How to Pack Light for a Week

By Jodi "Jato" Thornton; Updated June 08, 2017

The carry-on challenge: Packing light for your week vacation

How to Pack Light for a Week

Heading out for a week's vacation with only a carry-on bag can seem like a daunting challenge. However, the time you save in the airport baggage check and claim stations can make the effort worthwhile. Use a few savvy packing tips to load up your hand luggage and you'll never miss your bulky suitcase.

The basics of packing light

Check your airline's maximum carry-on size and work within those parameters. Instead of trying to include clothing for every possible scenario, think about what you'll really need during your trip, and start there. Make sure all your basic pieces can mix and match. Four shirts and four pants or skirts equal 16 possible outfits. And keep in mind that doing a load of laundry on your trip is far less costly than paying for a checked bag.

Behind the basics

Tailor your wardrobe so you can add and subtract thin layers according to the weather. A merino wool base layer can slip on over your t-shirt and you can top it with a light fleece jacket for colder nights. If you must bring a bigger jacket or heavy footwear for extreme weather, wear them on the plane, even if you're heading out from a warm region. You'll be able to stow whatever you don't want to wear in flight under the seat in front of you. Use packing cubes to keep everything neat and to fit more in less space. Compression cubes can free up even more space by removing air from your items to make them flatter.

Packing your essentials

Bringing all the toiletries you need for a week can seem daunting in light of TSA's 3-1-1 rule, which mandates containers in size of 3.4 ounces or smaller for any liquids, gels or sprays. All items must fit in a single quart-sized zip-top clear plastic bag. Get creative by substituting dry versions of your favorite products to save space. Shampoo, conditioner, moisturizer, face wash, sunscreen and bug repellent all come in bars or sticks that won't count toward your liquid limit. Add laundry sheets to hand wash your t-shirts, socks and underwear in the hotel sink. They dissolve and make suds once they contact water.


Pack everything you plan to take a few days in advance to keep from throwing too much in at the last minute as you rush out the door. Take your packed luggage and play tourist in your own town for an hour or two. It will quickly become apparent if you're trying to bring too much.

About the Author

Jodi "Jato" Thornton