How to pack for a short trip, from an overnight to one week

Learning how to plan my luggage has been a journey, a hard-earned experience. Occasionally through small humiliations (“yes, really, this huge backpack is what I packed for an overnight stay. Now could you lend me a toothpaste, please”).


Many wardrobe choices depend on a season and planned activities. On that, aim to layers and think a capsule wardrobe, where most items can be mixed and matched. Yet, there are considerations dictated by mostly a trip duration, whether you plan a city break on spring or a beach holiday in July.

How to pack for a trip lasting from a long weekend to a week.

1. What size of a luggage to go with

For a week you can usually get away with a one check-in size luggage (per person). Specially when your flight company also allows a separate personal item like a purse or a laptop bag. Check the luggage policy in advance! EasyJet, for example, only allows one unit and no personal item.

  • During a week-long trip you can get away with not doing laundry, beyond occasionally hand washing your favorite knickers or socks in a bathroom sink so count a pair of panties and socks per day and add a pair or two, just in case.

  • With undergarments prefer synthetic materials (even lace) that are lighter and dry faster than cotton. Actually, most things dry faster than cotton.

  • Bring two bras (if you got bits that need such an equipment), including the one you are wearing. Just make sure they work with a rest of your wardrobe. Discovering that you can’t wear that pretty dress for the evening because your necklines don’t match is not fun.

  • Shoes – two pairs can be enough. Sport sandals are an amazingly diverse option. For warm weather they are good for a whole day in a town, roaming around a countryside or a beach. They also work as an indoor shoes in a hostel.
    For a second pair, in summer I crab a pair of ballerinas for evening and feel-pretty time (closed canvas or leather shoes for gentlemen).
    For a fall-winter-spring season sandals are good for indoors, to give your feet a rest and an airing, but for a daily use a good pair of closed shoes that are comfortable for walking (and ideally waterproof) are perfect. 

  • It’s handy to have a small day bag to carry your book, bottle of water and a snack. If your flight rules allowed a personal items bag, plan to use that. A ladies purse is not a best choice for a day bag, mostly because it’s surprisingly difficult to switch shoulders. Some travelers prefer a smaller backpack, my choice is a shoulder bag with a long strap that can crosses over the body.

  • Include a compact, light weight shopping bag. It is handy when you want something to sit on or do some shopping (get a one with long handles, you will thank me later).

2. The maintenance, beauty preparations before the trip and along the way

Unless you are a really high maintenance on a daily basis (and plan to stay that way during the trip) one week is really a no-brainer. You do most of your things a day or two before the trip.

Hair removal – for larger surfaces waxing, sugaring or epilation done a few days in advance should last a week. Don’t leave it to a last day, it’s better to give a possible skin irritation time to settle. If you don’t usually wax, leave it at least three-four days. For an occasional touch ups one travel razor is enough.

Nails – properly done gel manicure should lasts a week. If you are using an old school nail polish, go with a transparent coat and add a top coat every second day.

Make up – Best save in a make-up section for me has been getting permanent tint for eyebrows and eyelashes. Many salons do this simple procedure and the color lasts for weeks. No messy mascara (panda eyes only look cute on pandas) or removing an eye makeup .

Sun screen – One 100 ml tube you can bring in a hand luggage will easily fit into your day bag and lasts for one person a better part of a week. Get at least SPF 30 (better SPF 50).

When aunt Irma drops by – as a modern superwoman you probably have a phone app to remind you when your next period is due. However, when life is exciting, things can get irregular. No matter what you use, a silicon cup, tampons or pads, bring it. At least enough to get you to a nearest pharmacy. This is one of the few areas where I firmly believe in better to have it and not need it. And tampons are also goods to start a camp fire and plug a bullet hole.

3. Books 

Bring one book and make it a soft cover. If you are now wonder if I really practice what I preach, many times i really do. Reality is, not all books are created equal. Leave your favorites, actual library books and first editions home. Bring a book that you would not mind giving away, swapping or losing in a hurricane. Take that soft cover novel you got from a drift shop and have been meaning to read.

That first book will keep you company on a plane, a bus or a train. If you are a bookish person (since you are reading this, I think odds are good), the books will show up along the way. There are book exchange shelves in hostels and cafés, secondhand shops and flee markets and actual bookshops. Don’t worry about giving away a book that you have finished and will probably not read again. Make somebody a gift and make a space in your luggage to bring home the treasures you find along the way.

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