Packing for 12 Days in a Carry On!

As I talked about in a recent post, I’m going to be spending the holidays traveling down the California coast in a van with some of my best friends! What I didn’t mention is that I’m going to attempt to squeeze everything I’ll need for the 12 day trip into a carry on suitcase and a backpack. I decided to do this rather than just biting the bullet and checking a bag in an attempt to both; save time waiting for my luggage to come off the plane, and to save money on the airline’s checked baggage fees.

I’m leaving in just over a week but decided to do a trial run today and pack my tiny suitcase to see just how much I can fit into my carry on bags. Keep reading to see the tips and tricks I’ve come up with along the way.

Before packing anything else I placed my jacket into the very bottom of my suitcase by unzipping the fabric and placing it inside. This allowed me to keep it separate from everything else and keep it out of the way.


Since we’re traveling in late December, I’m packing mostly long sleeved tops and sweaters which ended up taking up half of my carry on alone. I managed to save some space by layering the shirts on top of one another and rolling them into a giant sweater sushi roll.


Next up is pants! Where traveling during winter months is a negative in that my sweaters take up so much room, its also good because I can get away with packing mostly leggings as far as bottoms go. I’m bringing a few different pairs of leggings to wear with long sweaters, and just one pair of jeans for this trip. I also layered these onto of each other and made another sushi roll of pants.


I used the leftover space in the main compartment of my carry to fold up a pair of combat boots and fit them in as best I could. I also rolled up a hat and a couple of scarves and squished them in atop my pants. I’ll be using the extra space in this area of my suitcase to pack a gift for the friends I’m going on the trip with. This is an awesome little hack as well because it guarantees I’ll have extra space in my suitcase for souvenirs once I’ve taken the gift out to give to them.


A good tip for packing socks, underwear, and tank tops that I found is to place these items into gallon Ziploc bags and squeeze all of the air out. This is a good alternative to buying actual packing cubes as you probably have some large Ziploc bags laying around the house, it saves space, and it keeps all of these little items well organized.


The great thing about packing only carry on is that you also get to bring a “personal item” on the plane which can be as large as a backpack! I’m going to be packing my backpack with my electronics, makeup bag, and camera equipment as well as anything else I can’t fit into my suitcase. Of course I’ll be separating my liquids into the TSA size bag and putting that into my backpack as well so its easy to take out during security.


Finally, I’m going to be wearing my bulkiest items on the plane such as my winter coat, hiking boots, and chunkiest sweater.


That was as far as I got with my packing trial run but I was pleasantly surprised with how much I managed to fit! I should have plenty of room for everything when I’m actually packing next week and even some room to spare for anything I buy while on the trip. Also if you’re wondering, I bought both my carry on bag and the backpack I’m bringing at Marshall’s at a big discount so I would highly recommend checking out places like that or T.J. Maxx for great quality yet cheap luggage.

Bon Voyage!


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