Here’s how I travel (for up to 30 days with only carry-on luggage) without compromising my personal style!
Are you about that carry-on only life? I am. I do it because it’s practical– I hate waiting for my luggage after I get off the plane.
I also do it because after being stranded for 48 hours without a change of clothes in both Buenos Aires and Berlin due to my checked baggage vanishing into thin air, I prefer to have all my accoutrements with me at all points of my journey, if possible.
There are other benefits to travelling only with a carry-on bag. Having less space means you pack fewer items, which in turn means you travel with less weight overall. Furthermore, you can avoid those pesky checked baggage fees many airlines have made common.
And you know what? The plain truth is that most of us are chronic overpackers. I think it’s entirely possible to travel with carry-on only (especially in the summertime!) if you pack effectively, efficiently, and get a little creative.
You can also still look chic, even with a deficit of clothing and accessories. Here are my tips for how to travel for up to a month without checking a bag.
Never pack more than a week’s worth of clothing
This first tip is probably the most important rule of travelling with carry-on luggage only. Whether your trip is a week or a month, pack no more than 7 days worth of stuff. Trust me on this. With the exception of undergarments, you can wear most items more than once without washing in between (despite what your mama may have told you), and you can either handwash your other garments, pop into a local laundromat, or have them laundered by someone else (especially in Asia, where it’s dirt cheap to do so).
Select a colour scheme
When you choose complementary colors, everything matches. Your outfit options thus increase exponentially without lugging around extra weight. When I travelled around the world last summer (25 days, 8 countries, 4 continents, a wide array of climates) I mostly stuck to a palette of yellow, green, and orange. Not only do all these colours work well with each other (peep a colour wheel if you don’t believe me), they also “popped” in my photos.
Pack a mix of solids and prints
Clothing in solid colours is easy to match while printed clothing hides stains and scuffs (meaning you can get more wear before washing). Style-wise, prints create more visual interest and are an easy way to “level up” your outfit. I’ll admit that I’m a little obsessed– most of my clothing has some sort of pattern! Again, here are a few outfits from my RTW trip last summer to show what I mean.
Ditch the heavy accessories
Give that weighty jewelry the heave ho! I rarely travel with earrings or necklaces any more and this goes a long way in terms of me being able to travel with only carry-on luggage. Instead, I use lightweight scarves, headwraps, and headbands to spice up my travel wardrobe.
Pack items that serve multiple uses
About those scarves: in addition to draping them around my shoulders or neck, they double as headwraps (great for when you’re travelling in a conservative Muslim nation) and beach sarongs. They can also be used as a picnic tablecloth, or a towel for drying off at the beach. Getting creative can save you space (and hassle). Can you see why they’re my favourite travel accessory?
Restrict yourself to 3-4 pairs of shoes
Footwear is clunky and weighs down your luggage, so it’s rare I bring more than 3 pairs of shoes on any given trip. I typically bring a sporty shoe (no excuse not to work out!), a “cute” shoe (boots in the winter, ballet flat/embellished sandal in the summer), and a flip flop (perfect for the beach, shower, or walking around in the hotel room). Above all else, comfort is key!
Leave your heavy electronics at home
I’ve been downsizing the amount of electronics I bring on my trips in a big way, especially when I’m not on assignment for a publication, tourism board, or brand. I used to lug around a heavy DSLR camera but now I shoot on a (smaller, lighter) mirrorless camera. And when I do personal travel, I often leave the camera gear at home and take pictures exclusively on my phone! It’s all about making the best choice for you. For example, do you need your laptop and e-reader, or will your smartphone do the trick?
Bring minimal, but impactful makeup
I love playing in makeup but when I travel I stick to basics that will make the most impact. My absolute musts are concealer (hides bags and blemishes) and lipstick in really bold colours. Lipstick in particular immediately upgrades and varies my look with minimal effort, so I’ll typically bring 2 to 3 colours. If I have still have space in my carry-on bag I’ll bring along liner and mascara for a little extra oomph.
Ditch the toiletries
If you’re staying in a hotel there’s really no point! However, if you have allergies or must simply travel with your potions, get them in carry-on friendly travel sizes. Also try to “double up”: fellow Black girls might know that argan oil is not only a great moisturizer for skin, but also for hair. And your shampoo? It might also be a good body wash.
At the end of the day, how much you choose to pack for a trip is dependent on your comfort level. But for those of you who have always wondered about how to pack carry-on only I hope these tips were useful! It may be a bit tricky at first but it is far from impossible!
Do you tend to travel with only carry-on luggage or do you most often check a bag? Why?