Everything I Packed for Japan—In a Single Carry-On (Video!)

Step 1: Plan your outfits.

By Camille Styles
how to pack for japan in a carry on

I can’t believe that when you’re reading this, I’ll be in Japan! It’s my first trip to Asia, and if you watched my 30s bucket list video you’ll know that this is a place I’ve wanted to visit for a very long time. The purpose of the trip is twofold—we’ll be meeting with artisans and sourcing products for Casa Zuma, while also capturing all the beautiful, delicious, inspiring people and places that we’ll be sharing with you guys here on the site when we return.

This trip has been one of the more challenging ones I’ve ever planned. There is SO much to do and see in Kyoto and Tokyo that all of the recommendations I gathered in my research got kind of overwhelming. I narrowed them down as best as I could, then reminded myself that although this is my first trip, it won’t be my last. So I don’t have to do it all!

In general, I’m a pretty minimalist packer and challenge myself to get it all in a carry-on no matter where I’m going. I actually can’t remember the last time I checked a bag! I get a lot of questions from you guys about how I get it all in a carry-on (especially on international trips), so I figured—since I was already packing for this big trip, it seems like the perfect time to show you.

Watch the video below to see my packing process start-to-finish, then read on for a breakdown of my strategies.

Plan Your Outfits

If you only do one thing, make it this. Before a trip, I try on everything I’m going to wear while I’m traveling, both daytime and nighttime looks. This way, I can plan out my accessories and undergarments. (There’s nothing worse than getting to your destination and realizing you forgot to pack the right bra.) Most importantly, it keeps me from overpacking. I snap mirror selfies in every single outfit so I can refer back to the plan—then I pack only what’s included in those outfits (plus a set of pajamas and a couple swimsuits).

Check the Weather

Seems obvious, but there’s no reason to pack a jacket if the temps never dip below 70. I actually thought that Japan in September would require sweaters, but the forecast looks downright balmy. You also don’t want to be stranded without a sweatshirt when you need one. If I do bring a sweater or jacket, I usually take it on the plane with me as an extra layer and to save room in my carry-on.

The 3-Bag Rule

For every trip, I pack three bags: a carry-on suitcase, a large tote as my “personal item,” and a small bag that goes inside it. While I’m traveling, I use the small bag to carry my wallet, passport, and phone. Once I’m at my destination, the large tote becomes my day bag if I need to carry a lot of stuff with me, and the small bag becomes my nighttime bag. For our Japan trip, I brought my Away Carry-On (I love this one with the front pocket ), my Beis Small Weekend Bag (it fits under the plane seat), and my small Roméo bag that I’ll take all around the city with me.

The 2-Shoe Rule

You heard me—shoes take up the most room in your suitcase, so it really pays to conserve here. I wear my Common Projects sneakers on my flight, which then double as my casual sneaker with any outfit during the day. Then, I add my New Balance sneakers for hiking/working out, and a pair of cool flat sandals or ankle boots that can go from day to night. Trust me, you really don’t need anything else.

Streamline Your Toiletry Bag

This is my Achilles heel when it comes to packing, ’cause you guys know I love my toiletries. I use two bags: my Beis cosmetic case for skincare, and this smaller waterproof bag for my makeup. I keep my skincare bag always packed in my bathroom cabinet at home. It’s full of travel-sized versions of my skincare and hair stuff so it’s ready to go. When any of my mini bottles run out, I either replace or refill them from my larger containers at home. The morning of my trip, I do my makeup and then throw everything I used into my makeup bag, which then goes into my large tote.

The key is to only take the skincare and makeup that I use every day. For skin, a good cleanser, serum, moisturizer, eye cream, and sunscreen do the trick. For my makeup, I stick to my tried-and-trues: Dr. Jart BB Cream With SPF, my Laura Mercier Blush, bronzer/contour stick from Westman Atelier, Smashbox Halo powder, a black mascara, a couple lip conditioning sticks from Beautycounter, and my Anastasia Brow Wiz. Done and done.


I’m still obsessed with my iPad, and ever since I bought my Magic Keyboard, I haven’t needed to bring my laptop with me when I travel. The iPad + keyboard combo gets any job done. I toss it along with my iPhone and AirPods into my larger tote, and I have an extra charger for each that I always keep in the pocket of my carry-on so I never forget to bring it. One less thing to stress about the morning of a trip.

My Travel Uniform

Two words: layered and sporty. On the plane, I wear soft jeans or joggers, an oxford or linen button-down, an oversized sweater tied around my waist, and always my white Common Projects sneakers. Then I can curl up with the sweater if it’s chilly, and usually this sweater ends up being my go-to cool weather layer when I’m at my destination, too. Often, I travel home in the exact same outfit I wore on the way there.


And that’s pretty much it! It’s a flexible system that serves me well and takes the stress out of packing. Plus, I despise unpacking after a trip, so the less I have to unpack and wash the better.