I’m back from my honeymoon in Greece, freshly married and no longer jet-lagged. There were obviously a lot of great things about this trip, but one of my proudest moments was managing to fit everything I needed for two weeks in one carry-on.
Over the course of two weeks, we were in Athens and three Greek islands (Paros, Naxos, and Santorini). We did laundry three times, and I only ran out of underwear once! It was completely worth it to pay for laundry and only have one bag to lug around. Carrying on a bag is admittedly less convenient in the airport, but the time you save of not waiting for baggage claim and checking in is insane and worth it.
But first, what did I actually put all of this in?
Suitcase vs Backpack vs Duffle Bag
I used a standard size carry-on suitcase and my backpack that I commute to work with. The only time having a suitcase was a pain was in Santorini, since there are a lot of stairs. Still, since I only had one bag it was not the end of the world, just a good cardio workout. Also, I didn’t want to buy any new luggage so this was the most cost-effective route for me.
Quick side note. Make sure to put something on your suitcase so that it is easily identifiable as yours – all suitcases look the same (yes even the red ones you think would be unique, this happened to my mom), and having a sticker or ribbon or something on it can make it easy to spot if you do have to check it or when you stow it on the ferry between islands.
We made friends in Santorini with a couple that was doing it with only backpacks – so one massive one on your back and a smaller one that you put on your front like one of those baby carriers. It worked really well for them, and it’s convenient to not have to navigate something on the ground, but is obviously more physically taxing to carry everything on your back.
If you want the best of both worlds, Cotopaxi has a travel backpack that I have been drooling over forever.
OKAY. Back to what you’re actually going to put in this thing.
Clothing: What I Brought vs What I Used
Everything you bring should be interchangeable – ie, all the shirts should go with all the pants you bring and vice versa. This kept my wardrobe super versatile and made me realize I could have brought a little less than I did.
- 2 athletic-fabric shirts: we did a fair amount of hiking, and it was super hot even in September, so I was glad to have both.
- 3 casual shirts: these were great for travel days or when I wanted to look a little nicer, but I could have done with just one.
- 2 fancy shirts: even at the nicest restaurants we went to on the islands, I could have gotten away with a more casual outfit, but it was fun to be able to dress up a little.
- 1 versatile sweater: a must-have. Nights get breezy and a little chilly, it’s very windy on the ferry between islands, and you’ll want something for the plane.
- 1 pair of jeans: also a must for the evenings. I opted for white skinny jeans, because Greek islands and summer.
- 3 pairs of athletic shorts: my hiking shorts were SO nice to have since they look like regular shorts but have lots of stretch that makes them ultra comfy. I also brought two pairs of Patagonia Barely Baggies, but definitely only needed one.
- 1 pair of jean shorts: handy to switch off with my hiking shorts for when I wanted to be more put together than athletic gear.
- 1 pair of nice shorts: these were a nice-to-have not a must-have, but a pair of black shorts helped me look a little more polished at dinner.
- 1 pair of yoga pants: I’m always freezing on the plane, so this was a must-pack for me. I only used them on the plane, and they were a little bulky, so in the future, I’ll try to bring something that compresses better.
- 3 dresses: definitely too much. I could have easily done two, or one if I didn’t want to cut down on shirts.
Do not bring heels. You will roll your ankle on the uneven streets and alleys of the Greek islands. Plus, no one is really that dressed up except for the rich people on Santorini, and all of them are clutching desperately to their spouse while they try not to roll an ankle.
- 1 pair of flip flops: for the beach and shorter excursions.
- 1 pair of trail running shoes: great for exploring, hiking, and airport comfort. Billy brought regular sneakers and was fine – my trail runners are just my most comfortable shoes.
- 1 pair of nice sandals: totally optional, since my flip flops would have been fine at all the restaurants we went to. If you do bring sandals, make sure they have a thicker sole – mine got uncomfortable quickly on the irregular streets of the Greek islands.
- 1 pair of boat shoes: totally unnecessary.
- 3 sports bras: could have easily gotten away with two.
- 2 regular bras: I needed a strapless bra for a few of my shirts and dresses, but could have done with just one regular bra otherwise.
- 2 swimsuits: could have managed with just one, but it was nice to have multiple and they don’t take up much room.
- 5 pairs of underwear: I knew I wasn’t going more than four days without doing laundry, so obviously pack according to your laundry schedule. You can always wash them in the shower if you run out.
- 5 pairs of socks: way too much, I only needed three even with all the walking around and sneaker-wearing I did.
Oh, also bring something to sleep in. I forgot to do that.
These travel size toiletry bottles were perfect – I love the bright colors and the multi-pack was cheaper than anything I saw at Target or the grocery store. You can also buy toiletries in travel size if you prefer, but it’s more cost effective to get the bottles and fill them from your normal toiletries.
Disclaimer: I struggle to pare down my toiletries because my skin is a nightmare (spoiler alert, acne doesn’t end in high school!) so I have a million lotions/face wipes/special face scrubby brush/etc. And yes, I drink lots of water etc etc please just leave me be in my struggle.
- Shampoo + conditioner
- Face wash: and my uppity ass face brush, and acne wipes, and non-acne wipes.
- Moisturizer + face sunscreen: some brands make my face breakout so I brought the one I normally use. We bought sunscreen at the first island we got to and it lasted us all two weeks, so don’t worry about packing sunscreen if you don’t have skin issues.
- Body wash: you could use shampoo as body wash if you really want to cut down.
- Nail clippers and nail file: just make sure it’s not over six centimeters or you’ll have to sacrifice it to Greek security.
- Brush: I actually brought a styling brush and products, and then never used them. The islands are casual and it was always hot and/or windy, so I never really wanted to wear my hair down.
- Laptop + charger: I only brought this for entertainment on the plane, but we flew Delta which has free movies and TV, so I ended up not using it at all.
- Phone + charger
- European adapters: These were actually pretty easy to find once we got to Greece, but it would have been easier to just have them with us and not have to waste time hunting for them.
- Jewelry: I brought three pairs of earrings (one pair of studs that went with everything, two fun dressy pairs) and a statement necklace, all of which went with any outfit I packed. I put everything in an old KT Tape container since I have 900 of those but can’t recycle them, so I just feel guilty and collect them.
- Kindle + charger
- Guide books: we had already gone through these before we left and made a list of places to go, so it ended up being totally unnecessary to pack them.
- Medications + first aid kit: we actually forgot a first aid kit, and then I got a splinter and we realized we were idiots. Just a little antibiotic ointment, alcohol wipes, and ibuprofen goes a long way!
- Headphones: for in-flight entertainment, listening to podcasts, and any audio tours (Rick Steves has great free ones!) you may do.
- Eye cover + ear plugs: a surprising amount of people open the plane windows during the part of the flight where everyone is trying to sleep, plus there’s a bunch of noise and light from whatever other people are doing to try to get through a trans-Altantic flight.
- Water bottle: I brought mine, but Greece didn’t have tap water that was drinkable, so I ended up barely using it. It was nice for the flights though – there were plenty of water fountains in JFK to fill up at, and Denver has those great water bottle stations.
- “Turkish” towel: I use quotes here because I got this lightweight beach towel for $6 at Sunsations in Ocean City, Maryland and it was most certainly not made anywhere near Turkey. I had no idea they were an actual thing, but just needed a beach towel that would fit easily in a suitcase. This was a great plane blanket, beach towel, and swimsuit cover-up.
- Sunglasses + hat: I brought a regular baseball hat to save space, and while I looked a bit more HI I AM AN AMERICAN than people in straw hats, I didn’t mind.
How did I get all of this stuff into my carryon? PACKING CUBES. They help you fit more things in your bag, keep you organized, and are a general godsend. Roll everything up and put it in cubes and you’ll be good to go!
Did I forget anything? Tell me what I missed, or what you’ve found helpful, in the comments section!