7 Days Away With Just a Carry On – Not Possible. Or Is It?

Could I survive A week long cruise with 2 days before in port city – so a total of 10 days –  and only taking a carry on? Pfft…right…whatever.


Yes, really. I wouldn’t say it unless I had actually tried it and succeeded. And interestingly enough, this topic is searched like crazy on the world wide web and there are LOTS of resources on how to DO it. I know, because I searched and watched, searched and read and worked to convince myself that I could do it. I didn’t really believe it, but I had committed to it.

So – I’m doing my part now to share in the vast and abundant knowledge out there on just HOW to pack  for a 7 day Cruise ( or any vacation that is 7 days) in JUST a little, teeny, tiny carry-on. And friends, I know the doubt. I looked at my carry-on and though ” No bloody way everything I need to take will fit in there”….well, it did. TA DAH!! Sound the trumpets, share the victory! I was pretty proud of myself for making it work, and you’ll be even more surprised to learn that I STILL had too much stuff with me for a 7 day cruise. WHA??? Yes, indeed. I brought home clothing items that I did not even wear once.

I’m officially converted now because the ease of taking just a carry on for a long distance trip is so very much worth it. It reduced wait times significantly and got us out and about much faster with less luggage to wait at the carousel for, or drag around town while waiting for check in times to come. AND the money saved! $25 each flight, each bag. With 5 flights overall, I saved big time.

So, how did I achieve the impossible and even come out ahead? I’ll take you through the process and teach you some valuable tips that I learned through my own scouring and research.

Ready? Here it goes:

Step one

7 day trip with just a carry onGet a good carry -on suitcase. One that has good pockets, good plastic barriers for your ‘wet’ stuff and rolls nice and easy. I chose one that had the 360 degree rollers and I loved it. Much easier on my back than the ones you have to drag behind you. You have to be careful about the sizing and be sure to get one that meets the industry allowable size which is no larger than 9x14x22.


Step two

carry on 3JPGStare at your new bag and wonder how the HECK am I going to fit everything in there? ( I know you will do this, so I might as well add it to the steps) But really, for step #2 open up your carry-on and look closely at it. It will have metal bars running down the length of it, and between these metal bars there is lots of great space. This is the first trick – the shoes that you are planning on taking with you can fit into these spaces nicely. For me, I have small feet and I was able to fit 6 pairs of flat shoes ( mostly flipflops and sandals for my destination) into these spaces. Typically, these spaces would not even be utilized – so use them!

Step Three

Travel with Just a Carry onChoose your outfits for each of the 7 days. This is where I opted out of being THAT organized and brought most, well ok, ALL of my summer outfits when I really didn’t need them all. Select what you will wear each day, mix and match, include bathing suits and evening wear and sleep wear ( unless you sleep naked) and underwear. Once you have enough clothing out for 7-9 days then you start packing it. There are a variety of different ways to do this – some like the layering technique, I chose the rolling technique. I was amazed at how much I could fit in there by rolling clothes up. TIP: roll socks up into shoes if you take running shoes, or other shoes with toes.

Step Four

Travel with just a carry onThe dreaded makeup and bathroom ‘goodies’ – for women who like ( need) a lot of stuff this can be challenging, but not impossible. Be sure to purchase the industry allotted size of fillable bottles and the plastic container you can put them in. The limit is 1 quart bag filled with items that are no bigger than 100ml each. I bought a package that was all ready to go and had labels. The labels were fantastic. I usually identify my stuff by the packaging it’s in. Take it out and put it in a nondescript plastic bottle and I’m accidentally using muscle cream as toothpaste…ich…Choose the items that you cannot be without first. If you wear contact lenses, a travel size of solution, and then shampoo, conditioner, hairspray, hair products – whatever you deem as absolutely important that you won’t be able to buy at your location – then put it in it’s own special 100ml container and label it. This one quart plastic container will fill up fast, so be choosy, this is all you get. You’ll also get smaller screw top containers that are great for face lotion or other items that you don’t need much volume of. Then, put this bag at the TOP of your carry-on, or in a front pouch for easy access to take out for scanning.

Step Five

All other bathroom needs that are not liquid as well as shavers, solid soap, laundry soap ( in powder form) – this is great to wash out items of clothing that end up  being worn all the time, like socks or underwear or bathing suits in tropical climates. Any thing else that you might need – hair clips, hair brush etc. Put these items in a toiletry bag that is of a size that will fit on top of your clothing in your carry on comfortably without making it impossible to zip up. I use a rectangular shaped bag that zips open to two compartments – it carried a LOT of stuff and packed up very low profile. TIP: If you go to any drug store you can find bins with travel size products of pretty much everything. I even ordered the travel size suntan lotion from the supplier to make it easy on me when packing.

Step Six

Any prescription meds, earplugs, earphones, eye shades, wallets etc, pack away in your one personal item that you can take with you. I took a knapsack that was small enough to fit under the seat in front of me, but big enough to act as my overflow should I need it. I packed my camera, scarf for the plane for if it got cold, my hat, sunglasses, earplugs…all that stuff I would need at arms reach.

Step Seven

Zip it all up. Once you packed it all, the moment of truth has come. Can you zip it up? I had no problem getting my bag closed and zipped and was quite surprised by that. So much so, I ended up taking two extra pairs of flipflops that I didn’t even need because I just HAD to fill up that void of extra space…ugh.

Step Eight

7 day travel with just a carry onMarvel at your engineering feat. It’s really not that hard is it? And the bonus is you don’t have to worry about this bag going missing because it will be with you at all times. I do advise putting a ribbon or some other kind of identifying marker on it since carry-on bags seem to all look alike. I’m not trying to be carry-on bag racist or anything, but when you are scrambling to get out a plane in a hurry, along with everyone else, you’ll want something to identify your black rolling bag from all of the others around you in the overhead bin. Or, you can buy a unique colour bag initially to save this trouble.  Also, it can sometimes happen where the overhead bins get filled up and the airline checks your carry-on as a courtesy and free of charge. I can’t stand this, as it means that folks are taking up more space in the overheads than they should. But if it does happen, your bag will be at the carousel with the rest of the heathens who packed those monstrous car sized bags. If you get subjected to this, again, you’ll want an identifier to grab your bag and run – the courtesy check carry-ons usually come out first.

Finally – Happy Travels! Enjoy the freedom of going with just your carry-on!

If you have any tips of your own for carry on only travel, tell me in the comment section below!

7 days travel with just a carry on

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