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Keep Calm and Carry-On: How to Pack For An Overseas Trip

Updated: Apr 3, 2021

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The thought of only taking a carry-on out of the country used to terrify me. Anyone else feel that way? I can wear the same type of outfit weeks at a time at home without even thinking about it, but as soon as I know I’m going on vacation I all of a sudden think I need to bring two dresses, three shoes, and four pairs of pants THAT I NEVER WEAR! I don’t know what it is. Maybe the fact that I won’t have access to it if by a chance in hell I would need it. Whatever it is, it’s a ridiculous mental game I like playing with myself.

That was until we decided to go to take a budget airline. Sometimes you really can’t pass up the price. Especially now when some airlines are no longer offering checked baggage with their basic economy prices (ahem, I’m looking at you, Delta). So I had to figure out how I was going to pack for a week in snowy weather in just a carry-on bag. And surprisingly, I was very successful at it.

Now comes the hard part… packing in a carry-on for a month overseas. Yes, this is my new venture in preparation for our wedding/honeymoon extravaganza. From our last trip I learned a lot, and researched more to implement and I wanted to share them with you.

How to pack for a month overseas with just a carry-on

1. Luggage is key... and don't forget your personal item!

The type of carry-on you get will make all the difference. Lightweight is most important. If your carry-on is 11 pounds, that leaves you only 11 pounds of stuff to add to it for most airlines 22-25 pound rule. A backpack could be a good way to go (Anthony used one and it worked for him), however, I need my rolling suitcases (I’m an old lady with shoulder issues). I personally like the carry-on that came with a 3 piece set I got a couple years ago by Beverly Hill Country Club. I particularly like that it’s a flexible hard case that will withstand impact without cracking. The hard cases also make me feel like I get more room to store my shit. And it comes in at only 6.5 pounds.

In addition to a small suitcase of sorts, you are allowed to bring one personal item that can fit under your seat. This is where I use a small backpack. In my personal item I’ll put most of my toiletries so they are easier to get out for security, as well as maybe an extra outfit and your “plane items” (i.e. water bottle, headphones, sleeping mask, etc.) Utilize your personal item to it’s full potential, it’s basically a free suitcase.

2. Neutral colors and layer like your life depends on it

If you’re going to Europe, especially for example, Germany to Greece (like we are), you will need to pack for different weather types. This is always where I have my issues. I need tank tops and palazzo pants to traipse around the Greek Islands, but then I’ll need jeans, boots, long sleeves and a jacket to venture out to the Zugspitze…. what’s a girl to do?!

First of all, keep your color palette neutral. I’m a fan of blacks, whites and grays (particularly black). But it’s whatever your preference is. If you keep your colors neutral it will be easier for you to mix and match the items that you wear during your time overseas. And make sure these neutrals are comfortable and something that you actually like wearing. More times than not I packed something that was really cute, but I knew I wouldn’t be comfortable walking around it in all day, so there it sat, in my bag for 10 days, missing it’s home in the back of my closet.

Secondly, embrace layers. Coming from Florida, this was a hard thing for me to learn to do. But if you layer than you can prepare for the cold weather, even with your warm weather clothes. An example would be:

Leggings for a dress you were planning on wearing can be put underneath your jeans when you are going to the Zugspitze. A cami and a tank top can be put underneath a long sleeve shirt and then topped with your jacket.

3. Speaking of jacket... wear your heaviest clothes on the plane

A good rule of thumb is wear your bulkiest clothes on the plane with you… your boots (if you’re bringing boots), your jacket, stuff like that. It will lighten your suitcase load and give you more space for other items.

4. Include detergent in your clear bag

Lorem ipsum doloThere is no way in hell you can pack 4 weeks worth of clothes into one carry-on and one personal item. At some point you will need to do laundry of sorts. Check out your hotel and see if they offer services at a reasonable price. Or, if you have time, you can see if there is a laundromat around your hotel, which will be significantly cheaper.

If neither is an option for you, pack some laundry detergent that will work well enough for you to wash your clothes in the sink. At least your small clothes that will dry quickly… lightweight shirts, socks, panties, bathing suits. So instead of packing 10 pairs of socks, you can pack 5 and just know you’ll need to wash some and let them hang out to dry while you’re sleeping. We did this on a number of our trips and it was really helpful.r sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Ut elit tellus, luctus nec ullamcorper mattis, pulvinar dapibus leo.

5. Travel sized everything

If it’s something that you know you will need, find a way to make it compactable. If your hair isn’t like mine and you can use the shampoos that the hotels provide, then wonderful, you are a space saving pro. But if you’re like me and can only use certain shampoos because your head is high maintenance (and the rest of your body… don’t even get me started on lotions… face or body), then invest in some travel bottles. Amazon has some good travel sized bottle packs that even come with a tsa approved clear case so you don’t need to worry about sizing. This also goes for medicine and makeup (and even your brush! no need for a full size brush… grab a small one).

6. Alright so... what do you pack?

So this is my basic check list of what needs to go into my suitcase (please note this is for 4 weeks…. its probably more than what you might need if you were going on just a 7 day vacation… but it might help you to scale down your own list if you need to).

carry-on packing list clothes
carry-on packing list necessities

The first time we packed with a carry-on was so freeing. Not worrying about if your luggage made it, and not having to wait at baggage claim… it just makes your vacation start that much quicker.

However, I definitely am anxious knowing that is all I will have for a month away from home and I’m hoping that I won’t forget something I actually do need. But, I’m keeping calm and carrying on.

So, do you travel with just a carryon, or do you check your luggage? Have any special hacks you’d like to share? Let me know in the comments!

And feel free to follow my adventures on instagram.




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