Packing for a Cruise

Travel Packing: 3 Weeks in a Carry-On

From Vegas to Ireland and Beyond in a Carry-On

If you’re trying to travel carry-on only, you’ve likely read a thousand posts on this and have probably seen a million pins on Pinterest dedicated to going carry-on only. For weekend getaways, this is a no-brainer, and even for trips within the same climate a carry-on seems feasible enough. When we visited Brazil and Argentina in May, I went with only a carry-on for nine days and had items that went unworn during our trip!

We’re embarking on a trip tomorrow that’s entirely different, though. It involves different climates and vastly different situations which had me questioning whether 3 weeks in a carry-on could actually be possible. So, imagine this:

  • Four days in Las Vegas for a 90th birthday party (low 100s)
  • Eight days on an Irish road trip (low 60s), including a family photo shoot in Killarney National Park
  • Seven days in Basque Country, including two days of wine tasting in La Rioja (70s)

Tips for Carry-On Packing for Different Climates

  1. My biggest saving grace? Packing cubes. I love Eagle Creek’s version, but I’m sure any variety would work. In this case, I was able to use the mid-sized and large-sized to essentially delineate different climates. So, my Vegas/warm-weather clothes were tightly rolled into my mid-sized cube, while my large cube housed my cooler weather clothing (e.g. pants, 7 or so shirts, two scarves, etc.). The cubes help to compress and organize but are also handy in the sense that I’ll easily be able to identify which clothes I’ll want to unpack in which setting. So, when we get to Vegas, my mid-sized bag will pop out with shorts and mini dresses ready to be hung for our short stint there. It’s honestly magic how much these little cubes can hold if you roll tightly and pack well.
  2. Edit, edit, edit your shoe selection. Shoes are my biggest downfall when it comes to packing, but I’ve finally learned to be real with myself when we’re traveling. Naturally I wanted to bring a great pair of heels to Vegas but the reality is that I’d wear them a couple of times there and then never again during the remainder of our trip. Instead, I opted for a pair of tan wedges that can go with anything and easily be worn walking around at night in Europe or even during the day when wine tasting. Other shoes include a pair of comfy flip-flops for day time wandering, and a pair of mid-calf boots that are comfy enough for sightseeing and cute enough to wear out at night. Many other things crossed my mind (cute sandals, riding boots, etc.) but they were all gratuitous. You really don’t need more than three pairs of shoes (and you’ll be wearing one of them)!
  3. Pick a color family. If you stick with a general color theme, you can mix and match much more easily. I opted for neutrals but you could go with something bolder if you had clothing to fit that profile. I’m taking a pair of jeans, black denim and black leggings for bottoms, so any neutrals can mix perfectly fine with those. My tops are generally all neutrals with a couple of exceptions. It seems boring, but accessories can totally change up an outfit and boost something simple for an evening out.
  4. Plan for layering. For me, the best way of approaching a multi-climate situation was in layers. Vegas is hot, San Sebastian will be relatively warm, and Ireland will be relatively cool. Scarves, sweaters, and a jacket could take something that’s a bit more warm weather friendly and make it cool weather appropriate.

What’s In My Bag

3 weeks in a carry-on

  • Packing Cubes: Like I mentioned, these were incredibly useful for organizing my warm weather vs. cool weather clothing, plus I converted the small packing cube into an ‘in-flight survival kit’ with moisturizers, lip balms, sprays, and other toiletries that I like to use on the fly.
  • Tops: About 8 mix and match tops, mostly neutral (lots of blacks, whites, shades of grey, etc.). for warm and cool weather.
  • Bottoms: 3 pairs of pants (one pair of jeans, one pair of black denim, one pair of black leggings), plus two pairs of shorts (dressy black pair, plus a pair of denim shorts).
  • Dresses: 3 dresses; one white lace mini dress, one black maxi and one striped maxi; all are fairly versatile and can be made cool-weather friendly with scarves, jackets, leggings, a sweater, etc.
  • Shoes: 3 pairs, one pair of tan wedges, one pair of comfy flip-flops and one pair of mid-calf taupe boots.
  • Jacket: I’m taking one jacket for the trip, a mixed leather and cotton black jacket that can be worn with anything. Based on our weather (nothing extremely cold), a mid-weight jacket should suffice.
  • Workout Clothing: I know I’m not going to be hitting the gym based on what we’re doing and the places we’re staying, but I intend on doing my barre (barre3 online is my savior) workouts while travel. One sports bra, one pair of lightweight leggings and two pairs of ToeSox.
  • Bathing Suit (not pictured): You can never travel without a bathing suit! One bikini courtesy of my friends at Vegas-based Forever Young Swimwear, which takes up virtually zero space.
  • Accessories: Since my clothes are all very neutral, I’ve packed a heap of accessories to dress up outfits and change the look; a range of gold and silver jewelry, three scarves, and two hats.
  • Crossbody Bag: I have a simple black crossbody with a gold chain that is incredibly travel friendly. It works well for a day of sightseeing where I don’t want to carry a big purse, but also transitions very well into night and can convert easily into a clutch if need be.

Also in my bag: my Clarisonic, reading material, a toiletry bag with my travel-sized skin care and hair care essentials, my Canon T2i DSLR, an iPad, my computer, and all of my chargers.

Am I allowed to admit that I’m actually impressed with myself for going carry-on only for this multi-week excursion? Thrilled! And even more thrilled that it’s finally here.

What are your carry-on essentials and tips for packing for varied climates?

xo from the Caribbean,

Shannon Kircher, The Wanderlust Effect


More about Shannon Kircher

Shannon Kircher is the founder and editor of The Wanderlust Effect. Founded in 2009, she has continued to document her international escapes as an expat in Europe and the Caribbean. Additionally, Shannon is the founder of Compass & Vine, a luxury boutique travel design firm, and is the Director of Marketing for the Frangipani Beach Resort. Shannon holds an MSc in Social Policy and Development from the London School of Economics and is a current candidate for WSET Level 3 in Wines & Spirits.