Carry-on travel is becoming more and more popular and, with the airlines’ ever-increasing fees for everything under the sun, it has also become necessary for a majority of travelers. There are a lot of backpackers out there that do this all the time, but regular travelers have a hard time getting their heads around packing just one bag and having everything they need for a week or more. Generally, I pack two bags: One large carry-on that I share with my husband’s clothes and extra shoes and one “personal item” sized shoulder bag that contains all our in-flight needs, like our iPad, Kindle, snacks, games and toiletries that inevitably won’t fit in the larger bag. Like, all of them.
I almost never travel alone, but when I do, I try not to pack as much as I do when we travel together, because A) I am short and can’t reach the overhead bin and B) I am a weakling and can’t drag a 40-pound bag up stairs, nor do I want to. While I was testing out a new carry-on bag the other day that claims to be a weekender, I found myself also thinking about what to bring on an upcoming trip. I was able to fit everything I needed into that bag and then some, with a few techniques I always use, even when packing larger.
Mix and match – Bringing items that match everything else in your bag is very important. Keep your color scheme in mind when dressing for your plane ride, too, because those clothes should end up in your rotation when you get to your destination. Try to pack all bottoms or all tops in one neutral tone. I like khakis, tans and browns, because they work for everything and I have walking shoes that go with those colors. If all tops and bottoms are solid colors, then whatever you pack to go with them should match and be easily interchangeable.
Don’t bring all your shoes – In the beginning, it can be hard to figure out which shoes to take and which to leave at home, but my rule of thumb is to wear your walking shoes on the plane and then bring a pair of coordinating shoes that can be used for dressier occasions and are still comfortable to walk in. Don’t pack a pair of stilettos that you can only walk in for 10 minutes and wear with just one outfit. A nice pair of sandals or ballet flats can work for pants, skirts, shorts and dresses and keep you from wanting to chop off your feet. A pair of flip flops are also a must. They take up little space and are convenient for a variety of situations.
Plan for laundry – When you bring the bare minimum of clothing, you’re going to end up washing a small load or two. I recommend four to five tops, including layering pieces, and three to four bottoms. Add to those an easy-to-pack dress or skirt for women or a dress shirt for men and you have the ability to make 20 or more outfit combinations. That’s more than two weeks’ worth!
Streamline your beauty routine – You aren’t at home and don’t have room to bring every make-up and hair care product you own. Figure out which are your absolute essentials and bring those, then add one or two small things that you can use to brighten up your look for a night out. Look for products that do double- or triple-duty, like tinted moisturizer, shampoo and shower gel combos and lip/cheek stain. With Summer upon us, piling a lot of makeup on is totally unnecessary, especially when you are also going to be adding a layer of sunscreen to the mix. My beauty routine: sunscreen, tinted moisturizer, powder foundation (also works as a finishing powder), cream blush tint, which also doubles as lip tint, and a layer of mascara. Easy!
Accessorize – This is a necessity for women who like different looks or even men who need to go to several nice dinners or meetings. Women: a great scarf, a wide belt and a few statement necklaces can really make an outfit pop and turn a boring tank top or shift dress into a fancy going-out ensemble. Men: Having a few different ties on-hand can totally transform a boring button-up shirt. Make sure they differ in their pattern and color and you will look like a completely different man.
By creating a two-toned wardrobe and planning on layers for unexpected chilly days (or inside air conditioning), I packed a pair of shorts, a pair of capris, a pair of lightweight jeans, a half-sleeve cardigan, four tops, a light dress, a pair of wedge sandals, a pair of flip flops, a pair of foldable gold flats and my bathing suit. With a bit of planning and ability to leave some comforts of home behind, you can reasonably carry everything you need for a week or more in a weekender bag. By wearing your bulky jeans and packing a lighter pair of pants or skirt instead, you could even make room for your favorite travel blanket and a slew of snacks, as I did. Just, don’t forget your underwear!
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