By now you know I'm a huge believer in carry-on travel. Unless it's absolutely necessary, I refuse to check a bag. When I do, it's either at the gate when they ask for volunteers and I can see them put my bag on the plane or on the way back home from somewhere that I've bought too many gifts and need extra bag for those purchases (all my buys go with me and my clothes get checked).
Have you ever lost a bag while traveling? I mean, obviously, the airline lost it on your behalf, which is even worse, because now you have someone to blame for not having any clean underwear. And there's nothing you can do about it, but wait and hope it turns up. And cry. The five minutes after the conveyor belt stops and your bag never shows up you're in shock and then you quickly enter the five stages of grief:
- Denial: They haven't lost my bag. It's probably just slow coming from the plane. Any second now...
- Anger: This is all they do all day every day! How the &*!$ can they lose my bag?! All my clothes are in there!
- Bargaining: Please Lord. If you find my bag, I swear I'll donate all my extra clothes to charity!
- Depression: (crying in your hotel bed) I'll never be able to replace those cute sandals...or leave this room until I go home.
- Acceptance: I'll just go shopping and then go to the bar. What do I need? A dress and a bikini? Done.
Of course, sometimes they find your bag. Sometimes they don't find it until after you've already bought new stuff to replace what they lost. I've been lucky and had a bag go to LA when I went to Nassau and it showed up two hours after I did, but they were able to track it. I didn't get that shrug from the airline crew member while they took down my information and I had no inkling of hope.
If you're unfortunate enough to never get your stuff back, you should know that eventually other people will enjoy it by purchasing it from Unclaimed Baggage in Scottsboro, Alabama. It's basically lost luggage heaven, though it gets the chance to travel again with new owners.
The only way to make sure your stuff makes it with you to your destination is to fly carry-on. It can take some practice to learn to do it effectively, and even I am still perfecting my packing, but I now pretty much know the magic formula for what to bring and what to leave at home. I'm willing to do laundry in order to bring fewer pieces and make sure I know when I will do it, so I don't suddenly find myself without any clean shirts or have to leave in the middle of something to get it done. Having it on my schedule means I have clean clothes and also down time to relax and decompress, which is important for any trip.
Even on a short trip, like the road trip I took last week to Vegas, I plan to do a load, because I don't want to come home with a bag of dirty laundry. I was able to come home and put it all away, which I have an issue doing, because I hate unpacking. Knowing everything in my bag, with the exception of pjs and a pair of undies, are clean makes unpacking a little more exciting.
So, how do you pack for a week or two in just a carry-on? This is the part where it helps to have a piece of paper and know what's in your closet. Choose a color palette that you want to work with. Somehow, my travel wardrobe leans to blue and tan. Not on purpose, but because the things I like that match are mostly blue. I always choose a neutral bottom color like khaki or black and then choose tops that will mix and match with those. That means if you have two tops and two bottoms, you can make four different outfits.
The magic formula for me is 3 bottoms + 5 tops = 15 unique outfits. Remember that you can rotate in your commuting clothes into your wardrobe as well, so dress accordingly, if you can. I like to wear stretchy jeans on the plane, because they are comfortable and also go with pretty much everything. I'll also throw in a travel dress, which gives me more options as well.
Shoes. I'm a chick. I love shoes. It's not a secret. Where I don't love shoes is when I'm traveling, because they take up too much room and weigh down my bag. I'm short and not incredibly strong, so the less my bag weighs, the better. Besides, I usually travel with my full-size laptop for getting work done, so I need to make a trade-off. I say take only two pairs of shoes. Don't freak out. You can do this. In fact, I ended up wearing just one pair of shoes for two weeks in Europe the first time I went and was fine.
Bring a pair of walking shoes. Good ones that'll allow you to sightsee all day if you need to. Usually these are bulkier, like sneakers, and I wear these on the plane to save space in my bag. I then pack a pair of nicer shoes that I can also walk in and wear with a dress. Either a pair of ballet flats or a pair of sandals, depending on where I'm going and what I'll be doing. I will also tell you to throw a pair of flip flops in your bag. I don't count them as shoes, because they don't take up much space. They're also great for trips to the pool, beach, continental breakfast. You name it. And if you find that your feet are swollen from the plane ride or walking all day, they will be your best friend when you have to leave your room.
Are you going to go out and want to get a bit dressy? Leave your fancy dress and stuff at home. Instead, glam up what you've brought with you with accessories. Chances are, you're not going to wear anything clubby or too dressy enough to justify putting it in your bag, so pack smaller things like statement jewelry. You'll be happy you went that route than if you packed heels and a mini skirt. After a long day of walking and being touristy, putting on those shoes are going to be torture. I've never once made it out of the room wearing those dressy shoes I brought, so I stopped bringing them altogether and used that room for something useful.
Once you've figured out what works for you, you'll enjoy packing and traveling much more. Here's what I suggest for ladies:
3 bottoms + 5 tops + 1 dress + 2 pairs of shoes + 1 jacket + 5 pairs of undies + 1 sweater/cardigan + 1 packable rain jacket
And here's what I suggest for men:
3 bottoms + 5 tops + 2 pairs of shoes + 1 sports jacket + 2 ties + 5 pairs of undies + 1 jacket + 1 packable rain jacket
Now, for your next trip, you can save baggage fees, eliminate the possibility of lost luggage and not struggle with carrying all your stuff. If you need help with your toiletries, here are tips for your 3-1-1 bag. By traveling this way, I've never once said "I wish I'd brought..." Usually I make a note of the items I don't use.
Where will your next trip take you?