How I Pack My Carry-On for a Week

What to pack in a carry on

We’ve just gotten back from a week-long trip to the beach, and I’ve also just had an extended girls’ weekend. I’ve packed a lot of carry-ons in the last month.

I love reading posts about what people pack in their carry-ons, but I don’t see very good ones all that often, so I thought I’d write my own. To me, what makes a good carry-on post is pictures. Lots of pictures and specificity.

Perhaps I’m a little too nosy; I don’t know. I do love to look in people’s pantries when I go over to their homes and see what food they buy. Same thing for their carry-ons.

So here are all the details of what I brought to the beach and how I get everything to fit into my carry-on.

I’ve been a semi-minimalist for a while, and only have a small amount of clothing (compared to other people in this country, anyway). If I’m packing a carry-on only so I don’t have to check a bag (or to take up less space in the car), I need to be as efficient as possible with my limited wardrobe.

As a semi-minimalist, I've pared my wardrobe down. So how do I pack my carry-on to go on a trip for the week? Here's everything I bring, what I can't live without, and what I leave at home. #traveling #carryon #travelpack #whattopack #howtopack #shorttrip #familytravel #simpleliving


Here’s a picture of everything I bring in my carry-on. We’ll delve into details below, but this is what it looks like when everything is nicely packed up in packing cubes.

Suitcase packed for the week
Here’s my suitcase, ready to go. At the top are my packing cubes with clothes, at the bottom, my toiletries and shoes.

Packing cubes, or packing bags, or travel bags, are a really helpful tool when you’re traveling. We bought two sets, but my favorite are these which we bought from Amazon (affiliate link). As you can see, we bought the blue. They are slightly heavier duty and the zippers seem to be a little more heavy-duty, although none of the type we’ve bought have been full-proof. For some reason, the zippers give out really quickly on whatever packing cubes we buy.

My carry-on is an Amazon Basic hard-shell suitcase. It’s a little on the bigger side, but it usually fits in the overhead with no problem. I have a smaller version as well, which is a great suitcase, but this fits a little bit more and I find myself using it frequently.

What to pack in a carry on
My carry on bag, from the Amazon Basics line. My purse and hat are for scale.


Over the years, I have learned to pack way less than I used to. Because you can generally wash your clothes almost everywhere you go, you only ever need to pack a week’s worth of clothing anyway. More than that and it gets overwhelming and hard to keep up with your things.

For the beach, I’ve packed:

  • 2 pairs of shorts for general outings in blue and khaki
  • 1 pair of jeans if it gets cooler at night
  • 1 pair of nicer pants for going out to eat
  • 4 short-sleeved shirts: 1 tank and 3 casual but cool shirts
  • 1 long-sleeved shirt for cooler nights
  • Running shorts and two running shirts
  • 2 pairs of running socks
  • 1 bathing suit
  • 6 pairs of underwear
  • 1 pair of PJs
  • 1 regular bra
  • 1 sports bra

You’ll notice that most of my clothes are in the same color category. It’s because I try to buy coordinating clothing. I buy a lot of black, navy, red or pink, tan, and white clothing that I can easily interchange. It makes it much easier to pack that way, knowing that I can make several different outfits.

I’ll often pack a lightweight raincoat (featured in this post) if it’s cooler, but at this time of year, I don’t need it, and the long-sleeved shirt will suffice.

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I generally carry three pairs of shoes. This is a hard category to pack less in, because you want to be prepared for lots of different scenarios. However, I’m packing:

  • running shoes which I can also wear for outings
  • my beloved Pons, which are great for walking and can also be worn for going out at night
  • flip-flops, for the beach
  • I’ve also decided to pack some nicer shoes for dinner out (it is unusual for me to pack four pairs of shoes, but I had the room)
shoes for the week
Flip flops, nicer dress shoes, running shoes, plus my Pons (which I’m wearing on the trip)


I travel with this leather toiletries bag my sister made for me. In it, I pack:

  • toothbrush and mini-toothpaste
  • deodorant
  • skincare products (serum and night creme)
  • mini-brushes
  • mascara
  • Diva cup

I don’t usually pack a brush, because Mr. ThreeYear usually packs one in his bigger toiletry bag.

I have also started carrying this pouch that Mr. ThreeYear got from an international flight for my jewelry. It keeps it from getting so tangled, plus I always know where all of my jewelry is.

My toiletry bag contains my deodorant, serum, lotion, mini-brushes, mascara, lip balm, highlighter, eye shadow, lipstick, mineral foundation, Diva cup, and hairband. I also threw my toothbrush and travel toothpaste in there after I took the picture. My jewelry pouch holds all the jewelry.


In the miscellaneous category, I’m bringing:

  • Ipad, which serves as my book, and charger
  • sunglasses (they’re actually a great brand called Goodr, but I had an old RayBan case I found to store them in)
  • pen, lipstick, reusable straws
  • wallet and phone (which of course I’m using to take the picture)
Everything I pack in my purse: Ipad and charger, pen, lipstick, reusable straws, sunglasses, and wallet.

Travel Clothes

I always leave the clothes I’ll be wearing on the trip out so that it’s easy for me to get ready before I go. Normally, I wear my running shoes when I travel, because they take up the most space in my suitcase, so it makes sense to wear them. This time, however, I had room, so I opted to wear my Pons, which are super comfortable to travel in. I also wore my khaki shorts and a striped shirt. My unmentionables are tucked in there too.

My traveling outfit

I’ve been packing lighter for several years now, ever since I embraced a semi-minimalist lifestyle. While I have noticed that I occasionally mourn a more complex outfit, by and large, a simpler approach means less to deal with, an easier suitcase to unpack at home, and less choices I need to make while I’m on vacation.

I do often wash clothing while I’m away. I find that there are almost always places to wash your clothes. I can mix and match quite a few outfits with my few shorts, pants, and shirts, so I look different every day.

Well that’s it! How do you pack for a week away? What do I include that you leave out? What can you not live without that I didn’t bring?

Author: Laurie

Hi. I'm Laurie, and my family and I have set out to double our net worth and move abroad in the next three years. Join us on our journey!

One thought on “How I Pack My Carry-On for a Week”

  1. Love this – I agree. I find it interesting what people pack, but it doesn’t ever seem right. We are going over to Eastern Europe for 12 days, and I’m hoping to pack just a carry on, so this was super helpful! Thanks!

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