Packing a Week's Vacation to Italy in a Carry On


September 25, 2018 9 min read

My goal for my week vacation to Italy with my husband was to travel with just a carry on and a purse. I usually overpack when it comes to vacation, as I keep grabbing stuff I think I might need, would be fun to have, or just in case. Packing for this trip meant being very disciplined and asking myself what I really need and what is just my overpacking tendency telling me I needed.

The Bags

Red Travelers Club spinner carry on with black Coach purse

In order to get more packing space and less weight, I ordered the bebe Ellisa duffel bag. However, as I started to pack two days before the flight, I realized how heavy it was going to be on my shoulder. I quickly ordered the Travelers Club 18" spinner for next day delivery by Amazon. I am so glad I did! I was able to fit everything comfortably into the main compartment and used the outside pockets minimally and did not use the expansion feature. When I got to the bag sizer for Vueling, which has smaller usual allowable dimensions, it was able to fit just fine. The Travelers Club bag is light, red (I love red!), has four spinner wheels but can be pulled like a two wheeler as well, and fits nicely into the baggage resizers.

I also took a black Coach purse as my personal item and as my day bag when sightseeing as well. It holds a lot, and has an outer and inner pocket for easy access or more secure storage, respectively.


MVIMG 20180907 082733

This is what I wore on the plane. The black, long-sleeved blouse was one of two long-sleeved blouses I took as the weather would mostly be hot. Any chilliness would be in the evening or due to rain, and I was taking two cardigans as well for layering.

The red cardigan was the thicker of the two cardigans I was taking, so I took it on the plane to avoid taking up extra space in my bag. In Florence, I ended up purchasing a leather jacket that I wore on the trip back along with this red cardigan, so I was plenty warm! The scarf was the thicker of the two that I took, so again, I relieved bulk by wearing it on the plane.

Jeans are heavy and bulky, so I opted to wear my one pair on the plane. The bra shown is the only one I took. It is a nude, multiway bra so I can go strapless or with a strap and it goes with any outfit.

MVIMG 20180907 083413

These were the bulk of my clothing outfits. I stuck with a black and white color palette, using scarves to add color. I did end up adding another dark purple long sleeved blouse, but I ended up not even using it so I should have left it at home! Scarves also double as shawls for visiting religious sites if my neckline is too immodest or my shoulders are showing (like with the halter top). I ended up leaving the scarf on the right, taking two scarves in total. I also went with a knee length black and white skirt that would work for religious sites while still keeping me a little cooler than jeans would.

Between the clothes shown here and those worn on the plane, I could make 11 outfits (the striped shirt does not go well with the skirt). Here I also have the second cardigan in white that goes with everything.

MVIMG 20180907 084159

I was planning on taking these three dresses for nicer dinners or evening walks. I ended up only taking the black and white dress and subsituting a cotton summer dress for the other dresses as it is less bulky.

MVIMG 20180907 083907

Finally, my workout clothes consisted of running shorts, a simple bra, and a light top. They could also double as pajamas or loungewear if needed. I ended up not wearing any of this as I was much too tired from the jet lag and extensive walking to have any interest in working out.

I took about six pairs of socks and underwear.

We had a washer at the first AirBnB and mid-week both a washer and dryer at the second AirBnB. Getting to wash our clothes throughout the trip kept us sane and allowed me to pack less than I otherwise would have had to.

I used these Amazon packing cubes to keep my clothes compact and make everything fit really nicely in my carry on bag. I rolled all of my clothing and fit everything into two cubes.

I wore a pair of running shoes on the plane and packed a pair of simple, flat sandals in a cloth purse bag. I wore the sandals for the first two days and then my feet felt like they were on the verge of blistering so I switched to using the running shoes exclusively. I should have used the running shoes from day one for walking and reserved the sandals for evening dinners since the running shoes looked awkward with the dresses. But the health of my feet was more important!

I also packed a poncho that I have never worn and never used it on this trip either as well as an umbrella that again, I did not use.

Toiletries, Makeup, and Jewelry

In my quart-sized ziploc bag for toiletries I packed a facial moisturizer with SPF 15, deoderant, face wash, shampoo, conditioner, Mary Kay BB Cream, stick concealer, hand lotion, sunscreen, extra strength Cortizone 10 (came in very handy after I was thoroughly devoured by mosquitoes one evening), and toothpaste. I also packed a solid bar of soap. In a second bag I packed hair ties, one necklace to add color to my outfits, band-aids, floss, toothbrush, two makeup brushes, and blush. I packed my hair brush and a knit face cloth as well.

Food, drink, supplements/medications

I took a quart sized bag with lots of tea bags, about half full. It turned out I took too much tea with me. I took another quart sized bag filled with protein bars. I ate about half of them. I also took a seven day supply of supplements, and a few melatonin gummies. In my purse, I took Advil, Dramamine (as an OTC sleep aid), and my birth control pills.

Entertainment and electronics

I took my iPad in the front pocket of my carry on, but we only used it once and that was because it was there, not because we needed it. I took my phone with me in my purse, and it was absolutely invaluable! We added Verizon Travel Pass to be able to use our phones as we do in the US including calls and data, and I do not know how we would have navigated public transportation and even the streets of Florence and Venice without it.

I took this adapter that allowed us to charge our phones both in the UK during our long layover and Italy. Of course, I took phone and iPad chargers, and also a couple of mobile battery packs. However, they only work with a USB plug, so only my husband's iPhone could use them. I didn't realize at the time but my Pixel 2 uses a USB-C to USB-C cord, without a regular USB end. All electronic chargers went in my purse.

I took two balls of yarn for two knitting projects for downtime. The second project ended up just taking up space as I did not have as much extra time as I thought I would. One of my knitting projects went in the carry on, and the other in my purse.

Everything else

In my purse I brought a pair of warm socks for the flights, that I did not use. I also brought a sleeping mask and earplugs that were invaluable. In the front pocket of my carry on I brought a journal that I never had the time or energy to use, along with a money belt and TSA locks. We didn't spend much time in the heavily touristed areas and when we did I locked my purse with a TSA lock, so I never felt the need to use the money belt.

I also brought my eyeglasses and sunglasses in my purse, along with my wallet, passport, and travel documents. I attached this Cabeau travel blanket to my purse's strap, and it served us very well. I used it as lumbar support on the plane to Italy, sharing my husband's blanket as a blanket for warmth. On the smaller flights I used it as a pillow. In Italy I used it as the AirBnB's and hotel for extra warmth.


MVIMG 20180913 075052

I overpacked a few items that I never used, but I never wished I had brought something that I had not. When on the move and seeing amazing new things every day, much of the stuff we are used to using at home seem much less important. I never felt the need for more jewelry or makeup or pretty dresses and shoes. I was looking at everything around me, not worried about looking perfectly put together.

Here is my Italy packing list:

  • 2 long-sleeved blouses
  • 2 short-sleeved blouses and 1 halter top
  • 2 cardigans, one thick, one thin
  • 2 scarves
  • 1 pair of jeans
  • 1 bra
  • 6 socks
  • 6 underwear
  • 1 knee-length skirt
  • 2 pairs of shoes - one pair of running shoes, one pair of sandals
  • Workout top
  • Running shorts
  • Sports bra
  • One bag of toiletries
  • One bag of other personal care items
  • Tea
  • Protein bars
  • Supplements and medication
  • iPad
  • Pixel 2
  • Chargers and adapter
  • Two balls of yarn and knitting tools
  • Sleeping mask and earplugs
  • Travel blanket
  • Eyeglasses
  • Sunglasses
  • Journal
  • Money belt
  • TSA locks
  • Wallet, passport, and travel documents


Think others might enjoy this post? Share it!


I'd love to hear from you, let me know your thoughts!