Home Carry-On How to Pack a Carry-On Bag For 1-2 Weeks

How to Pack a Carry-On Bag For 1-2 Weeks

written by Penny Sadler

I am constantly being asked by friends and customers how to pack a carry-on for a one or two-week trip. Ideally, everything should fit into one small bag. In this article, I am going to focus only on women’s wardrobe. If you follow the ideas and guidelines suggested here, you’ll look great and you’ll wear everything you take with you. 

Trust me. I’ve been doing this for years.

How to Pack a Carry-On and never worry about lost luggage again.

You’ll save money, as you won’t be paying for checked luggage. And most importantly, you won’t be exhausted by dragging a heavy bag around with you. This is especially important for travel to Europe, as riding the trains and buses is more convenient and less expensive. If your bag is too heavy, or you have more than a carry-on and a personal bag, it’s just not practical.

With the help of my friend Rhonda Sargaent Chambers, a professional model and spokesperson, I created this photo shoot to illustrate exactly how to pack a carry-on bag by mixing, matching, and layering your clothes so you always look great and travel light. I asked Rhonda to keep the wardrobe choices classic and think Italy (stylish but a bit conservative), since I wanted to show pieces that could travel anywhere.

I arrived at Rhonda’s with my makeup kit, a bottle of prosecco, and my camera. Rhonda supplied the wardrobe. I loved her choices and the color palette.

How To Pack a Carry-On For a 1 or 2 Week Trip

Choose a core neutral color

Pick white, brown, grey or navy for summer. You can add one an accent color, but it must coordinate with everything else. Scarves are a great way to add color and pattern. Pack one summer dress, and one top that can dress up a pair of pants for evening.

Pack a hat

Hats are a must for summer travel. There are a lot of great hats in modern fabrics that you can literally fold up, or stuff it into a hand bag.

Wear comfortable shoes

Practical shoes are a must! Only pack shoes that you know for a fact you can walk a minimum of five hours in. When packing shoes I never pack more than two pair. One comfortable and supportive pair for heavy walking and travel days, and one pair of sandals that can dress up an outfit for dinner, or a day at the museum. Resist the urge to pack your favorite high heels. For summer travel think casual, comfortable, fresh.

how to pack a carry-on bag - layering items

Lay everything out then edit.


packing a carry-on for solo female travel

Layering makes everything easier. Add scarves for color.

The ultimate layered look!

This layered look is perfect for travel days and you can remove layers as needed. Rhonda’s wearing a tank, white button-down sweater under a jacket, and pants. You can get at least three more outfits out of just these pieces. Layering is perfect for days spent in transit. You can remove pieces as needed and they are lightweight enough to simply go into your hand bag.

How To Pack A Carryon for 1 to 2 weeks

Layer, layer, layer

What you don’t see in this photograph is the cute ivory sweater under the jacket. I always carry a similar sweater with me no matter where I go. It’s perfect over a tank top or strapless dress when you need a bit more coverage, and practical when you go from a warm outdoor location to indoor air-conditioning. Even if you are going to the beach, take it with you – I frequently travel to California where the evenings can be quite chilly. If you’re near the coast or in the mountains, the temperature can drop 10 degrees or more in the evening. Honestly, I wear this sweater more than anything else in my wardrobe, traveling or not.

Be creative!

Remember, you can change up the scarf and the shoes and suddenly it looks as though you’re wearing a complete new outfit. Pair the tank under the jacket, add pants and a hat and you’ve got great walking outfit..

Penny Sadler summer travel style and packing

3 pieces plus a hat.


comfortable travel shoes to pack

Practical and comfortable walking shoes are a must.


What’s summer without a great dress to wear out to dinner? If you like to visit churches, you will need a jacket to put over a sleeveless dress. In some countries like Italy, it’s a must, as most of the important churches you’ll want to visit won’t let you in with bare arms. It’s also a good idea to be respectful of the customs of other cultures.

Penny Sadler summer dress for carry-on packing

A great look for dinner.


Summer Travel style @PennySadler 2013

Perfect summer dress.


Here’s where you can change shoes. I repeat, only two pair, for two weeks. This has been my practice for six years.

comfortable travel sandals to pack

No more clothes required, just a little rearranging! This is how you can look stylish with only one carry-on bag. For more info, you may want to watch “What Goes in My Carry-on,” a segment I did with CW33. 

If you plan on traveling for more than 2 weeks, check out How to Pack Carry-On Style For a Backpacking Trip!

Pinterest image how to pack a carry on bag female travel

All images and material copyright Penny Sadler 2012. All rights reserved.

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Summer Travel One Carry-on - Adventures of a Carry-On June 26, 2015 at 9:25 pm

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Terry at Overnight New York June 8, 2014 at 10:29 pm

What a smart post. Traveling with a Macbook Air frees up a personal bag as well — room perhaps for a third pair of shoes!

Penny Sadler June 9, 2014 at 10:04 am

Definitely less technology more shoes!

Mary @Green Global Travel June 8, 2014 at 4:55 am

Great packing tips! We only travel with a carry-on regardless of it we are going to the Amazon or Antarctica. I’m still looking for the ideal pair of comfortable sandals that can be dressed up or down.

Penny Sadler June 9, 2014 at 10:04 am

Sandals are easy. I’ll send you links.

Bethaney - Flashpacker Family June 6, 2014 at 7:15 pm

I love the back of that dress!!!!

Penny Sadler June 6, 2014 at 7:26 pm

It is cute!

Casey @ A Cruising Couple June 5, 2014 at 10:09 am

Those outfits are so cute! Great ideas and definitely some tips in here I should start implementing. I recently bought a chrysalis cardi which I just adore because you can wear it so many different ways. I take it everywhere! Also, everything I own is black haha!

Penny Sadler June 6, 2014 at 7:26 pm

In beauty salons there’s a saying, “if it ain’t black, take it back.” haha

Micki June 3, 2014 at 9:19 pm

Those shoes are so cute! I’d love if you included a link in the post where you could buy the outfits. 🙂 This is really helpful, honestly. I’m really not good with fashion, and I struggle with packing the right pieces all the time.

Penny Sadler June 6, 2014 at 7:27 pm

I’ll get some links together Micki!

Wandering Educators June 3, 2014 at 10:05 am

Love this – and those outfits are perfect!

Penny Sadler June 3, 2014 at 1:17 pm

Thanks! It was so fun setting up that shoot and then actually doing it. Rhonda is a real pro too!

megtraveling May 9, 2013 at 2:35 pm

I got some new ideas from this post – thanks again!

Penny May 9, 2013 at 2:36 pm

Hey Meg, Exciting that you are going to France! Woo hoo! Very happy you found a new tip or two. That’s what it’s all about. 😉
Want to share what it was?

megtraveling May 9, 2013 at 2:50 pm

Limiting the number of shoes to bring and including a hat 🙂

Penny May 9, 2013 at 2:56 pm

I know a lot of women pack too many shoes! If you’re a luxury traveler it might make sense? Most people just pack shoes that they never wear!

What Goes in My Carry-on | Adventures of a Carry-on February 11, 2013 at 1:30 pm

[…]  I’ve written a number of guest posts on this topic as well as a more in depth story last summer on organizing your wardrobe to fit into one […]

wanderoneday October 1, 2012 at 1:17 pm

This is a great post. I never pack a checked bag – only travel with a carryon and a personal bag. But normally, I’m travelling domestically to stay with family or friends – so I don’t ‘edit’ very well and end up carrying big bulky bags onto the plane. My upcoming trip to the Caribbean will be my first overseas trip by myself, and I really want to get my luggage down to a lightly-packed carryon. It is driving me nuts trying to figure out what to take! Thanks for the suggestions!

Penny October 1, 2012 at 6:25 pm

Really glad to help. It will be warm there so maybe leave off one of the pairs of slacks, and add shorts. And maybe another dress instead of the extra jacket. Have fun!

More Travel Style | Adventures of a Carry-on July 7, 2012 at 11:55 pm

[…] last weeks post, Summer Travel Style, I showed you four different looks that travel light and will easily fit in your carry-on bag. The […]


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