Carry-On ONLY. How to Pack for 12 Days – 3 Continents – 4 Countries – 5 Major Cities

New York, Munich, Cairo, Rome, and Florence.

This is all I will be lugging around on my trip.


Let me get a few things straight before I go into this.

I am not in any sense of the word a fashionista.  I dress appropriately but mostly I am all about comfort.  Nothing can ruin a trip like having sore feet and just wanting to chop them off with a rusty dull hatchet with somebody else’s blood stain on it to get some relief.

I am not a big shopper.  I can shop at home.  You can literally get anything in this world on the internet.  I am traveling to live an experience and to learn. If I do buy something and it doesn’t fit in my luggage, I will have it shipped back.

First – the shoes.  I have ordered a pair of allbirds Tree Runners.  They will be here by Wednesday and I will wear them every day to break them in.  My trusted pair of Birkenstock Madrid sandals will also accompany me.  That’s it.  I will wear the birds while flying and pack the sandals.

CloudTreeRunner_Toe_ddd87b0a-fab7-4bac-b5b0-03dd78e5f169  Birkenstock

To get everything you need in just a carry-on, you are going to have to think ahead and organize.  Luckily, some of what you pack can be done way ahead of time, like toiletries, travel adapters, some clothes.

First of all, get your cat out of your luggage.  Tell him you love him and he is so cute.  Set him outside the room.  Close the door.  Ignore the caterwauling.


Now, lay out EVERYTHING you intend to pack.  Look at it.  LOOK AT IT.  Start weeding out everything you are not going to use.


Get some packing cubes.  They help you organize.  Keep everything in a category altogether.

First, we are going to do underwear and sleep stuff.


You see a medium packing cube, 2 pairs of soft pants, a t-shirt, 1 nightgown, 3 bras, 6 new pairs of cotton panties, 3 pair of socks and some bunny slippers.  Not exactly the kinds of things you need for the ultimate sexcapade, but I am going by myself and the intent is not to get my groove back.  Sure, Cairo sounds exotic and seductive, but you don’t want to be running around the desert in a short skirt and a thong.  You REALLY don’t want sand in your cooch if you sit down. Be practical.

The goal is flat and compact.  Roll up the clothing and everything else goes around it flat in the packing cube.  Done.  Set to the side.


Now we are going to do medication.  It makes complete sense you want all of it in one place and not strewn about your suitcase.


Here we have a big ass bottle of vitamins ( they are good for you and they are gummies and I eat them like candy.  It’s not for everyone, but for me it’s good), prescription medication, an extra inhaler, Benadryl, Hydrocortisone cream, triple antibiotic ointment, Ibuprofin, Tylenol PM for when I come back to the hotel sore and need sleep, acid reducer for all the pasta I am going to eat, allergy meds and anti diarrhea pills (if I need more than 8, I am coming the eff home).  Fit all that in another packing cube or container.  A Ziploc baggie would be just fine.

Next, the liquid stuff.  All liquids must be presented to TSA in a see-thru 1-quart bag.


You can see from the picture what I packed.  I may not make it through TSA with all of this, but if I have to throw out some stuff at Security, the shampoo and conditioner definitely go.

Now, 3 really good tips here:

  1.  The 2 Gain Flings are what is making this whole carry-on only thing possible  They are going in that little black and white coin purse.  I can grab a slice of pizza and sit in a laundry mat for 1.5 hours.  It gives me some downtime to read or write or Facetime my pets.
  2. Now is the time to use those free samples you have been hoarding in a drawer for months.  There is some Sunday Riley moisturizing cream I got from Sephora and a small sample of Bond No. 9 parfum from Neiman Marcus.
  3. All my perfume here comes in a spray.  I just prefer it that way.  Small sprays are not easy to find.  I got the small Vanille from Anthropologie.  I went to Sephora to get a rollerball perfume (not my favorite, but the perfect size).  The MMMM from Juliette Has a Gun is sinfully good smelling and came in a spray so I made it mine.

This bag is bigger than a 1-quart, but I have it folded down.  I put this in the front compartment for easy access while clearing Security.



Now, remember, you will be trashing some of the stuff along the way.  I don’t need OFF in Italy or New Jersey before I get back to Dallas so I will leave it for the hotel cleaning staff in Cairo where it is beneficial.  Lotion bottles, shampoo & conditioner – basically anything you run out of can be discarded.


Technical stuff – electrical adapters and converters, charging cords for iPhone (one for your purse, one for this bag), Fitbit, extra mobile power cartridge, USB flash drive – all those go in this bag.


Ok, now we are doing some bathroom stuff that is not liquid.


A shower cap, razor, face cleaner, Clorox wipes, Wet Wipes, bar soap, toothbrush, tweezers, make-up remover cloths and various forms of hair bands.

Cover the razor blade with a binder clip so you don’t slice your finger open.


Now, neatly assemble all this into the shower cap and set to the side.


The clothes.  3 skirts, 3 pairs of pants, 5 shirts.  I have a light jacket I will be wearing on the plane, so I am not packing it.

Taking the same color schemes makes it easy.

Don’t pack stuff that needs ironing or that will wrinkle.  If this stuff wrinkles, I can hang it in the bathroom when I shower and the steam will fix it.


Roll em up!


Line the bottom of your bag with them.


Start adding the packing cubes.  I also put some scarves in there in case I need to look a little fancy.  They are lightweight and I laid them on the rolled clothes. Joules is one of my favorite stores and they have some lovely scarves.


Keep adding those cubes.  Rearrange them if you have to.


This is where you can add stuff to the small empty spaces.  I added a portable mini Bluetooth speaker and still have some empty space. Stick those sandals in there first.

Think if there is anything you may be missing.  I suggest you take a laundry bag, a garbage bag, some small Ziplock baggies, a small microfiber towel, and a compact umbrella.

Now, lock it down.


After lockdown, I put my fabric shopping bag flat on the top.  You can take plastic, but sometimes it is a little awkward to maneuver.


Zip it up.  There is still empty space in the bag.  It zipped easily.  There was no sitting on the bag or even pushing down on it to get it to close.

In the last pocket on the outside of the bag, I put a portable travel scale.  These come in really handy if you are checking luggage.  Most airlines charge a fee for checked luggage (Southwest doesn’t and that is one of the many reasons I love them).  If your checked bag is over a certain weight, you get charged additional fees.  Weigh your bag before you leave the house if you are checking luggage.

This bag weighs 24 pounds even.  Some airlines have a weight limit for carry-on luggage too. Try to keep it at 25 lbs and under.


And that is all there is to it.  The bag looks the same from the outside as it did when I started.

Next week, I will show you what you need in your anti-theft crossbody bag.


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