Packing for a Winter break in a carry on suitcase

The holiday that I've been looking forward to all year has finally arrived and we are heading off for a romantic Valentine's Day break. This 5-day trip is probably the longest break that I've ever been on and it has taken a lot of planning - including proper packing...

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Having only ever been on weekend trips in the past, I never realised just how much work goes into planning a ‘proper’ holiday. Not only have I been scouring websites to find the best hotels at thrifty rates, looking for dinner-bed-and-breakfast deals, researching places to visit and booking activities to enjoy while we are away, but I also needed to organise what will be going on back home, including begging friends and family to take it in turns as a house-sitter to take care of our cats and home while we are away.packing tips for a winter holiday in a carry on suitcase-9

And that’s before I even start thinking about packing and travel arrangements! Okay I’m only going up north, not travelling across the world, but even so I want to be organised and avoid my inevitable habit of over-packing. I’m very guilty of not travelling light, taking everything with me ‘just in case’ but this time I will be moving hotel each night to do a ‘tour’ of the north – starting on the West coast and finishing on the East coast – so I don’t want to lugging heavy suitcases in and out of hotels.packing tips for a winter holiday in a carry on suitcase

I won’t ever really be unpacking so I just want to take the essentials with me and I wanted to share my ideas for packing a small suitcase for a 5-day trip. Whether you’re taking a break in the UK like me, or are jetting off on an exciting package holiday across the other side of the world, I’m sure we can all benefit from travelling lighter. And it’s particularly important when you’re flying and trying to fit everything into a carry-on case so I’ve measured my suitcase to make sure that these tips will be relevant to you international travellers too.packing tips for a winter holiday in a carry on suitcase-3

Base layer – bulky items such as shoes, handbag and jeans

What activities will you be doing?

When it came to packing, the first thing I thought was ‘what am I going to be doing?’. I’m planning lots of fun activities, including afternoon tea at the Blackpool Tower Ballroom, glitzy dinners at boutique hotels and trips to museums. I also know that I will be doing a lot of outdoor walking, along with ice skating and swimming so this gives me a good idea of what kind of items I need to take versus what I want to take; I’ll specifically need a dress for dancing, comfortable footwear, women’s thermal underwear, a winter coat and swimwear for these activities so once I have gathered these together I’ll know how much room is left in my case for a ‘capsule wardrobe’ and all the essential PJs and socks etc.packing tips for a winter holiday in a carry on suitcase-5

Wrap shoes in a plastic bag to protect your clothing

What should you leave behind?

I’ve also investigated what I don’t need to take with me. I’ve looked at the details for each hotel to find out what is included in the room and now I know that I won’t need to take a hairdryer, travel iron, towels and even some toiletries. These are the kind of things that I would usually take just in case and they are the bulkiest items, so I’m pleased that I checked and can use that space in my suitcase for something else instead.packing tips for a winter holiday in a carry on suitcase-6

Roll up clothes to save space

What will you wear while travelling?

Next, think about what you’ll be wearing for the trip. I’ll be travelling in my extra chunky knitwear, boots, jeans, scarf and winter coat so I won’t need to squeeze these bigger items into the case. I’ll also be carrying my handbag which will contain my purse, camera, phone and make-up but I’ll make sure that it can fit into the case, so that this packing plan will still work for those of you who are jetting off on an aeroplane.

packing tips for a winter holiday in a carry on suitcase-8

Toiletries and accessories can be store in compartments

Choose dual-purpose items

I’ve chosen to take my vintage handbag, which isn’t my usual choice but it is dual-purpose as it is black on one side and brown on the other (so it will work with any outfit) and is small enough to use as a clutch, plus it has a long strap that can be attached to wear it across-the-body during daytime walks. Any bag with a detachable shoulder strap can be used in this way for day-to-night so keep an eye out for a slightly larger-than-normal clutch bag for your own holiday. Other items can be dual-purpose too; choose a warm cardigan which can double-up as a lightweight coat on warmer days and take a cotton or silk scarf to keep you warm, to roll up and use as a head scarf, or to wrap around your shoulders for an evening cover-up. For winter trips thermal under-layers can keep you warm on walks, can replace t-shirts under jumpers and even double up as sleepwear – just pack plenty of it!packing tips for a winter holiday in a carry on suitcase-7

Wrap toiletries in cling-film to avoid spills

Packing tips to save space

Put the heaviest items at the bottom of your suitcase, such as shoes and jeans, and save space by stuffing socks inside your shoes and using tights, underwear and pyjamas as ‘fillers’ for any gaps on this bottom layer. Put your shoes inside a bag to ensure clothes are kept clean throughout the trip. Next roll up all of your clothing. This will minimise wrinkles in clothing and you’ll be amazed at how little space is used up – I actually store my vests and t-shirt this way in my drawers – plus it’s easier to see what you have at a glance. In the inner zipped compartment pack all your toiletries, but first take off the lids and cover the dispensing hole with cling film to minimise spills. Put the lids back on and store in a freezer bag so that any drips won’t leak out onto your clothes.

packing tips for a winter holiday in a carry on suitcase-9

I’ve even squeezed in my new favourite book!

What to pack for a 5-day winter trip

One pair of jeans that can be worn with any combination of jumpers, tops and cardigans. One dress for eveningwear. A daytime skirt that is smart enough for eveningwear. One thin cardigan and one chunky cardi, two jumpers and 5 tops to wear beneath these in different combinations, including one pretty top for eveningwear. A pair of thermal tights to wear with the dress or skirt, or even under your jeans if the temperature drops! 6 pairs of socks, 6 sets of underwear, pyjamas, one pair of shoes for evening wear, one pair of comfortable boots for everyday wear. Toiletries, make-up and a few accessories should all fit into the compartments in your suitcase. In these photos I’ve actually packed a few too many items because I’ve packed the jeans, top and handbag that I’ll be wearing while travelling, so there will definitely be plenty of spare space in my suitcase, which will be good if I make any purchases while I’m away!packing tips for a winter holiday in a carry on suitcase-10

All packed, with room to spare

Let me know if you have any other tips to make packing even easier and it’d be great to hear your space-saving ideas so please leave me a comment below. And if you’re heading off somewhere exciting this half-term I’d love to hear about it!


This article is a sponsored collaboration. The pink links in the content indicate a sponsored link or information source. The blog post reflects my own experience and the sponsor hasn’t had any control over my content 🙂

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Cassie is a freelance writer with a Masters degree in Lifestyle Promotion Studies and is trained in Personal Money Management. She loves to ‘get the look for less’ so regularly shares thrifty-living advice, DIY interior design ideas and low-cost recipes on her blog.

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