Travel

How To Pack For 8 days In ONE Personal Item

Last month I traveled to Nerja, south of Spain for 8 days. I got the chance to go to a family wedding (my first one being an adult!) and meet family that I hadn’t seen in a long time. It was amazing to get to leave Sweden for a bit, since it starts to get cold and very dark at that time of the year. Nerja is such a cute small town by the ocean, if you get the chance you should definitely go!

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However, my flight ticket only included ONE personal item, which meant it had to fit under the seat in front of me on the flight. Some might say that would be impossible, but I saw it as a challenge and managed to pack everything I needed, and even more! I ended up bringing some clothes that I never got a chance to wear, and in hindsight I probably should have left them at home. Even a carry-on-only kind of person like me sometimes overpacks, even though it’s not something I’d like to admit, haha… I find it a little challenging to pack for a season that’s not summer, and even Spain in November gets a little chilly compared to what some might think.

But that’s why I know what to do and not to do! Read on to hear my best tips, and to get a free packing check list!

 

Backpack

Okay, now let’s get into it. I recently bought a new backpack from Amazon which turned out to be my lifesaver for this trip! It’s this one and is made to fit under the seat in front of you. Let me tell you, before I received it, I wasn’t sure if I would like it or not. Sometimes things are just not the same as in pictures, so I was definitely somewhat skeptic. I’m here to tell you not to worry, because it’s what everyone NEEDS to be able to travel light! Even a regular overpacker would manage to fit a lot of things in this, and it sure fits under the seat – I’ve tried. The best part is that the backpack opens up completely like a suitcase which I’m a fan of, because it makes packing and organizing so much easier. 

What else? The backpack has a shoe compartment at the bottom = no need to put your shoes in a plastic bag to prevent your other things from getting dirty! The front compartment is also waterproof, which is where I put all my liquids, in case something would leak. Even though I put my liquids in a closed off plastic bag, I sometimes worry one of the things will poke a whole in the bag and make leakage possible… Another thing I think is great is that if you need to charge your device, there’s a USB charging port on the side of the bag. I didn’t try this but I think it’s great to be able to. It’s not that expensive and I definitely think it’s worth the money; at least it eased my travels! There was also space on the side to put a waterbottle, which I of course did.

The straps on the sides make it possible to tighten the backpack, in case you’ve packed it to the very top!

Pro tip: buy carabiners to put on the backpack like I did with the green one in the picture. It comes in handy when your bikini or swimsuit is wet and you want it to dry before putting it with the other stuff, for example. Here are some you can buy.

Clothes

Here’s a list of everything I fit in the bag:

  • Microfiber towel
  • 2 skirts
  • 2 pair of shorts
  • 6 tops
  • 2 long dresses
  • 2 workout shorts
  • 2 sports bras
  • 3 bikinis
  • Socks and underwear
  • Water bottle
  • Makeup eraser towel
  • Makeup bag
  • Massage ball (that I travel with to be able to stretch my back easily) 
  • Slippers

What I was wearing when traveling:

  • A sweatshirt 
  • A white denim jacket
  • T-shirt and a top-ish underneath
  • Long linen pants
  • Walking shoes
  • A cross-over bag (that I hid under my sweatshirt when boarding the plane)

Because the weather in Spain at that time didn’t require many layers, (We swam in the ocean a few times, although it was freezing), it was somewhat easy to pack. It required some thought because of the chilly evenings, but it’s very much doable if you just plan ahead. You can manage longer than you think with just a few options when it comes to layers, because most of the time you can style it differently depending on what you wear with it. That’s why I only packed three layers – a warm grey sweatshirt, a long sleeve black crop top, and a button up shirt. Those three shirts made it possible for me to dress up, dress casual, and even gave me the option to go for a more beach kind of outfit! You will not need to wear a different layer every day, and to be honest – who does that anyway?! Numerous times I’ve brought enough shirts to be able to wear a different one each day of the trip, just in case. How many times did I end up actually doing that? None. And I don’t think I’m alone.

 

Packing mistake

What would I do differently if I got the chance to repack everything? Well, I would not bring six different tops. Come on Frida, that’s too many! I didn’t end up wearing all of them, because like always when I travel, I wear what I find most comfortable and still look cute in, which means that I often wear the same garment at least twice. Another thing I wouldn’t have packed is three bikinis. Sure, I swam in the ocean, but even if I would’ve swam every day I could’ve managed with just one or two bikinis! Not three! In other words – never bring as much clothes as you want, because it will take up space in your bag that you could’ve used for other things.

 

 

Packing hacks

I normally use a hack for packing. When you’ve put out everything that you want to pack, you take another look and remove half of it. After that, you do a second round and remove some additional garments. You’ll realize that after having done that, you still have enough clothes to be able to wear several different outfits. Here’s another thing that’s specifially useful when trying to travel light: only bring clothes that are easy to style with several other garments. For example: clothes with neutral colors without patterns are better to bring if you want to have many outfit options, as those can often be worn with everything. Once in a while I like to pack a top with pattern, but I make sure it goes with at least two pair of pants/skirts/shorts, so I can use it more than once.

After deciding what you are actually bringing, you will need packing cubes. If you were to take just one advice from me, take this one! Packing cubes are lifesavers and if I didn’t use them for this trip, I don’t think I could’ve brought half of the things I did. They make it possible to maximize the space in the bag, which is a must when you’re traveling with only a personal item! If you roll the clothes tight before putting them in the packing cubes, you can fit even more. My personal favorites are THESE. I used them during my 5 month backpacking trip and have used them for my vacations this year as well. In other words, they’re very tolerant, considering how many times I’ve used them.

I removed my bikinis from the packing cube in the picture below to show you what it looked like with my clothes all rolled up. There was also a second layer of clothes underneath this one.

So, the most important advice is to buy the bag that I was talking about, because it will no doubt make it easier and feel like you have more space than you do. And secondly, I cannot stress this enough, PACKING CUBES!!! If it weren’t for packing cubes, I could not have brought as much as I did. I never ever travel without packing cubes anymore because it gives me so much more space!

This picture is from before I put my slippers in the shoe compartment. I also decided to put some of my clothes around the packing cube, since I had extra space there. In this picture I also had my massage balls underneath some of the clothes, and I decided to fold my microfiber towel the same size as the backpack and put it in the front compartment with my liquids. Has this convinced you that traveling with a personal item is doable yet? Because I promise you, it’s not that hard!

 

Toiletries

Unfortunately I didn’t take a picture of my toiletry “bag”. I actually used a TSA plastic bag as I brought very few items, just my perfume, deoderant, moisturizer and a nail polish. My family and I bought shampoo, conditioner and toothpaste once we got there. The best space-saving thing I brought for my toiletries? A makeup eraser towel! That meant I didn’t have to bring cotton or an actual makeup remover, and trust me, this towel is as good as any remover. I’ve used this (of course not the same one) for years! You literally just need water for this (preferably warm) to be able to remove your makeup. These are the ones I’m talking about, they work like magic! As for makeup, I only brought the essentials and nothing extra. But I also rarely put makeup on when I’m traveling, so it makes it kinda easy for me. My makeup bag went in the same compartment as my toiletries and microfiber towel. Click here to find my towel recommendation!

Are you finally thinking that yes, this could work?! Great, I’m happy for you! Good luck, and please let me know if you decide to travel with only a personal item. It’s actually kind of liberating not having to carry around that much stuff, and I will definitely do it again – voluntarily!

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