Travel: Carry-On Only Packing with Video

There are many reasons that I try to travel with just a carry-on bag when flying.  They are listed below:

Why??

  • Resourcefulness. I love any opportunity to have a MacGyver moment of my own.  Isn’t that what travel is all about…relying on just your wits and a small bag like Indiana Jones?  It’s about the experience, not the stuff.  People always need far less than they imagine they do and it’s nice not to be carrying around all that extra baggage (literally and figuratively).
  • Self-reliance.  You’re not at the mercy of others. You alone are responsible for your luggage and don’t have to rely on others to help you lift and hoist, etc.  There are no problems with airlines if your bag is lost.
  • Flexibility.  How many times have you realized you could have caught an earlier flight or changed your travel plans only to be stymied by having to wait for your bag to come on a different flight? I also love that there is no waiting at baggage claim after your flight lands.  This can sometimes add 30 to 40 minutes to a trip.  This is a big deal for me because I take a lot of quick jaunts.
  • Smart and efficient.  You don’t waste time worrying about which outfit to wear.  And It’s my view that light packers make a good impression.  Would you rather pick someone up that is lugging around a giant suitcase of crap or someone who is tidy and thoughtful about their packing?  I guess I’m just kind of an asshole that way.  It reminds me of a a study on the impression businesswomen make in relation to their handbag.  If she had to dig and waste time trying to find something, she was thought of as inept and disorganized.  I feel like it’s the same way with packing.

Here are a few guidelines that I’ve realized on countless trips (I seem to fly about once a month):

Simple Guidelines

  • It might be a little colder than you expect.  Keep yourself warm.  Bring a versatile garment (jacket) to keep you warm every day.
  • You don’t need as many pairs of shoes as you think you do.
  • If you’re going to overpack on something, do it on first layer shirts and underpants.  It’s always nice to have a fresh one of each of these things.
  • Bring something that is comfortable but can also be dressed up.  I have many times found myself wishing I wasn’t wearing something that was so obviously “traveling” clothes.  Americans seem to be particularly guilty of this.  Go on, you très continental globetrotter *said with a French accent*– play the part.
  • Accessories can go far.  Especially if they do double duty to protect you against weather or give you a way to cover up messed up or dirty hair, like a hat, scarf or head scarf.
  • You don’t need as many pairs of trousers/bottoms as you think you do.
  • Advice from my friend, Sarah, when I told her I could never decide what to pack.  “Really?  I always just bring all my very favorite things!”  Very sound advice!  After all, this is when pictures are going to be taken.
  • Often times you might want to shop or buy something that reminds you of a place so err on the light side and use this as an excuse to buy something local if you didn’t pack enough.  This works especially well with jewelry when you don’t have much space in your luggage.

Suitcase

If you know which airline you’re traveling on, check the limitations for carry-on baggage size.  I have two suitcases that I love (and show in my video) that easily fit in most overhead bins.  There is a 17” Brookstone hard case that is really light and maneuvers easily and a great Osprey Meridian convertible wheeled suitcase I have that works really well for doing a tour or “backpacking” type trips.

How to Pack

Please see my YouTube video for a more detailed description of these ideas.

Depending on the type of trip I’m doing, I will pack one of two ways.  If it’s a trip where I’m going to be moving around a lot between hotels, houses, and/or it’s more a tour type trip, I will pack everything in plastic bags as described in my  video.  This method of packing groups all like things together.  That way when you want to find the thing you’re looking for, you can grab it out of a bag and then stuff everything back in without messing it all up.  It’s great if you’re not really able to unpack on your trip.

If I’m going to be set up somewhere for a while and can kind of unpack, I will just skip the plastic bags.  In both cases, I will roll up all my clothes to save space.  I always bring a small bottle of detergent (shampoo or Dr. Bronner’s soap work fine too). That way I know I can do a quick wash in the sink and an overnight air dry if something is desperate for a wash.

When I pack, I sort of do it from a body scan approach.  I pack the necessary shoes – usually one pair that can be dressed up, one simple flat that is comfortable that can go with jeans, shorts, or a dress (sometimes the same as my one that can be dressed up) and one pair that is athletic.  For women, I love the Patagonia Maha Breathe to do triple duty if it won’t be cold.  Then I make sure I have the necessary socks.  I usually only need a few pairs of trousers/skirts no matter how long the trips is. Then underpants.  Again, splurge here. Then short sleeve, tanks and shirts.  This again is where I splurge if I’m not going to stay somewhere people will be doing loads of laundry.  A dress or two.  Something warm for the plane.  A jacket.  Then accessories.  Maybe a scarf or belt and a couple pieces of jewelry that travel well and that you wouldn’t be devastated if you lost.  I try to stick with one color family on a trip so everything goes together, including jewelry.

I cover packing for toiletries in another post.

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