How to Survive Two Weeks Abroad with Only a Carry-On
Have you ever wondered if you could survive two weeks abroad with only a carry-on? It’s truly liberating. Anyone that has traveled with me knows that I tend to overpack…like full-sized luggage bulging at the seams for a weekend trip overpacking. Look at my article about Unintentional Minimalism, for example, and you can probably get a good idea about how I’d pack based on how hard it is for me to get rid of stuff. Consequently, we have been burned a time or two when traveling abroad. For instance, we have arrived to our final destination with no luggage in sight. We made a fairly easy (well, easy to say) decision to travel with only carry-ons from now on.
“We live in a wonderful world that is full of beauty, charm, and adventure. There is no end to the adventures we can have if only we seek them with our eyes open.” – Jawaharial Nehru
Surviving Two Weeks Abroad with Only a Carry-On
If you’re anything like me though, you might cringe at the thought of James’s motto: never pack more than you can physically carry. I’m going to reiterate that. Imagine traveling for any extended amount of time with only items that you’re going to be physically carrying. That’s tough. Without a doubt, there’s only positive things that come from it.
There have been more times than I’d like to admit that I’ve found myself running through the airport. I would have my over-sized purse on one shoulder and my carry-on bag on the other, huffing and puffing (because let’s be honest, running for your life with 20 extra lbs will have you feel like you’re dying) my way through terminals to reach our gate before it closes. Alternatively, you could find yourself gathering your crew, grabbing your shit and shuffling off the plane because your flight was delayed so much, you’ll miss your last connecting flight home, and would rather take your chances finding another flight home. In both of these cases, I’ve been much happier knowing that everything I need is with me.
Prioritize Your Packing
Now you know why we only travel with carry-on’s, much to my Cypriot grandmother’s dismay, and if I’m honest, mine too. Who doesn’t love to bring home fresh mint, olives, olive oil, coffee or halloumi (Cypriot cheese)? On the other hand, a shipping container wouldn’t be enough room for all the things my grandmother would send with us. Not to mention, with a carry-on you aren’t going to be able to pack much more than the essentials, so you really have to prioritize your packing.
Remember how I said I love making lists? Well I also love to make lists whenever I travel because I tend to forget items. If I make a list in advance, I’m less likely to forget things, so I don’t have to purchase them on our trip. So, if you’re still with me and wondering what all I pack for a two week trip, my typical packing list is below.
*Before packing, check to see if the place you’re staying has a washer, this will help you determine how stuff to bring, and save room for goodies (#food) you pick up from the new city or country you’re visiting.
Also, this should go without saying, but it’s the internet so there’s bound to be at least one idiot out there, check the weather. You want to be comfortable while on your trip and also on the journey there (sweaters or something warm for the flight)
- 4-5 shirts (Mine are lightweight and don’t take up a lot of space)
- 1-2 shorts
- 1 pant
- 1-2 dresses
- Undergarments, I’ll let you be the judge of how much you need…
- 2 pairs of shoes (+ the ones you’ll be wearing)
- Workout clothes, if you’re planning to exercise or go hiking
- Swim suit, if you’re going somewhere with a pool or ocean
- Cardigan or jacket
(reminder: the 3.4 oz/100 ml in a quart sized bag rule)
- Body wash (I suggest bar soap so it doesn’t take up precious room in your quart sized Ziploc bag)
- Lotion (I use a light spray so it easily works well in a small spray bottle)
- Travel pack of tissue
- Any medicine you need (I always bring Advil/Tylenol, Tums or Alka-Seltzer tablets, Melatonin and Salonpas patches)
- Hand sanitizer
- Makeup (you don’t need the whole 9 yards for your trip, just the essentials)
- Sea bands
- Travel sized blow dryer
- A foldable steamer
- Travel sized straightener/curling iron (I have a 2 in 1 straightener and curling iron so it definitely saves space)
- Nail clippers
- Passport or ID
- Credit cards
- Travel documents if you’re bringing an itinerary with you
- Phone & phone chargers
This is a list of stuff I usually bring with me to help me survive two weeks abroad with only a carry-on. Quite frankly, I pawn some of my stuff to James’s carry-on bag, since he always under-packs. Sorry, not sorry. Everyone is different when it comes to packing and their specific needs for a trip. My list is based on a warm destination and staying somewhere without mini bottles of soap and blow dryers at the ready. We don’t usually travel to cold places, so that’s a whole ‘nother animal when it comes to packing. I really hope that someone can get some useful information from this list and get a better idea of what to bring on a 2 week trip. Maybe you can even get an idea of something to add to your list.
I shouldn’t have to tell you, but be smart when it comes to packing your carry-on. Bring versatile clothes that can be worn multiple times with different items. Don’t forget essentials like your phone, money, credit card, ID or passport (although these are probably a given that aren’t likely to be forgotten). Besides the clothes on your back, those are really the only things you absolutely need to travel. The TSA website has some really great information about what is permitted and prohibited. TSA is really good at responding on Twitter. For instance, if you’re concerned about an item, you can send them a direct message asking about the item.
James uses this carry-on bag from Amazon. It fits a lot of stuff, and it falls within most airline carry-on bag restrictions. I use a weekender by Sole Society, but it’s very similar to this one. However, I use the shoe compartment for stuffing rolled up clothes rather than shoes. Regardless, it fits my needs without complaint, and it’s been a great bag.
What about you? Is there anything that you feel I left out on my list, or an item that you can’t live without on a trip? Can you survive two weeks abroad with only a carry-on and a personal item?
Safe travels, my friends. Above all, remember… “Travel is the only thing you buy that makes you richer” – Author Unknown (James disagrees, rental properties and stocks and bonds seem to fit the bill too.)
I read articles like yours and I’m always amused when people are surprised I show up for a weekend trip (or longer like Fincon) with just a backpack. And hell sometimes I bring my laptop too.
It was a revelation when I realized it’s much easier to just pack fewer clothes and get laundry done during the trip if need be haha
Oh I agree. It’s also a revelation when you realize you don’t need as much as you think you do. Although I still struggle with over packing. It’s a work in progress.
My wife and I just got back from a 9 day trip to Italy. We each had only a carry on bag. The other eight people on the trip all had checked bags. Great post, it is definitely possible and easier to travel like that!
That’s awesome! It makes life so much easier. We’ve been to Italy and in some places, it’s very inconvenient to have a rolling baggage because of hills, stairs and transportation.
Like!! I blog frequently and I really thank you for your content. The article has truly peaked my interest.