Updated December 4, 2019

Packing light for one bag travel is not difficult.  It just takes a little planning.

how to pack light for a week

What a mess! Here are some tips and tricks I’ve learned – sometimes the hard way – when you want to know how to pack light for a week or more.  It’s easier than you think.

First of all, stick to just one bag. Then, do everything possible to avoid checking that bag. You want one bag travel.  It can be a challenge but totally worth the effort.

Travel light. Live light. Spread the light. Be the light. – Yogi Bhajan Click To Tweet

Believe it or not, the only thing you really need for the vast majority of trips is a well-packed carry-on.

  • Your bag cannot be lost if you check it.
  • You’ll save money on potential baggage fees.
  • You’ll be less likely to over-pack and you’ll breeze through the airport while others linger at the baggage claim squinting at luggage and looking worried.

A good way to start is the old adage: Lay out what you think you’ll need then eliminate half.

How to Pack Light for a Week or More: When Packing Light, Roll, Don’t Fold

When I was learning how to pack light for a week, I discovered: roll, don’t fold. It’s true. Try it. When you roll your clothes they take up much less room in your suitcase. The bonus is that they wrinkle a lot less than if you folded them.

Packing light by rolling clothes

Roll, don’t fold your clothing

In my never-ending quest to maximize space in my carry-on, I recently discovered space-saver compression bags. These are bags of thicker plastic where you place your clothing. You then squeeze out the air, zip the bag closed, roll it up and place it in your bag. It is perfect for condensing your clothing virtually doubling the available space in your suitcase.

The only drawback is that you will be tempted to overpack because suddenly you have all this extra space.  There are several brands on the market now, but here is one I liked.

When you get back from a trip, make a note of what you didn't wear. This will avoid packing it unnecessarily next time. Robert Powell Click To Tweet

Shoes: The Enemy of One Bag Travel

Really think about your shoes. They are the bulky culprits that take up lots of space and cause you to overpack when you’re trying to pack light.

Ask yourself:

  • Do you have a pair that can do double duty as comfortable walking shoes AND casual evening wear?
  • Can your running shoes double as comfortable walking shoes?
how to pack light for a week: shoes

How to Pack Light for a Week: Get shoes that can be used for various occasions. OK, maybe sneakers don’t go with a wedding dress, but you get the picture.

The bottom line is, when you’re packing light, strive to pack as few shoes as possible.

  • Keep your shoes from dirtying your clothing by putting them in a shower cap. Any old cap will do. The free shower cap amenities available in some hotels are ideal.
  • Put your socks in your shoes. They will fill up the small space that otherwise goes empty.
  • Wear your bulkiest clothes and shoes on the plane if weather appropriate.
He who would travel happily must travel light. – Antoine de Saint-Exupéry Click To Tweet
  • Use travel cubes. They will keep your clothes organized and separate when you’re trying to figure out how to pack light for a week or more; for example, pants/skirts in the larger one, tops/shirts in medium and underwear in the smaller one. Having your clothes organized in this way will help you reach what you want quickly and not have to dig all over your suitcase. No need to spend a lot on packing cubes, just about any brand will do the job. If a cube is not completely full, I sometimes fill it up with toiletries in a Ziploc bag. And as long as we’re on the subject of Ziploc bags…

How to Pack Light for a Week: Use Ziploc Bags

Ziploc bags are indispensable on a trip and were a godsend when I was learning how to pack light for a week. They are useful in many ways :

  • Store toiletries that may spill. It’s a lot easier to find what you need in a clear bag.  Also easier to run them through airport security.
  • Put some laundry detergent into a Ziploc and rinse out your undergarments yourself. Avoid the hotel laundry at all cost and you will probably save a small fortune as a result.
  • Keep hunger at bay while traveling by storing favorite snacks in a Ziploc. Airport food is expensive and not very interesting.
  • Store your home currency in a Ziploc to keep it separate from the local currency, if you are traveling overseas.  You won’t need your home currency until you get back home anyway.
  • Protect stuff you don’t want to get wet: phone, camera, food, important documents if you’re expecting to be at a beach or near water.
  • Wet swimsuits, dirty laundry…the list is limited only by your imagination.

(And no, I don’t sell Ziploc bags on the side.)

When I’m thinking about how to pack light for a week, I envision the number of days I will be out.

What will the weather be and what you will be doing; beach?…upscale restaurants?…long city walks?…hike? If you really only anticipate one day at the beach, don’t bring three swimsuits.

How to Pack Light for a Week: Mix and Match

  • Pack mix and match outfits so the same articles can be worn several times on different days.
  • Strive for a color scheme that is easy to match and accessorize: black, white, blue. Better yet, pack clothing in different shades of one color only like black/grey and then accessorize with a bright color scarf.
  • Pack quick-drying undergarments and wash them out at night. You won’t need to pack as many pieces.

With a few common-sense learning how to pack light for a week or more is no longer a challenge.

What is your best tip for packing light for one bag travel?

“Just in case” is the curse of packing. – Alexandra Potter Click To Tweet


BTW, if you are getting ready for your trip, make sure to take advantage of these useful, money-saving links to book your trip:

  • Research and book your flight with Skyscanner. I have found them to be the best because they list all airlines including the budget ones. You are always sure of having researched all options. You can also book your car rental through Skycanner.
  • For car rental in Europe that has flexible pickup and drop-off options, I recommend Auto Europe.
  • Book your accommodation with I find they have the widest selection and a nice, user-friendly, transparent website.
  • If an Airbnb experience is more your style, book Airbnb here and get a $40 credit towards your first stay.
  • Protect your trip and, more importantly, protect yourself with travel insurance. I use World Nomads and have been very happy with them.
  • Looking for a small group tour to unforgettable destinations with top professionals? Intrepid Travel is your choice.
  • For more general tours to any destination or attraction, book with Viator. Check them out.
  • Need a visa? Get your visa for all countries with iVisa.

I personally use, and can recommend, all the companies listed here and elsewhere on my blog. By booking through these sites, the small commission we earn – at no cost to you – helps us maintain this site so we can continue to offer our readers valuable travel tips and advice.


  1. Great tips, Talek. Thank you. I’d like to suggest choosing the right bag, preferably something around 40 litres. I recently downsized from a 54-litre bag to the Osprey Farpoint 40 which is 38 litres in the S-M torso size. It’s perfect, forcing me to adopt packing strategies resulting in shaving a few kilograms off the packed weight of my bag. On my last trip of 2.5 months I discovered that a packed weight of 8 kilograms is comfortable, for me, in a travel backpack. It also meant my bag passed for carry on with regional carriers (Qantas, Air New Zealand and Jetstar) with their 7-kg carry-on limits on all nine flights within Australia, New Zealand and SE Asia.

    1. Thank you, Anne. Yes, choosing the right bag is critical. Thanks for your suggestion. BTW, we have something in common. I too love eating at reasonably priced local restaurants with names I cannot pronounce. Even better, get a menu in a language you don’t understand, point at something you don’t recognize and see what you get.

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