Packing for a trip is, for many, an arduous affair. Despite detailed lists and checking twice even after packing, it is inevitable that either items neglect to make their way into a suitcase or never make it on the packing list in the first place. It is terrible to find yourself in a remote locale without a toothbrush or socks or sunscreen. It is terminal to forget phone chargers and prescriptions.
Add in the next challenge: packing for carry-on only. While for short weekend trips this is more do-able, there is still an ever presence of anxiety over what needs to make it, what can be cut for space, and what you forgot no matter how long and hard you pondered. Thus the Ultimate Carry-on Packing List! Having traveled the world on many wonderful excursions, I have had the practice of stuffing everything necessary into one bag that I then hoofed over miles and trains and planes and generally about a month of time. Packing light therefore, became key.
And lately travel for me is stand-by via a pilot friend of mine. Stand-by flight is an art form in and of itself, without including packing for it. Yet preparing to fly carry-on only provides expansive control over your immediate travel experience. Checking luggage isn’t inherently bad, though I must attest to several incidents where my checked bags didn’t run as fast as I did from a late touch down to a connecting flight. It never hurts to be prepared, or to at least bring the essentials on-board, just in case. To pack for carry-on, start with a list of your essentials.
Pre-printed generic lists are a great way to start, but be sure to edit as needed based on your requirements and your destination. For example, I am currently headed to Atlanta mid-June: sweatshirts, jeans, and jackets are not needed, but sunscreen and allergy meds are as I am sensitive to both sun and trees…pretty much anything natural. Next, I find the air approved carry-on size luggage. Generally for me this is a multi-zip backpack. Luggage for carry-on needn’t be expensive, just functional.
This particular backpack, though ugly and old, has been everywhere with me domestically over the past 10 years. It has been my travel companion for so long because it has an organized front small zipper where I store immediate essentials like pens and chargers, a middle zipper that is just the right size for magazines, and the larger compartment for toiletries and clothing. Two zippered side pockets on either side offer storage for snacks or socks.
Once you have your luggage, you can determine visually first then physically how much you can reasonably bring. What is most important to you is determined by what makes you comfortable as you journey to new experiences. Whatever you bring, keep it light and simple; don’t be that “noob” traveller with sneakers, a sweatshirt, and two Nalgene bottles attached to the OUTSIDE of your bag. If it doesn’t fit in the bag, it will fit back in your closet at home. For the purposes of this posting, I will exemplify the Ultimate Carry-on List by using my own packing strategy. Lay out the proposed clothes from your list. Try to mix and match clothes so that you can pack less but have multiple outfits. Pinterest has ideas if you get stuck. This goes for shoes as well. I limit my shoes to two: one that could be worn to work, and one that could be worn to the gym.
I try to pack one of every genre of clothing that will work with each other: one pant, one nice shirt, one T-shirt, one dress, one shorts, one skirt, one tank top, one bikini, and one sweater just in case, etc. I use workout clothes as pajamas: sweats or workout tights in particular. I can do this because, seriously, how often do we REALLY workout when we travel? However, if I needed workout clothes for a random yoga class, I want to have them available. Lay the clothes out to see that they all go together (the nice shirt goes with the skirt and pants etc), and then I start rolling the clothes (to take less space and have less wrinkles) and placing them in the large pocket of my bag, shoes on the bottom. Large clothes and shoes should be worn on the plane if possible to take up less packing space. Still not sure how to fit it in? Watch this packing video for ideas!
Next I work on toiletries. Avoid using the “travel size” buys as they are both massive markups for the consumer and wasteful for the environment. Instead, fill reusable travel bottles for your favorites. I keep mini bags to separate my toiletries: one bag for hair, one for face and teeth, and one for makeup. Keep products, whatever you use, to the absolute minimum. Unless you are attending a fancy affair, makeup should be just the essentials. For me, that is SPF tinted BB cream and mascara. If I have room, I add in a few more less-than-essentials like skin cream, a neutral eyeshadow, and blush. These three packs go into a catchall bag, and is placed in the large zipper next to your clothes. The middle compartment is where I keep my work, whether it is more for fun or is actual work. Paper, magazine, and small lap top all equally fit in this pouch. The front pocket then is reserved specifically for grab and go essentials: hand sanitizer, baby wipes, sleep mask, medications, chargers, pens, gum, lip balm, and deodorant because, well, travel can be stressful. The side pockets nicely hold socks and underwear on one side, and snacks on the other. Don’t mix these up when you are starving, however.
When packing treats for yourself, make them low sugar, low salt, and high fiber or protein. My favorites are unsalted nuts, a hearty apple, or an energy bar. Also bring at least one small empty bottle for water. If you are a woman who travels with a purse, make it an easy to travel with bag, not a Mary Poppins endless purse. I prefer a bag with a convertable shoulder strap, three or more compartments for keeping things organized, and most importantly, zippers to keep your organized things IN the purse. That said, keep the purse small and only the absolute necessities. I keep my wallet with only one credit card, insurance, cash, and my ID in one pocket, another pocket holds my lip balm and cream perfume. Yet another pocket is non-essentials like face powder and extra cash, and the final pocket is for my cell phone.
Really, it just comes down to simplicity. Keep your needs simple. Keep everything in organized sections. Keep calm, and carry-on your luggage!