Vacation Packing for a Week, in a Carry-on Suitcase

Prepping for vacation can be a job in itself. Let’s be real, as a Mom, you’re juggling a million balls, making sure you, the kids and husband are packed, travel arrangements are set, the pets are taken care of, your flights are on time, the house is ready, and on, and on, and on.

Over time, I’ve created some tricks to packing smart and making everyone’s load a little lighter.

For this post, I will share how I pack for my children and myself for a week, using only carry-on suitcase for each person. It sounds a little crazy, but it’s TOTALLY possible!

In this day and age, the airlines are charging for everything. One way we have found to keep the cost down, is to avoid checking luggage, which can sometimes be $50 a person! To save money, I decided to challenge myself and use only carry-on suitcases for our family. As long as you’re prepared and organized, you can do it.

Don’t have time to read this article?! I get it! Check out the video I created, showing all of my tips.


In previous posts, I’ve discussed how once our children are old enough to walk through the airport, have a backpack on their back, and pull a suitcase, that’s what they do every time we travel.

There are a ton of affordable rolling suitcase options that are perfectly sized to carry-on and handles are the height for little ones. There’s also a ton of character options. Mom Tip: This is a great gift for kids! They love having their own suitcase and it’s a great, useful option to suggest other’s get you kids, as opposed to ANOTHER toy.

Making it all fit…

Two Shoe Rule

Even small shoes take up a ton of space in a suitcase. When we travel, I’ve established a two shoe rule for the kids. This means, they wear one pair of shoes when we travel and another pair in packed. In the past, I went I went crazy packing a ton of shoe options. Ultimately, this was a waste of time, as my kids always wore their same go-to shoes. If we are going somewhere warm, each kid will bring one pair of sneakers and one pair of sandals; that’s it. Usually, I will have the kids wear their sneakers on travel days, as they take up the most space in the suitcase.

If you are buying new shoes for vacation, be sure your kids wear them prior to the trip! I’m embarrassed to say how many times I’ve packed brand new sandals, only to have them give my kids blisters on day one and are never worn again. Total Mom fail!


We all know as Moms, kids get dirty and will always drip or spill something on that new shirt you got for vacation. Because of this, having backups are always necessary. When I’m packing, I usually will pack a shirt or two for every pair of shorts/pants. That way, if something spills at breakfast, I have a shirt I can easily swap out when we are heading out for the evening.

Planning out outfits is so important. What I find to work out best, is to pair the top and bottoms together before putting in the suitcase. That way, when it’s time to unpack and get the kids ready, the tops and bottoms are paired up. This is a huge time saver!

Pajamas, Undergarments, Socks

These are pretty self-explanatory. Plan and pack accordingly here. I always use the mesh pocket for undergarments and socks. Back up underwear and socks are a must. Since they’re small, it’s not a huge deal to pack extra of those.


Usually, for any beach/pool vacation, I pack two bathing suits. That way, you can rotate between the two. One can dry for a day, while the other is worn.


Here are the TSA guidelines for carry-on and checked bags

I usually bring the kids shampoo, soap, etc. in my bag. One important thing to remember with this, is to make sure any liquids are the appropriate size (3 oz or less) and separated in a Ziploc bag. You will need to take this bag out of the suitcase going through security, so make sure it’s easily accessible.

Baby Items

Baby items, such as breast milk, formula, and baby food can be brought through. Take all out of your suitcase before putting your bag on the belt, so it’s separated. I also let the TSA rep know. In my experiences, this causes my bag to be pulled aside and checked further. They will check the items, it usually takes less than a minute, and you’re on your way. This does not bother me at all. Better safe than sorry.


I don’t know about you, but, in order to keep myself from drowning in dirty clothes, laundry is an everyday activity in my home. Vacation, sadly, is no exception for me. Back in the day, I could never understand why people would do laundry on vacation. My first trip with a baby changed all of that!

Before going on vacation, check with the specific hotel you’re staying at to confirm laundry facilities are available. Learn from my mistakes! We went on vacation and I assumed the hotels would have machines available. Wrong! The only had services to send out your laundry and the prices were ridiculous! We are talking like $25 a shirt. No way! Checking before you leave will help immensely and, if they do have on hand, you can bring your own detergent and save some money!

Smart Packing is Happy Packing

I know, it’s so corny to say, but it’s so true. Planning outfits ahead of time may seem like something you don’t want to add to your never ending list, but you will thank yourself later. When you’re at your destination, trying to get the kids out the door and you can just grab an outfit that’s already paired to the kid and have them get dressed.

I hope this information is useful! As always, I want Moms to learn from my mistakes and to make traveling seem less daunting!

Happy travels!

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