TIP SERIES : TRAVELING

July 11, 2012


Do you still check a bag?

I think it's outrageous what airlines charge to check a bag these days. At least $25 each way, and you better not go one little ounce over 50 pounds or you'll pay major overage fees. Then, you cross your fingers that your expensive suitcase doesn't get damaged by the baggage handlers. That's if your bag even makes it to the correct plane. There are so many things that can go wrong when you check a bag. I prefer to carry-on, no matter what length of trip I'm taking.

Since moving to the West Coast, I frequently take trips back East to visit family or for work. I never, ever check a bag. People, especially the men in my life, are always surprised when I arrive at the gate with nothing but a carry-on suitcase and a laptop bag. Women frequently ask me how I even fit one week in the bag I carry, let alone two. I thought it would be worth showing you how I do this.

Know Your Destination + Activities

For this particular trip I'm going to the beach one week with family, and then in an office environment for the second week. I'm lucky that my office is a casual one, but I still like to look pulled together and strive for "creative casual" like the look Marissa Webb is so famous for.

To see the outfits I've put together for two weeks and more travel tips, continue reading.

Choose Dual Purpose Items


I always try to make sure each piece can be worn two ways. Lightweight fabrics that pack flat and can be layered are ideal. Solid v-neck tees are your best friend. You can wear them under a blazer with jeans and heels for work, a casual skirt with sandals for a night out at the beach, or with leggings for hanging out.

My other best friend is the knit pencil skirt. I bought every color of these from Target, and they've proved to be perfect travel companions. They're wrinkle resistant, they pack super flat, and they dress up or dress down easily. I plan on wearing them to the beach and to the office.





Select Your Outfits

Include your shoes & jewelry. Don't take 80 bracelets. Pick a few select pieces that work with everything or that you can mix & match. I usually take 5 bangles, my watch, two long necklaces, a pair of statement earrings and a pair of stud earrings. Pick one belt that makes an impact that can jazz up a plain dress, that you can wear at your waist over a cardigan, and neutral so it matches everything. 

Use things like a casual white collared tunic as a bathing suit cover up. Mine has a slight wrinkle to the fabric so a little extra wrinkle or two from the suitcase doesn't look out of place.

Choose your shoes judiciously. You don't need a pair for every day. In the spring & summer, I take a pair of wedges that are office appropriate and a pair of flat sandals that can go from the beach to dinner. During the fall, I generally wear riding boots on the plane and pack a pair of ballet flats and ankle boots.

Take at least one nice dress. You can wear it out for a nice dinner or with flats for a casual look.

Once you've selected your items, lay them all out. I like to take photos of each outfit with my phone. That way, when I'm traveling I can reference the photos. This also serves as a way for me to check that I have enough items and looks without making a list.




At the very end, I choose a few extra items. Emphasis on few. You never know when plans change, you spill something on your shirt, or you just don't feel like wearing what you brought. For me, this includes a few extra tees, my trusty black blazer that can take an outfit from casual to office wear, and a chambray button down.




Learn To Fold Like A Pro

I cannot emphasize the importance of learning how to fold clothes properly. For me, this is a skill I honed while working at Gap during high school. For the rest of you, I suggest tutorials by Martha (who else?) How to fold a tee, a button down, and jeans or pants. Keeping your stacks of uniform size and shape prevents wrinkles and takes up less space in your suitcase.

Try to wear the bulky items on the plane as long as you can remain comfortable doing so. In the fall and winter, this means wearing your jacket onto the plane, or in the summer I'll be donning my beach hat through the gate until I can place it under my seat.




Use A Hard Sided Suitcase + Push The Limit Of Your "Personal" Item

I realize it seems counter-intuitive to use a suitcase that limits the amount you can carry, but trust me on this one. A hard sided suitcase helps compress the items and keep them from wrinkling. I chose a lightweight, spinner wheel model to zip through the airport and make it easy to lift above my head into the bin. Even when it's packed solid, I can maneuver this suitcase with ease. To keep it organized on the inside I use this large packing cube for clothes and these small packing cubes for accessories. This turns a cavernous space into neatly organized compartments for all my essentials.

In addition to the carry-on, utilize space in your personal item. Think outside the box when you're selecting a bag to find options that are stylish but spacious. Mine is actually a designer diaper bag (stay with me) by Nest made from genuine leather with classic gold hardware. It has tons of pockets to keep things organized, it's built to withstand a lot of wear and tear, and since it's big enough for my MacBook Pro, I use it as a work bag after I arrive at my destination. 

This bag is large enough to hold a whole outfit and an extra pair of shoes, my laptop + iPad, a large bottle of water, a collapsible plastic container with a meal, and a clutch that doubles as my purse and wallet for the trip. And while it sounds too huge to be considered a personal item, its dimensions qualify and it slips easily underneath my seat or the one in front of me.

And just in case you didn't believe me that it all fits, here's a packing diagram for you.



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Where To Get It

Top Left: VS Tank | Mossimo Grey Boyfriend V-Neck | Nine West Wedges (Similar) | Mossimo Skirt | Loren Hope Samba Necklace | J.Crew Bracelet (Similar) | J.Crew Earrings (Similar)

Top Right: Alfani Tunic (Similar) | Kut From The Kloth Jeans (Similar) | J.Crew Bathing Suit | No Label Hat (Similar) | Mossimo Sandals (Similar) | J.Crew Bracelet (Similar) | Lydali Bangles | Bauble Bar Bangle (Similar)

Middle Left: Mossimo Maxi Dress (Similar) | J.Crew Cardigan | Ann Taylor Necklace (Similar) | Mossimo Belt (Similar) | Mossimo Sandals (Similar) | No Label Hat (Similar)

Middle Right: VS Tank | Loft Sleeveless Blouse (Similar) | Mossimo Skirt | Loren Hope Samba Necklace  | Mossimo Sandals (Similar) | Fossil Watch (Similar) | J.Crew Bracelet (Similar) | Lydali Bangles | Bauble Bar Bangle (Similar) | Kate Spade Studs | Nine West Wedges (Similar)

Bottom Left: No Label Hat (Similar) | Mossimo Grey Boyfriend V-Neck | Ann Taylor Necklace (Similar) | Kut From The Kloth Jeans (Similar) | Merona Shorts (Similar)Mossimo Sandals (Similar)

Bottom Right: No Label Hat (Similar) | Black Jersey V-Neck Dress (Similar) | J.Crew Earrings (Similar) | Nine West Wedges (Similar)

Extras: Madewell Chambray Shirt | Mossimo Blue Boyfriend V-Neck | J.Crew Striped V-Neck (Similar) | Mossimo Green Boyfriend V-Neck | Lauren Conrad Blazer

Bags: Samsonite Suitcase | Nest Shoulder Bag | Eagle Creek Black Packing Cube  | eBags Red Medium Packing Cube


60 Comments:

  1. I have had my carry on weighed for IcelandAir and Air Transat (only 5kg!). I didn't have mine weighed with Emirates but someone warned me before I got to the desk that they are very stringent about weight limits :(

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  2. wow, this is great! definitely going to be using that on my next trip.

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  3. Hi there! I love your blog, lots of great information! I'm going on a 27 day group tour to Europe with Contiki starting in June where I'll be visiting 10 countries! I know I have loads of time to pack, but I'm still thinking about what to wear on my trip believe it or not :) Any suggestions on what I should pack and what I should avoid??

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  4. This is so helpful! Do you have any tips for packing for a road trip about 2 weeks long?

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  5. Here is how I did 11 days in Tasmania (autumn weather) http://cats-n-nails.blogspot.com.au/2012/08/tasmania-lite.html

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  6. Where do you pack your liquids? I know that I have to have face wash, moisturizer, toner, etc and I am 14. Do have any tips for me, as a 14 year old girl traveling alone for two weeks to California in the summer, because I want to make sure I am not in any sort of pickle?

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  7. I would pack about the same way, Lizzie! Maybe more casual pants/bottoms that can just be mixed in. Did you see the new edition? Maybe some good road trip outfits in there, too: http://seventeenthandirving.blogspot.com/2012/12/travel-light-during-winter.html#

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  8. Hey Hollie - I would just make sure you plan way ahead. A 27 day trip through Europe sounds amazing, you should focus on just having a great time and seeing all you can see! I would just look and see what types of activities you'll be doing, plan appropriately. And then for the days, make sure you're comfortable. No one has fun trekking through Europe with blisters because they brought the wrong shoes!

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  9. These are by far the most wonderful pieces of advice I’ve read! Not only do I find joy in discovering someone who also likes Marissa Webb casuals but I am completely relying on these tips for my trip next week. Ladies always find it hard not to bring too much. I talk by experience. But, through these tips, I can defy the usual and start bringing carry-ons. Thank you so much for sharing these helpful pieces of advice.

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  10. this is EXACTLY how i pack too!! makes long trips more fun as well, since you have to start to get creative by the end, to mix and match in ways you haven't yet :)

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  11. this is a fantastic idea... IKEA has great see through 'ziploc' bags... VERY sturdy. and fun prints too!

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  12. Rolling cloths (except socks) packs way more than folding does, and helps prevent wrinkles once you've practiced it enough... I'm surprised that this wasn't mentioned.

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  13. Or, if you really prefer folding, there are those bags that you squeeze all the air out of that makes the pile nearly flat. The ones I have I bought from Daiso, but there are western versions as well.

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  14. Hi Leah - I have tried and practiced the rolling method, and I do use it for shorter trips. But I do find that I can only fit this amount in with the folding method. The Eagle Creek packing cube actually does compress all air out. It doesn't make the pile completely flat like a air compressed bag (we call them SpaceBags here), but it also doesn't wrinkle the clothes like those do. I usually just hang my clothes up upon arrival, and only have light wrinkles that fall out, if any.

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  15. As a flight attendant I want to THANK you for this post! I'm a packing pro and use most of the tips you've provided. :) I think my very favorite tip is the hard sided suitcase. A lot of times people try and squeeze so much in their roller bags that they end up having to use the expander zippers... Making the bag too big for the overhead bin. Great tips! Thank you for sharing.

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  16. So helpful! Do you have any tips for packing for a place where one has never been to before? And also for packing for weather different from where you live. Example: I live in Montana and am going to Austin in spring. Spring in Montana still means snow, but spring in Austin is warmer (I assume). I struggle with how to pack when I am still in winter mode. And I've never been to Austin before so I don't know what it is like!

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  17. Hey Maren - I always try to look up a fashion blogger in the area I'm headed to. It sounds silly, but it gives you a great idea of what someone in that area is wearing for the current weather!

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  18. Hi Angie - I hope this leads to several sleek, understuffed bags heading into your roller bins :)

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  19. Hi! I found this incredibly helpful! Im going on a two month trip to England this summer and I've been stressing about the inevitable packing! This will give me a lot of great ideas!

    Thanks!

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  20. Hi Maren, sorry to just randomly answer you but I'm from Texas (born in Houston went to college in Austin) and just wanted to give you some kind of information. Texas is horrible when it comes to weather. It can be 40 degrees on day and then 72 and rainy the next. But in the spring, the majority of the time it's warm (shorts and t-shirts). I would say bring a pair of nice jeans, and then a jacket for nights when it's colder. We've had a very warm winter (I don't think it ever went below 40) so that can factor in too. Hope this helps!

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  21. Where do you pack your hat? I am leaving for Mexico in a week and must have a sun hat, as I am so pale I get sunburned getting the mail. (Attractive, I know.) I was going to buy one when I arrive, but have a favorite not-so-aunt-petunia-y one I'd like to bring. Any ideas?

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  22. I am pale too, no explanation for that needed :) I wore mine onto the plane, and then I just took it off and placed it under the seat along with my bag. I usually grab the window seat, so I have a tiny bit of extra room under my seat than those in the middle or aisles.

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  23. Hey Spiderhider -- Just found this great post and found your comment. I'm currently planning a trip to the same countries that you listed...since you posted several months ago I was wondering if you could share any "lessons learned" from what you chose to pack and whether you'd do anything differently if you had the chance to. Would appreciate any help (especially about footwear). Thanks!

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  24. Any tips for packing for a few different countries? I'll be going to London, Belgium, Paris and Lisbon, Portugal for 3 weeks, starting on April 10.

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  25. Great tips! I'm a typical over packer and with your help I was able to get to a destination wedding with a carry on and a person item for a week! Thanks so much! Appreciate it!

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  26. Woohooo! That's the best compliment, ever!

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  27. I turn the jacket inside out and fold it down the middle (lengthwise, so the fold falls on the back center seam. But most of the time, I just wear the jacket on the plane with jeans and ballet flats, and pack the pants (easiest to get wrinkles out of).

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  28. That diaper bag idea is genius, would have never thought of it. I love organization and anything that makes my life easier, great post, thanks for the tips!

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  29. Hello! Do you have any packing tips for a ten day trip to Germany, Austria, and the Czech Republic? I am unsure of the weather and the customs there. Thank you!

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  30. Hi! I'm so sorry, I've never been to those three countries. I do know that the carry-on requirements are more strict, so be careful about which bag you choose.

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  31. Sweater, cardigan, t-shirts, tanks, 1-2 pairs of shorts, 1 skirt, 1-2 pairs of jeans, flats *lots of cobble stone streets*, chunky heels. Think layering. It went from 86 to 60 in a matter of days when I was over seas the last time. Layer, layer, layer. Neutrals will be easier to mix and match *and you won't look so much like a tourist*. Enjoy your trip and know there is a jealous girl here. :)

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  32. I absolutely love this post! It is so helpful! My husband and I are taking trip to Bejing and Tokyo for 2 weeks and this so helpful. I have already ordered packing cubes to help me pack my clothes, but I was wondering do you have any suggestions for packing big statement jewelry pieces? I have tired jewelry rolls before and they tend to damage my pieces. I'd really appreciate if you had some good suggestions. Thank you!

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  33. I tend to go really light on my jewelry when traveling. If I do take a statement piece, I usually only take one. I use a sleeve out of this jewelry organizer I have - the pages are removable so you can just take the one you need! http://clos-ettetoo.com/collections/travel-cases/products/the-traveling-jewelry-case

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  34. I'll definitely check it out! Thanks so much for the suggestion... I like that its flat and not rolled up so I could easily fit it flat on top of my cubes or on the sides! Keep on posting! Love your blog! :)

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  35. We have two girls and travel quite a bit. The secret to travelling light in our case is leggings, and lots of them. They pack light, and they can easily put them on underneath a skirt to stay warm. This seems to be our favorite brand these days. LOL. http://www.twirlygirlshop.com/girls-capri-leggings

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  36. The diaper bag seems pretty awesome; I had thought of taking a backpack to do much of the same thing, so wondered how you think the two might compare? I'll be gone for 3 months to Europe (YAHOOOOO) but staying in the same places some of the time. I should be able to make-due with the carry-on that has wheels, so am more debating about the personal bag. Some days I might venture into London on a day trip so would want a bigger bag than just a purse... but don't even need the suitcase as can leave that at my hotel. Thoughts?

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  37. And by backpack I mean the sort that a student would use for school, not a backpackers backpack!

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  38. Hey Sarah - sorry for the slightly delayed reply! I think my diaper bag holds slightly more than a backpack, but it's wider than it is deep. That means it slides under the seat in front of me (or even behind my legs) better than a backpack that sticks up high when stuffed. My two cents :) Hope that helps!

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  39. Incredibly useful!!!!! I remember being at Casa de Campo in the Dominican Republic after being told "extremely casual". Quel horror!

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  40. Thanks for providing this such nice information about travel bag pack as well as personal bag. This type of tips is very useful for each and every person. You have done nice job.

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  41. Wow! I'm getting ready to use your tips on a one week trip to FL with a hubby, 6 year old and a baby! (Please pray for me!! lol) Do you usually travel with any liquids? I'm almost to the point where I'll just buy what we need upon arrival instead of trying to get through security (except for baby food). I think I'll find out that we have more than enough room in 3 carry-ons + personal bags. Thanks for your awesome tips! Makes me worry less about our trip :)

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  42. Awesome work here. Beach Accessories related information here. beachhandbags.com it is a also beach accessories provide check out information and visit.!

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  43. Have you ever tried packing outfits in the plastic bags that you vacuum the air out of? You could always take a small hand pump to get the air out of them on the way home. When I saw the cubes I thought that might compress the load even more. Usually if I'm traveling with my Husband we both pack in the same suitcase. We have never flown but we like to keep life simple with as little to carry as possible and this is the best way to do so for us.

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  44. I do travel with liquids, of course! I outlined that a bit more in my winter post, here: http://seventeenthandirving.blogspot.com/2012/12/travel-light-during-winter.html#

    I try to keep them to a minimum, though. For things like sunscreen, I usually purchase once there and then toss. If it's a beach trip, I certainly go through a full bottle of sunscreen in a week.

    But all of my favorite skincare and haircare, I siphon into those mini containers.

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  45. I have, but the bags get stiff once you compress the air out of them, and I never can get them to conform nicely to my suitcase shape. The cubes really do compress a lot more than you would think, and then I don't have to worry about the hand pump or the crazy wrinkles that come from the bags.

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  46. I will be going to Hong Kong for vacation in the beginning of October for 2 weeks. I was wondering if you have any suggestions as to what type of clothes and shoes I should pack?

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  47. I just came back from one week in South America and nearly 3 months at a University in China including a two day conference with the Department of State, all done with carry on. My thought is the more you're travelling the LESS you should take with you. In my experience lots of unexpected stuff can happen. Like you carrying your suitcase through the subway system in Beijing smooshed against a couple million other people and only stairs.


    Buy a cute bag in London if you need it... It's like a necessary souvineer.

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  48. I thought I was the only one who thought of a diaper bag as a brilliant travel bag! :) I use a juicy couture black diaper bag and it is amazing! Thank you so much for your help here! I am going to Vegas for almost a week and I was beyond stressed about how to appear to my boyfriend like I am somewhat low maintenance haha and still have everything I may need :) after all it is vegas so you never know what you may want to wear!

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  49. Fly Southwest when you can - bags are free and fares are generally cheaper across the board!

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  51. It's not so much the bag fee, it's losing your luggage or having to wait around on it that I don't like. Free checked bags can't avoid those two!

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  53. Ok will so be using this in two years for a Disney cruise I can't wait. This will definitely help the trip in the airport if I do this.

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