Hurray!! Summer is practically here and I can positively feel the sun calling my name and feel the sea breeze in my hair. Now is the time to get planning for those summer trips and see where your summer holidays will take you!

I, for one, cannot wait to get in the heat and forget about the trauma of winter (hey, I’m a summer baby!) so am now deviously planning some sweet escapes. And thankfully, hot trips are so much easier to pack for than cold winter ventures.

8 lessons on how to pack for an active summer trip in a carry-on |

Forget about scarves! Throw those gloves far to the back of your closet! Stuff that thick coat where the sun don’t shine! It’s time to crack out those thin layers and bikinis, and it’s so much easier to cram them into your luggage if you’re only traveling with a carry-on.

But this packing list isn’t just a general ‘wake, sun bake, repeat’ kinda holiday. We’re talking about those hols where you’ll be running about, doing yoga classes on the beach, hitting the surf and generally being active instead of slumming it at your nearest beach bar. I went on a surfing holiday in Fuerteventura the other week which involved healthy doses of yoga and I only went with hand luggage – there are some key items that you’ll need to pack, so here’s a quickie to help you get organised.

The basic packing list

You need to bring plenty of cool cotton items and Lycra sportswear to be suitably attired for this kind of trip. Annoyingly, packing doubles of one thing is out, so if you plan to get real sweaty then washing items half-way through the trip might be necessary.

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Here’s my packing list in a nutshell:

– One pair of Lycra leggings

– A sports bra

– Running trainers

– Leather sandals

– Bikinis x 2

– A pair of denim shorts

– A pretty dress

– A casual dress

– Three tshirts

– A light long sleeved top

– A sports top (tight, suitable for yoga or running)

– One bra and enough pants

– Socks x 3

– A light jacket

– One pair of jeans

– Pajamas

– Wet wipes

sunrise yoga walk girls

1) The sports gear

For an active trip, you need to ensure that you pack the usual gear that you would need. Stretchy lycra leggings are my running go-to and I would be a mess without my sports bra. We would be talking about boobs hitting me in the face and a sore raw chest.

For beach yoga with Azul Yoga & Pilates, I wore my leggings, sports bra, tight top that wouldn’t flap around in my face during downward dog and a light long-sleeved top. It was a bit chilly on the beach in the morning, but as you get your blood pumping and the sun slowly climbs in the sky, you can whip off those unnecessary layers accordingly.

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Alternatively, if you’re a hardcore yoga enthusiast, invest in some yoga pieces that are light and versatile. Kamah Yoga focus on sustainability and fair production with their pieces and use high-quality eco-materials, such as, bamboo. The material is good for your skin and good for your conscience as they give parts of their profit to social institutions and charities.

yoga class kathi alone

As you’re saving money by only taking carry-on, it’s smart to hire a wetsuit and surf board when you get to your destination. This especially applies if you’re a beginner as you don’t really have to worry about what you’ll get. If you’re staying at a surf camp, like Planet Surf, the boards and wetsuit hiring is included in the package.

If you’re in a climate that doesn’t require a full wet-suit and you really do enjoy getting involved in the waves, then perhaps invest in a cool rash vest or rash vest swimsuit hybrid that you can stuff in your bag. There are some stunning designs out there, and Kathi had picked out a long sleeved one piece from Zinke (a collaboration with Free People) that was perfect.

kathi swimsuit back sea

Running on the beach barefoot is pretty tiresome, but makes for a great work-out that is kind to your knees. Alternatively, take your sports trainers down to the beach and maybe take your sports bra if you fear your boobs trying to break free. Or invest in a really supportive bikini top…

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2) Swimwear

On the list I said two bikinis… And I learnt this by packing four bikinis and laughing at myself at the end for only getting through two. Bikinis are easy and quick to wash so don’t worry about them getting skanky at all! Just be sure to rinse the sea salt out of them with fresh water after every wear to ensure the salt doesn’t damage the seams and fabric.


My top tip is to pack your most secure bikinis. I had purchased a great scoop sporty bikini top from Urban Outfitters which ensured absolutely no boob showing when in the surf. Those pesky, pervy waves will do what they can to remove your clothing! As it performed so well under pressure, I couldn’t even think about wearing some of my looser tie bikinis – my dignity was more important than shaking up my bikini look on the beach.

3) Be strict with unnecessary pretty clothes

If you’re having an active holiday, don’t worry about packing a ton of pretty party dresses and heels. The focus of the holiday is slightly more sweat focused than glam, so pack accordingly! Pack sandals in your bag that are presentable for any dressy eves, but also just as easy to flop about on the beach or over the rocky pebbles of the parking lot when you’re unloading your surf board off the van.

Staying at a surf camp means that the vibe is super chilled-out and laid-back. You don’t need to look flawless and I encourage you to embrace the beach wind-swept look to the max! I was pretty comfortable in shorts for most of the trip, which is lucky since I hadn’t really packed a huge amount.

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Sure, you may want to glam it up a bit for the odd dinner or cocktail chugging, so take a pretty light dress that you can roll up tight in your bag. Only one pretty dress will suffice! I usually take a black lightweight dress that can be worn back-to-front depending on how glam (it has a plunging neckline on one side, and a demure one on the other) I want to look on the eve. Reversible dresses for the win!

4) Jewellery

Don’t overpack with jewellery as the chances are you won’t wear any of them! I have a few rings that I wear everyday but I had taken about four pairs of delicate earrings. I didn’t wear any of them! The only extra piece of jewellery I wore while away was a silver bangle and a bronze collar that instantly glammed up a simple outfit or gave a zing of boho with a bikini.


I was told that jewellery attracts sharks in the water as the twinkling rings will catch their attention as you paddle (WTF??) – I’m not sure of the truth in that but it was enough for me to remove any sparkle before entering the deep. An item or three is fine to pack, but there’s no need to take a treasure chest.


5) Beauty Products: What to take & what to buy

Getting those beauty products and toiletries out to your destination with only hand luggage is a pain. I have outlined the beauty of decanting in my previous post on how to travel to cold destinations with only hand luggage, and a few of those tips still stick.

Those little travel sized bottles of shampoo, conditioner and face wash are handy, but when you’re being doused in salt water everyday you will need more than 100ml to clean your hair. And with long hair like mine, an industrial sized bottle of conditioner is a must and dry shampoo just won’t cut it.

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When you arrive at your destination, scope out the local supermarket quickly. I invested in a big bottle of conditioner, toothpaste and sun screen (factor 50!) immediately as they are easy to share with a travelling comrade. I had packed soap, face wash and the exact amount of wet wipes into my hand luggage, but on reflection, I could have bought it all there as I would have still stayed under the cost of paying for checked-in baggage.

I would recommend buying some good zinc protection as when you’re surfing for hours under the relentless sun, you will burn. Zinc sticks come in a huge range of colours and shades you can choose from. Apply liberally to your nose and upper cheeks to avoid the horrible sunburnt look that can get you if you’re not careful. Factor 50 sunblock is paramount and don’t forget to cover your hands and feet as they’ll be the top scorched places that your wetsuit just won’t cover.

Staying at Planet Surf camp meant that there was a big box of things that people had left for future guests which they didn’t want to take home. In the box lay shampoos, conditioners, sun screen and spray deodorant (wow, that was a must in the heat of the day!) which were all great to pilfer! Everyone pays it back by leaving their own toiletries once they had finished their stay so it provided a beautiful system of waste not, want not.


6) Souvenirs

Kathi had packed a sheer sarong to lie on the beach with and dry off any droplets after a dip in the sea, but I bought a sunny yellow beach towel when I got to Fuerteventura. I like to keep my clean hostel towel and grubby beach towel separate. I did fall in love with this particular beach towel, but getting it home was a bit of a pain.

Buying souvenirs isn’t a great idea when only traveling with carry-on, as the amount you have to cram into the rucksack means things could get broken, crushed and squished beyond recognition. Fridge magnets, decorative bottle corks, postcards and teeny trinkets are the way to go if anything, but sometimes you just need a little momento outside of photographs of your great trip. Jewellery is great for gifts as you can easily shove them on your arms, ankles, neck in transit if you’re really stuck for space.

Fuerteventura Planet Surf Camp Kathi Kamleitner-64

7) Things you don’t need

Of course, with each trip I take with carry-on, I always learn more about what I don’t need. The beauty of hand luggage means that you can really streamline your packing list and the restrictive space dictates anything that you’re not sure you want to take.

To be honest, I didn’t really need that pretty dress, but sometimes a girl just has to glam it up a touch and embrace the feeling of femininity so I’ll let that pass. But as I previously mentioned, taking a billion bikinis are sometimes more of a hinderance than a help.

On the plane to Fuerteventura, I wore my jeans, jumper and light leather jacket as it was a touch nippy in Bristol at 7am. But as the weather is warming up in the UK too, I found these layers were more than enough. Look up the weather of the destination prior to packing as although it may look sunny, you may be surprised by how much the temperature can drop when the sun goes down.

Despite Fuerteventura harbouring seriously chilly evening breezes, my leather jacket was perfect for keeping out the wind. I really did not need that jumper, that pair of tights or the billion pairs of socks!

I had brought my big DLSR and an extra lens, but when it came to taking photographs, I stuck to my favourite lens and didn’t touch my fixed 50mm. Only take the technology that you know you’ll use religiously if it will only be a short trip.

kathi camera 2

There may be some things you’ll kick yourself for not taking (damn you SD memory card – why did I not check that you were in the camera?!) but more often then not, take a skeleton range and you’ll be fine. I didn’t even need to take my battery charger as my Canon’s fully charged battery didn’t even slightly diminish whilst away, but that does depend on how you want to use it.

8) Things I couldn’t live without

If you plan on taking videos and an epic amount of photos 24/7, do take extra batteries or the means to recharge. But an external battery charger is useful if you need to keep your phone stocked full and have other everyday electronics you want to charge while on the move. I can’t get enough of my Anker battery pack as I can use the multiple USB ports and it has enough life in it to charge my phone about three full-times.


My leather jacket was a saviour as it was light and foldable, but kept me warm on chilly eves. It takes a while to find the perfect light-weight jacket, and although I felt like a bit of an oddball on the plane with my leather whilst everyone else was in flowery short-sleeved shirts, when the air con kicked in I was snuggly and warm whilst everyone shivered.

My rucksack that I used as my carry-on was fab too. As it was hardy and waterproof, I could use it as a beach bag and day pack with plenty of room for big bottles of water, snacks and my electronics. The multiple pockets meant I kept finding secret stashes of nuts and cereal bars, which is always a winner when you’re burning tons of energy on an active trip.


So there you have it! Hopefully there’s some tips to help ease the panic that sets in the night before when you’re faced with mountains of clothes and endless liquids to cram into your carry-on. Remember, pack light and regret nothing – the light pack you’ll take will see you whipping through customs and onto your adventures oh-so-faster than those having to wait at baggage claim.

Lighten your load and embrace the holiday vibes! Just because you have to factor in the sport of your trip, doesn’t mean you have to pay through the nose for checked-in luggage.


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All photographs by Sophie Saint, apart from 9, 11 & 17 (Alex Saint) and 1, 13 & 15 (Kathi Kamleitner).

Sophie Saint was one of the original travelettes, from 2009 – 2017. After fleeing the UK with ink barely dry on her graduation certificate, she traversed the world with a backpack and spent a few years living in Melbourne – one of her favourite cities in the world.

She finally returned to the UK after a few years where she now whiles time away zipping off for European escapes, crocheting and daydreaming of owning her own hostel somewhere hot to live out eternal summers. See what she’s up to over on her blog and instagram: @saintsonaplane