PART 1 of 2: Packing for a 13-day UK trip in a carry-on

This summer, my husband and I took a once-in-a-lifetime trip to England and Scotland.  A very good friend of ours was getting married to a girl from Bath, England, and we decided to go and make a trip of it.  Because we would be traveling on so many different trains, planes and automobiles, we decided it would be best if we could get through the trip with just a carry-on bag and backpack each (and I had a small, cross-body purse).  I can’t tell you how good of a decision that was…pulling luggage down busy (sometimes cobblestone) streets between train stations was hectic enough, so I can’t imagine if I had packed a giant suitcase! *Disclaimer* – we did send our “wedding attire” with some family who were coming later and meeting up with us, so that is the only thing we didn’t pack with us for the entire trip.

Overall, it wasn’t as difficult as I would have thought, but it did take some planning.  I did my research…asked people who had been to England and Scotland, checked on Pinterest, read other people’s blogs, Google’d the typical weather for that time of year, etc., etc.  I knew I would need to bring layers and pack items that I could mix-and-match and use to make several outfits. I knew I would need to be choosy with my shoes, because they take up a lot of room (and whatever is not ON you will have to be packed to move to the next destination).  Also, we would be walking A LOT so I wanted to make sure I was comfortable. I knew rain would be a high possibility in Scotland, so we would want to plan for that with waterproof attire. So…I used all these things and laid my clothes out on the bed and literally tried on every outfit combination I could make from the items I chose to take.  I even had the kids help me and take pictures so I wouldn’t forget what I had planned to wear (and I think I may need to do this in my real life because, well, decisions are hard)!

Once I did that, I attempted to put it all in my bag (a standard, rolling carry-on sized suitcase).  This was the true test! I purchased some packing cubes (that was a recommendation I had seen on Pinterest).  The ones I bought were from Amazon and they came with two sets of three, different-sized cubes (so we each had a set).  These things were a LIFESAVER! I rolled most of my clothing items and put them into the cubes, zipped them up and then (very strategically) place them in the bag….and then realized I still had to put my shoes in there!  So after some rearranging, and putting one of my sweaters, jacket and my small bag of toiletries in my backpack, everything fit!

Now…I was so proud of myself for getting everything packed into our carry-on luggage that I think I was slightly blind to the fact that we live in time where you can know the local forecast just about anywhere.  Google it…you can see what the temps are in England today, tomorrow, and for the next 10 days. I DID NOT DO THIS BEFORE WE LEFT! And talk about a BIG fail! Here are some of the top things I learned from my mistakes (and a few things I think I did right)…

Lessons Learned – Packing for England/Scotland:

  • Check the actual forecast…not just the “typical” weather for that time of year: In the words of every Englishman we came into contact with, it was “unseasonably warm” in England while we were there.  They were blaming us for bringing the Texas heat! And here is the kicker – yes, we are from Texas and we are used to it being 100+ degrees in the summertime, but we have A/C.  They DO NOT in most places in England!  This had never even occurred to me!  And 80 degrees does not feel “cool” compared to 100 degrees when you are sitting in a barely-ventilated restaurant with no A/C.  The house we stayed in didn’t even have ceiling fans because they don’t typically need them in that area! Anyway…I had only packed two pair of shorts (really as a “just in case”) and they got used more than anything else! Which leads me to my next lesson…
  • Pack a deodorizer for your clothes: Whether it is Febreze or some other kind of deodorizer, having that to spray your clothes and let them air out before putting them back in your bag really helps!  Especially if it is going to be awhile before you are able to do laundry. We were lucky that on Day 8 of the trip we were able to do laundry at the house we were renting (which I honestly don’t think we would have needed to), but I was glad to have the deodorizer to take the edge off…especially during our warm time in England.  It could have really been a stinky situation.
  • Spend the money on the shoes: I’m talking specifically about rain gear here…I read over and over how you needed waterproof shoes, rain boots, etc. for traveling in Scotland and I didn’t listen.  I packed some “water resistant” shoes that I thought would work well enough.  Needless to say, my shoes got wet, my feet got wet, and I was cold! You can’t do anything about wet feet except change shoes/socks…but if you are just changing into another pair of semi-water-resistant (not waterproof) shoes, you are going to be right back in the same boat!  I wish I would have just spent the extra money to invest in a pair of comfortable, waterproof shoes that I could have worn every day that we were in Scotland. It would have been worth it. Not to mention…things that get wet have to dry. There were a couple days I was blow-drying my shoes and socks to try to get them dry enough to put back in my bag before we moved onto the next stop.  Eek!
  • A decent backpack is your best friend: I used a really simple, large backpack purse as my bag, but we actually bought a pack for my husband to take on the trip.  It had the chest strap to make it more comfortable and he pretty much packed it everywhere. When we were walking around for hours at a time, it was nice to be able to throw a bottle of water in there, any souvenirs we bought along the way, and our jackets when the sun would creep out from behind the clouds.  And then to be able to easily get them back out, along with our umbrellas, when it disappeared and the rain started up again. Lol!
  • Packing Cubes:  I said it earlier, but those things were amazing!  It kept our clothes neat and together…there was never that disheveled piled in the suitcase and me not being able to find that other sock or a clean pair of undies.  Also, since we would be going through airport security multiple times, we invested in a couple clear, quart-sized, TAA-approved zipper bags for our toiletries. This made it so easy, and we didn’t have to worry about our baggies tearing or things leaking into our luggage!

Overall, we had such a great trip and we were able to do it all in a carry-on.  Stay tuned for PART 2 where I relive the actual trip (well, most of it) and the itinerary we chose…might give you some inspiration for your next adventure!  Cheers!

5 Comments Add yours

  1. Kathy says:

    When you told me you were packing for that many days in a carry on, I thought you were crazy! Well planned…. I really need some of those cubes!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The cubes were a lifesaver!


  2. Jessica Hodges says:

    And I stressed about packing in a carry one and back pack for a 5 day Costa Rica trip….told Chase he was CRAZY…..I did pack way less than I would have if he would have allowed me to check a bag and I still didn’t need it all!!


    1. Ha ha! Yes, it was a little daunting at first just thinking about it. But then I realized how much better it would be if we could make it work…and we did!


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