How to Pack for 6 Weeks in 2 Carry-On Bags

“He who would travel happily must travel light.” – Antoine de St. Exupery

We’re 38 days out from our Schwannema Euro Adventure, slowly checking things off of our pre-trip To Do list. And today, I knocked a big one off the list: doing a test-pack to make sure we can live out of carry-ons for 36 days.

Most people have expressed their disbelief over the idea that we could pack for 6 weeks in 2 small rolling cases, but I’ve been dead set on doing it.

We’ll be more mobile, more flexible. Though that majority of our trip will be spent in one place, we still have a lot of travel to do: both of our cross Atlantic flights; the train from Barcelona to Paris; the train from Paris to Brugges; and our roundtrip from Amsterdam to the UK. Traveling is already kind of a hassle, so all of that will be much simpler with smaller, easy-to-manage rolling cases. I’ve been that girl on the train, before, lugging her giant suitcase, trying to get from Charles de Gaulle airport to my apartment in the 5th. No one will help you. And just try getting through the metro turnstiles. Bonne chance et bon courage.

Our bags can’t get lost. I’ve also been that girl, the one whose suitcase full of a semester’s worth of brand new clothes gets lost, forcing her to rebuy a whole bunch of stuff… and then have said bag delivered to her a month later. When you’re studying abroad for a year and have months and months ahead of you, spending a couple days shopping for basic essentials or having to wait for a bag delivery isn’t that big a deal. When you only have a week in a country, you don’t want to waste any of that time dealing with lost luggage.

We will be able to do laundry during our home exchange so there’s no reason to pack enough clothes to last us the duration of our trip. We can, and will, wash our clothes. The first two weeks, however, we’ll be staying in AirBNBs and a hostel, and we aren’t certain what our laundry options will be, so a minimum of two weeks of clothing is a must.

The airline won’t get more of our money. A lot of airlines still charge money for checked bags, so we’ll save money by not checking any.

We can check in online and avoid some lines. And not having to wait in line to drop off or pick up checked bags means less time hanging out on the pre-security side in airports. Just sayin’.

So I had a lot of motivation to make sure we could fit all of this (cats not included):

20160701_113049

into this:

20160701_111855

And tada! After 40 minutes of careful packing, I fit everything we need with plenty of room to spare!

It’s not even like we packed all that lightly.

Justin:

  • 2 pairs of sneakers
  • 1 pair of sandals
  • 8 pairs of socks
  • 5 t shirts
  • 5 polo shirts
  • 1 long sleeve shirt
  • 4 pairs of pants
  • 1 pair of shorts
  • 1 pair of swimtrunks/shorts
  • 14 pairs of underwear
  • 1 jacket
  • 2 hats

Ashley:

  • 1 pair sneakers
  • 2 pairs sandals
  • 2 long skirts
  • 3 dresses
  • 4 pairs of leggings
  • 3 cardigans
  • 1 hoodie
  • 14 pairs of underwear
  • 3 bras
  • 1 bathing suit
  • 2 pairs of shorts
  • 6 tank tops
  • 2 t shirts
  • 1 hat

Packing Cubes: We fit all of this (with room to spare) by using 2 large AmazonBasics packing cubes and part of a set of the eBags packing cubes. I loved these packing cubes because you can really get a TON of clothes into one unit, which makes packing the suitcase that much simpler and easy to manage. The cubes keep your suitcase more organized. I didn’t realize it before I bought them, but having only 3 or 4 large items in the suitcase is so much simpler than 30 or 40 individual items floating around. Since I have a few cubes leftover, I’ll probably bring one for dirty laundry, so we can keep our clothes separate.

Roll With It: I’m also a roller, not a folder. Rolling items allows for a much larger quantity of clothing. When we went to Puerto Rico for a week earlier this year, I packed enough clothes for 12 days for myself and 8 days for Justin, plus 3 pairs of sandals, all in one carry-on suitcase using the rolling method and packing cubes. Another perk of rolling: fewer wrinkles!

In addition to our two rolling cases, we’ll each carry a backpack for our laptops and accessories, chargers and converters, my kindle, phones, wallets, passports, neck pillows, snacks, and whatever else we’ll want quickly accessible. We’re very fortunate to live in a time of small, capable electronics since it means we can pack light and still have everything we could possibly need for work and life on the road.

So have YOU traveled internationally or for a long stretch of time in a carry-on? What tips do you have for your fellow world travelers? What packing tricks have you learned over the years?  Comment or tweet us @ashleyschwartau or @justinbonnema Happy travels!

 

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