How to pack a carry-on for a weeklong trip

Why bother with the hassle of checked luggage when it’s possible to travel to any destination with only a carry-on? At least that’s what Anne McAlpin, a packing expert and the author of the book “Pack It Up: Travel Smart, Pack Light,” thinks.

McAlpin never checks luggage – her recent three-week jaunt through Asia and the Middle East included – and says that traveling is much more convenient as a result.

“Taking just a carry-on is liberating because you’re not bogged down by heavy bags,” she said. “It also saves you money since you don’t pay to check luggage and can rely more on affordable public transportation instead of pricey taxis because a small bag is easier to transport around on your own.”

Below, she shares her tips.

Go for a soft bag

Stick to a soft bag vs. one with a hard case, said McAlpin, because it has a bit of give. “If you’re trying to get your bag into an overhead plane compartment, a soft one will bend a little to fit, but a hard one won’t so you may be forced to check it in,” she said.

Pare down the toiletries

McAlpin advises minimizing toiletries. “Take all your favorite products, but you don’t need large quantities of them for a week away,” she said. A clear quart-size plastic bag can hold the bulk of your liquids, such as shampoo, conditioner and body lotion, and for liquids that you need a small amount of, like face cream, she suggests using a contact lens container, available at any drugstore. She also relies on the growing number of travel-friendly nonliquid toiletries that are now readily sold online ( has a wide range) and at your local drugstore.

The magic number for shoes

Wear a pair of stylish and comfortable walking shoes on your flight, and pack two more. Men should take a dressier loafer to wear in the evenings, while women need a pair of strappy sandals or low heels that can go from day to night. Both sexes can also take along sneakers, preferably a fashionable pair that can be used both as day shoes and to work out in, and a pair of flip-flops – because they take up minimal space, McAlpin said.

Choose a color theme

McAlpin recommends going for a dark shade such as black or navy, because it looks more chic than a lighter hue, and packing no more than nine tops and three bottoms around this tone. “The number of looks you can put together with these pieces is endless,” she said.

A pair of fitted jeans looks sharp. Women should also pack a pair of capris or pants, a skirt or dress that can be dressed up or down, a mix of long- and short-sleeved tops and a tank top. Men should take a pair of slacks, a tailored button-down shirt, a zip sweater, a few polo shirts, a shirt with a fun pattern (like a colorful plaid) and a sports coat (wear this on the plane). Bathing suits take up little room, so feel free to pack two.