What to Pack: My Carry On Bag for a Weekend Away


It shouldn’t be that hard working out what to pack for a weekend away and fitting it all in your carry on bag. But somehow it is.

For a recent weekend blogging conference in Melbourne I challenged myself to stick to the size limits of a carry on bag and still have everything I needed to hand.  I also had to look as nice as possible because that’s important when you’re a slightly reclusive blogger who’s rarely seen in the flesh.

Presentation is everything and I don’t want to disappoint my readers or look like a frump compared to all the beauty and style bloggers. You can check out how I actually looked in some of these outfits at the event here and judge for yourself how well I succeeded.

I contained my luggage to one carry on bag again when I went to Canberra for a weekend with the kids. That was a more casual weekend but that didn’t make working out what to pack any easier.

But I think I’ve nailed it now so let’s get down to the details of what to pack for a weekend away and how.

What’s in My Carry On Bag for a Weekend Away?

Before any trip I always start by laying everything out on my bed or floor so I can see what’s there and what’s missing. That also gives me time to rationalise and take stuff out that just isn’t needed.


My travel essentials all laid out ready to pack in a carry on bag

So what have we got here? Starting at the top left and working clockwise:

1. Camera – I never use my SLR anymore, a smaller point and shoot with a good zoom saves space and takes great photos too.

2. Make up – I don’t wear much make up so it’s a small bag. Actually I hardly wear make up at all but I try to look as good as possible when meeting new people.

3. Jewellery in its own little bag including a large vintage diamante brooch which belonged to my granny and will brighten the plain tops.

4. A canvas bag with all my cords inside for cameras, iPads and more.

5. A bag of hazelnuts in case I need a snack or miss any meals. That’s probably the worst thing that could happen.


My trainers  and ballet flats packed in a shower cap

6. Trainers packed in a shower cap to stop them getting everything dirty. I wear Nike Free running shoes similar to these because they’re very light weight and much less bulky than normal trainers.

7. Ballet flats which are are perfect for day or evening. Also packed in a shower cap. That’s my top packing tip by the way, I hope you like it and will never see those hotel shower caps in the same light again.

7. Sports clothes – black Nike shorts and a red Gap shirt just in case I get to go for a walk or to the gym.  It often doesn’t happen but I like to take some exercise gear and trainers with me just in case I get lucky.

8. Evening clothes – I went to a cocktail party in Canberra but I dressed down in my best  jeans and a pretty grey silky top which can be layered with a camisole under it and cardigan on top if it’s cold in the evening. I needed those layers after dark.


I’m no fashionista and I don’t have a zillion cool accessories . But you only really need one great accessory and for me this bag made in Brazil from recycled can tabs is it.

9. An evening bag – This bag is my pride and joy. I splurged money on this little metallic bag which was made in Brazil from recycled can tabs and I splurge on space when I take it with me because it’s my favourite accessory. I keep my business cards in there permanently and just add lipstick, camera, iPhone, money and a credit card before I go out in the evenings.

10. Snacks – I’m traveling with my three kids so I’ve got sweets for them plus hazelnuts for me. Don’t judge me for giving them sugary treats – it’s a matter of survival when traveling with kids. Just as long as you don’t give them too many.

11. Because I was going to Canberra with temperatures ranging from 0-26 degrees I took some two short-sleeved T-shirts and a belt.

12. Also a smart, warm cardigan to wear on the plane or on cold evenings

13. Plus three long-sleeved T-shirts and two camisole tops for layering. I have a morbid fear of the cold so it’s quite ironic that I’ve been to distinctly chilly zones of Japan and Canada this year.

13.  Most of the clothes pictured here are cheap and cheerful but the cobalt blue J Brand jeans were another splurge buy that was worth it. They’re comfy, flattering and wearing them fills me with confidence. Which is good. Very good.

14. A matching red top and cardigan if I want to look a bit smarter.

15. A black and white dress and tights in case I decide I’d prefer to wear dress to the cocktail party. It’s also a comfy outfit to wear on the plane on the way home if I’m fed up with wearing jeans.

16. A  big woolly poncho I can carry wherever I go and a backpack for day trips.

17. Underwear and swimwear all packed in its own plastic bag so I can easily find it.


It’s hard to believe I’m sharing this photo of my undies with you because they are not glamorous. Not all all. But I just wanted to show you how handy it is to pack them in a clear bag so you can find the right bra or knickers at the right time. Which is handy.

The Carry On Bag

I’m currently rolling with an Antler carry on bag – I bought myself a matching three piece luggage set for under $300 online which worked out to be excellent value. The model is slightly dated but it’s good quality so it will last well so when I upgrade I can pass this bag on to the kids if they play their cards right. This is what I like about it:

  • It has a pocket on the outside big enough to fit my iPad or any magazines or newspapers I pick up at the airport.
  • There’s a mesh compartment on the inside where I can put little things like my jewellery bag.
  • The bag can also be extended by unzipping a pouch so if I pick up extra stuff while I’m away (it happens) I can still fit it in with no dramas.

Once everything is laid out and organised I just stick it in the bag pronto – I’m not a fussy packer but I recommend rolling rather than folding clothes you don’t want to get creased.

The final picture and what’s not in the picture

  • My handbag and all the goodies in there aren’t in the bed photo – I’ll write another post about what’s in my handbag.
  • I also added a day pack which I fitted inside the carry on bag for day trips.
  • My travel wash bag for toiletries – it’s very small as you can see in what I pack in my wash bag.
  • The clothes I wore for the journey including some heavy jeans and my Swedish Hasbeens clogs which are heavy but comfy so better of being worn than packed.

Leaving from home on the left where it’s hot and balmy, and leaving Melbourne on the right where it’s much cooler – but not cold enough for the tights.

Are you a good packer? Can you squeeze everything you need for a weekend away into your carry on bag? 

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  1. Eric November 30, 2012 at 11:54 pm - Reply

    I used to overpack. I wanted to be prepared for anything and always ended up packing way too many clothes and other odds and ends. Between my wife, daughter and I, we typically had two big duffle bags and two suitcases.

    A couple of years ago all that changed. I got tired of lugging heavy duffle bags and suitcases to our hotel rooms and we all decided to try to pack light for a train trip and three nights in a hotel. We limited ourselves to one backpack each. It was SO MUCH EASIER to travel with just a single backpack for each of us. Boarding the train was extremely easy, as was the taxi ride to the hotel and walking to our room.

    Now a backpack is the norm for us.

    • Annabel Candy December 1, 2012 at 11:51 am - Reply

      Hi Eric,

      Loved reading about your travel packing downsizing and well done. It is so much easier with less to carry and I love when I can get off the plane and walk right out of the airport while everyone else off my flight is waiting for their big bags to arrive!

  2. Geri Dreiling December 1, 2012 at 1:36 am - Reply

    Thanks for the post, Annabel. I have a very hard time packing wisely. I liked the tip about the Nike Free running shoes. I try to pack my running shoes but they often take up too much space and I end up leaving them at home despite the fact that I enjoy a sight-seeing jog.

    I’ll have to add hazelnuts to my snack pack. I’ve been eating pistachios and almonds. I like bringing my own snacks so that I don’t splurge on a poor nutrition choice — especially if I left my running shoes at home!


    • Annabel Candy December 1, 2012 at 11:53 am - Reply

      Hi Geri,

      I love my Nikes – they are also great for hot weather – they breathe and (don’t tell Nike) I even chuck them in the washing machine from time to time and they come out fine.

      They so say you should start slowly with then as they will use new muscles in your feet but I never had any problems :)

      Nuts are great – you’ll find me packing almonds or pistachios too – it just depends what’s in the pantry!

  3. Leon Noone December 1, 2012 at 1:46 am - Reply

    G’Day Annabel,
    What an extraordinarily useful post. I wish I’d seen it back in the mid 70s. That’s when I started flying all around Australia and New Zealand and continued to do so for the next 20 years. It was before cellphones and pcs so I was usually encumbered by masses of business stuff too.

    I’m sending a copy of the post to my four adult children

    Have a great Christmas.

    Best Wishes

    • Annabel Candy December 1, 2012 at 11:54 am - Reply

      Hi Leon,

      Lol, I would have liked to see you then. Thank you so much for sharing the post. I really appreciate that :)

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