top of page
  • Writer's pictureChristine Hardenberger

How To Pack For A Week In A Carry-On

The reality is that I'm cheap when I travel. While I don't mind spending money for an amazing experience, I absolutely mind spending money on things that don't enhance my trip -- like luggage fees.

So, I try at all costs to avoid them.  I usually fly Southwest so that I can check up to two bags for free.  Even if the fare is slightly higher than some other carriers, the free bags usually tips the scales.  Easy peasy.

Not this time.

Tomorrow, I am heading to Jamaica for a week-long vacation with my handsome husband.  From Norfolk, VA (my home airport) Southwest's fares to Jamaica are high. So high, in fact, that even the free bags don't come close to making up for it. So, when I fly to Jamaica, I usually fly on America Airlines which is what I am doing this time.

American charges bag fees.  I'm not paying those.

To date, all of my trips to Jamaica have been 3-4 days so I could easy pack all my thing in a carry-on.  This time, though, we are going for a week.  And we are having a vow renewal ceremony.  

Can I really pack for a week like this in a carry-on?

You bet I can!  (In all transparency, I can do this when I'm going someplace warm. If I had to pack sweaters and boots, it would be a different scenario).

You can, too.  Follow these tips, pack for a week in a carry-on, and save yourself a minimum of $50 per person (given that most airlines charge $25 per each way, per person).  What could you do with an extra $50?

Not give it to the airlines!

Here's how to pack for a week in a carry-on while still having everything you need.

Happy Travels! 📷


Buy The Right Carry-On

The first step in being able to pack for a full week in a carry-on is to get an appropriate carry-on. You will want the largest carry-on that  will fit in the overhead bin.

NOTE:  Not all suitcases advertised as carry-ons actually meet the airlines' requirements.  While measurements vary a bit the standard acceptable carry-on for domestic carriers is:

22 inches x 14 inches x 9 inches not to exceed 45 linear inches in combined length x width x height

Some carriers allow a slightly larger bag while some European airlines actually have smaller requirements. If you are unsure, you can click here to check your carrier, but following the above guidelines is pretty safe.

I chose a hard-sided bag with storage on both sides to maximize space.

Choose Your Clothes Wisely

One of the key elements of packing for a week in a carry-on is choosing what to bring carefully. If you try to pack your entire closet, this isn't going to work. 

Choose a color theme -- two or three colors -- so that you can mix and match clothes. This also allows you to bring fewer shoes since everything matches.

Choose clothes that pack "small."  Jeans are a lot bulkier than cotton shorts.  

Select clothes that do double-duty.  The dress I am wearing on arrival day will also work as a cover-up for the beach. My dress for our vow renewal will be perfect for a fancier dinner. (It's a pretty low-key vow renewal, which helps on the dress front).

For my seven day trip, I needed outfits for each day, a few dresses for nicer dinners, clothes for our vow renewal and a bathing suit.

Here is what I am packing for this entire trip (I left my unmentionables out of the picture but I'm taking those, too):

PACKING CUBES.  You Need These.  Really.

I only recently discovered packing cubes but they are essential if you are trying to pack for a week in a carry-on.  They help to organize and compress your clothes so you can fit more in a smaller space.  They also help you utilize every square inch of your suitcase.

The trick here is to pack each cube tightly.  They hold a lot more than you think they will!  The second pictures shows five complete outfits in one cube!

You don't have to spend a fortune, either.  The ones I bought cost about $45 for the set. What is pictured below is HALF the set. I got these plus a second set in grey for that price.  (I got mine on Amazon here).


First, decide what you will wear on the day of travel. Chose the bulkiest items to wear.  This will save room in your bag. It makes no sense to pack your sneakers but wear your flip flops.

I will be wearing my dress (which is also my cover-up), my cardigan and my Birkenstocks (those clunkers take up some space!)

Now, start packing.

I use the roll method to maximize space and minimize wrinkles.  I pack each cube as tightly as possible.  You will also want to put your shoes in a packing cube to keep them together and so they take up as litle space as possible.

Once everything is in your packing cubes, just fit them neatly into your carry-on.


A week's worth of clothes and shoes (plus three boxes of chocolates for the flight attendants) in one carry-on with room to spare!

Don't forget to follow along on my trip! I will be sharing white sand, Caribbean sunshine and our Retie the Knot vow renewal ceremony on Facebook, Twitter,Instagram and LinkedIn!

115 views0 comments


bottom of page