Lifestyle + Wellness Travel

How to live out of a carry-on suitcase

Is it really possible for women who travel to fit everything we need to look and feel great in a carry-on? It is. Seriously. Whether you’re on a plane, train, or in a car, nothing beats living light.

I’m in my ninth month of travel with carry-on only. I’ve been on extended road trips, kiteboarding adventures, weekends in the city, sailing in the islands, and west coast car camping. And I’ve done it all living out of carry-on luggage.

Here’s the key: Let go of the thought that people care about your clothes. Learn to embrace simplicity as a way of life. Nobody actually notices what you’re wearing. They notice your confidence and your smile. Pack those in abundance and wear them proudly, and you will look perfect every day.

A typical travel day look

Here are 7 essential tips on packing for a lightweight life on the road:

1. Know where you’re going

It’s easy to make smart choices about what to put in your suitcase when you know where you’re going and why you’re going there. If you’re going to Scotland in the winter, you might need a jacket and a comfy pair of leather boots. If you’re city hopping for work, your wardrobe will look a lot different than if you’re chasing summer around the world.

If you can train yourself to be a ruthless packer, you can put a bag together that will fit almost any occasion. My month long trip turned evolved into a four month long journey through every corner of the USA, the Virgin Islands, and Canada. And I’ve got my luggage on lock.

One is the simplest number!

2. The rule of one

There are many ‘rules of one’ when it comes to traveling, but committing to these rules will lighten your load significantly.

One of anything: One pair of flip flops. One pair of gym shoes. One pair of sandals. One purse. One pair of sunglasses. That’s it. One. I know what you’re thinking… but I need to bring my black sandals, and my white sandals, and my platform sandals. No. You really don’t.

One in, one out: On long trips, it may sometimes become necessary to make adjustments to your arsenal. Perhaps you’ve put a hole in a shirt. Realized that those shorts no longer suit your style. Or you’re just horribly bored of what’s in your bag. Don’t add anything without first taking something away.

3. Everything goes with everything

Everything must go with everything else. Do you prefer warm or cool colours? Pick a colour family and stick with it. My rule is that each top must go with at least five bottoms, and vice versa. My one hoodie matches just about everything. As does my one jacket, my one pair of sandals, and my one pair of denim pants. My bikinis are all mix and match, as are my unmentionables. I could reach into my bag with my eyes closed and pull out an outfit that works.  It truly is impressive.

Mix and match basics – more than 18 looks here!

Basics basics basics!! Know what you can throw on in a hurry that will always like effortless. Soft and comfortable V necks look great with everything. One or two pairs of skinny jeans that you can rock are a must. I only have one pair of black pants in my carry-on and it is a staple. It can go casual or dressy, a quality I look for in all of my travel choices. Pro tip: Black as a base colour will make your life so easy.

4. Stay organized

Knowing where everything is will save you endless frustration. I pack my carry-on from the bottom up… as in the bottoms go at the bottom and the tops go at the top! It’s logical and super easy. Some people like to roll their clothes, I like to stack mine so that I can see everything available and also take the stacks out and put them on a shelf if I’m in one spot for more than a couple days.

Organization is everything.

Little bags tend to come in very handy as well. A cosmetics bag, a toiletries bag, a little pouch for my spare electronics and camera parts, a ziploc for airports, and a tote bag to keep laundry in or for quick day or overnight trips that you don’t need your entire carry-on for.

A badass backpack is critical. I’ve been using The North Face’s Kaban backpack which is a perfect fit for my laptop, camera, and essentials. I can manage an overnight stay with everything in the backpack and a change of clothes! Too easy.

5. Allow your personality in

It’s not all black, white, and grey! There are a few objects in my luggage (not to mention the luggage itself) that I feel reflect my personal style. They can take the form of my asymmetrical Nalu Tribe leggings, my North Face roller bag with ‘Never Stop Exploring’ blazed across the handle, my chevron patterned clutch, or my eclectic skirt from Somewhere in Bali. These are all pieces of my wardrobe that can not only be paired with all of the basics, but give a little insight on who I am.

6. Have a travel day go to

There’s no need to get stressed out about your travel day outfit. I have a look that I wear almost every time I travel that serves me well. Simple, comfortable, functional, and clean. No one would suspect that I’d been living out of a suitcase for months! I can wear this look on the plane and out to dinner in the city after slapping on a pair of heals.

Travel day essentials.

I always bring a scarf and socks (planes are cold!), a snack, and a solid pair of headphones to make my trip more comfortable.

7. The little things

There are a few little elements that you can add to your travel to enhance not only your experience, but that of those around you. I never go anywhere without a high quality Bose travel speaker. Music can set or change the mood instantly, and good sound quality makes all the difference.

I bring note cards with me on every trip. It’s so nice to be able to write a heartfelt Thank You to someone who has done something special for you: welcomed you into their home, given you a lift to the airport, or lent you camping gear for a journey into the forest. A personal note can go a long way, and it’s absolutely worth the space in your bag.



Remember: pack as much confidence as you can fit in your suitcase! This will get you further than anything else you have. Know yourself, be proud of who you are, travel with an open heart and mind, and the clothes on your back will be the last thing you remember about your experience.

Enjoy the journey…

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