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Okay we all know I love to travel, over the years I’ve been packing less and less whenever I go abroad. I actually prefer to use my travel backpack over my suitcase but that still requires me to check it. I always travel with my wife and she checks her bag, so I’ve never had a real reason to not check a bag.

With many airlines now charging for checked baggage, you don’t need to be a math wiz to figure out that these costs can add up fast.  The money saved, and not having to wait for my bags after getting off the plane really makes the idea of packing light appealing.

Here’s how to pack carry on luggage for a two week vacation

First off understand that the airlines allow you to bring on two pieces of carry-on luggage; one standard article (23 cm x 40 cm x 55 cm, 10kg) and one personal article (16 cm x 33 cm x 43 cm, 10kg). The standard article usually being a carry-on piece of luggage and the personal article would be say a purse, backpack, or laptop bag. That’s actually a lot of room and weight if you know these carry on luggage packing tips.

Layer up: There’s nothing stopping us from wearing multiple layers of clothing onto the plane. I don’t care how hot it is outside; I’ll still end up wearing my shoes, jeans, sweater and jacket onto the plane to save space in my luggage.

Weight matters: Electronics add weight and take up space but there’s no rule saying they must be inside our bags. Carrying our cellphone, tablet, laptop, etc. onto the plane in our hands will save precious space and weight in our bags.

Accessorize: Buy or use travel sized toiletries, remember you can always ask for more at your hotel, or buy a bigger size when you land. Packing cubes are a must since they’ll organize your packing and minimize space.

How to pack carry on luggage

Carry on luggage packing list

Pack clothes that are comfortable and easy to match; don’t be afraid to have a “travel wardrobe”. Figuring out what to pack in your carry on luggage for two weeks should be easy with this list.

  • 5 X T-Shirts / polos
  • 3 X Pants (can be shorts/jeans/anything)
  • 1 X Sweater
  • 1 X Jacket
  • 5 X Socks
  • 5 X Underwear
  • 2 X Shoes (2nd pair being optional)
  • 1 X Sandals (optional)
  • 1 X Scarf
  • 1 X Sunglasses
  • 1 X Pajamas (optional)
  • Toiletries

Basically you’re packing 5 days worth of clothing and on the 5th day/night you need to do some laundry. Doing laundry on vacation is pretty easy, just do it at night in the hotel sink and let it air dry overnight. Remember you’re wearing a days clothing onto the plane so you have 6 days of clothing to begin with. Pack just the essentials.

What not to pack in carry on luggage

I’m going to generalize here but don’t pack any valuables, excessive toiletries, every gadget you own, bulky items, or things you can buy there.  We’re trying to save space here, try to travel with only the things you need; hairdryers can be borrowed, umbrellas can be bought, and my smartphone and tablet are the only electronics I need.

Final thoughts

Travelling with just carry on luggage in North America will save you money and if you do it internationally you’ll also save time. Having carry-on only makes going through airports a breeze since you won’t need to wait for your baggage to be unloaded. When you’re travelling around your destination you won’t need to lug around a suitcase making your trip more enjoyable.


About Barry Choi

Barry Choi is a Toronto-based personal finance and travel expert who frequently makes media appearances. His blog Money We Have is one of Canada’s most trusted sources when it comes to money and travel. You can find him on Twitter:@barrychoi


  1. Avatar Cristina on January 8, 2015 at 9:43 AM

    I’ve been travelling carry-on only for 3 years now and this is a good list of what I pack too even for month long trips. It feels so liberating! It teaches you how to live with less “stuff” in your life. And you can walk off the plane guaranteed you won’t have lost luggage or waste time at the carousel. I’m travelling again soon, this time for at least 3 months and still plan carry-on only 🙂

    • Avatar Barry Choi on January 8, 2015 at 1:06 PM


      Unfortunately my wife still insist on checking a bag so I have to wait for her. Next time I travel solo, I look forward to skipping the lines and fees!

  2. Avatar Rob Gonzalez on January 9, 2015 at 6:41 AM

    Barry, don’t forget, you can also carry a backpack along with your carry on. It’s the equivalent to lady’s carrying a purse. I keep all my gadgets etc in that.

    • Avatar Barry Choi on January 9, 2015 at 9:40 AM


      Yes the secondary bag is vital. It can be anything from a purse, camera bag, laptop bag, or backpack like you mentioned. I like to keep all my valuables in this bag.

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