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Traveling In Summer With Carry-ons For Two People

Planning some summer trips? Taking a budget airline? You will want to pack as much as you can in your carry-ons. We’ve packed for an 11 day trip and it all fit.

When we travel, we are always looking for some travel tips and tricks to make sure we get the most out of the trip on the best budget. If you are going to travel light, summer is by far the easiest time to do so.

Saying that, Jim and I are heading to Ukraine and Belarus, so we’re not packing for the beach. We’ll be city-hopping. We’re not fans of spending our hard-earned money on expensive flights, and we certainly don’t like paying for baggage.

For this trip, we are flying two different airlines and one of the airlines only allows a personal item for each person not to exceed 43 cm by 22 cm by 22 cm. You read that right, only one personal item each. That’s not much, but we are determined to do it without paying for a bag. Oh, by the way, we’ll be gone for eleven days. Here’s how to pack for summer and only use those free carry-ons for two people.

Rolling shirts and pants makes them much smaller.
How to pack a small bag for two people!

Summer Packing

Our first decision is to determining how to pick the best carry on luggage. We’ve decided on a day pack and a small soft-sided satchel. Since we can only take one personal item, that means no purse. We might be able to get away with a belt pack, but we don’t own one, so that’s just not an option at this point. So, with these two bags, we’ve got to fit in Jim’s clothes, my clothes, our toiletries, and of course our gear and a few miscellaneous items.

All the clothes for Jim to pack.
Clothes for him.

Packing Clothes For Two

Europe can be warm or chilly in summer, and that means that you need to plan to have at least a light jacket or fleece in case the temperature dips or it gets rainy. We’ve got our light fleeces ready to go. We’re not going to bring rain gear and hope that we don’t get soaked. If it starts raining, we’ll just pop into a cafe or a museum. Other than our fleeces, we’re going with light summery ensembles.

All the clothes for Corinne.
Clothes for her.

We both like to have a few different outfits, so we are each bringing a total of three pants with two shirts each. This is an easy six days, and since we’re only going to three cities, we have enough time to wash some things out and let them dry if we need to. Other than a few underclothes (five pairs of underwear each and an extra bra for me), the only difference in our wardrobe is that I have to include a scarf. A scarf comes in handy if we enter a religious building where women need to cover up, or gives me a chance to dress up an outfit if I need to as well.

Toiletries for 2 people.

Packing The Toiletries 

Toiletries are so different from person to person, but Jim and I are going with the bare minimum. We know that no matter where you go in this global economy, we’re going to be able to buy anything we need. Of course we still need to bring enough for the two weeks.

We carry our everyday items like toothbrushes, paste, shampoo, and deodorant, and a comb. Luckily we both have short, easy to deal with hair and it’s no big deal if we forget the comb altogether. We know this, because yes, it’s happened. We certainly don’t want to buy anything we just don’t need. We do bring a couple of laundry tablets for clothes washing as well.

For keeping healthy on the road and being ready for a small emergency (first aide),  I know many people like to be really prepared by bringing a full kit. We don’t have any idea what might happen, and in most cases will rely once again on local stores if we find we need something, but the few things I always bring are allergy relief , aspirin, a topical antiseptic, and band aids. These are items that I’m okay with not using, but I do like to get rid of headaches and breathe or clean a bug bite or cut if I get one.

Lastly, we have a couple of prescribed medications we need to bring along. For those, I always make sure to leave a good, readable label on so if I run out I can show the package with the prescription to the local doctor. I also have a picture of my medication labels on my phone, in case they get left behind or lost.

Gear for a weekend travel trip.
The Gear

Packing Our Gear

Honestly this takes up as much, if not more room than our clothes. For this trip, since we are staying in cities, we’re taking the bare minimum. Therefore I’m only taking one lens for my DSLR camera, and it’s killing me but I’m leaving my tripod at home. It pretty much can only make the cut if we are paying for a bag. So, as you can see above we have: our laptop, camera, video camera, iPhone, chargers and adapters, some extra memory cards and batteries, our reading glasses, passports, and money.

Believe me it’s not nearly as much as I’d like to bring. If we were traveling longer, we would be bringing an entire case full of gear. It’s a pain, but we use so much of it all the time.

Rolling the clothes.
Roll! Roll! Roll!

How to Pack The Bags

It’s all about the roll! Both sets of clothes, his and hers, are going in the soft satchel, and we’ll put our gear and fleeces in the backpack. We start off strategically placing the clothes in the bag with Jim’s on the left and mine on the right. We also make sure we have our pajamas on top, so when we get in late at night we can just pull them out quickly.

This flight gets in early afternoon, so it’s not such a big deal; it’s just habit. On top of everything is our big toiletries bag, the one with no liquids. The smaller, liquid bag is in its own plastic baggie in a side pocket, easy to pull out so we can get through security quickly.

How we pack our bag for one weekend.
Fully packed and ready to go.

Next up is packing the gear and important papers, like our passports, in the backpack. We’ll probably haul the backpack around the city as well, so we want to pack it so we don’t have to do much when we get to the hotel to be ready to go. First I put all the cords and cables at the bottom of the pack with my fleece on top of them. This will help cushion our camera and video camera, by using the sleeve to weave between the two so they won’t knock together during the flight.

They have to be easy to get to because we know we might have to pull them out and turn them on at the security check. I would say we’ve had to do this 50 % of the time. Our backpack has a zipper for the laptop, and that will definitely be coming out at security, so we love that it’s easily accessible. On top of the cameras we put extra cushion with Jim’s fleece.

The backpack gets the heaviest stuff.
Using my fleece to buffer the cameras.

And there you have it. Two small, small bags for two people for ten days. Honestly, if we didn’t love our gear so much, we could travel with this much for a pretty long time since we don’t mind washing things out little by little when we travel. I would rather not pack enough then too much. Every time I get home from a trip, I get really grumpy to find out that I’ve packed an item and not used it, so I try extra hard not to do that.

Have you and your travel partner ever gone away for eleven days and only taken two carry-ons? What are your packing tips?

Articles for Traveling in the USA

Author Bio: Corinne Vail is a travel photographer, food lover, and a perpetual traveler who has been travel writing for over 14 years. For many years she lived overseas in Germany, Japan, Turkey, South Korea, and the Netherlands teaching the children of the US. military. She’s visited over 90 countries, and she’s not stopping anytime soon.

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Going away for ten days or so? Click here to find out how to do it with only a carry on bag each. ...................................... travel tips | packing tips | what to pack | what you need in summer


Thursday 24th of August 2017

Same thing happened to us when traveling to Europe through Iceland. Only one personal item was allowed. You had to pay for a carry on every flight (we had 4). We ended up taking one carry on and two backpacks for 17 days. The only thing is that we had to pack some "fluffy" clothes for Iceland. But, we were able to pack all clothes on the carry on. Use one of the backpack for shoes and the other one for gear and papers. After that, I think we are not going back. Every year we take less and less (and it works excellent).

Corinne Vail

Thursday 24th of August 2017

Ruth, I kind of love it when I'm forced to pack excuses.

Michelle | michwanderlust

Thursday 3rd of August 2017

Very impressive how light you travel! My toiletries alone would force me to buy check-in luggage for an 11-day trip (they wouldn't fit into the ziploc bag), but then I'm quite particular about skincare. Great tip about putting your pajamas on top. I'm always having to dig through my bag for them! Will definitely do that next time :)

Corinne Vail

Friday 4th of August 2017

Michelle, Yes, we try. And thanks.

Ryan Biddulph

Thursday 3rd of August 2017

Well done Corinne. Even for longer term trips, we are going lighter and lighter these days. We did a 4 month trip through Qatar, Myanmar and Thailand earlier this year. Medium sized suitcase and we did laundry every 7-10 times. Laundry is so cheap in most places and the lightened load made traveling so much easier. I could even carry both mine and my wife's suitcases in a few different scenarios when we needed to walk up a few flights worth of stairs.

Corinne Vail

Friday 4th of August 2017

Ryan, Yes, those stairs are hard, and thankfully Jim does the same. Good on ya!


Wednesday 2nd of August 2017

Love the red bag- is it waterproof and what brand is it please? We have gone 2 months in Europe with Ryan air size carry on. I love compression bags which get rid of the air freeing up space

Corinne Vail

Friday 4th of August 2017

Janette, That one is an Eddie Bauer and we've been using it for about five years.

Rhonda Albom

Wednesday 2nd of August 2017

You did very well on your carry-on packing. I always travel light but the size for the personal item would be a challenge. I would "wear" as much as possible :)

Corinne Vail

Wednesday 2nd of August 2017

Rhonda, It's hot! LOL. We'll see how we did while we're gone.