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How to Pack for 10 Days in a Carry-On

Packing for 10 days in a carry-on… yes it is possible to do! True confession: I used to be a total over-packer and assumed that any trip that was one full week or more automatically meant that I would be taking with me a fully stuffed, large suitcase. However, on my last trip to Nova Scotia (which you can read about here and here), I challenged myself to pack a 10-day trip into one carry-on suitcase. Although it was quite the challenge and forced me to be very mindful and selective in the items I was bringing, it was the best decision ever. I’m totally convinced now that for most trips, even those exceeding one full week, opting to take a carry-on is a way better decision. It makes traveling way easier! So for my upcoming trip to New Brunswick, I wanted to challenge myself again to bring 10 days worth of clothing in my carry-on (and also because I didn’t have a choice since I opted for the economic seats and would have to pay extra for checked luggage… ya girl is on a budget, okay?).

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If you’re guilty of overpacking – it’s okay! I used to pack so many clothes and shoes without any consideration of how I would actually wear each piece with what. And I won’t lie… I still tend to pack too many items, but I tend to not feel as bad when doing it because it’s still all squished within a carry-on. However, each time I travel I feel that I learn better ways to pack to make traveling easier and more efficient. With that said, if you really want to bring that one extra piece of clothing just in-case (like the super cute dress you bought last year and told yourself that you’d wear to some wedding but then never ended up wearing it because there was no wedding to go to…), it’s probably not going to be that big of a deal. But hopefully through my experiences, you can learn to pack just a little less in order to travel with a carry-on and make your life a heck of a lot easier.

So why bother trying to fit everything into a carry-on suitcase you may ask?

Although it can be daunting to try and squeeze 10 days worth of clothes into a carry-on suitcase, there are so many good reasons why you should.

  1. Many airlines charge to check luggage. This is one of the main reasons why I opt to take a carry-on to avoid excess fees. I would rather save as much as I can on the flight and have extra money for other expenses on the trip.
  2. No lost luggage. This has got to be my biggest fear when traveling. I always get so paranoid that my suitcase will get lost and won’t be returned to me until halfway through my trip. It’s never happened *knock on wood* but I just love having that reassurance when taking a carry-on that none of your luggage will get lost/misplaced.
  3. No baggage claim. The stress of having to wait around forever at the baggage claim is THE WORST. Sometimes it can take hours for your luggage to arrive. Who wants to deal with that? Traveling with a carry-on allows you to get off the plane in a breeze and continue straight to your destination while everyone else groans about trudging it down to baggage claim.
  4. You avoid overpacking. With less space in a carry-on, you are forced to bring less clothing and shoes. Less clothing and less shoes, means less weight and less hassle. It also means that you won’t waste your money on souvenirs because you won’t have any room to put them!

How I plan to pack a 10-day vacation in a carry-on

Make a list! Whether you write it down on paper or on your phone, make a list of everything you think you will need. Clothing I’m usually fine with, but it’s all the little things that I would totally forget if I didn’t write them down. Things like phone and camera chargers, sun glasses, makeup, etc. I typically find it more challenging to figure out what to put in your personal item bag than in the carry-on. So write it down! P.S. Lucky for you, I’ve put together a packing list to help get you organized! 

Click the image to download the list on a new page.

Plan your outfits! Think about what you will be doing on your trip. Are you going somewhere warm where you’ll be wearing swimsuit the whole time? Or will you be doing adventurous activities? Or maybe you’ll do a bit of both? Whatever it is, take in to account what you’ll actually be doing. Our trip to New Brunswick will involve a lot of outdoor activities such as hiking, kayaking, cycling, walking, etc. so activewear and comfy clothes is mostly what I planned to bring.

Choose clothing wisely! Pack clothes that you can wear more than once and that can be mixed and matched with multiple outfits. Neutrals are a good option as they can pair nicely with pretty much anything. Also bring items you can layer, as the weather may be unpredictable or temperatures may be cooler than expected. Tank-tops, t-shirts and cardigans in neutrals colours are great options as they can be worn together.

Packing cubes are your friend. Of course I fell in love with the idea of packing cubes when I first saw them. Mostly because I’m an organizational freak, but also because they are so functional. It keeps all your clothes organized and makes it way easier to find each clothing item. I picked up these packing cubes from Amazon. They are super light-weight and I have used them on quite a few trips now and they have held up nicely.

I typically will sort each clothing item into its own packing cube. Bottoms in one, shirts in one and bras/underwear/pj’s in another. That way you’re not pulling out all your folded clothes from your suitcase in the search for that one item you’re trying to find. They keep everything in their own little space.

Pack your carry-on effectively. Using packing cubes is definitely one way to effectively pack your carry-on. However, there are other ways you can organize your suitcase as well. You can roll your clothing, you can KonMari your clothes so they are folded upright, you can stuff smaller items into larger items to maximize space (such as stuffing your socks inside your shoes) and you can even use larger ziplock bags instead of packing cubes to store your clothing. I personally like the KonMari method. When it comes to folding clothes, I use this method so my items are folded in a way which makes it easier to see than if they were stacked on top of each other.

Bring only essential toiletries. When it comes to liquids, you are limited with a carry-on. Typically, you can only bring 100ml/100grams or 3.4 fluid oz of liquids which must fit into a single one litre clear zipped bag. It’s always good to consider if your liquid items come in solid form. For example, bar soap instead of body wash, bar shampoo/conditioner, solid deodorant instead of gel/liquid. Depending what the item is, it might be better to consider purchasing it when you arrive, or if you even need it. Most hotels and bed and breakfasts have all the amenities you need, such as soaps, shampoos and hair dryers.

Plan what you’ll wear to the airport. Certain items take up much more space in suitcases than others. If you can, wear your bulkier items to the airport, such as running shoes, jackets and sweaters.

What I packed for a 10-day trip to New Brunswick

So here is what I packed for my 10 days in NB. Yes, it still may be a lot of clothes… as I mentioned before I still struggle not to overpack (I have come a long way though I promise!). Plus, in all honesty, I somehow always manage to get stains on my clothing so backup pieces (and some Tide-to-Go) are essential.

So there you have it! Proof that you can pack 10 days worth of clothes into a suitcase. With a little bit of planning and coordination I promise you that you’ll be able to get away with only a carry-on for your travels too!

Update: Okay I’m not going to lie… I may have snuck in a few more shirts… and possibly one more dress after I made this post….oopsiebut hey, I still managed to get it all in my carry-on!

P.S. don’t forget to remove any furry critters before leaving for your trip!

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