For the past three years or so, I’ve only been traveling with a carry-on. The only time I’ll use my bigger suitcase is if I’m going away for an extended period of time or to live abroad, which doesn’t happen anymore. Every time I pack, I whittle down my things a little more, while still allowing plenty of options for outfits. For my two weeks abroad‚ÄĒto Lisbon and Central Portugal, with long stopovers in Dublin‚ÄĒI only took my Rimowa hand luggage and a backpack.¬†It’s a satisfying feeling to pack all your essentials in a little suitcase that I’ll even call it an art form.
While this post might help you travel with less, I don’t expect you to replicate the list because I have my own logic for packing what I wanted to pack. For example, I got made fun of by other ethical bloggers on this trip for packing two pairs of espadrilles and no pants. Why did I need two pairs of espadrilles? Because one is for dressier occasions and one is for walking. Why didn’t I bring any pants? Because it’s summer, I’ll be wearing dresses, and I packed plenty of workout leggings (for the yoga retreat) if it does get chilly. So to those who own no espadrilles and prefer wearing pants, this probably sounds nuts.
You do sacrifice a bit when traveling with only a carry-on, but it’s not the end of the world if you make a mistake and leave something behind. I regretted not bringing a thick sweater because central Portugal was rainy and chillier than expected, but I had prepared to layer up for these types of days. When I didn’t feel like wearing my leather jacket around the yoga retreat, I wore a fleece blanket from my room as a poncho. Sometimes I walked around wearing two blankets.
Packing light is easier in the summer, but it’s still possible to travel with only hand luggage on winter trips too. Simply wear the heavy boots, the thick sweater, and jeans on the plane, and replace the dresses in the suitcase with cardigans and pants.
My Airplane Outfit
Loose T-shirt – Everlane¬†Cotton V Neck
Black Leggings – Mine are from Casey Crespo¬†
Sneakers – Stella McCartney Ultra Boost X Parley Sneakers¬†(made with recycled ocean waste)
Socks – Pact¬†Organic Cotton Crew Socks
Jacket – It’s important to bring a jacket even if you’re going somewhere hot because the plane might be cold or the weather of your destination can be chillier than expected.¬†I brought my old leather jacket (get something similar from Veda), and in Dublin, I bought a secondhand velvet blazer (pictured).
Backpack – Mine’s old and not ethically made.¬†If I were to get a sustainable one now, I’d probably get a Fjallraven, which my sister has and loves.
Scarf – I brought a super gauzy scarf (not pictured) that folds up into the size of a fist. The plan was to use it as a scarf as needed, and as a sarong/bikini coverup or towel in case I go swimming. I got mine in a little shop in Paris years ago, but Lemlem has something similar.
I invested in a couple of suitcases from the German company¬†Rimowa¬†because they are super light yet highly indestructible.¬†I’ve been traveling with my navy Rimowa Salsa Air Multi-Wheel Cabin luggage since 2015. I don’t think they sell my model and colour anymore, but this one is similar. Each suitcase comes with a 5-year warranty, so I can bring my luggage into any store around the world for repairs. Once I had a dent in a corner of the luggage, and my Toronto store took it (even the luggage was bought in London), got it fixed, and shipped it back to my home for free.
The suitcase has four features I love: 1)¬†The wheels that spin 360¬į. This makes life so much easier, I promise. It takes very little effort to push this thing. 2) Super light polycarbonate that’s flexible and has some give. 3) built-in combination lock. 4) The case opens up to two empty shells that I can simply fill up. If you’re not planning on buying a Rimowa, I recommend looking for some of these features. If you do travel quite a bit, investing in a reliable suitcase from a reputable brand is a good idea, as I’ve seen cheaper ones break down‚ÄĒthe handles stop retracting, the wheels break, etc. Mine does show a little wear with some minor scratches and dents after at least forty flights, but nothing that impairs its ease of use.
The Clothes I Packed
e) Saint James striped shirt.
f)¬†Everlane Relaxed Poplin Shirt, good for layering.
Shoes + Accessories I Packed
Espadrilles – m) Casta√Īer Campina wedges. n)¬†Maison de L’espadrilles (sold out – similar here) – the latter are supposed to be my walking espadrilles, but I actually found the Casta√Īer Campinas to be more comfortable, so I would pack only that one pair in the future. You live and you learn, right?
o) black Havaianas flip flops. I always travel with flip flops because it’s good to use as hotel slippers, for the pool/beach, or out and about.
p) Heritage Refashioned upcycled kimono kiss lock clutch. It has a detachable strap so I can wear it handsfree for day time or as an evening clutch.
q) Everlane¬†belt (sold out) to give shape to dresses a) & d)
s) Saint Laurent Bold 1 sunglasses.
t)¬†18k gold-filled hoop earrings to dress up outfits.
u) I didn’t have room for a big purse, so I’d use this organic cotton grocery bag from¬†Credobags instead‚ÄĒsee a) and c)
I also packed a tiny Fulton umbrella (not pictured).
Makeup + Toiletries I Packed
The trick is to get all your toiletries and makeup to fit in one bag. Mine is from Muji, and I like it because it has handles, and different compartments inside. I put my sunscreen, moisturizer, toner, eye cream in the smallest bottles and containers possible, and it’s a good idea to save the containers from sample products for this.
Buy travel-sized toothpaste, deodorant, and in my case, contact lens solution. I put my body wash,¬†shampoo, conditioner in these squeeze tubes I bought at Shoppers Drug Mart (a Canadian drugstore chain), which are 80ml each (100ml per bottle is the max for carry-ons). I usually bring smaller bottles, but since I was away for 2 weeks, I brought the bigger bottles to be safe. I might replace the body wash and shampoo with a shampoo soap bar for future trips, after I get a soap bag.
I like to separate my (nontoxic) makeup in another bag for easy access. Every year, I’m wearing less makeup. I brought Jane Iredale PurePressed mineral powder foundation, mineral powder brush, eyelash curler, Hynt Beauty eyeliner in Brown, RMS “Un” Cover Up concealer, Tata Harper¬†lip and cheek tint in Very Charming, Kjaer Weis lipstick in KW Red, Alima Pure Natural Lip Tint in Dahlia. I don’t wear mascara and don’t need eyebrow makeup anymore because I have Ombr√© brows (semi-permanent tattoo). I can probably skip the mineral powder foundation on future trips and just use concealer, since I’m doing that now, but the Jane Iredale powder has SPF 20 so it’s good for summer.
For hair, I brought an¬†AQUIS¬†hair towel, a flat wide-tooth comb, hair ties, and Goody Spin Pins. I don’t like using hair products, and I didn’t bring any hair tools to save space. If I want texture in my hair, I’d braid or twist my hair up.¬†I also bought a tweezer,¬†nail clippers, and a face towel.
My Travel Essentials (Goes in backpack)
For flights more than 4 hours long, I bring an inflatable neck pillow so I can sleep on the plane.
I always bring keep a little pouch of essentials to keep me as comfortable as possible. It includes: ear plugs, eye mask, lip balm, filled contact lens case, peppermint essential oil (for headaches and to be more alert), lavender essential oil (to sleep better), hair tie, natural hand sanitizer¬†(from Whole Foods) in a tiny spray bottle, and¬†Ener-C packets to boost my immune system.
I also keep my camera and sunglasses in my backpack. Books are essential for me, as well as pen and paper (notepad or thin notebook). Earbuds for listening to music or watching a movie on the plane.
Check the weather of your destination to pack accordingly. If in doubt, bring a sweater.
Plan outfits for each day instead of packing haphazardly.
Use translucent or transparent organizers so you can easily see what each one contains.
Bring as few pairs of shoes as possible. Don’t skimp on comfortable shoes however. I always bring sneakers no matter where I’m going because traveling usually require lots of walking. Keep each pair separated in shoe bags.
Bring only the essential beauty products, and make sure they are travel sized or transferred into the smallest containers possible so they’ll make it through customs.
Have any more packing tips? Let me know in the comments below!
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