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Minimalist Packing Checklist: How to Pack in a Carry-On

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Whether I’m traveling for two days or two weeks, my philosophy is this: carry-on or bust.

Packing everything in a single carry-on means less to pack and organize, less decision fatigue getting dressed, and less to haul around on your trip or vacation. I’m leaving soon for a two-week trip to Europe and I managed to pack everything I need in a compact carry-on suitcase. Victory!

I’m sharing a complete breakdown of exactly what I packed, and you can CLICK HERE for a printable version you can to lighten your load on your next trip. Remember to check weather and trip itinerary so you can customize.

Minimalist Packing Checklist

In My Suitcase

Maxi Dresses (2x)
Lightweight Blouses (5x)
Lightweight T-Shirts (5x)
Jeans / Pants (2x)
Chambray Shirt
Socks (10x)
Underwear (10x)
Bras (3x)
Lightweight PJs (2x)
Mini Umbrella
Lightweight Scarf
Hip Belt Bag
Warm Beanie
Bootie w/ Low Heel
Stylish Sneaker
Stocked Toiletry Bag
Laundry Bag

In My Handbag

Hand Sanitizer
Lip Balm
Hand Cream
Antibacterial Wipes
No Jet Lag Remedy
Vitamins + Medications
Stain Remover Stick
Laptop Computer
International Converters + Adapters
Charging Cords + Portable Charger
Book / Magazines

Outfit for the Plane

Jean Jacket

Optional Additions

Travel Steamer
Earplugs / Eye Mask
Lint Roller
Jewelry Pouches
Lightweight Duffle (for bringing home treats / souvenirs)
Hat / Visor

Safe travels!

P.S. Don’t forget to prep prior to your departure. This can include having the post office hold your mail, setting up an email autoresponder, arranging for pet or childcare, prepaying bills, cleaning out the refrigerator, and leaving a house key and copies of your travel documents with a trusted friend or family member.

Want more where this came from? Click here for my top minimalist packing tips.

Photography Credit: Vivian Johnson

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55 comments on “Minimalist Packing Checklist: How to Pack in a Carry-On

    1. I know it seems like a lot to carry in my handbag, but I put all of the little things (including charging cords which are listed) into a single pouch and it’s really just my laptop that’s on the heavy side. Xx

    2. Why not try being a little friendlier? She’s just doing this to be helpful, it’s not even sponsored and working in digital content myself, blogs are the lowest revenue driver… so it’s literally just free help.

      Love you Shira 🙂

  1. I will need to refer back to this post the next time I travel. I am a chronic over-packer. Thank you for sharing, Shira. Have a wonderful, wonderful trip!

  2. It’s always fun to see what others pack, a bit like watching what people buy at the supermarket.
    As my family doesn’t own a car, we are quite accustomed to travelling light (you don’t want to break your back carrying whatever with you by train).
    We usually just have an Eastpak backpack each, and take enough for a week with a trip to a laundromat before the second week. We also wear what is most heavy or big, like the pair of pants and the walking shoes.
    It has worked well so far. We’ll see if it works into teenage years 🙈

  3. If this is for spring and summer, why maxi dresses? Why not just “dresses” whatever length you choose. Also, why 10 pair of socks for spring and summer? No sandals? No shorts? The list seems heavy on tops but only two pair of pants. Other than that, it would work for me!

    1. I included exactly what I packed for a specific trip – of course you can and should tailor for your own needs! Xx

  4. Love this list! I’m a light packer and love to read what others pack as well. I’m intrigued by one thing in your handbag… No Jetlag Remedy… is this something you buy?? Thank you for sharing!!

    1. Yes! It’s a homeopathic remedy for preventing jetlag. I swear it works. You can pick up at Whole Foods 🙂

  5. I would love to see suggestions for Carry-On Winter Travel. Stuffing sweaters, pants, and coats into a carry-on was a nightmare for me! Any suggestions are helpful! I’ve also found it’s harder being plus-sized. My clothes naturally take up more space :/

    1. Yes! Winter is so much harder. I did a two week trip last fall to the east coast and Canada and ended up wearing my big sweater and jacket on the plane. Not ideal but made it possible to still use a carry-on. I also heard once that if your head is warm, your body will be warm so I still tend to pack light in winter but bring a cozy scarf and hat. Hope this helps! Xx

    2. My two cents— love the warm head theory— I would use a foldable lightweight puffer coat into the plane. And maybe a lightweight cashmere sweater if y tend cold. Also I have found a warm foldable down zip up vest is si useful too. I’m adding an Umbrella 🌂

  6. I love this, so needed, thank you!
    I was just in NYC for the first time with my daughter and I overpacked- such a hassle and I feel so foolish when I am dragging a heavy bag!
    Will use your guide for my next trip🤩😘

  7. This list is exactly what I needed and perfect timing! Leaving for a 3.5 week trip to Europe as well and will definitely be referencing this post.

    1. Woo hoo!! I also got the advice to pack a lightweight duffle for bringing home laundry and / or souvenirs. Safe travels! Xx

  8. Hi Shira!

    Maybe this is a bit too personal, but may I ask what you keep in your toiletry bag? I find that this is my toughest place to cut back when packing.

    1. Happy to share! I pack a very small face wash, moisturizer, tinted sunscreen, and coconut oil (for hair, skin, nails) as well as deodorant, a tiny box of Q-tips, mini toothbrush, floss, toothpaste, eyelash curler, mascara, pressed powder compact, lipstick, and lipgloss. I use hotel soap, shampoo, and conditioner which helps save space! Xx

  9. This is similar to our packing list when traveling; I like that you bring at least 5 to 10 pairs of socks, undies, a lightweight scarf, etc. I tend to think that we pack too much (everything but the kitchen sink) and include books and magazines, and nooks for reading or viewing a movie even since where we stay doesn’t have a television in the room. Unsure if we’re traveling this summer for vacation; we might stay in. Not at an Inn; sorry, thank you for sharing; lovely post.

  10. I’ve never used packing cubes before, but this post has sold me! Do you have a set that you would recommend?

    1. I’ve been happy with my Away packing cubes, but honestly all of them seem pretty similar. They are a huge help for maximizing space in a small suitcase and keeping things organized by category. XX

  11. I haven’t traveled to Europe since I was in college. Now I’ll be going with my family. And kids 17,19,21. For 16 days. I want to pack smartly but I also need to shop! My yoga pants aren’t going to cut it. I see you only took 2 pants and 2 dresses. Are you just wearing them repeatedly or is there a laundry day?
    Also the coconut oil that you use for your hair- how do you use it on your hair?
    And lastly I’m concerned it’s going to be so hot ! But I don’t wear shorts. Help ! Also we’ll be on a cruise for 8 days of this. Thanks !!

    1. How fun! I’ll be wearing things on repeat but also hoping for a mid trip laundry day. I don’t do shorts either and find that a lightweight maxi dress does the trick for hot weather. Mine are from Jenni Kayne and Ozma of California and pack well and are easy to care for. I use a touch of coconut oil to smooth and tame frizz – it can literally be used for anything! Safe travels. Xx

  12. Hi!
    Your list is both helpful and inspiring!
    I’m off to Europe for 5 weeks – any suggestions for a travel steamer?
    Thanks so much!

  13. Thank you so much!!! In three weeks I leave for a five week vacation to France and Italy. You gave me a wonderful guide for packing. Love your creative ideas. Nancy

    1. When I travel I just walk every single day and do yoga in my room, so not much gear necessary and still get to move my body. Xx

      1. Yoga fanatic here – do you use a towel on the floor? Can’t imagine bringing a mat, but wonder how people maintain a practice while traveling. Thanks so much, really love your tips.

        1. It’s tricky, but I typically just pack leggings and a tank and do a yoga video in my hotel room on the floor. Yoga with Adrienne has so many options for every possible scenario so I can always find something that works even without a mat. Xx

  14. Hi, Shira. I am a very light packer; however, I rarely employ a carry-on. Would you be willing to share the dimensions of your carry-on and your handbag? Honestly, I’ve seen people hauling carry-ons that are larger than my checked bag! I’m just curious. Oh, and I love Minimalista. I think it’s the best book out there on the subject. Thanks so much.

    1. I own the smallest carry-on from Away. I’m sure they have dimensions on their site if you’re curious but I know it meets European carry-on standards which are smaller than American. And so glad you loved Minimalista! Xx

  15. I totally agree about packing as minimalist as possible (fitting everything in a carry-on). I just went on a 10-day trip to the East Coast and Midwest with three different temperatures (cold, mild, and hot) and scenarios (work meeting, city walking, hiking, etc.), which was very challenging! I was really happy I brought a variety of clothes. Most useful were my walkable sandals, tennis shoes, black jeans, lightweight pants, lounge pants, shorts, fleece jacket, bucket hat and cross-body bag. I didn’t need really need my winter boots or outer jacket or so many tops. I did bring an ungodly amount of dresses (6!) because I prefer those to separates (they also don’t take up much room and you can layer with tights in colder weather, plus they always make me look pulled together). I also don’t regret bringing my denim vest because it was an excellent extra layer (and makes all outfits cuter) even though it took up a bit of room in the suitcase. I ended up mailing home my cold weather clothes mid-trip to lighten my load and was very glad I did. I truly agonize over packing before a trip but when you get it right it is so satisfying!!

  16. Love to have your recommendations for your favorite lacy tops in your pictures. Thank you so much!

  17. Thanks for this! I have printed the list off and taped it on the inside of my wardrobe as a checklist for my holidays.
    I hope your travels brought you to London and you enjoyed it.
    Where do you get your fab broderie Anglaise blouses from?

  18. Shira, I looked for “no jet lag remedy” and pharmacists did not know what that could be. Will you tell us what you use. Thank you, Nancy

  19. Do you have any tips for packing light if you also want to exercise on vacation? I like to go on runs on trips but find my running gear takes up valuable space in my luggage. Curious what tips you have for being able to do that and still bring cute clothes for the rest of the time!

    1. It’s tricky! I try to pack a stylish sneaker that can double as an exercise shoe, a pair of leggings, and a few lights tanks that don’t take up much room. A mini detergent is great if you need to wash items or most hotels have laundry options. Xx

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