Many years ago, after my luggage was lost, I started traveling with nothing but a carry-on. I realized I would rather have my luggage with limited choices than no luggage at all.  I have perfected the art of carry-on and do not feel I have limited choices but rather wonderful, creative options.  With airline restrictions getting tighter every day, here are some of my tips on how to carry this off.

Invest in the right luggage

Since you will not be paying checked luggage fees anymore you can invest in some really good luggage.  I like Tumi soft- sided Voyageur luggage.  It is light, expands, has good compartments and holds quite a lot.  It is 20.5” long and will fit nicely in the overhead. Your second piece should be some kind of tote or backpack that fits under the seat. I like the matching tote for this piece.  Women need to select a soft handbag that will fit into the suitcase, as your second piece should be the tote, not a handbag.  Guys might like a backpack as long as it fits under the seat.

It’s what goes into the suitcase that counts, not how you put it in the suitcase

I give lots of talks on packing.  People are always concerned with how I put the pieces into the luggage.  I don’t have the magic bullet for this. There are lots of methods and all work well.  I like to roll items and make a bottom layer and then fold flat the bulky pieces on the top layer. Put your energy into selecting what you are packing, not how you are packing.

Start with shoes and outerwear

I think shoes are the most important item in the suitcase.  If your feel hurt, the trip is basically ruined.  So start with the shoes.  Usually three pair for both men and women are enough.  One for walking and sightseeing, one for night that is more dress-up, and one kind of in-between that can be an alternate for either day or night.  Obviously, if you are going to the beach you might need flip flops, or hiking boots for hiking.  You can work around these special items and maybe take four pair as necessary.

After you have the shoes, think about what jacket, coat or raincoat will go with them.  I try to coordinate so I have one color story. So if my most comfortable shoes are brown, then my outerwear will go with brown.  You do not need to pack several coats or jackets.  Usually one jacket, carefully chosen, is enough.

Build a versatile wardrobe

Now you have your shoes and basic color.  Try and find out if you will be changing clothing for nighttime activities. This will help you figure out how many items you need. As much as you can – avoid fabrics that wrinkle.

Plan ahead

Think about what you are packing in advance so you can coordinate all the pieces. Don’t wait for the last minute. Last but not least, check the weather where you are going, but don’t rely on it always being accurate.

Good items to pack

  • About four tops for every bottom
  • Dark bottoms are more practical than lighter pieces.
  • Jeans are very useful; they don’t show dirt and are worn worldwide.
  • T-shirts and knits are more practical than cotton or silk.
  • Accessories help to make interesting outfits.  I especially like scarves and costume jewelry for women.  One daytime, and one small nighttime handbag is enough.
  • Street sneakers or shoes with a rubber sole are good for daytime. Don’t pack athletic tennis shoes for street wear.
  • Pieces that can be worn day or night are wonderful.  For a man it might be khaki pants and a polo shirt.  For a woman dark slacks or a skirt and fun t-shirt top. There are lots of items that are versatile and can be worn both casually and more dressed up depending on the accessories.
  • Cropped pants for women are good as they can be worn with flats, heels or street sneakers. Polo shirts for men are excellent. They don’t wrinkle and go day to night.
  • Think about mix and matching pieces and colors.  Don’t pack items that have only one use.
  • A wool or cashmere cardigan for both men and women can be very useful.
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