- I travel for weeks at a time with just one piece of luggage: a carry-on suitcase.
- My mantra is, if the product isn’t multipurpose, it isn’t coming with me.
- The first thing I eliminate is shoes – that saves the most space.
Checking luggage just isn’t for me.
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 really grounds me 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.
That being said, I try to always do long trips with only a carry-on. I once moved to France for six months with just a 30-pound checked bag, so packing for a two-week trip in a regulation-size carry-on is a piece of cake. I’ve never “Marie Kondo’d” my life, but I love to Marie Kondo my packing list.
Here’s what my packed carry-on looks like for a typical two-week trip:
When it’s time to start filling the suitcase, I try to keep colour 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 colours (such as slate grey or olive green), so they can be paired up interchangeably.
Here are my must-haves for a 14-day trip with only a carry-on:
1. Slip-on athletic shoes
The biggest space saver, for me, is bringing fewer shoes.
I need one pair of walking shoes that are also good for the plane, intercountry train travel, and long car rides. I swear by my Merrell Gridway Mocs, which are super-comfortable – even for walking long distances – and easily slip on and off at airport security.
If I’m 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. 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 neighbourhood, a run or hike, and plane wear. I’ll typically pack two pairs because I hate to continually wear my plane leggings. My go-tos are Lululemon’s Wunder Under High-Rise Tight because they stay comfortable for an entire 12-hour flight and somehow make me look put together when I land.
3. Soft jeggings
Are they tights? Are they leggings? Who knows, but coming from someone who likes to spend the bulk of their time at home in sweatpants, jeggings are ideal travel pants because you can do a whole day of activities that require a lot of walking in them.
Everyone has their own denim preferences, of course, but the DL1961 Emma Power Legging Jeans are a personal favourite because they transition perfectly from daywear (sightseeing around town) to nightwear (for dinner or drinks).
4. 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 or olive because those can be dressed up or down. Soft trousers are also perfect for the plane if you prefer to avoid travelling in athleisure or sweats.
5. Multipurpose toiletries and makeup
Again, if it’s not a multipurpose product, it’s not coming with me.
First, I brave life without a cleanser and wash my face with hotel bar soap. The only skincare routine I bring is Kiehl’s Ultra Facial Cream because it works as a day and night moisturizer, it helps my skin stay hydrated post-flight, and you can buy it with SPF.
For makeup, I bring eyeliner and NARS The Multiple because I’ll use it as a blush, highlighter, eyeshadow, and even lip colour. This way, I avoid bringing my entire makeup bag. And I bring a travel-size bottle of Bioderma Sensibio Micellar Water for cleansing and makeup removal. Plus, of course, a toothbrush, travel-size toothpaste, and mouthwash.
6. A chambray, shift dress, or sweater dress
A comfortable, loose-fitting dress that can stand up to a full-day adventure is essential. For the spring and summer, a chambray or shift dress is ideal. For later fall, a sweater dress or even a long-sleeve chambray dress with tights works.
7. A dark lightweight jacket with a hood
I bring one jacket that can work for outdoor activities but still look nice paired with jeans. And it must have a hood, because no matter the season, statistics show that it will pour in any place I travel to. I’ve been using the Merrell TrekPro Mid-Layer Jacket with great results.
8. Lightweight cotton button-downs
I like to go long-sleeve because you can always roll them up. And the cotton makes them breathable if it’s getting cool. I often use H&M’s cotton button-downs because they cost about $US12 but present well.
9. A good base layer
Whether you’re an athlete who needs an Under Armour base layer, or you prefer to just use a fitted T-shirt, having something to layer on a chilly day is important.
Ideally, I pack a couple fitted shirts that I can use for layering under athletic wear or under a button-down for dinner. (For a sleeveless base layer, I pack the classic Fruit of the Loom Sleeveless, and for long sleeves, I’m on the Swiftly Tech Lululemon Crew Neck train because I can also wear this shirt in the evenings with jeans.)
10. A scarf
No matter the season, I always pack a scarf because it can also be a shawl, a blanket, or even a neck pillow if I get desperate. Not only that, but a scarf can change up an outfit that you actually wore three days before.
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