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How to Pack Everything You Need for Two Weeks Into a Carry-On

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Columbia Chicago chapter.

The challenge is to fit clothes and essentials for two weeks into a small carry-on bag and a backpack for my trip to China.

What I’m using to complete this challenge:

-Carry-on suitcase: I purchased it last year when I went to Europe I bought a 20″ L x 13″ W x 11″ D

-Carry-on bag: I got it from Bed Bath & Beyond for about $50.

-Backpack: I splurged and bought the Dagne Dover Dakota backpack. If you are familiar with this backpack then you know how many pockets it has… I am an organizational freak!!

-Travel size containers and beauty/makeup bags (From anywhere and everywhere).

-Airtight bags (you could also try packing cubes)


Prep before the packing begins:

1.     Make a packing list

Staying organized is key! So… if you are someone who tends to lose or forget something, listen up! Making a packing list is a great place to start, it helps you remember things like a toothbrush or underwear (even the most obvious things are easy to forget!). It’s also easy to forget things because you can’t pack things you need to use to get ready before your flight, my recommendation for this is having a spot that you put those items after you are done using them.

2.     Pull clothes from your closet

You really don’t want to just grab things from your closet and just throw it in your bag. Speaking from experience you are more likely to get to your destination and have a top but not the pants that you want to go with it or mismatching swimsuits. It’s best to pull everything you need and have it all in front of you so you can plan outfits.

3.     Filling your travel containers

You will want to fill your travel containers with all your body washes, shampoo, and cleansers. This is the prime time to use all the samples you get from beauty boxes or from Sephora! You will also want to make sure these have a separate bag because you don’t want to open your suitcase to a shampoo exploded mess!

4.     Makeup/Beauty bags

These are essential because you can use them to separate items and make it easier to find things when you need them!



Important things to bring in your carry on:

-Advil and some sort of sleeping aid if you are on a long flight

-Face wipes and moisturizers, your skin can get very dry from the air in the cabin

-Toothbrush and toothpaste, after long flights your teeth will probably feel gross

-Pillow, again longer flights you want to be as comfy as possible!

-Hand sanitizer and lotion, your hands are covered in germs from security and the seats and your suitcase so make sure you don’t get sick!

-Book and headphones, I also bring earplugs for when I am trying to sleep

Fitting it all into the carry-on and backpack:

So, this was the real struggle….

1.     I started by separating everything that I wanted to go into my suitcase vs. what was going in my backpack. I put all my clothes, shoes, bath products and hair products in my suitcase. My backpack has a ton of little compartments so I put my wallet and passport in an easily accessible place and I put all my beauty products, deodorant, toothbrush and a book in there.

2.     With clothes, rolling is sometimes your best bet but occasionally the flatter the clothes are the better! I grabbed my medium size airtight bag and laid my jeans flats and thinner tops rolled up on the sides and a dress in the bag and I sealed it all up. I put this in my suitcase and then I rolled or laid flat other clothes like sweaters.

3.     In the middle, I put my socks and bath products. I like to bring a dirty clothes bag for either wet stuff or underwear.

4.     In the bigger side of the suitcase, I unzipped the liner and laid flat a cheap duffel bag that Victoria Secret gave out for free, in case I bought things in China and would obviously not be able to fit in my suitcase. I then put my shoes in, hair products, underwear, and my cross-body purse. To save room I put accessories in the purse (not anything expensive that I would cry over if it was stolen or lost).

I also always struggle with closing the damn suitcase! A lot of suitcases have an extra zipper to expand it a little so unzip that and unless there is anything fragile in your suitcase sit on top of it! Then zip it all the way around and once the main zipper is zipped, try and zip up the other zipper so it is no longer expanded!

Fitting everything for a 13-day trip into a carry-on size suitcase and a backpack was not easy, I had to compromise a lot. The weird thing is that I struggled the most with where to fit my underwear, you would be surprised how much room it takes up!

Mia Borowski

Columbia Chicago

Briana Kennedy

Columbia Chicago '19

I am a Columbia College Chicago student majoring in Advertising and double minoring in Marketing and Social Media & Digital Strategy. I am currently a strategy intern for Fusion92. In my free time, I enjoy reading, running, watching Netflix, exploring Chicago, and finding the cutest coffee shops.