August 19 2014
One Month in a Carry on Cover

One month in a carry-on. Now that’s a statement I kept on dropping when asked about my holiday until one day, a colleague from work pointed out that no one has seen this ‘magic backpack’ of mine. It’s true, so I’m taking this opportunity to share with you the packing techniques and tips I implemented for my trip in Asia.

It may seem that packing a month worth of stuff in a wheeled backpack is astonishing but I did have a slight advantage of packing for a summer destination where it meant bringing light garments. This subject would not even be open for discussion if we were to travel in wintertime. But it took a fair amount of analyzing (the kind of places I’ll be in, weather, etc.) and strategizing to make it happen. Want to see how I’ve done it? Keep on reading below.

For the purposes of this post, I used my husband’s wheeled backpack so I can better illustrate my packing technique. The Roxy backpack I have (similar to this) opens only from the top so you won’t be able to see it properly, but both bags are  roughly the same size and required the same technique.

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Calculating how many items you will need ensures that you won’t under pack or over pack. Here’s an example for this trip:

Number of days: 30 days


T-shirt: 8 x 3 re-wear =                     24


Shorts: 3 x 3 re-wear=                          9

Long skirt: 1 x 2 re-wear=                     2

Trouser and Jeans: 3 x 2 re-wear=       6


Dresses: 4 x 2 re-wear =                   12

With roughly 19 pieces of clothing, I roughly had around 30-36 outfit options. Amazing!


Pick the clothes based on your re-wear criteria. It may be time consuming, but it was a lot of fun for me as I got to play mix and match. I took photos so I can reference it when I started hating my clothes (it kicks in on week 2).

Another thing to consider is sticking to one style, so all your clothes are cohesive. It’s harder to expand your outfit options if half of your clothes are bohemian and half are sporty. Having one solid style in mind will also help you narrow down the clothes you need to pack.

Last thing is to choose versatile clothes that you can wear both day and night (that’s dresses for me). Here are two examples of how I configured my clothes.

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You don’t want to bring everything, but you also don’t want to forget anything. Having a packing list is an effective way to speed up your packing process and will keep your mind at ease. You can download a packing list I created here.

You also need to assess your packing list and see where you can streamline things. As women, we have a gazillion of toiletry items and beauty products but when you’re traveling light, try to pack only the essentials and bring multi-purpose products like a stain that you can use as blusher and as lip color.



By laying everything on the bed, you can roughly gauge where things need to go in your carry-on and what to pack first.

One Month in a Carry On 4TIP 5: PACK WISELY

I pack my shoes first, stuffing them with socks and putting them in a shoe bag. I roll and fold my underwear and keep it in a small garment bag as well.

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Next, I rolled all my clothes starting with my denims since the toughness gave my luggage a good foundation. Next, I bundled my t-shirts and rolled them, securing it with a belt (belt that I will use naturally).

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Pack toiletries in travel size containers. I got mine from Sephora and it was a good month supply. Label them using washi tape and pack in a transparent bag.

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Keep jewelry to a minimum but bring a statement jewelry like this necklace. Jewelry tends to irritate my skin in the summer, so I normally wear dainty items. I used a clutch as my makeup case that can double as a purse for a night out.

Since its summer season, keep makeup to a minimum and bring multifunctional products. I brought a neutral eye shadow palette and a lot of pencils with me since it’s less bulky to pack. I also brought a tinted moisturizer so my skin can still breathe with the heat and concealer for when I need extra coverage particularly at night.

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Utilize every luggage space you have even those little crannies. Create a base in your luggage by packing your heaviest items at the bottom.

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I then placed my toiletries, accessories on top in the zipped part of the luggage, as they are the most sensitive. No one wants their face cream explode in the luggage.

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Keep soft garments like silk aside until everything is in place. Roll and fill in any nooks and crannies with these garments. Trust me, there’s always little space hidden somewhere.

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Put electronics like cameras, laptop or iPad and any other sensitive or valuable items in your bag. Anthony’s luggage has a detachable backpack that I used as my handbag particularly during days when we had a packed schedule. It’s also very roomy, so any new purchase or souvenirs went on this backpack.

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I also brought a smaller purse for everyday use. When traveling, my airport essentials go in here so I don’t end up rummaging through my bigger handbag to locate my passport or wallet.

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As you can see from tip 1, I packed two airport outfits since I have no intention of wearing shorts and tank top when flying so you can say that these are my heaviest item since it’s more regular clothes. I also wore my bulkiest shoes, so it doesn’t take more luggage space. Don’t bother packing your hat since it will automatically be deformed, and it’s such an awkward shape to put in your luggage, wear it and act like a celebrity avoiding the paparazzi.

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My last tip may counteract all the advices I just gave, but what’s the fun of traveling if you don’t partake in some shopping or buy souvenirs for your loved ones? When I selected my clothes, I made sure to bring some items that I can accept to part ways with along the way. I disposed of as I go, and this allowed room for new purchases.

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Voila! This is how I survived a month in a carry-on. I’m always curious to know other packing tips and tricks. If you’ve got any you’d like to share, leave a comment so everyone can see it.


  • Claire

    OMG! One month with a carry-on, how did you do it?!

    Well, your post explains it all and I thank you for that; you tips are so useful.


  • Lisa

    I travel a lot. I usually pack separate outfits into plastic shopping bags. I can pull out a whole outfit without rooting through everything, the clothes stay dry and neat even in a rain-soaked backpack, and the bags double as laundry bags to take home soiled or damp clothing. I place underwear and socks in the fold of the shirt and fold the shirt into the jeans or skirt. It keeps wrinkling down to a minimum.

  • Caitlin Jean

    Thanks for the advise, I am gonna try it for my 3 weeks Cuba trip :)