During a recent conversation at work, I told my colleagues that I only travel with carry-on luggage. There’s the odd exception but as a rule, it’s carry-on only. I admit – it’s not easy … it’s taken some time for me to get it just right but with careful planning, I’m able to fit everything I need into a small and manageable suitcase.

As I explained this to the girls I work with, a girl from another department joined in on the conversation. As I spoke, she looked at me with an expression that can only be described as equal parts disbelief and disgust. “It’s actually really easy,” I said coaxingly, trying to convince her. I’m not sure why. “And there are so many advantages to having just a carry-on suitcase,” I continued.

“But … what do you WEAR?” she asked, her face unable to hide the distaste she felt at the idea of leaving favourite shoes, clothes and accessories behind. Ah. The vision in my mind started to crystallize. Most days of the week, she’s wobbling around the office on too-high-heels, looking like a deer that’s just learning to walk. I could see what type of traveler she was now, tottering along cobblestone sidewalks in a pair of four-inch stilettos. “You’d be surprised how much you can fit into a carry-on suitcase,” I said. (Why am I trying to convince this girl??)

She’s clearly had enough of the conversation and starts to walk (wobble) away. “Anyway, when I travel, I’m more interested in the experiences I’m having rather than what I’m wearing,” I can’t help saying as she walks by me.

All of this is to say, that it really can be done and it doesn’t have to mean sacrificing your sense of style. I’m a girly-girl. I like my nice shoes and bags and while I can’t bring everything I’d like to, I thought I’d itemize everything that fit into this suitcase, for my two-week trip to India:

  • 13 dresses
  • 12 tops
  • 2 pairs of shorts
  • 4 skirts
  • 2 pairs of jeans
  • 3 belts
  • 1 sweater
  • 3 bikinis
  • 1 pair of running shoes
  • 1 pair of heels
  • 2 pairs of flip flops
  • 1 pair of ballet flats
  • 1 evening bag
  • 1 cross-body bag
  • 1 shoulder bag

In addition to all of this, I’ve got an assortment of other odds and ends stuffed in there – India plug adapters, chargers for all of my tech toys, toiletries, hair accessories, a flat iron and two hair brushes. The key to fitting all the clothing lies in rolling each item into a tight, cylinder shape. You then lay everything side by side and when you’ve used up the width of your suitcase, you start stacking a second row on top. Rolling versus folding makes a BIG difference!

Everyone keeps telling me I need to create a video to show you exactly how you can fit everything you need into a carry-on suitcase. Stay tuned – I’ll try to do something soon!

21 Comments on How Much Can You Really Fit In a Carry-On Suitcase?

  1. Maki from Moon River Travels
    May 6, 2012 at 8:10 pm (12 years ago)

    I agree with you 100%!! I only ever travel with a carry on bag and, even so, I still never wear all the outfits that I pack!

    I’m so happy I stumbled into your blog, so lovely. I just started a little travel blog myself, hope I get to write about as many cities as you have!

    • trendytravelista
      May 27, 2012 at 9:55 am (12 years ago)

      Hi Maki – thanks so much for your comment. I just checked out your blog and it’s great – I love your photos! 🙂 Good luck with it and happy travels!

      • Liz
        July 15, 2012 at 11:06 pm (12 years ago)

        Hi, I am planning a month trip to Vietnam. What size and brand is your roller suitcase? I loved your packlist, if I had all that I would be set? What do you typically put in your carry on from that list?

      • trendytravelista
        July 18, 2012 at 8:56 am (12 years ago)

        Hi Liz – My suitcase is from Marks & Spencer in London and it’s a Longhaul Scorpius Hard Rollercase. It’s really small but you’d be shocked how much I fit in there. In fact, I fit everything that’s in that packing list above in there.

        A month in Vietnam sounds amazing – but it could be tough to do a month with such a small suitcase. Unless you have laundry facilities and really don’t mind wearing the same over and over again. I would say pack for two weeks and then you can just wear everything twice. Dresses are really your best bet because they’re one item of clothing that make up an entire outfit (as opposed to a skirt + top + belt or something like that.)

        You can find more information about the suitcase here: http://www.marksandspencer.com/Longhaul-Scorpius-Hard-Rollercase-Small/dp/B003ZUQJWU?ie=UTF8&ref=sr_1_6&nodeId=1316786031&sr=1-6&qid=1326484697

        I hope this helps and have an amazing trip! Would love to hear about it when you get back!

  2. AbelardJohn
    May 9, 2012 at 2:08 am (12 years ago)

    thanks for the update!

  3. Katie
    June 19, 2012 at 8:55 pm (12 years ago)

    Video video video!!!

  4. Liz
    July 19, 2012 at 10:38 pm (12 years ago)

    Thank you for the response!

  5. Norma
    September 23, 2012 at 3:39 pm (12 years ago)

    Natalie. You’ve obviously never travelled on Virgin Atlantic or Virgin America. Their carry on weight limit is 6 kg. Your Scorpius luggage weighs in at 3.2kg empty. So your 13 dresses etc would have to weigh less than 2.8 kg. I reckon you’d probably only get away with a pair of shoes and a hankie!

    • trendytravelista
      September 24, 2012 at 5:37 am (12 years ago)

      You’re right, Norma …I haven’t traveled Virgin Atlantic. However, I have traveled on 39 other airlines (one of which was actually Virgin America) without the slightest problem, so it’s working for me!

  6. Lindsie
    September 25, 2012 at 2:55 pm (12 years ago)

    Please post a vid or a diagram! I would love to see how you did this!

  7. Lindsie Trego
    September 25, 2012 at 2:56 pm (12 years ago)

    Please post a video or diagram! I’d love to see how you do this!

  8. Jane
    March 6, 2013 at 7:13 pm (11 years ago)

    What is the bag you use for carry on? Thanks

    • Natalie
      March 6, 2013 at 8:30 pm (11 years ago)

      Hi Jane – are you asking about the shoulder bag pictured above? It’s a Louis Vuitton Neverfull.

  9. Sara
    March 28, 2013 at 4:36 pm (11 years ago)

    Thank you for the post, I enjoy reading posts like this since I like to travel! However, I am usually in a completely different situation – I am from Europe and most of our airlines don’t let you have two carry-ons so you need to pack you day purse into your suitcase as well and some are limiting the size of the carry-on so that you are able to bring just something like your Luis Vuitton. It’s starting to be a real challenge then.

  10. Carl
    May 29, 2013 at 11:36 am (11 years ago)

    I had been living out of a travel suitcase for 6 years with all the traveling for jobs. Whenever I end up settling somewhere for a while I’m always gobsmacked at the amount of stuff people have accumulated and how much space they take up with it all. You can pretty much fit a life in your suitcase as you just buy to replace whats in there. Laptop,graphics tablet, sketchbook,E-reader, cloths and make sure there is an online backup for everything.

  11. Ashley
    June 8, 2013 at 2:19 pm (11 years ago)

    I totally agree with you! I’ll never check a bag again! Rolling your clothes in a carry on is the way to go!

  12. Lou
    June 16, 2013 at 2:25 am (11 years ago)

    I stumbled across your site via Blu Chic – I’m looking at using the Dorothy theme. Anyhow, finding this was perfect timing as, in between getting my website humming, I’m packing for a three week holiday in Thailand… I’m about to go repack… Thanks so much for this article, this was sensational timing 🙂

  13. Nancy
    July 2, 2013 at 12:29 am (11 years ago)

    Hi Natalie… I discovered your blog a short time ago and really enjoying it– thanks! My goal this year is to do the carry-on thing (I’m a heavy packer and it frustrates me 🙂 Love the list you provide of what you took for the 2 weeks, very helpful. Summer seems easy with all the dresses, what about the winter trips? Look forward to your video when you post it.

  14. Kathaleen
    November 3, 2013 at 1:25 am (11 years ago)

    Hello, I think your blog might be having browser compatibility
    issues. When I look at your website in Chrome, it looks fine but when opening in Internet Explorer, it has some overlapping.
    I just wanted to give you a quick heads up!
    Other then that, amazing blog!


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