I travel for weeks at a time with just one piece of luggage: an all swivel-wheels type carry-on suitcase; I also have a matching tote which is my personal item on a plane (I can put a small purse in it and so much more. My mantra is, if the product or item isn’t multipurpose, it isn’t coming with me.
Your mindset should be to make traveling as easy as possible with as little as possible from home. After 30 cruises and many more flights for many other trips, checking luggage just isn’t for me at least half of the time if trip is a week or less. It’s partially because I’m opposed to the notion that checking a bag should cost money and partially because I worry about my suitcase getting lost. When I’m in a new place, it’s really assuring to have my essentials in tow. And if my suitcase gets lost for the first few days of my travel, I’ll spend the trip feeling unsettled instead of exploring my new surroundings (I always pack one outfit and sometimes another pair of footwear in my personal tote also for ease of changing quickly without digging through carry-on bag).
That being said, I try to always do short trips with only a carry-on; sometimes for longer cruises I check a 24″ expandable bag to allow for purchases. I never pack for more than a week though – I work doing laundry once into my schedule (hand wash underwear and other smaller items as well).
Here’s what my packed carry-on looks like for a typical trip:
Zipped packing cubes in various sizes for packing clothing works well. Ignore what you hear about rolling clothes being space savers – it only helps for very small items to fill small spaces.
The first thing I eliminate is shoes — it’s the biggest space and weight saver. When it’s time to start filling the suitcase, I try to keep color palette in mind as much as possible so I can mix and match what I’ve brought. Most of the clothes I bring for travel are various neutral shades, black, or muted colors (such as slate gray or olive green), so they can be paired up interchangeably. But I do bring red/maroon tops for a splash of color.
Here are my must-haves for a trip with only a carry-on:
1. Slip-on athletic shoes
The biggest space saver for ladies is bringing fewer shoes.
I need one pair of walking shoes that are also good for the plane, inter-country train travel, and long car rides. Get mocs which are super-comfortable — even for walking long distances — and easily slip on and off at airport security.
If going on a trip where I’ll need a nicer pair of shoes, I’ll bring low-wedge sandals that can also pass as casual sandals. Black low-heel pumps as dress shoes works also, alongside flat sandals (see photo under #2). If there’s no need for a nicer shoe option, I’ll use Birkenstocks as my second pair of shoes.
2. Leggings that present well
I am a fan of versatile leggings that are good for a morning stroll around a new neighborhood, a run or hike, and plane wear. I’ll typically pack two pairs because they are light weight and hand wash easily. Jag jeans also work well – Are they tights? Are they leggings? Who knows, but they are versatile by changing your tops which transition them from daywear to nightwear.
3. Comfortable Cropped Trousers
These are great day pants, and they are versatile enough to work for unpredictable weather. I tend to opt for softer trousers in khaki because they can be dressed up or down. Soft trousers are also perfect for the plane if you prefer to avoid traveling in athletic leisure.
4. Multipurpose toiletries and makeup
I brave life without a cleanser and wash my face with hotel bar soap. The only skincare routine I bring is a wrinkle smoothing cream in an travel size unbreakable jar and a combo day and night moisturizer (you can buy them with SPF) which helps my skin stay hydrated post-flight and a travel size body cream. For makeup, I bring eyeliner, mascara, two eye shadows, two lipsticks, and glow loose powder with brush which is also a highlighter. Plus, of course, a toothbrush, travel-size toothpaste, and mouthwash.
5. A Sweater Dress, Chambray, or Shift Dress
For spring and summer, a chambray or shift dress is ideal. For later fall weather at your destination, a sweater dress or even a long-sleeve chambray dress with tights works. A comfortable, loose-fitting dress that can stand up to a full-day adventure is essential.
6. Lightweight Jacket with Hood
I bring or wear one jacket that can work for outdoor activities but still look nice with a dress. And it must have a hood, because no matter the season, statistics show that it will rain in any place I travel to. Skip the umbrella.
7. Lightweight Cotton Button-Downs
I bring a couple long-sleeves which can be rolled up for cool evenings or to combat too much A/C in restaurants and other public places. Don’t forget the nicer short-sleeve tops for a pop of color. I also pack a nice sleeveless tank top which can be worn under long-sleeve button downs.
8. Base Layer
I find the SPF 50+sunscreen long-sleeve swim shirts to be great for multiple purposes. They are cool in heat and dry easily after hand-washing as well as offering protection from the sun for snorkeling/swimming/paddleboarding, etc. (include only one swimsuit if expecting to be in water).
This can be multi-purposed as a shawl, blanket or a neck scarf to change up an outfit or act as a pillow in a pinch.
We at Getaway Dreams Come True Travel will assist you in finding the appropriate type of luxurious travel experience, whether a cruise, all-inclusive resort, or flexible train schedule, that fits your desired vacation goals.
Photos by Mimi Auchter
You may wish to view other published blogs for additional packing tips and other tips: