Winter travel is seriously underrated! Planning to stay in igloos, meet reindeer, and take dog sleds is so much fun. However, we’re not going to lie – the packing part takes skill. 

We put all of our packing skills to the test to pack so much into one carry on suitcase each. We took the trip of a lifetime last November. After finding flights for only $280 per person, we flew from Dallas to Finland for a winter wonderland vacation. We began a holiday adventure in the Arctic circle and Santa Claus’ village in Santa’s hometown of Rovaniemi, Finland, to Christmas parades and markets in the Finnish capital of Helsinki, all the way to Tallinn, Estonia, to explore Old Town and experience their beautiful Christmas markets. All the while, we lugged our carry ons through three towns and traveled with ease. 

Packing in only a carry on suitcase adds another layer of sweat to the packing process. But don’t fret! We’ve got you covered. Here are our four favorite and most-used tips for packing a carry on suitcase for winter travel.


Start off by making your typical packing list. You know, the classic “7 shirts, 3 bottoms, 3 shoes” list. Take that, and then cut most of that list in half! The funny thing about traveling to cold destinations is that it hardly matters what you wear. Everyone only sees the outer layer anyway! Save room and mix up the look with a different beanie or scarf. 


You know those beanies and scarves I told you to pack extras of? Hide them in your shoes! Instead of folding up your bulky wool socks, use them to fill any spare centimeter of space in your carry on or backpack. If you buy extra goodies on your travels, use your warm hats to cushion and protect the new additions. Moreover, you could also not pack as many hats and scarves and simply buy them as your souvenirs along the way. That’s what we tend to do!


The key here is compression cubes, not regular packing cubes. While there are many standard cubes on the market, the ones from Monos are the best. I’m not going to sugarcoat it – these are some of the most expensive cubes on the market. However, after this one trip to Finland, they paid for themselves, where we fit ski pants and puffy winter gear into carry ons for a week. Without these compression cubes, there would have been no way we could have packed all of the winter clothes into a carry on and would have had to pay for checked luggage on multiple airlines. This expense alone is much pricier than the luxury packing cubes. Unlike regular packing cubes, these act like a vacuum seal bag. Put your puffy items in the cube, zip the top zipper, then press and squeeze until the second zipper set closes. You’ll be amazed at how much space these save in your suitcase!


Yes, you WILL get hot in the airport and look like you’re ready for a blizzard at any moment. But wearing your most oversized and bulkiest items is essential to ensuring everything fits in your suitcase. For this trip, we both wore our bulkiest snow boots and puffiest coats as we flew to the arctic. While toasty at the airport, we used the jackets as an extra cushion on the 8-hour flight to Finland. And boy, were we grateful to be already prepared when we landed at the Arctic circle!