How To Pack For A Week-Long Trip With Just Carry-On

You'll feel like the ultimate travel ninja, promise.

Brought to you by Qantas

Brought to you by Qantas Online Mall. You can earn Qantas Points by shopping with brands including Bonds and The Iconic via the Qantas Online Mall.

Whenever I’m about to leave my house, the exact same thought runs through my head: ‘phone, wallet, keys’. I’m sure I’m not alone. This roll call of my bare essentials means I can check off each thing I actually need to make it through my day; anything else I’ve forgotten might be a bummer, but I’ll make do.

Recently, I’ve started applying this ‘bare essentials’ idea to packing for overseas travel. Yep, I’m a carry-on only kind of gal. There’s heaps of practical and obvious benefits for travelling this way: I can breeze on and off the plane without waiting to drop or collect my baggage, I don’t have to lug a huge suitcase or backpack around town looking for my hotel and there’s no chance my things will get lost in transit. But to be honest, I do it because packing light makes me feel like the ultimate travel ninja; it reminds me that travel can be low-maintenance, that I can trust myself to go with the flow and that I can comfortably exist in the world without my things.


It’s just you and me, buddy.

So how is it done? The main guideline for packing light is this: Essentials, yes. What-ifs, no way. So yes, pack plenty of your daily prescription contact lenses, but don’t extrapolate your trip into various unrealistic situations. If you’re going to Bali in summer (or let’s be real, ever), no you won’t have a cold night where you might need your winter jacket. It also helps to remember that pretty much anything you need, you can just buy overseas. After all, it’s another country, not another planet.

Get a small, light plane-approved suitcase for clothes (I use this one) and a backpack for toiletries and electronics/chargers, invest in an e-reader to carry multiple books at once and roll – don’t fold – your clothes for maximum space usage and fewer wrinkles.

Here’s how to pack for a week of travel in just a carry on, illustrated with pieces from the Qantas Online Mall that can earn you Qantas Points to go towards your next trip.

Comfort first

Sure, your studded heels and sequin dress would look great against a Santorini sunset, but the heels give you blisters and the dress weighs a tonne, so leave them at home. Travel is not a time for statement pieces. This doesn’t mean you have to give up on style and schlep it in trackies the whole time (but they are good for the plane and can double as pyjamas). Instead, think of classic pieces that you can match. Bonds basics are excellent for travel; one of my most fool-proof items is a soft grey Bonds singlet with a built in bra that has travelled through South America, Mexico, the US and Indonesia. It’s great to wear under a button up shirt, as an extra under layer when it’s cold or on its own when it’s hot.


Said shirt in action in overlooking extremely good-looking mountains in Oaxaca, Mexico.

This pinafore, these overalls and this high-waisted skirt, all from The Iconic (where you can earn 5 Qantas Points per every $1 spent through the Qantas Online Mall), can make one simple shirt look like three distinctly different outfits. Also, select from the pool of clothes you actually get the most wear out of back home – if there’s a magic pair of shorts you can wear five times a week without needing to wash them, you’re going to want them in your bag.


The Iconic

Plan. Plan it all.

For starters, plan your plane outfit. This means a comfy pair of pants that can also be worn out during the day and a versatile t-shirt or jumper. Anything bulky that saves you space in your carry on is good to wear, like hats and coats.

This next step sounds boring, but if you actually count your days and have a rough idea of what you’re doing, you can sit and plot out what you’ll need for each occasion. Just pretend like you’re Cher in the opening scenes of Clueless and remember, when you reminisce in five years about this epic trip and the amazing things you did, there won’t be a moment where you look back and wish you’d been wearing a cuter top.


Keep in mind that doing a load of washing on the road isn’t the end of the world, either. Whether you find a laundromat yourself or pay to have the service done, you’re also not going to be looking back in years to come wishing you still had that $15 from having your clothes washed, pressed and folded.

Consider colours & seasons


Go the more traditional route and pack basic colours that go together and match the season; think black, grey, and navy for winter and beige, white and stripes for summer. Warmer weather is easier to pack light for, but if you’re flying into winter, wear your coat and boots on the plane and pack at least three turtlenecks or long shirts to layer under dresses and tops, plus thick stockings and thermals.

Accessories, your new best friend

With all of those neutral tones, your bag might be starting to resemble a void desertscape. Add some colour with a big, bright scarf which can double as a sarong, a light shawl and even an eye mask on the plane. A bright lipstick with a striped shirt will turn your daytime look into a holiday dream, foldable floppy felt hats are excellent, and bring a cheap pair of sunglasses so your good ones don’t get squashed or lost in transit. I’m also convinced that a classic red beanie looks good on literally everyone.


The heaviest thing you pack will probably be shoes, so think carefully about which ones to bring and try and limit it to two pairs. Thanks to active wear being totally on trend, you can pair comfy joggers with any daytime outfit you want, including dresses. Boots and/or sandals you can walk for kilometres in are also important, depending on the seasonal appropriateness. Always wear your heaviest shoes on the plane. Practically, you also want a day bag which folds up, like a tote, and maybe a smaller simple clutch to take out at night – mine doubles as my make-up bag when it’s carried on.

Underneath it all

Your underwear. This will be the single most important thing you pack. Try to take as many comfy pairs as days you’re away; this is your best bet at getting away without doing a load of washing. Also, handwashing is possible if you’re desperate. Some people do the inside-out thing but I don’t mess with that. Bonds underwear is always – ALWAYS – a winner.

What not to pack

Ask yourself this: do you really need a hairdryer on holidays, or can that time spent warming your locks in front of the mirror be better spent roaming the streets in the sunshine, letting your mane dry naturally? Plus, hats cover any bad hair or between-wash days. On that note, forget the big bottles of your favourite shampoo and conditioner, plus every step in your skin care regime – use what the hotel has to offer (it’s just a few days after all), or buy tiny travel-sized containers and fill them with what you need. Alternatively, streamline your skin care: cleanser and moisturiser should keep your routine relatively in tact for a week. Similarly, don’t bring your entire make-up bag – just the things you feel like you can’t go a day without. You’ll have that holiday glow going for you, anyway.

Remove the laptop (you’re on holidays, stop working) and also take out anything that’s still in your bag from your last trip or from your week at work. I’m talking excess pens, bits of paper, gum wrappers and anything else that’s hiding in the depths of your vessel; concise packing requires organisation, a clear mind and a clean canvas. You got this.

Every travel item and accessory tagged in this post can earn you Qantas Points towards your next holiday if you shop through the Qantas Online Mall. Right now you can earn triple points on Bonds purchases at the Qantas Online Mall, meaning you get 12 points for every dollar spent from June 21–27.