Just a Backpack!? Packing for a Long Weekend with Small Luggage

Take vacations, go as many places as you can, you can always make money, you can’t awakes make memories.


Normally, I wouldn’t get excited about 4am unless it involves sleeping through it, but this week is different. IT’S VACATION TIME! I’m heading to Bimini for a 3-day cruise with one of my best friends and I am excited down to my bones. Even the 3am wake up to leave my house by 4am isn’t hampering my mood.

Since it’s such a short trip and the airline luggage requirements are strict, I’m just bringing a backpack. I think the challenge is fun, but I do have a few tricks up my sleeve to make the packing process easier when space is limited, so I wanted to share them! Below you’ll find just a few of my favorite packing tips for making packing for short vacations with small luggage a lot easier.

Travel-Size Everything

Why are travel-sized items almost as expensive as full-size items? This is why I bought generic travel-size bottles that I can fill with anything. I also reuse hotel shampoo/conditioner bottles or refill old travel-sized containers. Save those mini toothpaste tubes from your dentist visits too!

Smaller is better when it comes to maximizing space in luggage. Toiletries are usually the major culprits that take up the most space, but we tend to forget that there are plenty of other bulky items. Looking at you, clothing. Wear your bulkiest items onto the plane with you. I’m wearing my gym shoes and a sweatshirt onto the plane since they are the biggest space hoggers of what I plan to pack. I also opt for short cords, smaller entertainment items, paperback over hardback books, and small devices.

Minimize Overpacking and Bulky Items

Choose outfits you can match with almost anything. We tend to change more when we’re on vacation, so clothing doesn’t usually get dirty as quickly. Choose clothes you can dress up or down and will make you feel comfortable in a number of different scenarios. This way you have a ton of options without having to pack your entire closet.

Pack a maximum of two shoes. One you can walk in without feeling like your feet will fall off and another nicer pair for when you are dressing up or if there’s something specific you want to do. If airlines allow it, I love tying my shoes to the outside of my bag by the laces so they don’t take up space inside.

Split the Difference with Fellow Travelers

If you’re traveling with several people, coordinate so you aren’t all bringing the same items, especially for things you can share. One person can bring sunscreen while another could bring the aloe. If someone else is opting for a checked bag, see if you can add that bulky item to their suitcase.

I typically avoid packing lots of snacks, especially if I’m going somewhere international. I’ll pack some small things like quest bars, but I try to avoid anything larger than that. These items can take up a lot of space and it’s also a great way to discover new snacks if you wait to get them at your destination.

Vacuum Bags

These are hands down my favorite travel items of all time. I have ones where you can just squeeze them without having to track down a vacuum. They can turn a backpack stuffed full of clothes to a half-empty backpack in seconds. Sometimes I bring two to use for the way back. One for clean clothes and another for dirty clothes.

I love these more than travel cubes, because you have more freedom in shaping them. Packing cubes have some give, but they essentially stay a cube. In square/rectangular luggage this is great, but in an oblong backpack it’s not ideal. Vacuum bags let you morph them into whatever odd shape you need them to be to fit and that’s always a win in my book.

Less is More

No, you don’t need that ballgown or 4 pairs of shoes. Check which amenities your accommodations supply and base what you bring off of that. Do they provide toiletries like shampoo and conditioner? Awesome, you don’t need to bring that. Complimentary beach towels? Heck yes. That’s lots of room freed up. See where I’m coming from?

When space is limited set items aside like you normally would and try to pack them. If you have to zip your bag shut with a hope and prayer, you’ve put too much in. If that happens, take a good hard look at what you’ve packed and ask yourself if you really need to bring it. There’s almost always something you can leave at home to make packing easier.

It’s also good to remember that you’re going to have to carry your backpack. You don’t want it feeling like a bulky, uncomfortable bag of bricks on your back. Be mindful of how you fold the clothes and where you place things within it. You don’t want to be poked in the back the entire time you wear it. Try to give yourself a layer of something soft between your back and the less comfortable travel items.

Choosing the Right Luggage

ALWAYS, always, always check the airlines luggage requirements. Some will just eyeball your bag and let you walk on past, others will make you prove it fits within a certain space. Walk into that airport with the confidence you won’t have to end up checking your bag.

Outside of size, there are a few other considerations. Think about where you’re doing and what the weather is like. Do you need a rain cover for your bag? Does your bag need to have pockets to keep water bottles or other travel items? Can you wear your backpack for long periods of time without getting sore or do you need one with more strap padding? Does it need specific features?

It’s okay to be picky about your backpacks, especially when it’s your only way of carrying all of the items you’re bringing for your trip.

What Do You Think of These Tips?

Helpful? I really hope so! I’m going to be following my own advice when I pack for my trip, so we will see how it goes! I’d love to know more tips/hacks if you have any for short weekend trips or if you’re planning on using any of these.


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