How to Pack a Week into Your Cary On Bag

Monday, 15 June 2015

Generally speaking, most of my trips are long hauls so thankfully our luggage is checked free of charge by the airlines. However, occasionally something pops up where it makes more sense to carry on than to check. For example, my recent trip to the Netherlands when Miss P and I flew the low cost carrier Easy Jet. A checked bag with Easy Jet was going to cost me the equivalent of $41USD, so rather than pay I decided to carry on. It may have simplified life to pay the cost and just get rid of my stuff, but I was feeling too cheap that week to do it!

A couple of things made the trip that much more complicated....

First - When Easyjet says ONE carry on bag - they mean it. No purse, no camera bag, no laptop, nothing. If you opt for a rollerboard bag, that's it. If you opt for a backpack, that's it. I saw Easyjet's Gate Agents ask passengers to put their handbags inside their ONE carry on as they weren't going to allow them to board with the handbag as a second item.

Secondly - I was travelling with Miss P and she's still too small to navigate an airport without a stroller.

Lastly - Miss P and I were alone. Dada sat this trip out.

So my task was to pack everything we needed for 7 days in the Netherlands AND be able to carry it through the airport while pushing Miss P in a stroller. 

So, how did I do it?

I opted for one roller board bag, and one backpack, which would free up at least one hand for the stroller. I have a hard-sided expandable Heys suitcase which I've used and abused for about 6 years now, and I love it. The hard sides protect any valuables I bring, and the wheels go in every direction so the bag is really easy to roll. It's also an aqua blue color so it's easy to spot if I do opt to check it. For my backpack, I have a Lululemon Travelling Yogini Backpack that I bought last summer and am in love with. It's really big so it fits tons of stuff, and it has pockets for my phone, my laptop, as well as a zip off handbag that attaches to the outside of the backpack! That worked out perfect for this trip since I couldn't carry an additional purse. 

One of my top tips for packing a carry on is first to layer - spring time in the Netherlands can be iffy weather wise. Warm, cool, and rain were all on the forecast. I packed layering tanks in neutral colors, tops that I could mix and match with my bottoms as well as a neutral colored sweater which I could layer on top of everything in my case. And secondly, choose a color palette and coordinate your outfits from there. (Shout out to my friend Melissa who is fabulous at this - I learn from her). For this trip, I brought blues and neutrals. Here's what my packing list looked like:

  • layering tanks in three colors
  • 2 pair of Jeans (as these are the bulkiest, I wore one pair on the plane)
  • 1 pair jean capris
  • 1 neutral sweater
  • 1 dark jacket
  • 1 rain jacket
  • 5 tops
  • 1 Scarf
  • Accessories to match - one of the best ways to mix up an outfit is to vary accessories. I chose items which matched my color palette. Bracelets, necklaces, scarves and earrings
  • 1 pair PJs
  •  Socks and underwear for each day I was gone - I like to use a discreet lingerie bag for these, so if I have to open my bag in the airport my bras and panties aren't falling all over the place!
  • Running clothes & shoes (I did a 10k race on this trip!)

For shoes, I wore black boots on the plane since they were the bulkiest and checked running shoes, ballet flats and a pair of sanuks.

TIP - Keep your clothes clean by packing shoes in shoe bags or even shower caps in a pinch. (I got this Shoe bag at Meijer!)

Not pictured - toiletries, makeup, etc. 

I made everything fit by laying the jeans and longer pants in like so -

Then, I roll everything else and fill in all available space. I also managed to fit in some gifts to take to our friends in Holland! Score! Once everything is in, fold the pant legs back over the top and everything is held in place - like this:


For Miss P, I packed her outfits in colors which would mix and match among each other. Back in the States, the Children's Place does fabulous mix and match outfits which are great for trips like this. I also brought her rain coat because it's so light weight and a Northface coat for cooler weather. I opted to leave diapers behind and buy them when we arrived at our destination as they're too bulky. I just brought enough to get us through our flight, as well as wipes. I also carried on a few things to keep her entertained on the flight, snacks and a spill proof bottle to fill with water or juice at the airport.

And that was it! Thankfully, the outbound flight was full so they offered to gate check bags free of cost, so I did opt for that on the way to Amsterdam. On the return it was not and I did have my hands full between my bags and Miss P, however, I found fellow travellers to be extremely helpful, including our flight attendant who carried my roller board bag off the jet stairs for me while I carried Miss P down. That was a HUGE help! 

What are your must haves for a carry on trip??

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