It seems as though the more I travel, the less I bring with me.  A few years back, I’d have struggled with a carry on bag for a week, but finally I think I may have cracked it. Here’s what I’ve learned.

What do you really need?

These days, I pack for the trip I’m really going to have, not the one I think I might have.  That means cutting down on specific single use items in favour of others that can multi purpose. If I’m going to have access to a hotel gym, I’ll pack flatter trainer pumps instead of my trainers, which are twice the size. I’ll use leggings and a top instead of gym wear. And I’ll choose a sports bra that can work for everyday too.

It’s time to get real. Are you actually going to swim, go to that very exclusive restaurant, or take on that long hike? Don’t pack for maybes, pack for life as it is.

Thinking it through before you pack

Before you venture into your wardrobe, check out your destination weather and temperature up front.  How will that feel to you? If you’re a chilly beast like me, summer temperatures in the 20Cs may still have you reaching for something to cover up in the evenings.

And where are you going? City break or beach? Hiking, or hiring a canal boat? Fashionista in Florence or Paris, or national park explorer on the Brecon Beacons or the North York Moors?  This will affect the balance of outfits you pack, and also the potential for washing things as you go.

Travel Outfits First

I try to start with what I’m going to wear departing and returning.   The usual wisdom is to wear your heaviest items, but I’d balance that with how comfortable you will be in transit.  Being trussed up in multiple layers doesn’t make for a fun journey.

My uniform is pretty much this: boots (winter) or flat pumps (summer), leggings (neither see through nor with any resemblance to a desert animal), long top, soft cardi or jacket and a scarf.  I’d change the cardi out for a big jumper in winter. In summer, I wear a thin rainproof jacket that folds down to nothing. In winter, it’s a full length padded coat for the snowy places.

I’ll wear pretty much the same outfit for the journey back, but with a different top.

Packing Formula

Choose your colours – ideally just one accent with neutrals.  That’ll cut down on extras.

Now it’s time to apply a little maths.

Let’s say you do dresses. Then that’ll be six to pack, less if you can wash the first two you wear, and wear them again at the end of the week. Add a couple of coordinating top layers, and you’re done.

If you’re wearing tops and bottoms, the ratio should be either two or three tops to each bottom. You’re wearing one outfit, so you’ll need six more tops, two bottoms and a couple of coordinating top layers.  Again, less if you can wash the first couple of day’s worth at your destination.

We need to talk about shoes. You’ll be wearing something comfortable for the journey. You can pack a maximum of two more pairs.  For me, that would be a pair of trainer pumps to travel in and flat shoes or sandals.  If you’re at the beach somewhere craggy, you might need water shoes.

Don’t Mention The Boxies

My husband once set off for a fortnight without his boxies. Although we can vouch for the fact that they do indeed sell them in Blankenberg, Rostock and Tallin, you may have things you would prefer to do at your destination than shop.

As for your toiletries, do your best to pare these down too.  I’ve got better at estimating the amount of product I will need for a week, taking account of airline restrictions where appropriate.  If you know there will be usable toiletries at your destination then pack lighter.  As someone with psoriasis, I prefer to stick to products I know are safe for me.


I like to make sure I have room for a tablet/Kindle and a book in case of delays. Similarly, a travel journal and pen doesn’t take up much room.

If I’m travelling for work, my “handbag” will be my laptop bag, with my essentials stuffed in the pockets.  If not, then it will be a backpack, which has plenty of space for my Kindle and travel journal, and probably the book too.


Don’t forget the absolute essentials for your trip.  That should include

  • wallet
  • passport where needed
  • keys (unless you have someone to let you in on your return)
  • prescription meds
  • glasses or contacts
  • phone and charger
  • adaptor if required and tech charger
  • destination details, plus any hard copy tickets and reservations
  • details of your travel insurance

Packing for my next trip

I’ll be off for a week later this month.  Here’s my packing list for that trip.  We’ll be walking rather than hiking, at the beach, wandering around towns and villages, and on boats.  We’re staying in a cottage, so I’ll need to add a beach towel, but can rely on washing some things if needed.

Essentials ·         Booking details

·         Destination research

·         Wallet

·         Keys

·         Phone & charger

·         Spare glasses and sunnies

·         Prescription meds

Travel Outfits ·         Out: trainer pumps, trapeze top, black wrap jacket, black leggings, grey & metallic scarf, black waterproof coat

·         Back: as above (having washed top)

Tops ·         Chiffon back pleated top & cami

·         Keyhole back top

·         Aqua t shirt

·         White & silver t shirt

·         Black bardot top

Top Layer ·         Longline black cardi

·         Aqua cardi

Bottoms ·         Leggings

·         Black crop jeans

Undies etc ·         6 nix & 3 sox

·         3 bras (1 strapless)

·         PJs (shorts & cami)

Shoes ·         T bar dressy flats

·         Black pumps

Entertainment ·         Travel Journal & pens, sticky stick

·         Kindle & Charger plus book

Extras ·         Beach towel

·         Tankini

Toiletries ·         Cleanser, toner, moisturiser & cotton pads

·         Shower gel, body scrub, shower puff, body lotion

·         Sun protection

·         Mini first aid kit: plasters, antiseptic, scissors, gauze and tape

I’ve done a practice pack – highly recommended if you have time – and that all fits into a hard shell carry on case.  I was surprised to manage to fit the towel too.  The secret for me is, as always, a couple of packing cubes, and in filling the space between the handle ribs.  In fact, never pass up on the opportunity to fill any spaces, whether it’s by stuffing your shoes, or taking advantage of those handle gaps.  And do minimise the toiletries; I am sad, and have been known to count out the pumps from the bottle of cleanser to cover the days we are away.

Author: Bernie

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3 thoughts on “A Week In A Carry On: Packing Light Summer Edition

  1. Great check list for travel. It’s easy to forget the important things.

    Posted on July 12, 2017 at 3:04 am
    1. We’ve most definitely been there. But we’re getting better. 🙂 Thanks for stopping by.

      Posted on July 12, 2017 at 5:06 am