Over the years I’ve been asked by friends, clients, and colleagues to write about a very particular travel challenge: how to pack so that you look great, have the right clothing, and never have to check a bag. I recently packed for a 10-day four-city trip for both business and pleasure for which I packed – you got it – only carry on!
The basic principle of packing light is mixing and matching. To successfully mix and match, you’ll need to choose a core color such as navy or grey, or color scheme such as black and white, or even leopard print and brown tweeds. As long as everything goes with your primary color or color scheme, you’ve got a good start. You have the ability to pack only a few items, but create a number of different looks.
Packing strategy doesn’t end with color. Your shoes, jewelry, and purse must go with everything. Shoes are a challenge. Limit yourself to one pair of flats, one pair of heals, and cute athletic shoes that work both at the gym and walking around the city.
One of my favorite travel tricks is the wallet purse. It works for business and pleasure and is not much larger than a standard wallet, so it saves space while increasing functionality because it has room for a phone, lipstick, and the like. During transit I wear the wallet-purse under my coat for easy access to money, I.D. and my phone and to avoid running afoul of those pesky rules limiting number of carry-ons. The wallet purse also fits nicely in my tote for business if I don’t want to carry it.
My friends and clients have also asked that I share a recent packing list. On my 10-day, 4-city trip, I packed:
- Leather knee-length jacket
- Plum wrap
- Multi-blue/white tweed jacket
- Navy pant
- Navy skirt
- 2 Navy dresses
- Teal non-work dress (could have left out)
- Blue sweater
- Black jeans
- 2 white blouses
- White tank top
- Black leather athletic shoes
- Navy flats
- Black pumps
- Black wide belt
- Colorful silk scarf
- Cross-body wallet-purse
- 2 long sleeved white T-shirts
- Athletic clothing
Without boring you with all the details of what went with what, just looking at the list you can imagine that I had choices of outfits of varying levels of formality and function. Don’t forget that a jacket, even if it’s part of a suit, is fair game for casual and may look great with a pair of jeans or leggings. Likewise, a suit pant looks great with a twinset or blouse to yield more looks!
Gentlemen, all the same principles apply to you. Choose a color for suits – black or navy, one solid and one with a pattern. Then add in extra trousers and use one or both suit coats as a sport coat. Travel in one jacket and a pair of extra trousers and pack the rest. If you still wear ties and pocket squares, bring a variety that will work with each combination. They’re small and will add variety to your look. You may want to have shirts done at the hotel on longer trips instead of packing additional ones, so plan and pack accordingly. Don’t forget to wear your biggest pair of shoes and pack socks in the shoes you pack; that’ll help you save space.
A word about carrying-on liquids. Yes, it is possible to pack all of your liquids in a one-quart bag. You use a lot less in a week or two than you think so don’t pack liquids in their original containers; purchase and use small leak-proof jars and bottles. Ask for samples of your favorite products and pack those. On longer trips, I know I’ll need more of certain items such as toothpaste, which I purchase at the local drug store. Although I am very particular about my various beauty creams and hair products, believe it or not, I can still fit all my liquids for a 3-week trip in a one-quart bag by focusing on how much of each I really need.
You may be wondering how this all fits in a carry-on. My secret weapon is Glaser Designs – the ultimate purveyors of luggage. In 2009 my husband and I went on safari and were limited to soft-sided luggage smaller than a U.S. carry-on. And, wheels were not allowed. We asked Myron and Kari Glaser for their help. They custom created our “Square Duffels” which we continue to use precisely because they fit easily into an overhead even on older or smaller planes. This is because the Glaser bag holds more than a traditional wheelie even though it is smaller and – drum roll please – it’s completely soft-sided so you’ll confound flight attendants and fellow travelers with your ability to fit your bag into the smallest of overheads.
How you ask? The secret is to use Insiders organizers. Insiders harken back to the days of traveling with steamer trucks that had drawers; they hold your garments, keeping them compact, neat, and unrumpled. The packing cases must be made for the bag to carry the maximum. And, the key to fitting your bag into the ridiculously small regional-jet overheads, is to remove a single Insider from your bag if necessary – and because you’ve packed in Insiders you can do so without showing your travel companions your skivvies!
They also keep your clothing organized at your lodging. To save your back and shoulders, Myron will suggest the best collapsible cart (which is not an additional item per carry-on rules!!) and you’ll be all set!
One last suggestion: use Insiders cord organizer to keep your cords, plugs, glasses, and other items organized and to make the most of space in your smaller carry-on. Because the organizer stands upright, it maximizes the use of vertical space while ensuring that you can find travel items easily. I use different colored organizers while I am traveling so I can easily lay my hands on a power cord, reading glasses, or pen without fumbling and losing items.
My advice: make your life easy and your car (or airplane) easy to pack for your trip to Grandma’s! Happy Holidays!