What To Pack For a 10 Day Trip: How To Pack A Carry-On For 10 Days

carry on

Written by Jessica Dodson on

Jessica was in-house at Eagle Creek for more than 7 years. What’s most interesting about her, is her passion to travel and connect others with authentic experiences. Having been all over Europe, to Turkey, Jordan, Egypt, Kenya, Russia, and so many more places, she is legitimately a world traveler. You’ll see Jessica hosting our packing and product videos.

The step by step guide to fitting everything you need for 10 days in a carry on that will make travel easier. Now it's true, packing 10 days in a carry-on has its challenges—especially if you like bringing lots of options with you or are packing for colder climates—but it's totally doable with Eagle Creek's Pack-It™ System   


Whether the idea of using only a carry-on during your next trip sends shivers up your spine or excites you, we’ve got tips to help you pull it off in style. So take a deep breath and remember to have an open mind: You can fit everything into a carry-on.

Yes, you truly can.

It’s really just a matter of planning appropriately and making smart decisions about what to bring and how to pack it. To maximize the space in your luggage and pack properly for any destination,  read this guide on what to pack for a 10-day trip.

Strolling with carry-on luggage at sunset


1. Choose the Right Bags

In general, we recommend using a travel backpack rather than a shoulder bag as your personal item—the Wayfinder 30L is a great option. This saves your back and keeps your arms free.

In terms of your main carry-on, there are several options for both larger travel backpacks and rolling carry-on luggage to choose from. 

●      Ranger XE 36L Backpack : Ideal for backpackers or anyone on an active trip, this backpack is a compact organizational machine. Ergonomic padded & moisture wicking backpack straps mean it stays comfortable no matter how long your travel day.

●      Gear Warrior XE International Carry On : Made to fit even on the most snug budget airlines around the world, this international carry on is, above all, durable. An impact-resistant handle system reduces wobble while oversized treaded wheels keep you trucking when you just need to get where you’re going.

Need more luggage advice? Our luggage buying guide details everything you need to know when picking a travel bag.


2. Lay Out Everything First

Use your bed as a landing pad and don't even think about pulling your luggage out of the closet yet. You need to get a bird’s-eye view and have the ability to make cuts before throwing everything inside your bag. If you want to see what this looks like, there's lots of inspiration from other travelers out there who have documented their packing process!

Not sure where to begin? Use our complete packing checklist as a starting point for packing—you can’t fit it all, but it will help you start selecting the right items for the trip you have planned.


3. Be Disciplined About Shoes

Think head to toe, except in reverse. Start with your feet and remember you only have two! The trick here is to find a set of kicks to wear casually and for semi-formal situations. Ladies, forget the heels, and gents, wingtips: verboten. Grab the all-purpose set of travel shoes you can wear with jeans or something nicer. If you like to exercise a pair of cross-trainers can also make the cut.

Expert Tip! Stuff your socks into your shoes before packing them in a shoe sac.


4. Check the Weather

Check the weather ahead of time so you can anticipate what clothes you will need and what can stay home. You can still make a carry-on happen, even if you’re packing light for cold weather or even packing rainy season. It helps to know if you will really need that parka or if it's safe to stay at home. Same goes for things like wool socks, mittens, bathing suits, tank tops, and other weather-specific clothing items. If your 10 day trip requires packing bulky sweaters, then compression sacs are your friends—you can squish down even the fluffiest sweater or scarf. 

Expert Tip! Wear your bulkiest clothes and shoes on the plane.

Staring at the snowy alps with a carry-on backpack

5. Think About What You Will Be Doing

It helps to know what you'll be doing at your destination so you can pack clothes you'll actually wear once you're there. If you're going to be doing mostly outdoor activities and spending time around family and friends in a casual setting, you probably won't need that pair of pumps. However, if you're going to formal concerts, parties, or other activities, be sure to pack a nice pair of shoes and a dressier outfit.


6. Choose Versatile Clothes

Go for versatile colors to match with anything, rather than unique pieces only for one outfit. A best practice would be to group each into an outfit, choosing one outfit per day—minus one. In other words, if you’re out for four days you need three days of outfits. Better yet, bring one or two coordinating tops for each bottom piece.


7. Consider Washing Clothes Instead of Bringing More

Instead of insisting on packing a separate outfit for each day, think about washing your clothes partway through the trip instead. Most hotels have laundry facilities or services, and you can even wash your clothes in the hotel sink or tub if you need to. This means you'll be able to pack lighter and avoid adding weight to your bag. It also will make it easier to keep your stuff organized.


8. Maximize Space with Packing Cubes and Compression Bags

Using packing cubes can help you organize everything in your bag and maximize your space. Extra bonus: when you get to the hotel, you can simply lift the travel cubes out of your suitcase and put them in the drawers. Packing cubes can also help you get through airport security faster , allowing for easy removal of liquids and other items during airport security checks.

No need to “live out of a suitcase” when you have extra large to extra small travel cubes. This also lends to super easy packing upon departure, simply pick up your lightweight travel cubes and place them inside your bag again. Skip the annoying process of re-folding a giant pile of clothes you know you’re just going to throw in the laundry anyway.

Wondering which packing cubes are best for your trip? Use our buying guide for packing cubes and compression sacs to suss out which are best for your 10 day trip.

A family packs their carry-ons with packing cubes

9. Organize the Inside

Jeans and sweaters can be folded and rolled in a large packing cube. All other hanging garments should be carefully folded and compressed into packing folders. Drop your shoes into a shoe sac. Throw the compressor bag into the bottom of the bag and use it as your dirty clothes hamper to collect and compress the load for the return trip. Make sure you're capitalizing on all the available space and not leaving any unnecessary nooks and crannies. One way to take advantage of awkward open space in your bag is to buy a slim cube and an eTool Organizer for cords, jewelry, and other small items. This will allow you to take advantage of the space in-between the handles in the back of your wheeled luggage.

Becoming a Packing Cube Pro : Here’s exactly how to use packing cubes when packing light .


9. Be Smart About Toiletries

Now, let's move on to toiletries. We are not going to bore you with what to bring here. The trick is what NOT to bring. With hotels supplying a bevy of amenities, most items in your medicine cabinet can stay at home. Figuring out which essential toiletries to bring is a great way to make your luggage lighter if you’re worried about weight restrictions. 

On the "do not pack" list: hairdryers (most hotels have them, and if you're in a country where you need a different type of outlet, it’s probably easier to buy one there), any toiletry in a full-size bottle (thus not TSA carry-on compliant ), anything breakable, and medicines used only on rare occasions. Investing in a travel bottle set and travel-size toiletries at your local drugstore will help you downsize the medicine cabinet significantly. Then, choose a lightweight toiletry kit to fit your streamlined toiletries.


10. Bring a Kindle Instead of Paper Books

If you enjoy reading for pleasure on vacation, or want to bring multiple guidebooks or language books, bringing a Kindle can save space and weight. Load all of your books onto one device, and buy extra books as needed once you’re there.


11. Bring a Compact Bag for Daily Use

Instead of bringing two bags, consolidate to just one, and bring a foldable/collapsible day bag inside your main bag. This will help you focus on just one piece of luggage, simplifying things and making it easier to watch your stuff in areas where security is an issue.


12. Use Your Smartphone for Picture-Taking

Decide whether you’ll really need a full size camera. Most smartphones have high quality cameras on them now, so unless you really want a high quality camera, sticking to a smartphone can minimize extras and still take great photos.

Expert Tip! A good space-saving idea is to try to wear a top with easy-access pockets. Consolidate your essentials (tickets, ID, and itineraries) into a small RFID wallet for easy but safe access while traveling to your destination. As for hats and gloves, don't pack them: Throw them into the pockets of the jacket you are going to carry.


13. FOLLOW THE 5-4-3-2-1 RULE

Packing for a 10-day trip may seem intimidating, but the 5-4-3-2-1 rule is a game-changer for your packing routine. It’s a simple yet effective strategy that helps you pack efficiently for your trip. Here’s how it works: you pack five sets of tops and bottoms, four dresses, three pairs of shoes, two bags, and one of each accessory you may need. 

Following this rule will help you focus on essential clothing items and avoid overpacking, keeping your luggage lighter and more manageable throughout your journey. 



When preparing for a 10-day trip, it's essential to pack with a plan to ensure you have everything you need without overpacking. Here is how to pack for a 10-day trip:

  • Versatile outfits: Pack a mix of tops, bottoms, and dresses that can be mixed and matched to create multiple outfits, allowing you to pack light while still having variety in your wardrobe.
  • Layering pieces: Include lightweight layers such as cardigans, sweaters, or jackets that you can easily add or remove to accommodate changing weather conditions.
  • Comfortable shoes: Bring comfortable walking shoes for exploring, dressier shoes for evenings out, and sandals or casual shoes for leisurely activities.
  • Travel-size toiletries: Opt for travel-size containers of essential toiletries like shampoo, conditioner, body wash, toothpaste, and skincare products to save space and comply with airline regulations.
  • Travel documents: Don't forget to pack your travel documents, such as passports, IDs, boarding passes, travel insurance, and any necessary visas or permits. Keep them organized and easily accessible in a travel wallet or document organizer.
  • Packable accessories: Bring accessories like scarves, hats, and belts that can add style and versatility to your outfits without taking up too much space in your luggage.
  • Basic medications: Pack a small first aid kit with essentials like pain relievers, band-aids, antacids, and any prescription medications you may need.
  • Travel accessories: Include travel accessories for comfort and safety , such as a neck pillow, eye mask, earplugs, and compression socks for long flights or train rides. Don't forget essentials like a reusable water bottle, portable charger, and travel-sized hand sanitizer for convenience and hygiene on the go.

By packing thoughtfully and focusing on versatile items that serve multiple purposes, you can ensure a stress-free and enjoyable 10-day trip, regardless of your destination.

Rolling carry-on luggage through Hawaiian tropics


How many clothes do you need for a 10-day trip?

Knowing what to pack for a 10-day trip is essential so you don’t over or under-pack. For a 10-day trip, the number of clothes you need depends on personal preferences and the activities planned. However, it's essential to avoid overpacking to keep your luggage manageable. ​​

A helpful guideline is the 5-4-3-2-1 rule: pack five sets of tops and bottoms, four dresses, three pairs of shoes, two bags, and one of each accessory you might need (sunglasses, hats, belts, etc.). This rule encourages packing efficiently by focusing on essential clothing items while minimizing excess items that may not be necessary for the trip. 


How big of a suitcase do you need for a 10-day trip?

The suitcase size you need for a 10-day trip depends on whether you're traveling with a carry-on or a checked bag. There are pros and cons to each option. 

Carry-ons offer easy access during flights and no waiting at baggage claim, but they require careful packing due to size restrictions and adherence to TSA rules. Checked bags provide more packing room but incur fees and require waiting at baggage claim. Your choice depends on personal preferences, travel needs, and budget. Consider these factors when deciding between carry-on and checked luggage for your trip. Ultimately, the choice between a carry-on and a checked bag depends on your personal preferences, travel needs, and budget. Consider the pros and cons of each option when deciding which type of suitcase is best for your 10-day trip.


Is a carry-on bag enough for a 10-day trip?

Packing efficiently in a carry-on bag for a 10-day trip is entirely feasible, especially when utilizing packing cubes or compression cubes. These handy organizers maximize space and keep your belongings neatly organized throughout your journey. By strategically arranging your clothing into packing cubes, you can make the most of the limited space while minimizing wrinkles. This method streamlines both packing and unpacking, making it a breeze to transition from one destination to the next.

Additionally, packing cubes facilitate security checks at airports, as they allow for easy inspection of your belongings without the need to unpack your entire bag. Adhering to airline luggage sizes is easier with packing cubes, as they help ensure your bag meets size restrictions. Overall, packing cubes are an essential tool for travelers looking to optimize space, organization, and convenience when traveling with a carry-on bag.


How can I maximize my space for a 10-day trip?

Maximizing space for a 10-day trip requires smart packing techniques. First, knowing whether to roll or fold clothes for packing can help save space and prevent wrinkles. Rolling your clothes instead of folding them will conserve room and allow for better organization within your suitcase. 

Additionally, using packing cubes or compression bags is essential. These tools help organize and compress your belongings, freeing up valuable space in your luggage. Another tip is to utilize empty spaces within your luggage, such as stuffing socks inside shoes or filling gaps between items with smaller accessories. By using these strategies, you can make the most of your suitcase's capacity and pack efficiently for your trip.

Pack Smart. Travel Happy.


Related Links (from Eagle Creek blog):

Buying Guide: Pack-it Packing Organizers and Compression Bags

Packing Light for a Cold-Weather Getaway

Buying Guide: Choosing Luggage, Travel Packs, and Carry-ons