How I Fit Everything I Need For A Two Week International Vacation Into One Carry-on Bag

Ok, to be fair, the time of year helps a lot. In the UAE we’re expecting low temperatures of around 85 degrees and highs in the 105 degree range (Fahrenheit). My history in Arizona makes me specially qualified to be able to predict what this will be like (hot, but manageable). Then in Turkey we’re expecting lows of around 62 and highs in the 75 degree range. Just like California! I have to admit, it is definitely comforting to have a pretty good idea of what to pack. I am a chronic over-packer, but this time I was determined to pack light. There is the likelihood of doing a load of laundry at our friends’ apartment in Abu Dhabi before we all jump on a plane to Istanbul. But even so, this was challenging. Here’s how I did it.

Dresses are key! When packing for a vacation like this, I wanted to be able to dress light for the weather, be comfortable, and also have a few different outfit options over the course of the trip. There will be lots of pictures, after all! I started with these four dresses. Dresses take up much less space than a pants/shirt combo.

DSCN0828I do want to switch it up a bit though, so planning ahead I put together a variety of outfits. These lightweight khakis are ankle length and I love that they’re colorful, but not too loud. I’m bringing a lightweight long-sleeved sweater and an easy-going white t-shirt to pair with them.

DSCN0860I am, and probably always will be, a jeans-kinda-gal, so I couldn’t resist including these outfits too. I tried to include a variety of sleeve lengths to account for the range of temperatures we’ll be experiencing.

DSCN0863I’m aso bringing a couple lightweight cardigans and a jean jacket. These will serve two purposes: they will keep my arms warm on a cool night, and they will also function as lightweight cover-ups when we’re in conservative areas that may traditionally prefer women to be more covered. These three basics will work with just about every other item of clothing I’m bringing with me.


I threw in this catch-all little black number for a night on the town, specifically for the hubby’s birthday dinner at the Burj Khalifa in Dubai. It will be a cause for celebration!


I’m also making sure to bring a swimsuit for those luxurious resorts we’re hoping to drop into in Abu Dhabi, and my favorite yoga outfit so I can go to one of the classes our friend will be teaching while we’re visiting her and her husband in the UAE.

DSCN0845And of course shoes. This is a little more tricky and one of the areas I usually have the most trouble with, but this time I packed shoes on a need-only basis. I’m also lucky that my friend there has the same size shoe as me, so if I need an alternative option I can borrow one of hers. (That’s the plan for shoes to pair with that little black dress I’m bringing for the hubby’s birthday dinner!) So for bare necessities, I chose a loafer and a sandal. Both are Born shoes, which are super supportive and comfortable. Comfort and support are necessary with all the walking we’ll be doing.

DSCN0851Adding in a couple sets of pajamas and of course all the underwear and toiletries I will need, and the suitcase is pretty full. But not too full, so I can carry my bag on the plane if I want to. Mission accomplished! It’s a little heavy, but I’m sure the hubby will help me lift it into the overhead compartment if I bat my eyes a little bit. 

Do you think you could do it, pack for two weeks in a carry-on?

4 thoughts on “How I Fit Everything I Need For A Two Week International Vacation Into One Carry-on Bag

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