How to Pack for a 5 Day Trip with a Carry On Only

Bringing only a carry on for a 5 day trip to a different climate sounds completely insane to me yet it is exactly what I accomplished a few weeks ago. I am an over packer. I am a mood dresser. However, I also despise waiting in a line to check my luggage and then waiting yet again at baggage claim. So today let me share with you how to pack for a 5 day trip using only a carry on!

The Trip

We were headed to Indianapolis to watch our son’s college (club) volleyball team in a tournament. My husband thought we should stay a few extra days and check out the area. In the dead of winter. There would likely be snow. At first I thought that was crazy but soon after I began scheming. One of my best friends, Andrea, lives in Indiana. Maybe I could make this work!

This meant I needed to have clothes for a lot of sitting in a gym as well as sightseeing, and of course spending time with Andrea!

Andrea and I sitting in the swan at the infamous Cake Bake Shop

The Goods – What was in the Carry on

A great carry on is essential! It must be lightweight, easy to maneuver (hello spinners!), and pretty. Okay, pretty is essential in my opinion. To make this work, packing cubes play a major role and a good tote for me as well. My husband has the same carry on as me (his is blue) and he brought a back pack.

If you have yet to embrace the packing cubes notion, I urge you to try them. My husband, who thought they were silly when I first mentioned them several years ago, said during this trip, “These packing cubes are great. They really keep everything organized.” I would also add they work like magic allowing you to pack more!

My Madewell Transport Tote is the very best tote for me as it zips so nothing escapes, is very roomy, and of course sturdy. It looks good too. In it I had my laptop, my small purse, my winter coat, gloves, hat, scarf, and my library book. It stows perfectly under the seat in front of me as well.

What I Packed/Brought

Here’s what I wore on the plane – knowing full well I was leaving 85 degree weather and landing in 30 degree weather: my Chico’s no-iron white button up, my coated denim, belt, combat boots, and jewelry. If I was impressed with my Chico’s shirt before I am even more so now – this photo was taken after a very long day and the shirt held up so well. I most definitely need more of these in my life! Great news too – they are on sale right now for 25% off – I ordered the blue veil color. Marsha and I looked at this when we went shopping and I love the color!

Here’s what was packed in my carry on:

I do love a good accessory and would never be happy without them for five whole days. I wore my diamond stud earrings and never took them off, my Kendra Scott Elisa necklace, and my multi strand necklace from WHBM (similar), and of course my acrylic tube bracelets. The two scarves I had also provided fun print, color, and warmth.

As far as toiletries go, I brought a small bottle of cleanser, my make up, two hair brushes (my wet brush and regular brush), deodorant, a roller ball bottle of my perfume, my daily vitamins, and small bottle of facial moisturizer, and eye cream. Once we arrived, we went to a Walmart store and I bought disposable razors and a travel size can of hair spray. Of course I usually use many more products for my daily skin care routine but I knew that 5 days of washing and moisturizing was not going to kill me – nor do any major damage! I did not bring shampoo either, I decided I would either use what the hotel offered or share my husband’s.

The Outfits

I realized after the fact that I had created my own capsule wardrobe. Everything would mix and match to create slightly different outfits. This turned out to work very well for me and there was only one sweater I did not wear – the black and grey leopard sweater. Funny thing, the majority of the clothes I brought were things I shared in my wardrobe basics posts (here and here). I loved that everything easily packed in my carry on.

The Take Away

This worked so well that I will definitely do it again. It saved so much time for us and I did not feel like I was lacking in anything. It was challenging traveling to a much colder climate and facing snow – that’s why I brought my combat boots. I don’t own anything that is necessarily snow proof! In fact when we went out on Friday to browse antique shops – and my husband had to scrape the snow, off of our rental car I was slip sliding around. But I can honestly say I felt fine wearing what I packed and had no regrets.

When you travel, do you pack just a carry on? Are you an over packer? Do you have any tips for packing? I’d love to know!


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