How To: Pack for 1 Week in Cuba in a Carry-on

When we first started travelling we made the mistake that many new travellers often make: we brought wayyyyy too much stuff. Our suitcase was over the weight limit (we didn’t even know that weight limits on airplanes was a thing) and had to deal with the hassle of carting around our stuff all over the airport and to our final destination. Not fun.

Ever since then, whenever we travel, no matter the destination or length of time, we always try to pack the least amount of stuff as possible by going carry-on only. For example, when Katherine went to Thailand with her friends for three weeks, she only packed a 30L backpack. This often earns us exclamatory remarks from our friends and family: “what if you need XYZ?”, “how could that possibly enough for such a long time??”, “can you even do laundry there?”, etc.

The following guide will give you a breakdown of how we managed to pack everything that we needed for Cuba for 1 week in such a small bag. Travelling with less has made our lives so much easier. In this case the saying is most definitely true: less is more.

How To: Pack for 1 Week in Cuba in a Carry-on

  • Small suitcase for your carry-on: For this particular trip we used our trusty Samsonite hard shell carry-on suitcases. We love these suitcases as they are durable due to their hard shell (which coincidentally also prevents you from over packing), light weight and easy to wheel around airports/side walks/streets thanks to their four, multi-directional wheels. In addition, these babies have customizable locks to keep your stuff safe – and they look pretty sleek.
  • Small foldable day pack as your personal item: Another item that we use on practically every trip we go on (see our Iceland Essential Travel Gear post) is these trusty Stowaway Packable Daypacks by Eddie Bauer. On this trip we used them as our beach bags (filled with the essentials such as water, sunscreen, hats and sunglasses) as well as our day trip bags.

How To: Pack for 1 Week in Cuba in a Carry-on

Katherine: Normally when I travel to destinations with warmer climates such as Cuba I tend not to bring very much makeup and go ‘au naturel’. You will inevitably sweat it off over the course of the day or it will wash off when you take a dip in the ocean/pool. So why clutter up your precious suitcase space with a large makeup bag? However, this is a totally personal decision so if you want to rock red lipstick on the beach then go for it girl. Below is a list of everything I brought for a week in Cuba:

  • Makeup:
  • Skin – I brought travel sized bottles of:
  • Deodorant
  • Tangle Teezer: this bad boy is able to brush out any knot that may be in your hair, which will be useful when your hair is all tangled up from that salty sea water.
  • Toothbrush and toothpaste 
    • Tip: a travel sized tube of tooth paste isn’t enough to last you a week. I recommend bringing a larger tube – but be sure that it is under 100ml as bigger tubes will get thrown out by security at the airport!
  • Wipes: These are great for freshening up and wiping off your face/body around lunch time when you may be all sandy and sweaty but aren’t ready to take a shower yet. I use Philosophy Purity Made Simple One-Step Facial Cleansing Cloths.
  • Bar of soap: depending on the quality of your hotel, they may offer some complimentary soap as well. We weren’t sure so we brought some just in case.
  • Disposable razor 
  • Travel sized bottle of baby powder: inner thigh sweat is reaaaaal. Also, this stuff is great as dry shampoo and a foot soother.
  • Travel sized bottles of shampoo and conditioner: I simply fill these awesome GoToob bottles with my shampoo from home.
  • First Aid Kit: we normally make our own by packing band-aids, gauze, tape and ointment in a plastic bag, along with medication we might need such as Ibuprofen and yup, Immodium (shit happens).

How To: Pack for 1 Week in Cuba in a Carry-on

Jordon: Similar to Katherine, it’s all about essentials. For us gentlemen, we already have more space to play with since makeup isn’t an issue but you still need to keep in mind how much you’re bringing and how much space you have. Also keep in mind that traveling with a partner can reduce the amount of things you bring by sharing common items. Check out my list below:

  • Toothbrush
  • Contact case and Solution: This may not be included for everyone. Unfortunately, I’m blind as bat and have to wear contacts/glasses every day.
  • Face wash: I have my own apart from Katherine, cause you know..manly man skin and all.
  • Body wash/Shampoo: I’m really not picky when it comes to this stuff so I would either share with her or use the hotel provided soap if I think it will do the trick.
  • Hair gel: Again, some guys do and some guys don’t. Personal preference.
  • Deodorant
  • Razor/Shaver: I opted not to bring anything to shave with, mostly because I can get away without doing it for a week. Some of you might not be as lucky.

Tip: Check Katherine’s tip above about bringing razor blades and electric shavers. Double check with your airline if you’re ever unsure.

How To: Pack for 1 Week in Cuba in a Carry-on

Katherine: the hardest part when packing – not bringing too much clothes! In my experience it’s best to pack in outfits for the week and to make sure that all pieces can go together well. I tend to stick with neutrals and choose 1-2 accent colours to compliment my wardrobe. Trust me, avoid the temptation to over pack because you most certainly will not have the time to wear everything! Here’s what I packed for a week in Cuba:

  • 3 pairs of shorts (I brought 2 linen and 1 cotton)
  • 1 pair of lightweight pants (NOT jeans)
  • 4 tops (2 linen tanks, 1 cotton t-shirt and 1 light weight blouse)
  • 3 light summer dresses (2 short and 1 maxi)
  • 1 bikini cover-up (I brought a sarong which can also double as a towel if need be)
  • 3 bikinis (careful not to bring ones that will give you really bad tan lines!)
  • 1 pair of sneakers (I brought running shoes which I wore on the plane)
  • 1 pair of strappy evening sandals/wedges
  • 1 pair of flip flops
  • 1 nice evening outfit (dress/pants, etc.)
  • 2 pairs of sunglasses
  • 1 hat 
  • 1 lightweight sweater and/or scarf

The weather in Cuba is very hot/humid so I would recommend only bringing lightweight/loose fitting clothes. Fabrics that are good to have in this kind of weather are linen, cotton and quick drying sports fabrics.

Evenings in Cuba do get chilly, so I would recommend bringing something lightweight but warm to keep you cozy during the evening.

I didn’t bring any jewelry on this trip for fear of losing it and because it weighs a lot in your suitcase.

How To: Pack for 1 Week in Cuba in a Carry-on

Jordon: My biggest piece of advice when it comes to packing for a week in a carry-on is being organized and realistic. Also, keep in mind your partner may or may not ask you to carry some of her things too 😉

  • 2-3 pairs of shorts
  • 1 pair of pants (not jeans, mine were lightweight linen)
  • 2 nice dress shirts (something breathable, linen works great here too)
  • 3 muscle/tank shirts
  • 3 t-shirts
  • 1 sweater
  • 1 pair of flip flops
  • 1 pair of boat shoes
  • 1 pair of sneakers
  • 2 bathing suits
  • 1 ball cap
  • 2 pairs of sunglasses (you don’t want to be screwed if one breaks)

How To: Pack for 1 Week in Cuba in a Carry-on

  • A deck of cards: really fun and handy to play drinking games at night
  • 2 ping pong balls: to be the hero of the resort that thought to bring these so that everyone could play beer pong
  • Travel insurance: it’s mandatory to have in order to enter Cuba (our fellow Canadians, your provincial health card suffices for this requirement), and is also good to have in case something happens
  • Passport/travel documents: Make sure that your passport is valid for at least 6 months after the date you are meant to enter the country. Also, ensure that you have a paper copy of your hotel reservations – they may ask for it at customs/at check-in
  • E-reader/books/magazines
  • Ipod/Iphone and earphones
  • Waterproof phone case: cause ya don’t wanna drop your phone in the water when you’re taking pictures of yourself on the beach
  • Selfie stick: we just bought one. It changed our lives and it will change yours too (don’t hate, appreciate)
  • Gifts for the staff: everything from toys for children to used clothing to toiletries is extremely expensive in Cuba compared to how much people make in a month so these things will be so much more appreciated than a small tip. We made a trip to the dollar store before leaving to stock up (we brought chocolate, deodorant, colouring books, candy…)
  • Money $$$: to exchange once you’re in Cuba

Note: Everything you buy with a credit card in Cuba will be charged an extra 1.03 %


Are we missing anything in this list?

What would you bring for a week in Cuba? 

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Hi, we’re Jordon and Katherine, founders of travel and lifestyle blog World Abound. We’re a working couple who hope to be able to say one day that we’ve travelled the world together, even while still working our 9-5 jobs.

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