Central America & Mexico

How to Pack Carry-On Only for One Week in Guatemala

Alright, it’s that time again for another adventure in my life. If you know me, you know that I can’t go very long without having a trip planned, and I’m super excited to be heading to Guatemala this weekend for about eight days with one of my best friends. I’ve never been to Guatemala before, so I can’t wait to explore a new destination. P.S. if you have any Guatemala recommendations, I’m all ears, leave me a comment, shoot me a note on social media, send a carrier pigeon, I’m down to hear them all.

This trip I’ll be taking a carry-on only. Why? Because I’m a minimalist packer and I love to not have to check my luggage, pay for said checked luggage, or worry about my luggage not making it when you have a tight connection, like I will for this trip since there aren’t any direct flights to Guatemala City from Toronto.

First things first, when I’m packing for a trip I usually do some research. For starters, I look up the weather in each of the places I’ll be visiting on my trip. Since the climate is quite different in different areas of Guatemala, I made sure I looked up the weather in each destination versus just Guatemala City. I’ll be visiting Lake Atitlan, Antigua, and El Paredon. El Paredon is hot, but Antigua and Lake Atitlan can be warm in the day, but drop quite cool in the evenings, so it’s important that I pack a good mix of clothes for the different climates I’ll experience on my trip.

The supplies

Let’s talk about the bags I use when I travel and packing supplies that help me stay organized and pack carry-on only.

My main backpack is 40L and is from MEC. This backpack is carry-on friendly and it’s compact, but also fits a lot of stuff. I like it because it’s easy to carry and even if you have a bunch of stuff in it, it’s not so heavy that I feel like I’m going to fall backwards.

For my daypack I switch between a few different backpacks I own. This I’ll use on day trips, and also to have with me at my seat on the plane with all the necessities you need to get through a flight like a good book, headphones, and snacks. I also keep my camera equipment in here since I usually don’t have room in my main bag and I’m more careful with how this bag is handled.

Lastly, I love using packing cubes. I’m incredibly OCD organized, and I hate having to dig to the bottom of my bag to find what I’m looking for. Packing cubes keep my bag organized, and also help me fit a lot more in my backpack than normal. I usually use around two or three when packing carry-on only.

The clothes

How do you pack for a climate that can have highs of 93°F (34°C) and lows of 44°F (7°C)? That’s a good question. It can be challenging, but the one thing to keep in mind is versatile layers. Instead of bringing a bunch of warm clothes, then a bunch of summer clothes, pack things that can be versatile and used both ways. Here is what I packed…

  • Five tops that range in styles but are all versatile. AKA can be worn with multiple bottoms that I packed. Don’t pack something that can only be worn one way. This is how you end up overpacking. I packed an a couple athletic tanks from Lululemon, one long-sleeve top for layering, and three additional tops ranging from tanks and t-shirts.
  • Two pairs of shorts that are simple in style. Again with the versatility. I’m packing only denim shorts because they go with everything. Leave those funky, crazy coloured shorts at home, unless at least 2-3 of your tops you’re packing go with them.
  • Two pairs of leggings for the evenings when it’s cooler, for the plane ride (so I’ll wear a pair on the plane therefore it won’t take up space in my bag), and for yoga, since we’ll be doing yoga while we’re there. If I wasn’t doing yoga while there, I’d only bring one pair.
  • One pair of activewear capris these are good for hiking, as well as yoga.
  • Two dresses which aren’t too dressy so I can wear them during the day.
  • One sweater for the different weather climates and temperature changes.
  • A jean jacket. I usually pack this as my main jacket while traveling because it’s super versatile, and I’ll wear it on the plane so it doesn’t take up room. Although it’s supposed to rain while we’re there, I’m just packing a poncho which is from the dollar store and can be thrown out because it doesn’t take up as much room.
  • One pair of pyjamas, which is pretty self explanatory.
  • Nine pairs of underwear, two bras (one regular, one sports), and five pairs of socks.
  • Two bathing suits for the warmer days in El Paredon. In reality, I’ll probably only need one but bathing suits take up 0 room so I’d rather have a couple of options.
  • A black pashmina which is always good for layering, or draping over my shoulders when it’s cooler. I’ve even used a pashmina as a blanket to sit on at parks when traveling, a pillow on the plane, and a towel if you’ve forgotten yours. Definitely one of the most versatile things you can pack!

Shoes

This is another space killer when packing. So many people pack WAY too many shoes then they need. Instead of packing eight different pairs, pack the most versatile ones that you’ll wear multiple days, and also pack the ones that are the most comfortable. For a backpacking trip in Guatemala for example, you don’t need a set of high heels. My go-to for shoes are always:

  • A pair of runners which I wear on the plane to save space.
  • A pair of brown leather sandals which are comfy, nicer than flip flops, and take up 0 room.
  • A pair of cheap flip flops if I’m heading to a beach destination. These are more versatile for throwing on and off, getting wet, and you can always leave them behind if you have no room to bring them back with you. Plus, they can come in handy for communal showers.

Cosmetics

My cosmetic case can often take up a ton of room because I like to be prepared for every situation when traveling. Even though you can buy many medications, etc. when on-the-road, I always like taking things that are familiar to me versus something a pharmacist recommended in a foreign country where you can’t read the label.

Here is what I always have with me. Note that I take the medications out of the packaging to save space, I also buy travel, airplane friendly size (100ml or less) of the liquid products so they can be brought in a carry-on…

  • Contact lenses + my glasses
  • Medications:
    • Gravol (both drowsy + non drowsy)… I can’t even count how many times this has saved me.
    • TUMS
    • Immodium and/or Pepto
    • Advil or Tylenol
    • Allergy Pills
  • Toothbrush & toothpaste
  • Hairbrush
  • Shampoo & conditioner
  • Body wash
  • Razor
  • Face wash & moisturizer
  • Body lotion
  • Sunscreen
  • Bug spray (I wouldn’t normally pack this but we’re staying in some remote places)
  • Deodorant
  • Essential oils (I usually bring lavender to relax, and peppermint for headaches… and on this trip, peppermint to scare away spiders)

Hopefully I’ve packed all the things I need. I’ll definitely come back and update this packing list post-trip if there’s anything I wish I brought or didn’t pack!

Pin the below image to save this packing list for later!

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