Perfect Your Packing Lite: How to Pack a Carry On Bag for 10 Days

How to Pack A Carry On Bag for 10 Days

Wondering how to pack a carry on bag for 10 days? Like, is it actually possilbe? Regardless of if you are a chronic over packer, or dabbling in packing lite, you can make 10 days in a carry on work. At She Packs Lite, we’re here to help your travel plans come true and we’re here with a packing guide that will allow you to breeze through your travels (and save on bag fees) so you can experience all there is to do at your destination. 

Fitting enough for 10 days into a little bag might seem like an impossible task. But fear not, with this guide and our 5-4-3-2-1 travel capsule wardrobe method, we’ll show you the easy way to pack a carry-on for 10 days or any other upcoming trip that might be on your horizon. 

Why carry on? 

Let’s get real, carrying heavy bags around on your hard-earned vacation time isn’t fun. It doesn’t matter if it’s weekend trips or month-long excursions. If you can master packing light, (and we think that you can) your trip will be even more stress-free than you imagined. And bonus points: you’ll avoid all of the outrageous baggage fees that airlines are charging nowadays. 

Traveling with only carry-on bags also eliminates all of the time spent waiting at baggage claim for your bags to emerge. Standing there waiting for your bags feels like an eternity when all that’s standing between you and your vacation is the slowest roundabout in the world. And somehow your bag always comes out last? But if you carry on, all you have to do is get off the plane and get right to your plans. 

Planning Tips 

Start with a realistic packing list 

We get it, when you’re going on a long trip, you want to make sure that you have everything that you might need as well as some different options for clothes each day. But the first thing you need to do if you want to know how to pack a carry on bag for 10 days is get realistic about what you actually need to bring with you. You don’t need 10 different pairs of shoes to go with 40 different clothing items. Shoes are bulky and they take up the most space. We never take more than 3 pairs. You also don’t need to wear different cloting items each day. With our mix and match 54321 system, you will have more than enough outfits.

Make sure your carry-on bag and personal item are the appropriate sizes 

An important part of traveling with only carry-on luggage is making sure your bags actually fit where they’re supposed to. For airline travel, this usually means that your personal bag needs to fit under the seat in front of you and your roller bag needs to fit in the overhead above your seat. A good rule of thumb is to make sure you’re familiar with your airline’s carry-on restrictions prior to your next trip so you don’t find yourself having to check your bag unexpectedly. 

Be sure your bags are comfortable to carry 

The kind of bag you choose is just personal preference. When you fly carry-on, it’s usually a good idea to have a rolling suitcase as your carry-on and either a duffle bag with a strap, shoulder bag, or backpack as your personal item. A duffle bag will give you a little bit more packing room if that’s what you need, but some people prefer to have a bag with backpack straps so you don’t kill your shoulders walking around the airport. Having two straps on your personal item will help distribute the weight a bit more so you don’t have sore shoulders for your vacation. 

Plan activities and special occasions 

At She Packs Lite, we like to try to stick to our 5-4-3-2-1 travel capsule wardrobe method of packing. However, one of the challenges to packing lite is when you have to pack for specific events or activities that you’re planning on doing while you’re away. With careful planning, you can often fit the dress for that fancy party in your capsule.

Check the weather at your destination ahead of time 

Checking the weather ahead of time is important to make sure you’re packing appropriately for your trip. For example, if you’re going somewhere that is warm and will stay warm the entire time you’re there, you can probably pack one pair of pants and one light jacket and save some space. Packing a carry-on suitcase for a 10-day trip in colder weather might be a bit more challenging, but not impossible by any means. This just means that you’ll have to pack more versatile items that you can wear more than once. For example, pick a good coat or jacket that you can wear every day and that matches all of the outfits that you bring. That way you don’t have to sacrifice space in your bag for a bulky sweater or coat. 

Decide if you’re going to do laundry at some point on your trip 

Doing laundry midway through your 10-day trip is a great way to pack less and still be able to wear cleans clothes every day. A lot of Airbnb’s that you might stay in have an available washing machine and dryers that you can use and some hotels may offer a laundry service as well. This way you can follow our travel capsule method and you can make the most of the space you do have. It also helps you to not have to lug around dirty laundry for the majority of your trip.  

Packing Tips 

Start with bulky items at the bottom

When you’re finally ready to start packing, start with the bulkier items first. It’s much easier to stuff smaller items in empty spaces between shoes than it is to try to fit your shoes in last. When space is an issue, you’ll find that you can fit things like pairs of underwear in your tennis shoes at the bottom of your bag and free up some space elsewhere for other things that you might need. 

Wear your bulky items on the plane 

If you’re strapped for space but absolutely want to bring those boots or chunky sandals, wear them on the plane instead of packing them in your suitcase. The same goes for larger jackets or coats. Even though they’re just one item, they can take up a lot of space in your bag, and it’s important that you make smart decisions about what you pack when you’re trying to fit your 10 day travel capsule in a carry-on bag. 

Invest in some compression packing cubes 

Compression packing cubes make a huge difference in space. These will squish down all of your clothes and keep them in nice, compact containers that fit together like a puzzle in your suitcase. Packing cubes will help you make the most of a smaller bag and still be able to fit all of the clothing items that you want. 

Try the rolling method 

Another great way to maximize space when you pack clothes is to roll everything instead of folding it. When you roll small items like tank tops and lightweight t-shirts, you can usually stuff them in between a pair of pants, which is an excellent way to make sure you’re making the most of your space. 

Make sure all liquid toiletries are travel-sized 

A surefire way to get held up at airport security is to leave full-sized toiletries and liquids in your bag. If you’re not used to traveling carry-on, you might just throw your big bottles of shampoo and conditioner in your checked bag and forget about them. Not only will TSA take those and throw them out, but you’ll also be out those items when you get home. Having only travel-size liquid toiletries is a must for carry-on travel. 

Since 10 days is a longer trip, we recommend having all of your essential toiletries in travel-sized containers to make it through security. These items have to be three ounces or smaller and fit in a quart-sized clear bag. We like to keep these right at the top of our small personal bag so you can pull them out quickly to go through security. If you’re going to be away on a longer trip, we also recommend purchasing larger toiletries when you get to your final destination. You can get items like sunscreen, shampoo, conditioner, and contact solution at local drugstores. 

Keep all essentials and travel documents in your personal item

One of the nice things about traveling with just a carry-on bag is that you can have all of your belongings with you at all times. However, one possible scenario that may come up is that you arrive at the gate, are in a later boarding group, and the plane runs out of overhead space for your roller bag. 

In case this happens you want to be prepared by having all of your essentials in your personal item. This includes your toiletry bag, medications, travel documents, any valuables, phone chargers, and some extra underwear and pairs of socks (just in case). Basically, anything that you need to have easy access to while you’re traveling. You don’t want to get separated from your bag and learn the hard way that you should always keep your toothbrush and clean underwear with you at all times while traveling. 

How to pack a carry on bag for 10 days 

Bring versatile shoes 

Since shoes are some of the items that take up the most space when you’re packing your bag you want to be strategic and bring only pairs that work with multiple outfits. In our travel capsule wardrobe guide, you’ll see that we recommend only bringing three pairs of shoes for every trip. The kind of trip you’re going on will have a lot of influence over which pairs of shoes make the cut. 

For example, if you’re going on a business trip, you most likely won’t need hiking boots and you’ll need more work-appropriate heels and flats. However, if you’re going on an outdoor excursion through South America, it’s a good idea to have more sensible footwear and you can probably leave your nicer shoes at home. 

Pick a color palette 

Sticking to a single color palette while packing your travel capsule will allow you to create different outfits with a limited number of pieces. If you’re struggling to match different items, we recommend picking neutral colors. The objective of a travel capsule wardrobe is to mix up different items to create new outfits so you can still have some travel style while you’re away. We think that’s one of the great features of our packing guides, your travel wardrobe doesn’t have to be boring! 

Here is an example of the packing I am doing for a 10+ day trip to Portugal this summer. As you can see, the color palette is in the dark blue family, really navy and neutrals.

You can see more about this capsule at the post: What to Wear in Portugal this Summer.

Portugal Travel Capsule | How to Pack a Carry On Bag for 10 Days | ShePacksLite.com

Customize your pieces based on the time of year you’re traveling 

Since the 5-4-3-2-1 method of packing only allows for a certain number of tops and bottoms when you’re packing, make sure that all of those items that you’re choosing are appropriate for the weather where you’re going to be. For example, if you’re going somewhere warm over the summer months, your four bottoms will most likely be pairs of shorts rather than jeans or slacks. You’ll probably also pack more casual wear than you will during colder months since you’ll want to stay cool and comfortable. 

Choose outer layers that you can wear with everything 

Even if you’re traveling during warmer months, it’s still a great idea to have some kind of jacket or sweater that you can throw on over any outfit in case you need it. However, to ensure you’re not using too much of the little space you have available, try to pick something that will go with every outfit you have packed. This is, again, where the color palette comes in handy. If all of your outfits are similar colors, you should be able to bring one jacket or sweater that compliments every outfit you have, and then you’ll be prepared for anything. 

FAQ: How to Pack a Carry On Bag for 10 Days

How many clothes do I need for a 10-day trip? 

You don’t need to pack as much as you’d think. Our 5-4-3-2-1 packing method works for every trip, even longer ones like we’re talking about here. If you want to fit everything in a carry-on, using a mix and match travel capsule will help you have a huge variety of outfits in a small space!

What size bag do I need for a 10-day trip? 

At She Packs Lite, we’re firm believers that if you follow our packing guide methods, a carry-on is all you need for a 10-day trip. The benefits of flying with a carry-on bag, freedom from lugging heavy bags, freedom from baggage claims, ability to focus on the experiences are well worth it!

Is it better to roll clothes or fold?

This depends on your personal packing style and how much space you have to work with. Some people prefer packing cubes because they allow you to keep certain types of clothing or certain outfits together in the same container, but others prefer the rolling method because it allows you to fit a little more into a small bag. We often do both! Use packing cubes and roll our clothes in them.

Can I bring two carry-ons on a plane? 

You can’t bring two carry-on-sized bags in the cabin of a plane without having to check one of them or possibly facing some extra cost. The good news is most airlines will allow you to have one carry-on bag and one personal item. For longer trips and if you’re only traveling with carry-ons, you’ll probably want your personal item to be something bigger than a tote bag so you can have a little extra room for the little things you need to pack like your phone charger. 

What is not allowed in a carry-on bag? 

The best way to know what you can and cannot bring in your carry-on bag if you’re not familiar with the rules is to check out the TSA’s website, which goes into great detail about what is prohibited in carry-on bags. Like we mentioned above, one thing that you can’t have in a carry-on bag is liquids that are not travel-sized and in a plastic bag. You also can’t bring full plastic water bottles through security, even if they’re sealed, so bringing a collapsible water bottle that you can refill is a smart choice as well. 

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