I Just Traveled to Europe for 10 Days: Here’s How I Fit Everything in a Carry-On


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how to pack a carry on"
how to pack a carry on
Source: Élevae Visuals
Source: Élevae Visuals

Earlier this spring, I spent 10 days traveling around Greece with my husband for our first wedding anniversary. This was a bucket-list trip we’d been dreaming of for a long time, so, wanting to make the most of our time there, we hit three different stops (Athens, Santorini, and Naxos). Between all the various planes, buses, ferries, and taxis we took getting from place to place, it was the kind of trip where bulky checked luggage would have been more trouble than it was worth. So I did what I might have previously believed to be impossible: I packed everything I needed for 10 days into one carry-on suitcase.

I’m not going to tell you it was easy, but learning how to pack a carry-on strategically saved me so much hassle on my trip. Read on for all the carry-on packing tips I used for my 10-day trip to Greece.

1. Plan outfits ahead of time

I’m the kind of person who likes to be very organized when I travel. So when I say I planned my outfits ahead of time, I mean I literally made a list of exactly what I would wear on each day of my trip. You don’t necessarily need to be that thorough in your planning, but this strategy helped ensure that I didn’t pack a bunch of items I never ended up wearing. Plus, it took the guesswork out of getting dressed while I was there because I already knew what I was going to wear each day.

2. Sort everything into packing cubes

Packing cubes are at the absolute tippy-top of my list of travel essentials. They make it so much easier to stay organized both while you pack and during your trip. So once I had my outfits planned, I sorted everything into categories that I divvied up between packing cubes. I used my two medium-sized packing cubes for dresses and tops, then packed bottoms and extras like swimsuits, undergarments, and pajamas into two smaller cubes. With all my clothes neatly contained inside the packing cubes, I still had plenty of space for other essentials like shoes and toiletries.

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3. Roll all your clothing

When you’re trying to fit 10 different shirts into one 12-inch-wide packing cube, you simply do not have space to fold and stack things normally. Rolling your clothes is absolutely the way to go. It’s much more space-efficient, and it lets you line up pieces side-by-side so you can easily see what you packed at first glance.

Source: @fashion_jackson

4. Wear your bulkiest clothing on the plane

Traveling during the late spring, I mostly needed warm-weather clothing like shorts, tank tops, and dresses, which are all relatively easy to pack. However, I knew I wanted to bring some warmer clothing in case the weather turned chilly in the evenings. But with an already almost full-to-bursting suitcase, there was no way I was going to fit an additional sweatshirt and jacket in there. My solution? Wear those extra layers on the plane. For my travel day, I wore a pair of joggers with a jean jacket and a crewneck sweatshirt layered over a T-shirt. I ended up shedding a couple of layers during the flight, but when I got to Greece, I was very happy to have some warmer clothing to wear for rooftop cocktails and windy boat rides.

5. Pare down toiletries

When I pack a carry-on for a shorter trip, I typically load up my favorite hanging toiletry bag with my TSA-approved liquids bag along with all manner of haircare tools, makeup products, and other personal-care items. But for this trip, I knew I couldn’t afford to take up space with anything non-essential. I ditched the hanging toiletry bag entirely and only brought my 1-liter liquids bag and a smaller pouch for a select few makeup items, deodorant, medications, and a mini hairbrush. Forgoing some of my go-to toiletry items (namely any sort of hot hair tool) felt like a bit of a sacrifice, but not busting the seams on my suitcase made it totally worth it.

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6. Bring vacuum-sealing bags for dirty clothes

I invested in (read: spent less than $10 on) a set of vacuum-sealing bags for a trip back in 2016, and I have been using them ever since. These work just like any other plastic zip-top bag: You place your items inside and use the slider at the top to seal the opening. Then, to create the vacuum seal, you simply roll up the bag. Thanks to a one-way air valve, once you push the air out, it can’t get back in. I always pack a couple of these bags in my carry-on for dirty clothes. They’ll help you pack your dirty stuff efficiently while keeping any smells or dirt contained and away from the rest of your clothes.

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7. Pack your personal item strategically

When packing your personal item, you’re probably most concerned about things like your travel documents and in-flight entertainment. But for a long trip with just a carry-on, you also need to consider your personal item as extra packing space. For my trip, I used a large tote bag with lots of pockets and zippered compartments as my personal item, but a travel backpack would also be super handy. I made sure to use all the available space to pack extras like my liquids toiletry bag, electronics chargers, and accessories like sunglasses. On the way home, I also packed all my souvenirs in my personal item. This helped ensure I could keep those items safe, and I didn’t have to worry about them getting lost or damaged if I needed to gate-check my suitcase.

how to pack a carry on
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how to pack a carry on
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