How to Pack a Carry-On for 4 Days

Candy here! I’m a Portugal travel expert and independent travel consultant for Portugal, Spain and Italy. I focus on authentic experiences and off the beaten path adventures. Fly over to my TRAVEL GUIDES page for inspiration or BOOK A TRAVEL PLANNING CALL with me and together we’ll curate the perfect itinerary.

Candy Independent Travel Consultant. Portugal, Spain and Italy


I am about to travel to Porto in Portugal for a 4 days get -away so It seemed like a great time to share my minimal space packing tips . I’m not actually flying for this trip but regardless of how I travel I always pack a carry-on size bag if the trip is a week or less. I know that it can be a little overwhelming trying to fit everything you need for a 4 days into a carry-on bag but there are some easy tips on what to pack and how to pack it that will make your life so much easier. Let’s look at the benefits of traveling lighter. . .



There are loads reasons for choosing to pack a carry-on over checked luggage but some of the most obvious are :-

It’s easier – My biggest reason for choosing to pack a carry-on instead of checked luggage is because it makes everything so much easier. Carrying a smaller, lighter case ensures you’re not having to lug a huge heavy one around while you are on the move. Your back will thank you for it too!

It’s cheaper – Traveling with a carry-on when flying is often much cheaper than using a checked bag. Many airlines include a carry-on bag in your ticket price but more often than not you’ll pay to check in a bag.

If you’re unsure on the airline’s luggage policy check out this up-to-date list of airport luggage fees.

It’s quicker – When you are traveling with a carry-on you can avoid the long wait at the baggage carousel and start your trip sooner. 

It’s safer – I’m sure you’ve heard missing luggage horror stories right? The ones where someone’s checked bagged goes missing in transit. At best their luggage arrives at the destination a day late at worst it disappears off the face of the earth. When you travel with a carry-on instead there is no chance of it going missing as you’ll keep it with you the whole time.





In my opinion investing in a high quality carry-on case is essential if you travel a lot. Before I bought my most recent carry-on case I broke three cheap versions I had picked up in budget stores. Buying a £30 case always seems like a good idea at the time. That is until the zip bursts open mid airport security or the wheel falls off halfway up a steep hill. After throwing out the third broken case in as many years I was determined to find a case that would last.

I spent a good few weeks researching and decided to go for the Bigger Carry-On case from Away. At €265 there is no denying it is a little on the expensive side but the lifetime guarantee makes it easier to swallow. It comes with some really cool features like a removable power pack, 360-degree rotating wheels and an impressive compression section. I can fit more in this carry-on case than any other and as geeky as it sounds it is probably my most favourite item I own.

If you are not prepared to splash out on an Away case there are lots of other decent cabin friendly bags out there.

Planning a trip to Portugal, Spain or Italy? I’m here to help.

If you want to plan the perfect trip but there are just too many options, I can help you make the most of your time.  If you want a personalised travel itinerary, full to the brim with authentic experiences, I’ve got you…


When flying you’ll notice airlines use different terms for types of luggage. This can be really confusing especially if you don’t travel often. Here is a breakdown of what each luggage term means.

CHECKED LUGGAGE – This is the luggage that goes in the hold of the plane. You need to check this in before you go through security and wait for it at the baggage carousel when you land at your destination.

CARRY-ON / CABIN LUGGAGE – A carry-on is a bag that you literally carry on the plane with you. It needs to be within the standard airline dimensions of (56cm x 45cm x 25cm) so that it can fit in the overhead locker. Usually a carry-on bag is a wheeled case but other types of bags like backpacks and holdalls are also accepted along as they are within the size and weight limit.

PERSONAL ITEM – Dimensions accepted by airlines for personal items can vary. Some airlines are more relaxed than others but generally speaking a personal item should be along the lines of a handbag, laptop bag or small backpack.

Every airline will let you take a personal item on for free. Some airlines let you take a carry-on bag for free also. Almost all airlines charge you to take checked luggage.



The biggest factor in making the most out of your carry-on space is deciding what to actually pack. We can talk about the tips and tricks later but what it really boils down to is only packing what you need for your short trip. There are a few different elements that should be included in your packing for your 4 day trip which are :-






Regardless of where you are going or what time of year these are essential items you don’t want to forget on your 4  day trip. These can generally be kept in your personal item but if you only want to take a small handbag as your personal item you can fit these essentials in your carry on instead.

PASSPORT – I know its a no-brainer but before you leave the house just check and check again. If you traveling within your country you should still pack your passport as many hotels require this on check in. Always pack a few extra copies and keep a digital scan on your phone too.

TICKETS/ TRAVEL DETAILS – Whether you print these out or keep them digitally it makes so much sense to have these to hand. Have any tickets and booking numbers saved to your phone so you can pull them out easily when you are asked. It is also worth quickly jotting down these details on paper incase your phone is out of battery and you need to get to them.

TRAVEL INSURANCE – The most essential item for any trip! Even for a 4 day trip this is non-negotiable. I’m sure you have heard horror stories of people getting into trouble while they are abroad and being slammed with bills that are in the hundreds of thousands. Yeah, don’t be that person. There are lots of companies that offer travel insurance plus a number of good comparison websites if you like to look around . My personal favourite is InsureFor because it is clear to read and easy to book. I usually pick a no excess version to avoid any surprising fees. Basic travel insurance for 4 days can be as cheap as £10 so don’t skip it.

CURRENCY + TRAVEL MONEY CARD – Gone are the days of paying your bank a mountain of fees every time you leave the country. There are a whole host of travel money cards available to help you save money while you travel. Your standard bank charges hefty fees for any sort of international transaction including cash withdrawal, card payment and currency transfers. Most travel money cards don’t charge any fees for using your card abroad and they certainly don’t have crazy exchange rates. Sign up for a travel money card like WISE and you’ll save a tonne of money on fees. 

MEDICATION – If you take any medication or use contraceptive pills don’t forget to pack these in your carry on. It is also wise to include the packaging or details from your medication bottles just incase airport security are curious.

Planning a trip to Portugal, Spain or Italy? I’m here to help.

If you want to plan the perfect trip but there are just too many options, I can help you make the most of your time.  If you want a personalised travel itinerary, full to the brim with authentic experiences, I’ve got you…


Fitting toiletries into a carry-on really freaks people out. I can understand why – deciding what it is you really need, fitting everything in tiny bottles and then cramming them into a little case is a real pain. It doesn’t help that the liquid restrictions are so complicated. It honestly doesn’t need to be that scary though. The only thing you really need to pack is any specialised products you can’t live without. I always pack the basics like shampoo, deodorant and toothpaste but the truth is if you did forget any of these you can likely buy them wherever you are traveling to. Of course when you only have 4 days you don’t want to be spending an hour looking for deodorant. So with that in mind this is what you should aim to pack for a short trip.

Toothpaste and toothbrush



Body wash


Hand sanitiser



If you are flying remember airline regulations mean you can only travel with liquids 100ml or less and your entire selection of liquids should fit in a 1L clear bag or less.

-Gels (Body wash, lip gloss etc)
-Creams (body cream, moisturiser etc)
-Aerosols (deodorant, hair spray etc)
-Liquid Make up (Mascara)

Non-liquids (items that do not need to be included in the 1L liquid allowance)
These still may need to be checked by security so make sure you can access these easily

-Stick deodorant like this natural salt deodorant.
-Solid lipstick
-Shampoo bars
-Powdered make up


Any woman will tell you traveling whilst on your period is such a faff. If you hate having to carry a load of extra sanitary products around consider using a menstrual cup from TOTM. If you are like me and haven’t made the switch just yet or cups just aren’t for you consider using a biodegradable option like TOTM. These compact sets of organic liners and tampons are perfect for packing in your carry-on.


Save yourself from having to fiddle around with those flimsy plastic sandwich bags at the airport and buy yourself a clear plastic pouch sipper pouch like this one.

If you travel frequently keep a travel toiletry bag fully stocked and ready to go in your carry-on and you’ll save yourself time every trip.


A few of my favourite items to pack in my carry-on for short trips are these travel minis from 58 Lifestyle, this cleanser from Liz Earle, this eye make-up remover from The Body Shop and this cruelty-free sunscreen from Saltee.






Phone – obviously. Although I sometimes crave days away from my phone I can’t imagine traveling without it anymore. From GoogleMaps to Uber to recommendations on the move it’s a handy tool to have. Just don’t forget to switch it off now and again and enjoy some slow travel time too.

Local sim – Depending on where you are traveling I may be worth looking at getting a local sim when you arrive so you can save on crazing roaming fees. Make sure you phone is not locked to a network before you go away if you plan on doing this. If you are from the UK or EU have a look at Vodafone’s Global Roaming plans. 

Laptop – I take my laptop on most trips as I’m usually working too. It definitely isn’t necessary to pack a laptop as it usually means there is something expensive you have to worry about. However if you do work remotely make sure you invest in a decent laptop bag and laptop  sleeve. It goes with out saying that you should always back up your hard drive before you travel.

Plug convertor – One of those annoying little things I forget and end up having to buy at the airport at an extremely inflated price. Keep one on your carry-on case at all times so this doesn’t happen to you. Invest in a worldwide adaptor so it can be used wherever your travels take you. Its also good to check it includes USB slots a most of electrical items charge via this method. Multi country convertors like these are my favourite. I usually pack a spare basic one too.


Phone charger x 2. I always pack a spare phone charging cable incase I break or loose one on the move. Cables are not always easy to find and when they are they are often crazy expensive. Plus, unless you’re having a weekend at a phone free meditation camp no one wants to be 4 days with out a phone.

Kindle – A Kindle obviously isn’t an essential item but if you want to save space on books this is a great way to do it. I use the Kindle app on my iPad to download travel reading and Lonely Planet guides. When I went on my first backpacking trip Kindles weren’t a thing so I took 3 actual Lonely Planet books and lugged them round the world  for 7 months. There is just no need for that now. They have an amazing free 3 month trial offer right now too. Stock up on travel guides for free!

Camera – This is another essential for me as one of my favourite things to do while I travel is seek out great photo opportunities. If you take your photography seriously its worth considering in purchasing a decent DSLR. I travel with a Nikon D3500 and one or two lenses. You can also get some fantastic quality compact cameras and waterproof ones too. 


I have read so many packing lists and the one of the things that confuses me is people thinking they have to change their style or how they dress while traveling. Apart from respecting any religions that require you to cover up (always respect laws and customs) you can and should wear what makes you feel happy when you are traveling. Your favourite pieces you wear at home over and over again? Pack them and wear them! I have one rule when packing clothes for a trip and that is to make sure they are comfortable to wear for long periods of time. Apart from that I pack items that I try and mix and match my outfits so I have enough variety even on a 4 day trip.

Another misconception is that you should wear black, khaki or neutral colours while you are traveling. Unless you enjoy wearing more subtle shades don’t be afraid to go for colourful or patterned pieces. Have fun with your style! I’m often more adventurous in clothing when I’m traveling than when I’m at home as I have less hang ups. I have just seen this gorgeous canary yellow dress on Everlane and I can just imagine exploring the backstreets of Lisbon or Venice wearing it. 

Some basics to include on in your carry on for your 4 day trip include comfy shoes, simple vest tops, a lightweight dress, cosy jumper plus underwear and socks.

Whilst essentials, toiletries and tech stay the same regardless of what time of year you travel clothing doesn’t. What you need to pack for summer trips and winter trips can change so here is a list of what you should pack for a 4 days trip during different seasons.


In summer you are usually able to pack a few more outfit combinations because clothing is generally lighter and  more compact – woohooo! Try to choose fabrics that fold well and do not crease too easily. Having said that  if you end up having to wear your favourite dress with a few creases in I’m sure it isn’t going to ruin your trip!

girl-in-straw-hat -summer.jpg

Basic vest tops x 3 or 4 – These can be work on their own, underneath dresses or used as pj tops. They are super light and packable so I always chuck a few in my carry on when I travel

Tops/ t-shirts x 3 or 4 

Summer dress or jumpsuit – the ultimate comfort is a lightweight dress of jumpsuit when you are on the move. I just discovered this jumpsuit from Everlane and I’m in love.

Maxi dress – Even if I’m not traveling anywhere particularly fancy I always try and throw in a maxi dress that makes me feel a little dressed up. This comes in handy if you unexpectedly get invited to a party or you find a posh restaurant you want to eat at. A Maxi dress is also a great addition if you’re planning on visiting religious sites. Try and pick a lightweight version that travels well. Something like this one from Boden would be perfect. 

Denimn shorts – You know your favourite pair you’ve had for years and fit you just right? Pack these in your carry on. You can’t go wrong with a pair of comfy denim shorts when you’re traveling in summer.

Leggings – Leggings are light and easy to pack.These are great to chuck on when the coach your traveling on has the air-con set to arctic mode.

Comfy trainers – One of my favourite items to travel with is a pair of comfy trainers.  If you’re going to invest in one thing clothing and shoes wise make it a good pair of trainers. If you do invest in a new pair before your 4 day trip make sure start wearing them a few days before to avoid any rubbing while you’re away. These Soludos kicks are top of my wish list right now.

Sandals/Flip flops – if you’re on a 4 day beach getaway flip flops are essential but I also like to pack a pair of dressy sandals that I can pop on in the evening. If you’re traveling to a city and are expecting to do a lot of walking look for a more practical pair to pack.


Sunhat – If your 4 day trip involves a beach holiday or you’re traveling to somewhere super hot don’t forget to pack a hat. You can squeeze a baseball cap in your luggage but if you want to take a wide brimmed hat you’ll need to wear it to avoid it getting squished.

Lightweight shirt – Easy to chuck on over a t-shirt or dress.

Bikini/ Swimming costume – For the beach, the spa or paired with denim shorts. Currently loving this striped bikini from Cupshe and this blue one piece from Boden.

Jumper/sweatshirt – I love to pack a cosy jumper of sweatshirt that I can put on during a cold evening or whilst in air con. I usually go for a a black or grey sweatshirt like this one with simple design that goes with everything.


Packing for winter trips with just a carry-on can be more challenging due to the thicker garments. However packing for a 4 day winter trip with carry-on is still totally doable especially when you wear your most bulky items to travel.

girl-in-bobble-hat winter.jpg

Coat – Travel in this to save space in your carry-on. Bonus points if it’s waterproof!

Jeans/ Trousers -Pack you favourite pair that are comfortable to travel in. If you don’t need to be particularly smart jogging bottoms are super comfy for lots of activities too.

Warm leggings – A pair of thick warm leggings are cosy for super cold trips.

Layering tops 2 x each – Mix and match vest tops, t-shirts and long sleeved tops so you can add and take away clothing with the temperature changes.

1 or 2 x jumper/ sweatshirt

Scarf – Pack a warm scarf that can double up as a blanket or pillow on loner trips.

Umbrella – A mini umbrella is a worthy addition to your carry on.

Boots – Invest in a comfy pair of hiking boots if you’re going to be active while you are away or a pair of casual boots if its a more relaxed trip.



Finally, there are a few extra tricks you can use when packing a carry-on for  4 day trip.

Use packing cubes – These make packing so easy. In my basket right now are these yellow compression packing cubes. 

Use shoes to store socks and small items – make the most of this extra space by storing your socks.

Roll items – A great way to pack if you’re not using packing cubes. It also avoids some of the crease

Wear bulky items – If you’re packing a coat or jumper wear these whilst you are traveling. 

Make your toiletries easily accessible – You’re going to need to get these out at airport security so put them at the top of your luggage. Same applies for electrical items.

Hopefully these tips will help you figure out how to pack a carry-on for a 4 day trip. Making the most out of these will ensure you have more time to enjoy your short trip. Have you got any other packing secrets tricks? Share with us…

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