Budget Tips What to Pack

How to Pack for a Winter Trip in Just a Carry-On

Pack for a winter trip in a carry-on only

If I could give you one piece of travel advice, this would be it: you do not need to bring as much stuff as you probably think!

When I go travelling, I rarely ever take more than a carry-on sized piece of luggage. There are a few reasons for this. Of course, I enjoy the fact that I can save money on budget airlines, don’t need to wait at luggage carousels and save myself the backache of lugging around a humongous backpack. However, the main reason is that I don’t actually need much more than what fits in a small bag.

I used to pack ridiculous amounts for a trip, thinking that I needed a new outfit for everyday and emergency dresses for “just in case” situations. I soon realised that there was no need.

Packing with a carry-on is easy in hot countries. You only really need light clothes like playsuits, t-shirts and cotton trousers. It’s easy to have a bag full of different outfit choices when you’re hopping from beach to beach. However, when you find yourself travelling in colder countries, it can be a bit more tricky! And, let’s be honest, wearing similar clothes every single day can get boring.

This year, Veeran and I spent our Winter holidays in Taiwan and Japan. Weather wise, Taiwan was still pretty warm (from the perspective of a Scottish girl) but was by no means bikini and flip-flop weather. We expected Osaka and Kyoto to have similar weather to Busan but it was much, much colder.

Pack for a winter trip in a carry-on only

Ok, so not exactly mild weather in Japan!

Staying true to form, I was determined to travel to fit all my luggage in my carry-on bag. I’ve done long weekend trips in Europe during winter but this 2-week long trip would be my longest cold weather journey. And, guess what, I survived!

I’ve put together this post to give you my top tips for packing light in cold countries. If you read all the way to the bottom, you can see exactly what I put in my bag, too. Keep reading for all my best advice!

Layer Up

If there’s one thing that you need in your carry-on for a winter trip, it’s layers. Fill your bag full of warm but thin clothes that you can build up on top of each other to create outfits.

Baselayers are your Best Friend

Baselayers are an absolute godsend when you’re trying to pack for a winter trip in a carry-on. I’m a huuuge fan of Uniqlo and love their heat tech line. It’s warm, light, good quality and their styles always come in lovely colours and designs. For this trip, I packed 4 baselayers that I switched up every day.

The other good thing about baselayers? They wash really nicely and dry quickly, too. So you don’t need to worry about having to bring too many.

Create a Colour Scheme

If you’re like me and wear pretty much only black clothes, this should be easy! Stick to a colour scheme throughout your trip and pack neutral colours that coordinate well. This way you can mix and match between tops and bottoms easily.

Choose Cardigans over Jumpers

Pack for a winter trip in a carry-on only

(That’s a sweater, for my transatlantic friends!)

I much prefer to wear a chunky cardigan over a baselayer than a jumper. Why? Because if I wear a jumper 5 days in a row, it’ll look like I’ve worn the same thing every day in my holiday pictures, and I can’t be having that! Cardigans keep you warm and can create the illusion that you’ve styled more outfits than you actually have.

Accessorise with Hats and Scarves

Let’s be honest. If you’re off on a city break, you’re going to be wearing your jacket most of the time anyway. To keep things looking a bit different, I recommend taking a few different hats and scarves rather than packing multiple jackets. To be honest, I’m fine with just one hat and scarf but I know that a lot of people like having a bit more variety.

Pack for a winter trip in a carry-on only

Pick your Footwear Wisely

For this trip, I packed one pair of trainers (mainly for running but also for hiking in Taroko National Park) and wore my black ankle boots on the plane. To be honest, if I wasn’t training for a run this March and wasn’t going hiking, I would only have brought the boots. Black ankle boots are perfect for me because I can wear them with tights and a dress or with skinny jeans. Mines just have a small heel so I can comfortably wear them walking around a city all day, too. I don’t really like wearing trainers a lot but that’s just personal preference.

One Coat Will do!

Pack for a winter trip in a carry-on only

I chose my coat wisely for this trip. Guess what colour it is? Yup, it’s black. And, it’s from Uniqlo. (When did I become so predictable.)

I brought my lightweight down jacket because it packs down into a tiny ball that can fit easily in-to my carry-on. It eded up being the perfect choice for the unpredictable weather in Taipei. If it was warm during the day, I could pop it in my bag in case it got chilly at night. Plus, I could build up my layers to make it even more cold-proof in Japan!

Here’s a rundown of everything that I packed for my 2-week trip. As usual, I washed my clothes as I went along. I use my Osprey Farpoint 4o bag paired with Eagle Creek Pack-It Spectre Cubes to organise my things.


  • 1 x black down jacket
  • 1 x black chunky cardigan
  • 4 x baselayers (1 grey, 1 black, 1 maroon, 1 sporty ski one for running)
  • 1 x cream long sleeved top
  • 3 x crop tops for sunny days in Taiwan (2 breton striped, 1 black)
  • 3 x bottoms (1 denim skirt, 1 pair leather shorts, 1 pair jeans)
  • 1 x black pinafore dress (for wearing over baselayers)
  • I also got a totoro hoodie at the Taipei night markets that kept me very warm when it was blistery in Japan!


  • 1 knitted headband
  • 1 bright printed scarf
  • 4 pair of tights
  • 3 pairs of socks
  • 5 pairs of underwear
  • 2 bras (1 nude, 1 black)
  • 1 sports bra


  • Lush solid shampoo and conditioner bars
  • Cleanser
  • Moisturiser
  • Sun cream
  • Small shower gel
  • Deodorant
  • Perfume
  • Make up (BB cream, bronzer, concealer, mascara, eyeshadow palette, 2 nude lipsticks)


  • Smartphone
  • Laptop (If I wasn’t blogging, I would defos leave this!)
  • External hard drive (for backing up photos as I go)
  • Camera
  • Extra SD Card
  • Portable Charger
  • Spare Battery
  • Universal Adaptor
  • Micro USB Charger for phone and laptop


  • World Nomads Travel Insurance
  • Passport

The amount of clothes that I brought was totally fine-. Actually, I ended up not wearing the summery tops as Taiwan was not as warm as we’d hoped! I did wish that I had chosen a warmer scarf, too, as Japan was pretty chilly but my new hoodie came in really handy! My bag weighed in at 9kg which I was very pleased with and it managed to fit into the overhead lockers perfectly.

You can watch me packing all these things in my bag in my Youtube Video here!

Just remember, less is more! I love looking presentable on the road and in my travel pics so I never compromise my personal style. The trick is to be prepared and plan your outfits to save yourself backache and money on your next trip.

If you want more packing tips, don’t miss my 14 best ones!

Let me know, what are your tips for travelling with just a carry-on? Have you ever packed light for a winter trip?


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carry-on packing winter trip

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  • Reply
    Anne-Sophie - City Cookie
    24th February 2017 at 5:28 am

    9 kilos for two weeks, that’s amazing! I would have brought so many jumpers haha. I’ll try to follow your tips for my trip to Japan in December! We might go skiing though, that makes it a bit harder.
    Anne-Sophie – City Cookie recently posted…How I Find Really Cheap FlightsMy Profile

    • Reply
      Nicole Louise
      24th February 2017 at 10:55 am

      Oh, that’s exciting! Skiing in Japan is meant to be amazing:D It would be so difficult to pack light for that, though. I’m currently trying to work out how to transport my ski jacket back to Scotland now that I’m leaving South Korea!

  • Reply
    24th February 2017 at 6:06 am

    Trying to fit winter clothes for two weeks in a carry on can be tough but you nailed it! I traveled to Australia once in the winter for 2 weeks and managed to fit everything in my carry on but to be fair, it wasnt that cold. As you said, only took one coat (because one is always enough), and 2 different sweaters to layer. Packing for summer trips is sooooo much easier

    • Reply
      Nicole Louise
      24th February 2017 at 10:56 am

      Thanks Claudia! I always get shocked that Australia actually has winter. In the UK we think it’s all beaches, sunshine and barbies! I love packing for summer trips- in future, I just want to chase summer forever 😀

      • Reply
        6th November 2017 at 3:44 am

        We have ski resorts in Australia…sounds unbelievable but it’s true! It’s funny as I often find it harder packing light for summer as you get sweaty more easily, need a swim suit, sunscreen, flip flops, dresses, hat…..I’m hoping to follow your tips for my Japan trip in a few weeks!

        • Reply
          Nicole Louise
          9th November 2017 at 12:47 am

          Ohh, have an amazing time in Japan! I also kind of prefer winter trips because I can wear my heavy stuff on the plane without any fear of sweating like a pig when I leave the airport haha!

  • Reply
    Alison Otterbein
    25th February 2017 at 2:45 pm

    I’m headed to Chilie and was worried how I’d be able to pack warmly in just my backpack, thanks for the tips!

    • Reply
      Nicole Louise
      25th February 2017 at 3:37 pm

      Have an amazing time in Chile, I’m so jealous! 😀

  • Reply
    Melissa Giroux
    25th February 2017 at 2:49 pm

    Great tips! I hate travelling in cold countries because of the packing situation! Every time I end up having only one outfit! 😛 Thanks!
    Melissa Giroux recently posted…Going On A Trip…Solo: 10 Things You Should RememberMy Profile

    • Reply
      Nicole Louise
      25th February 2017 at 3:35 pm

      Yeah, it’s the worst isn’t it! But a great excuse to keep chasing summer lol 🙂

  • Reply
    25th February 2017 at 7:55 pm

    Very useful post, we are now packing for NZ, where is Autumn already and we always have some troubles what to bring… I love a Bambi pic! 😀

    • Reply
      Nicole Louise
      17th March 2017 at 8:40 pm

      Packing for Autumn is so much more difficult than packing for summer- have an amazing time in NZ!

  • Reply
    25th February 2017 at 8:13 pm

    I JUST BOUGHT THE FAIRPOINT 40! I’m so excited haa. I’m going to China for 2 weeks and only bringing that.. though it’ll be a bit warmer in April/May so won’t need as much chunky stuff. I love reading posts like this. Really helps when it comes to packing !

    • Reply
      Nicole Louise
      17th March 2017 at 8:41 pm

      I have so much love for my Farpoint 40. It’s the absolute best bag. Have an amazing time in China- the weather should be perfect in April/ May and you might even see some cherry blossoms!

  • Reply
    Samantha Elisabeth
    27th February 2017 at 10:25 pm

    These are great tips! One of my goals this year is to get more compact with my packing, so definitely using your list! I remember winter trips in Europe and really just packing a few warm tops because I’d be in my coat for all my photos anyway. I didn’t realize Taiwan got that cold in winter (always thought it stayed flip flop weather!).

  • Reply
    Chanel | Cultural Xplorer
    2nd March 2017 at 8:15 am

    This is a great post for packing for the winter in one carry on! I have yet to manage this myself but next time I will utilize this post to help me plan!
    Chanel | Cultural Xplorer recently posted…Food in Your Face: 11 Must-Try Japanese FoodsMy Profile

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