7 Days – 1 Carry On: How to Pack many options into a Small Suitcase.

As with most trips, we only bring what we can carry-on to the airplane (plans can change in an instant if you are traveling standby and the luggage will often go on without you).  Packing everything in a carry-on is an extra challenge when traveling in Europe because most European airlines require carry-on luggage to be smaller than the American airlines do.

For this particular trip we are going to Paris for 7 days.

What I am bringing:

  • 3 Pairs of pants – The general rule is 3 bottoms for every 7 tops, because people rarely notice what pants you wear, especially blue jeans or slack.
  • 2 Pairs of shoes-I am taking one pair of sneakers and 1 pair of a little more dressy shoe.  Both in Black.
  • 7 T-shirts – Mostly for undershirts and to sleep in.
  • 2 Pull-Overs – Instead of packing a big coat I am focusing on layering since we will be spending about half of our time inside and half outside.
  • 2 Sweaters for something a little nicer
  • 2 Jackets for walking around
  • 1 Dinner Jacket for our nicer evenings
  • Socks and Underwear
  • Belts
  • 3 scarves, 1 hat, gloves
  • Sleeping pants
  • Laptop
  • Nook and Magazines to read
  • 3 Cameras, plus all accessories
  • Electronic adaptor for European plug
  • Bathroom bag – Don’t forget to put all liquids into a plastic ziplock bag.

Here is what it all Looks like laid out :

Here is my carry-on.  I put one of my shoes in it so you can see how small it is


There are three ways to pack:  rolling (great for duffel bags and oddly shaped bags), folding (best for smaller bags, but needs special attention to keep wrinkles away), Bundling (special arrangement of folding everything into one heap to keep wrinkles off, see Real Simple Magazine July 2012).  I will be using most folding but rolling the smaller things to tuck into small spaces.

  • Decide what it is you will be wearing as you travel on the plane, I recommend larger things that would take up room in the suitcase such as jeans and a jacket (hopefully it is a jacket that you can easily fold on the plane to help you sleep).
  • Pick a good bag, something that will not explode from the strain on the zippers.
  1. Start with rolling up the smaller stuff and place them along the bars around the bottom, along with flat shoes – plan on wearing the larger shoes as you travel.  If shoes do not fit near the bars than place them on the side where the wheels are, this is the best place for heavy things that will not wrinkle.
  2. Next, fold pants and larger materials using  magazines to fold around and avoid wrinkles. Use these as the bulk of your packing.
  3. Wrap fragile items in the softer ones such as sweaters.
  4. Fill in all spaces with items such as belts or socks in shoes.  You can also roll up any other t-shirts and smaller clothes to fit in tight spaces.
  5. Place dinner jackets and nicer items on top (fold the dinner jackets inside out, just not the sleeves, to help protect from wrinkles.
  6. Find a good backpack/bag that you can easily place under the seat in front of you on the airplane.  Place computer, electronics and a change of clothes in the bag.  Use small ziplock bags to separate the different cords for cameras, computers, iPods, etc.   Make sure to keep your liquids close by.
  7. After you zip everything up make sure to place identification on the bag – even though you may be carrying it on, it is very common for the last group of people to board the airplane to have to check carry on luggage due to lack of bin space.  If you are checking luggage be sure your identification has the address of where you are staying not just your home, that way if it is lost it will have a better chance of meeting you at your destination.

General Rules for narrowing down your clothes:

  • Choose neutral colors for your pants and shirts – something that matches your shoes because shoes can take up a lot of room (if you have to pack casual and dress black shoes, and casual and dress brown shoes, plus another pair just because you like them, you are going to have to dedicate a suitcase to just shoes in the end).
  • Individualized with outer layers and accessories.
  • Choose clothes that are blends as they wrinkle less.
  • Choose clothes that are not bulky because they will take up more room.  Instead of one large coat take 3 or 4 layers of clothes that you can mix and match.

Here is what it looks like all packed:

Notice the dirty look Toby gives when we pack bags.

If all else fails  – Check your bags 🙂

4 Responses to “7 Days – 1 Carry On: How to Pack many options into a Small Suitcase.”
  1. Breann says:

    Genius!!! I will use this next time I travel…seriously.

  2. Patina says:

    You forgot the hair dryer and make up! that’s what fills my bag! Can’t wait to see you!

  3. Karen Martin says:

    Love the Packing tips and going to save them! I still don’t see how you got that all in that little bag! Are you a magician? Have a magical trip!

  4. Amy says:

    Excuse me!! There is NO room left in that suitcase for me!!! How can stow away if you take so many clothes. 🙂

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