Why I Carry On
I love to travel. I love everything about it. I love the excitement of seeing something new. I love the way your mind expands when you’re out of your comfort zone. The way your heart is forever changed hearing stories from other people about how they live or seeing where they live. I love fancy hotel rooms (like, really love them!), and seeing the looks of my kids faces when their mind expand or they are pushed outside their comfort zone and learn how to deal with that. Traveling is magical. But, let’s be honest, travel can also mean one giant headache.
On some trips things will just go wrong. The flight will be delayed —- for 8 hours, ha. Your hotel room won’t be ready in time for you to shower before your big fancy dinner you had planned. It will pour down rain on the day you were supposed to do some very exciting outside touring event. Forgive my French, but shit happens when you travel. But that’s the way the cookie crumbles sometime.
Because travel can go wrong in so many different ways, why in the world (pun intended!) would you add one more possibility of something going wrong like the airline losing your luggage? This happens everyday, all the time.
To me, adding one more variable to traveling like checking a bag, seems pointless. Remove the variable, pack sensibly and thoughtfully, and carry on your bags. That way, if you’re stuck in an airport for longer than expected, or you have a very fun European trip planned, you don’t risk not having your things ready to go or, like I experienced, even on the same continent!
My Horror Story
I’ve almost exclusively carried on for fifteen years of traveling. I’ve gone to Europe twice – each for 10 days, and carried on. I’ve been to Hawaii for 10 days and carried on. I’m good at packing.
Except the one freaking trip I decided I would get all fancy in my packing and overdo what I brought. My family and I were going to Paris and Normandy for 9 days. We had a ton of very fancy, French dinners planned and some site seeing that I thought I’d go all Emily in Paris on in my fashion. So for the first time, I overpacked and carried on.
We flew Delta One (the fancy lay down seats) on a non-stop from Atlanta to Paris. My husband and I are both Delta Platinum Medallion members (the highest level they offer) so we figured — let’s roll the dice. It’s a non-stop Delta flight, we have all the reasons for them to take care of us with expensive seats, and Delta status – let’s bite the bullet and check the bags.
You already know how this story is going to end.
We checked 5 suitcases. Four arrived in Paris safe and sound. Mine did not. My luggage decided to have its own fantastic voyage without me. I mean – it really traveled and saw the world!
Remember, my suitcase was supposed to be on a direct flight from Atlanta to Paris. Instead it:
- Flew from Atlanta to Montreal, Canada.
- Montreal, Canada to Paris, France.
- Paris airline workers decided to not call me when they got the bag, and instead put it back on a plane to San Francisco, California of all places.
- Then San Francisco flew my luggage to to New York City.
- New York City decided ‘Hey! Let’s fly it back to Paris again!’
- Paris again didn’t call us and instead flew it BACK to San Francisco. AGAIN!
- San Francisco finally decided my suitease had had enough of a great vacation and flew it back to Atlanta where I live.
By the time my suitcase arrived back in Atlanta, my trip to Paris was long over. I had no suitcase the entire vacation, and I was home and getting over my jet lag by the time my suitcase was finally delivered to my front door.
Oy. Freaking. Vey.
Back to carrying on I go! Universe, message freaking received!
The Key to Carrying On
When I carry on, I try to be as minimalistic as possible. I look for versatile things that can be worn together – two sweaters that can be worn with one pair jeans, with one pair of boots that go with both sweaters. I pack neutral colors, and sink wash/hotel launder a pair of socks versus packing a fresh pair for everyday. If I know the hotel has a bathrobe or nice toiletries, then I pack accordingly. I don’t pack my own body wash or lotion – I use theirs.
How to Pack Lightly with Clothes- Become a World Class Editor
The key to packing light is to edit, edit, and edit again. Lay everything you want out – your dream team packing items. All the cute shoes, the special handbags, the belts – the works.
Then take those items and put into complete outfits. I pair the sweater, shoes and pants for a casual day of touring, and then put a dress, heels and handbag for a fancy dinner outfit out. I do this for all the events/day’s on my agenda.
Now the fun part begins – this is when you’ll start to weed out the unnecessary items, or try to get creative with making your outfits look fresh and new without being 100% new everyday.
Once I have my “wish list” of outfits for all the days, I start to get creative. I think like a fashion editor, culling together the perfect 10-piece wardrobe capsule.
Most magazine’s will show you that you can build an entire week’s worth of outfits all around a few key pieces – and they are right! Turn on that side of your brain and see the game in it.
Try to mix and match all the outfits, making pieces work together while always weeding out pieces as you do so. Do you really need those yellow shoes for one or will those cute neutral pumps you plan on wearing with 3 other outfits work? Ditch the yellow shoes. Do you absolutely need three pair of denim? No, you don’t. Can you wear that white t-shirt both with jeans, and under a blazer with your work pants, and then also with your joggers? Totally.
With clothes, pack neutral, pack creatively and edit, edit, and edit some more.
Get Inspired with this 10-piece Wardrobe Capsule that can be worn all sorts of different ways!
My Must Bring Clothing Items
Packing Hair Products when Carrying On
I have naturally straight hair so can get away with only having a hair brush, dry shampoo, and some hair accessories. But I ditch the curling iron, in favor of letting my hair do it’s naturally straight thing. In other words – I work with what I have, versus bringing things to do new hair styles.
Think about the hair style you can bring the least amount of things for – and go with that. For me, to change up my hair, I’ll do straight hair one day, a top knot the next, two braids and a baseball cap the next. All without packing big items like hair wands, velcro rollers, etc.
My Must Bring Hair Care Items
Makeup Tips when Carrying On
Left on a deserted island, what would you absolutely need to look cute? Chances are, you can get away with less things.
I typically buy items anyway that are less than 3 ounces. Even my foundation is small. But these days Sephora makes travel sizes of most really popular products, so scoop those up if needed.
My primary key makeup items to pack are:
- Eyebrow pencil and gel
- Small Powder
- One palette with eye shadow, blush, bronzer and highlighter
- 5 of my must have makeup brushes
- Tinted Moisturizer
- Small, compact face remover
- Eyelash curler and mascara
- Lip liner, lipstick and gloss.
My Must Bring Makeup Items
What Can You Borrow of Theirs?
If you know you’re staying at a nice hotel where they will have bathrobes – factor that into your pajama situation. If you can remove even one piece of clothing from your suitcase, and instead use what’s there, do it.
If the hotel will have a hair dryer – use theirs. Is it as high powered as yours? Probably not. Can you make it work? I’m sure you can. I believe in you! When the goal is to pack light, some things you see as “must have’s” need to go by the wayside in order to make room for the real “must have’s.”
Leave Room for the Purchases!
If you’re going somewhere where you think you’ll be shopping, try to leave room in your suitcase for it on your return flight. If that’s not an option, throw in a bag like this Longchamp bag, that folds up. It can be expanded while you’re there to use while you’re touring and then you can use it to bring home your goodies on your flight home!
Nest Your Bags
When I travel, my carry on is usually one giant, carry it all tote bag. However, if I need an evening bag for my trip, I’ll “nest” my bags within each other to save space but make them useable. I’ll put my carry-on bag toiletries inside my clutch, and then nest my clutch inside my big tote bag!
If you’re staying somewhere that has a washer/dryer and you’re checking your bag I am beyond confused. Why?!?!? No!!!!
Bring only 2 pair of socks and underwear, one t-shirt, one-pair of leggings – you get my drift – and WASH them! Do not waste space bringing more of easily washable things!
If you’re going to Europe, and willing to spring for hotel laundering (expensive- sure. But not as expensive as having to buy ALLLL new things when the airline loses your luggage!) then launder your sweater, and pants once! Wash your underwear and socks in the sink (fun? No. But I’ve done it and it’s fine!)
Important Tip for ALL Travelers
Important Tip for ALL Travelers whether you Carry on or Check: Put an AirTag in Your Suitcase
Whether you’re checking or carrying on – one thing I highly recommend doing is putting an Apple AirTag inside your luggage. This product is genius because it allows you to use your phone to see exactly where your luggage is. And you can track your bag all over the globe. We just put ours inside one of the front pockets of each suitcase.
Using an Apple AirTag is the one thing that saved us when my luggage went missing on a flight to France and probably the only reason we got it back! We were able to tell the airline where my luggage was long before it was even scanned in! I told Delta “Hey – head’s up I think the bag is in Carousel 9 in San Francisco over by the South Terminal (Yes! The AirTag gives you this detailed of info!) and then they were able to make calls to help us get it!
In short, become a minimalistic person. We can all learn to live with less – and having less headaches and less chaos when traveling is certainly as more important than brining every pair of shoes you own (they are cute, I’m sure! But you’ll see them again when you arrive home!)
Happy Traveling, all!