How to pack for a 10-day trip with only carry-on bags

Guestpost by Mich on Sep 10th

Aloha, Homies! I'm in Maui for the next couple weeks, so I thought I'd throw in some Hawaiian-style posts. Here's Homie Mich's advice on packing light for her 10-day trip to Hawaii. -Megan

I am flying to Hawaii for ten days and only taking carry-on luggage. Here's how you can do it too! You can either…

  1. Pack nothing: wear the same clothes all week, smell funky, look awful in your holiday photos and probably fall out with anyone else you are traveling with.
  2. Pack nothing: buy everything when you get there. Kinda smart but EXPENSIVE! How are you going to get it all home and do you really want to waste hours of your action-packed vacation shopping?
  3. Pack smart and pack light: *DING DING DING — we have a WINNER*

This is what I took:



  • In my 3-1-1 TSA bag (2 mini toothpastes, hair spray, shower gel, eyeliner, mascara, nail polish, anti-itch cream)
  • Packed in normal bag (stick deodorant, mini hair brush, hair bobbles, toothbrush, body puff, SOLID shampoo, makeup wipes, rest of my makeup bag)

Stuff for hiking/exploring activities/emergencies:

  • water bottle
  • headlamp
  • wet wipes and insect repellant wipes
  • GPS
  • phone, camera, and chargers for each
  • first aid kit (including knee support)
  • medication (routine daily stuff and emergency meds)
  • mini sewing kit

For use during the 11 hour flight
Pillow, eye mask, iPod, headphones, book, travel folder with all reservations, copies of all important shit, food.

When we get there I play to buy:

  • beach towel
  • sunscreen
  • batteries

My tips for packing light are:

1. Check what your airline allows as carry-on luggage
I'm allowed one carry-on bag (size limit 22" x 14" x 9", weight limit 25 pounds) and one personal item (purse, briefcase, laptop bag, backpack, or similar item).

Something to consider… while those hard laptop cases and briefcases look gorgeous, they can often weigh quite a bit before you even pack them!

2. Wear your bulkiest, heaviest outfit on the plane ride
For me this is a pair of trousers, a tank top, a sweater and my sneakers, with my big bandana scarf as I like to snuggle my head under it on the plane

3. Really think about your liquids
You can only take 100ml (3.4oz) bottles of liquids in carry-on luggage, to a maximum of 1 quart ziplock bag (via the TSA guide). To help reduce my liquids I bought solid shampoo from LUSH, used a stick deodorant instead of gel, and swapped my normal liquid foundation for a solid one. I also bought trial size toothpaste, body wash, hairspray etc.

The only liquid that was going to be a problem was sunscreen, so we just decided we would buy that when we get there.

4. Mix and match
Make sure all your outfit choices can be worn in different combinations and can be worn for more than one occasion. Yes, I packed a lot of dresses, but I am just as likely to throw on a jersey dress to go for a hike as I am to wear it out to dinner or to play on the beach.

However, I would recommend packing enough underwear for the trip, unless you're planning on wearing them inside out and back to front!

5. Choose lightweight clothes
Think about clothing choices, I usually live in knee length baggy cargo shorts and huge jeans. Three pairs of them and my case would be full! So I bought some lightweight linen pants (still wide legged to keep me happy) and some short shorts, while singing "who likes short shorts… we like short shorts" all the way round the shops.

6. Think about your vacation plans
Open door helicopter? We need long pants and sweater. Hiking through volcanoes and caves? Bring good shoes, water bottles, first aid kit and headlamps. Swimming and ocean activities? Gonna need a lot of swim wear. ATV tour? Closed toe shoes and bandanas as dust masks. Dinner out? A pretty dress or two and my hair straighteners!

7. Take advantage of that "personal item"
A lot of airlines don't say what size this need to be, but its got to small enough to fit under the seat infront of you, rather than the overhead bin (because that's not fair on other passengers) but it doesn't get weighed. So stick your heavy shit in there! Mine contains my liquids bag, medication, first aid kit, makeup, book, camera, iPod, travel folder and FOOD. I hate airline food, it hates me and I get grumpy when I don't eat.

How to pack

Exhibit 1
Throw it all in your case, sit on top, squash all your important stuff, have very crushed clothes and have to leave half of it at home because it won't all fit!

Exhibit 2
Roll all your clothes. Then layer them up, figure out what fits in between the ridges on the back of the case formed by the wheels and the extendable handle. Squish socks and knickers inside other items (shoes, water bottles and in any crack and crevice).

Check the weight of your case before you go to the airport (we used our WII Fit as there's no bathroom scales in our house). Try not to go right up to the maximum as your scales might be off, the airport ones may vary a little and you need to be able to lift it into the overhead compartment without decapitating any fellow passengers.

While I'm away I'm going to photograph what I wear each day for outfit combinations and then evaluate to let you know what I could have left behind, and what I wish I had remembered to bring.

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About Mich

Mich is a former Offbeat Bride Tribe moderator. She's a quirky, goth(ish), learning disabilities teacher/nanny who likes octopuses, zombies, baking and sewing.