In August of this year I did what I considered impossible a few years ago: I traveled for 10 days with just a carry-on luggage and a personal item. I had already took some short trips with a carry-on, but this was the first time I spent so much time away. We went to Italy and Croatia and were afraid to face setbacks like lost or delayed luggaes – the airports were a bit chaotic. And it couldn’t have been a better decision. In this post, I’ll talk more about the experience, what I packed, outfit tips and more!
Why traveling with a carry-on luggage?
- Savings – many airlines charge a fee to check a bag – saving that money can be good for someone traveling on a tighter budget;
- Organization – traveling with a carry-on makes you think very carefully – and better – about what you are going to bring with you. How many times do we travel with unnecessary weight because we get that anxiety thinking we need things we never end up using? When I travel with a big suitcase, I tend to just put on several random clothes, since “I really have space”.
- Minimalism – traveling with a carry-on also makes us realize that less is more and that we need a lot less stuff than we think. In addition, it is worth remembering that it is not difficult to find a washer in accommodations such as Airbnb and hotels, as well as self-service laundries.
- Convenience – it’s great to arrive at the airport and not have to worry about checking a bag or picking up luggage when you arrive at your destination. It’s less weight, it’s less volume, it’s easier.
Carry-on luggage for summer – what to pack?
If your trip is in the summer, great, it’s much easier to organize a carry-on luggage – but I wanted to make it clear that winter carry-on luggage aren’t a big deal either . For this 10-day trip, this is what I packed (clothes):
- 2 shorts
- 1 skirt
- 1 dress
- 3 pants – 1 linen, 1 jeans, 1 jogger (wore them for the flight)
- 1 denim jacket (used during the flight)
- 6 tops
- 2 light long-sleeved blouses
- 1 bikini
- 1 bathing suit
- 2 workout shorts
- 2 workout tops
- 1 white sneakers (wore them on the flight)
- 1 flip flop
- 1 sandal
- short pajamas
- My mistakes: I underestimated the heat, I confess. I shouldn’t have taken 3 pants (the linen and the jogger would be fine), I could’ve also have packed another dress.
I just want to quicklu talk about the shoes I chose for this trip. I knew I’d take my white sneakers anyway – because they’re comfortable for walking long distances and go with everything – I don’t like walking around in workout sneakers, hehe. But I wanted to pack another option and, talking to my sister, who is a long-time user of Birkenstock sandals, she assured me that it would be a great choice to take mine sandals. I got a pair from the brand a few years ago but I haven’t wore them a lot, and it was always for short distances. And what a pleasant surprise! There was a day I walked more than 8 miles and these sandals were super comfortable! I even shared it in stories and a lot of people also said they love it. So, here’s the tip! The brand also has a men’s version.
Tips on how to choose the clothes
- Pack more tops than bottoms: the area close to our face is always the one in the spotlight, so it’s much more interesting to bring more tops to create more combinations. For every bottom, bring two tops. Example: are you packing three pants? Then you should pack at least six top items (blouses/tops/t-shirts).
- Each bottom must match 3 or more tops: carry-on space is at a premium, so your clothes need to be versatile. Maybe it’s not the opportunity to take those pants that only match a specific blouse in your closet, you know?
- Prefer neutral color pieces: they are easier to mix and match.
- Choose comfortable shoes: a trip is not an opportunity to bring brand new shoes, remember that. In addition to valuing comfort, choose shoes that match the different combinations of clothes you are bringing.
- Pay attention to fabrics! Summer calls for clothes made of light fabrics that allow the skin to breathe. Avoid synthetic fabrics and prefer cotton and linen, for example.
- Be creative: you can find inspiration on Pinterest to create your outfits. It’s worth saving ideas and even writing down the combinations you have in mind.
- Think outside the box: there are a lot of dresses that can used as a top, and a lot of dresses that can used as a skirt. Maybe you have something like that in your closet? For this trip, for example, one of my dresses became a midi skirt. Also, my bathing suit could have easily been used as a bodysuit with shorts or a skirt.
- Free yourself – unless you have a special event or somewhere with a dress code requirement, remember that it doesn’t matter what you wear. We tend to care too much about what others think of us when we’re not even that important. Try to make the best of what you have and I’m sure there are other opportunities in life, besides travel, to wear that special outfit.
And what about cosmetics?
Don’t worry, they won’t be left out. But just like clothes, choosing beauty products also requires planning. In other words, you won’t be able to take your foundation collection – you have to be minimalist.
- Instead of packing a giant toiletry with all the cosmetics, put your products in several small toiletries. For example: one for makeup, another for hair and skincare, another for personal hygiene and so on.
- Remember that there is a limit to traveling with liquids in your carry-on bag: they cannot have more than 100 ml or 3.4 ounces – this also applies to large bottles that have a small amount inside. That is, you can’t travel with a 6.8 ounces / 200 ml package shampoo that is half full. That’s why it’s worth investing in travel size kits – mainly for hair items. Most skincare and makeup items don’t weigh more than 1.6 onces.
- Prefer products in alternative formulas. For example, nowadays there are shampoos and conditioners in bars (I know hotels usually have them, but I like to bring mine). There are makeup sticks, deodorant sticks and even skincare sticks – see the gallery below for some suggestions. Or, for example, I packed my Ilia sunscreen, to use as sunscreen and as a foundation.
- Finally, be minimalist. You don’t need to take three foundations for your trip, nor 7 lipsticks. I didn’t pack a lot of products for this trip – and I wasn’t able to use everything.
How to optimize space when traveling with a carry-on luggage
In most cases, a flight ticket that includes carry-on luggage also includes a personal item. The personal item is that small bag/backpack that fits under the seat in front of you. In other words, when we talk about traveling with a carry-on only, you don’t just have that luggage itself but also that extra item that, if you choose well, can greatly optimize your organization and increase your space significantly. I traveled with a fantastic backpack that meets the personal item requirements and fits neatly under the front seat on the plane – and I flew low-cost from Italy to Croatia with Vueling and it all worked out. This is the backpack:
- It’s a backpack made of waterproof durable polyester, good air permeability and heat dissipation with two padded shoulder straps;
- There are two main pockets, a laptop compartment x 2 (fit for a 13” tablet and 14” laptop respectively), and many other pockets for different purposes;
- There is also a wet bag made of high density water resistant material can help you to separate dry items and wet items;
- There is also a separate shoe compartment can help you carry and keep your shoes better in your travel bag;
- Built-in charging port enable to charge your phone;
- There is a zipper pocket on the back of the bag, which can store valuables such as mobile phones and iPads, which is anti-theft and convenient;
- It can be easily attached to your carry-on.
- Click here to buy the backpack!
And what about the laundry?
On this trip, I washed clothes twice – the first out of necessity, the second for the convenience of returning with more clean clothes than dirty ones. I did this in Croatia, because we stayed in two Airbnb’s there and they both had a washing machine. But if you are not staying on Airbnb, check if your hotel offers the service and also check Google Maps for laundry facilities near your hotel. Believe me, it’s a basic service that exists in many places, especially when we talk about medium to large cities.
In addition, I think it’s also worth remembering that clothes need to be washed when they’re dirty – and that doesn’t necessarily happen with a day of use, especially when we talk about bottoms. One thing I missed was having a spray to “refresh” some pieces between used ones and, researching about it, I ended up buying this Fabric Fresh Classic from The Laundress, in a small version for travel. It is a fabric deodorant spray, which refreshes and removes odor from fabrics.
To better illustrate, here are the photos of 6 of the outfits I wore during the trip. I forgot to take photos of some… but I think these already give an idea of how you can mix and match the clothes creating different combinations. It is also worth remembering that I packed few accessories but they made a difference. I took two pairs of sunglasses, which I alternated, as well as a necklace with a large pendant, a hat (I carried it in my hand) and a tirar. I took earrings too, but they were simple. In addition, the way you hold style your hair and even the color of the lipstick already make a difference in the final look. Ah, my bag was inside the backpack – and inside the bag I brought my camera. No space was wasted, lol.
Finally, on the video above you can see how I packed my clothes! And you can also see the backpak!
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Content creator and journalist in New York City. Here, I share lifestyle, beauty, NYC tips, thoughts, and the struggles about living in the most amazing city in the world! I’m not gonna pretend to be another person: I’m a Brazilian immigrant and I think this is my soul, it is part of who I am. I hope you enjoy my content! Follow me on Instagram!