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How to Pack Light for an Incredible 3-Night City Break

How to Pack Light for an Incredible 3-Night City Break

You are going away for a three-night city break to explore the sights and sounds of a new country, and you need to know how to pack light items in your carry-on luggage for your flight, drive or sail. The first piece of advice – forget the suitcase, you don’t need all the stuff you think you will!

I take a material holdall or travel backpack with me rather than a hard carry-on case. The limitation of overhead locker space on most flights means that if bags need to be put in the plane’s hold, the ground staff will choose the more sturdily constructed ones over fabric holdalls and backpacks.

If yours goes into the hold, you will spend time waiting at the luggage collection belts for it to be reunited with you while your fellow “3-nighters” casually stroll through customs, giving you that knowing glance.

In this post, I have comprised a simple checklist to show you how to pack light and have a carefree time away without the hassle of overpacking.

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angie standing my the water in Venice holding her straw hat in the air

Helpful Packing List: How to Pack Light for a 3-night trip


Don’t pack liquids of more than 100ml in your hand luggage on a flight, even if the bottle is half full. The restriction is on the bottle size regardless of its weight and how much it contains.

Liquids must fit in a small clear pouch 20cm by 20cm (you can get these at the airport) to be scanned separately from your hand luggage. All items listed below should be in travel-size packs.

  • Shampoo, conditioner, shower gel and body cream all in travel sizes, or decant your everyday brands into travel bottles.
  • toothpaste and toothbrush.
  • Deodorant, roll-on or compressed.
  • makeup, try to take the minimum.
  • Make-up wipes.
  • feminine hygiene items, if required.
  • Perfume. It a good idea is to decant your favourite into a travel atomiser.
  • Sunblock.
  • Plasters and antiseptic lotion in case of blisters.
  • Small first-aid travel kit
  • Insect repellant if travelling to a country that will have biting insects.
  • Hand sanitiser gel
  • Cotton earbuds if you use them.
  • Any medication that you are prescribed (remember to check that you can take it into the country you are visiting as a few places have restrictions on medicines that contain certain substances, and you may need to get a letter from your doctor beforehand explaining why you have them)
  • regular over the counter pain relief ie ibuprofen/paracetamol, ditto above.
  • Contact lenses and solution, if required.
From November 2023, travel to Europe from previous non-EU visa-exempt countries (that includes the UK) requires an ETIAS visa waiver.

Electrical/Tech Appliances

  • A phone.
  • A camera, if you have a separate one.
  • A charger, because you will be taking lots of photos.
  • Portable charger, so you don’t run out of juice while out and about.
  • Universal travel adaptor
  • Hair-straighteners (only if you have the most frizzy hair and can’t do without them) and a comb/brush.
  • Earphone buds for listening to music on the go.
  • Portable mini speaker for music in your room.
  • Fitbit, Apple or similar smartwatch and a charger, because who doesn’t enjoy seeing how many steps they’ve done during a 3-night stay?
  • A kindle for that light holiday reading.

Clothes to pack for a mini break

Unless you plan on going to a posh restaurant, party or wedding during your trip, then dress casually. Loose-fitting, breathable clothing and comfortable footwear are essential packing items.

Tracksuit bottoms or jeans, t-shirts, one light sweatshirt, and trainers are perfect for a travel outfit.

  • 1 x chinos and 1 x shorts, then you are ready for the sun or cooler weather.
  • A casual summer dress that can be worn during the day and glammed up in the evening.
  • Pashmina shawl for cooler evenings.
  • Pac-a-Mac, in case of rain.
  • 3 x t-shirts, one each day.
  • Flip-flops are versatile and can be used on the beach or around your room.
  • Swimsuit, If required.
  • Flat, comfortable sandals for walking around during the day.  Do not take brand new shoes that haven’t been worn in.
  • Pair of wedge sandals to go with your dress in the evening.
  • A straw hat or baseball cap.
  • Sleepwear.
  • 3 x knickers.
  • 3 x socks for your trainers.

I also take a quick-absorbing travel towel beach days and a fold-away fabric day pack, so I don’t need to bring my main packing holdall out during the day.

Final essentials to pack for a 3-night break

Oh, and don’t forget your passport, tickets, sunglasses, reading glasses, money and a currency debit card (you load your money onto it and use it while abroad, usually resulting in no transaction charges or visa exchange fees).

I use the Caxton card, which I have found very reliable. The app lets you load funds on the move and easily check your balance. Any unspent foreign currency on the card can be converted back to your home currency and spent as you would with a debit card.

You can find more top tips on how to pack light here and recommendations for travel backpacks. Remember, packing light minimizes your physical and mental burden.

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Thursday 12th of March 2020

Thank you for writing this really informative post. I like the way you have broken this up into the absolute essentials. I always tend to over pack thinking what if...but I rarely use the extras. I guess I just need to learn to stick with the original plan :)


Friday 13th of March 2020

After many 3 night stays myself I manage to travel with essentials only now and I’m glad to say I have never not packed something I then found I needed. I’m glad you found the post informative