
If there’s one thing you shouldn’t cheap out on, it’s your backpack. Whether you’re traveling for 7 days or 7 months, your shoulders and back will thank you for spending a bit of extra money on a pack that is comfortable and durable. But since we’re focusing on short-term trips, I really like the Deuter Giga Office backpack because it’s well-built, has multiple compartments (including one for my laptop), and it complies with RyanAir’s extremely strict carry-on luggage restrictions.
Another benefit of the Deuter Giga Office backpack is that the laptop sleeve is the perfect size to fit a flat purse. Since RyanAir only allows one carry-on (and your purse counts as a carry-on!), you will have to decide whether to skip a purse altogether (which is difficult), or stash a flat purse into your backpack.
2. Check the weather
Long before I actually leave for my trip, I’m monitoring the city’s weather on my iPhone app. Call me crazy, but I want to know exactly what is in store for me when I head to a new city. For example, on my recent trip to Greece, I knew it was going to be sunny and hot, so I left the sweater and jacket at home, and only brought a thin wool cardigan. It was perfect for the (somewhat) cooler evenings, kept me warm on the plane, and took up minimal space in my backpack.
3. Know what you will be doing
If you know you’ll be hiking in the Swiss mountains, you know you won’t need to pack a skirt and ballet flats. And a weekend in the city probably means you won’t need your hiking boots. Think ahead. Planning a general itinerary before you get to the airport means you will be packing properly, instead of packing for every scenario.
4. Limit your footwear
I used to bring three or four pairs of shoes with me on every trip, but I would never wear them all. Since we almost always walk around 20km each day, I make sure to bring a comfortable pair of shoes. As a footwear minimalist, I encourage barefoot or barefoot-like options such as VIVO (pictured below, middle), Vibram FiveFingers, Camper, and yes – even TOMS (pictured below, left). The only other pair of shoes I bring are a pair of well-made sandals that I can walk all day in.
5. Pack versatile items
The one item that dresses up any outfit is a scarf, so I always make sure to bring one with me. It will dress up a pair of jeans, keep you warm on the plane, and can also protect your hair if it gets windy or starts to drizzle. I also bring tank tops and short sleeve tops in neutral colours, so that they are easy to pair with cardigans. Dressing in layers makes the most sense for me, because I’m always either too hot or too cold.
6. Try for light, quick drying fabrics
There are plenty of companies that offer fashionable quick drying clothing – because nobody wants to look like a hiker unless you’re actually hiking right? :)
7. Assess your items before packing them
Packing them directly into your suitcase before you have a chance to edit out items will result in bringing more than you need. I like putting them into piles, and then editing out the things I really don’t need. Only then will I start putting them into my backpack.
8. Roll your clothing
Instead of folding your clothes or packing it flat, rolling your clothes up together will save you space and help keep your clothing wrinkle-free.
9. Be ruthless with your toiletries
Not only do liquids take up valuable space and weigh your pack down, but airport security is extremely strict about liquid container sizes, and the overall amount of liquids you can bring with you. So save yourself the hassle and embarrassment of holding up the security line-up and carry only the liquid essentials in a clear ziplock bag.
10. You don’t need the big make-up bag
I used to bring my hair straightener and blow dryer with me on every trip, and they would just sit in my suitcase. During the summer, I just pull my hair back into a simple ponytail, or I’ll french braid my hair. The heat and humidity will ruin anything a straightener and blow dryer could accomplish, so there’s no reason to bring them. Plus, do you really want to be spending extra time getting ready in the morning, when there’s a new place to explore? :)
The same goes for make-up. I don’t wear a lot of make-up on an everyday basis, but when I travel, I only bring the essentials.
11. Leave the “what if” items at home
Don’t try to jam heels and a mini skirt into your bag “just in case” you decide to go clubbing – because chances are, you won’t go. If you’re uncertain about an item, it probably means you don’t need it.
12. Create a list
It could help you to create a list of things you need to bring with you. Here’s what I brought with me on my recent 6-day trip to Greece.
- Deuter Giga Office backpack
- Roots leather flat purse
- 1 pair of walking shoes (my TOMS or VIVOs)
- 1 pair of sandals
- 1 pair of pant
- 1 pair of shorts
- 3 tank tops
- 2 short sleeve shirts
- 2 cardigans (black wrap, 3/4 sleeve grey)
- 1 lightweight scarf
- 7 pairs of underwear
- 2 bras
- 5 pairs of socks
- 1 pair of PJs
- 1 bathing suit
- iPhone 4S + USB cord
- Canon Powershot G10 camera
- Amazon Kindle
- Shampoo, conditioner, moisturizer, sunscreen
- Toothbrush, toothpaste, lip balm, deodorant
- Mascara, eyelash curler, eyeliner, pressed powder compact
- Face cream, eye cream, make-up remover
- Microfiber travel towel
And there you have it – how to successfully pack for a week-long trip. :)
Do you think you could pack for a week with one carry-on backpack?
Krystal Yee is a travel blogger and personal finance expert with substantial media credits to her name. Lover of off-beat travel, hiking, French macarons, barefoot shoes, and her iPhone. Excel spreadsheet addict. She is currently living in Vancouver, plotting her next adventure.