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Packing Hand Luggage Only – How To Pack Like a Pro!

Packing Hand Luggage Only – How To Pack Like a Pro!

Tomorrow I set off on my longest solo backpacking trip thus far in my life – a 3 months trip that will take me from South Korea, to South East Asia to Australia and then back home to Ireland via London at the end of October. I have been looking forward to and planning this trip for months but in typical Janet fashion…I always end of packing my bag last-minute. It’s currently 7pm here in Korea, and I’m heading out for one last Korean BBQ dinner with some close friends in an hour.

That means I have minimal time to get my bags packed and get started with the epic task of cleaning and clearing out my apartment before getting on my one-way flight to Bangkok tomorrow morning.

I’m not too worried to be honest. All my friends here know that I’m a pretty quick and light packer – just give me 10 minutes to throw some stuff in my sturdy little backpack (here are some other great carry on luggage choices) and I’m ready to go! Usually, for weekend trips, I only bring one small rucksack and for longer trips overseas I bring my 10-year-old 60-70 litre backpack which has been to over 30 countries with me! That’s not going to cut it this time, and I need to keep my bag under a certain size – you can check the carry-on chart here for sizes and restrictions.!

This time, however, I have set myself a challenge. I am attempting to pack everything I could possibly need for my 3 month trip into my tiny weekend rucksack and I’m going to document this challenge right here, in this blog post!

I also know that packing ride-on luggage for kids is a whole different challenge. So if you have little ones you may need to take a different approach to the situation. 

Okay so the first thing I did was to empty my wardrobe. I realized, despite shipping home 15kg of clothes and shoes, I still had WAY too many bits and pieces left behind. I had to be very firm with myself and anything that there is even a SLIGHT chance of me not wearing was not allowed to come along on the adventure. ESSENTIALS ONLY JANET!! I really wanted to bring my curling iron but NO that got put in the ‘stuff to be sent home’ box. ALong with my old laptop, 4 very pretty dresses, 2 extra ‘just in case’ pairs of shoes, a huge make-up bag, a GIANT beach towel (nobody’s got room for that!) and many other things that simply do not need to come with me. After all, I really don’t need very much when backpacking through South East Asia, especially considering the temperature is rarely going to drop below 30’c for the entire trip!

Anyway, here is everything that was left on my bed, post wardrobe cull! As you can see from the picture, there’s still quite a lot left but I am determined to fit it all into a hand luggage only backpack for my travels!

packing like a pro


Here is a list of exactly what I plan to pack – the next challenge is fitting it all into 1 small bag!!

  • 12 t-shirts.
  • 4 summer dresses
  • 2 jumpers
  • 3 pairs of shorts
  • 3 bikinis
  • 12 pairs of underwear
  • 4 bras
  • 2 pairs of socks
  • A headband
  • A wash bag with shampoo, conditioner, face wash, cleanser, toothbrush and toothpaste.
  • Face Wipes
  • Face Moisturizer
  • 1 small Body Shop perfume oil – sweet scent lasts all day
  • A few basic make-up items such as Mac and Bare Minerals Powder, 1 mascara and 1 lipstick.
  • 1 hair brush
  • 1 deodorant
  • 1 pair of flips flops
  • 1 pair of Vans shoes for walking/sightseeing whatever else
  • 1 documents folder with all my flight info/visa applications/hostel bookings etc
  • 1 book (Kane and Abel by Jeffrey Archer – one of my favorites!)
  • 1 small box of photos given to me by my best buddy here in Korea…to make me smile!
  • Passport, wallet and other essentials!

STEP 1: Lay everything very flat in the back section (usually designed to carry a laptop!)

2014-07-27 18.36.40Step 2: All of my make-up and any smaller items can be squashed into the small front pocket!

2014-07-27 18.39.50Step 3: Neatly pack everything else into the bag – it’s a tight squeeze but hopefully it will all fit!!


2014-07-27 18.40.04Step 4: Put all my most important and valuable items into my handbag (passport, wallet, book etc!)


2014-07-27 18.42.09

And…I’m all set for my 3 month backpacking adventure!2014-07-27 18.42.49


Molly Schwartz

Thursday 24th of September 2015

Fantastic article! I am trying to pack my luggage like pro, too. It looks like easy task. I hope it is. You did a great job, though! Best regards!

Shelley @Travel-Stained

Tuesday 18th of November 2014

I'm a big believer in the carry-on luggage only philosophy. We did our entire year long RTW trip with only carry-on, and the reduction in our level of stress cannot be overstated! Have an amazing time in SE Asia! Where are you now?

Andreas Moser

Wednesday 6th of August 2014

Unfortunately, one book would only last for one flight or train journey. I always take 4 or 5 with them at least, and that takes up a lot of space and weight. But I hate it when I run out of reading material.


Tuesday 29th of July 2014

Nicely done.

Every Day Adventures in Asia

Monday 28th of July 2014

Once upon a time I was a light packer... with 'biz trips' I've given myself a bit more leeway to add a few more things... Enjoy!!

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