On a recent business trip to Houston staying two nights and two days, I was advised to take carry on luggage and dress comfortably as the days would be long and action packed. I wasn't sure exactly what to expect so I wanted to cover all my options and ensure I would feel confident and comfortable. Somewhat nervous that I wouldn't fit everything I might need in a carry on suitcase, I knew I had to be strategic in this effort. I'm happy to say I pulled it off with room to spare and an outfit for every occasion. Here are my tips on how to pack your carry on luggage to get the most into it, and ultimately the most out of it at your destination!
Years ago in my corporate life I traveled extensively for long periods of time and very often long haul, so "carry on" is a whole new experience for me. At short notice, recommended by my sister-in-law, I purchased this Kirkland brand carry on case from Costco for $99 and it turned out to be a gem. It's very sturdy, has a ton of compartments inside and out, and is well within the carry on size limitations of the airline I was flying with (Southwest). It's smart looking, the wheels work well and it has 4 wheel drive! It has an inch or so extension capability (still keeping within the size limitations) and comes with a removable laundry bag and a spring loaded hide away name tag. I highly recommend it (if you're a Costco member or know a member).
Tip #1 - Even though you are keeping the case with you, add some sort of distinguishing signage if it's not already stand out noticeable. (I attached a laminated Above and Beblonde business card to the top handle). There were three black carry on cases in my overhead bin, and when people are in a hurry or a little anxious, they may grab yours by mistake. Keep a watchful eye as everyone departs the plane.
Tip #2 - Roll up your underwear, socks, pajamas (things that don't matter if they're crumpled) and stuff into the grooves created by the retracting suitcase handle. This creates a level surface upon which to lay your smart clothes out flat. Jewelry can also be rolled up in a jewelry pouch and placed into the grooves.
It's a good idea to decide in advance what you are going to wear. I had already decided what to wear to travel in, for the next day, the formal dinner, and the last day which would also include traveling home. Despite this, I wanted to take some additional options in case I needed to dress an outfit up or down. So I went with an overall neutral color scheme (leopard is now a neutral ha ha) and black. This way I could mix and match tops to create an elevated or casual style depending upon how I felt once I was there.
This was my daytime outfit. Smart neutral pants, a chic and trendy yet casual top, and black suede mules that are walk all day comfortable.
Anne Taylor pants // Zara top (sold out) // Nordstrom Halogen Mules
This is the outfit I took for the group dinner. It's super comfortable, on trend, and the fabrics do not crease easily, so it remained in great shape despite being folded for travel.
Top from Top Shop (sold out) // Zara wide leg pants (similar here) // Shoes (old) // Purse (vintage) // Earrings Banana Republic (old)
In my effort to cover every scenario, I took these additional tops. One I was going to wear for the journey home, and the other three were "just in case"! Each one of them would pair well with both the travel pants and the tailored pants, plus a plain black off the shoulder top in case I wanted to down play the wide leg pants I wore to dinner.
Tip #3 - Choose clothes smartly - those that can offer double duty and are lightweight and therefore don't take up too much space. Even the wide leg pants above, due to the nature of the fabric folded down to a wafer.
Tip #4 - Back to packing - once you've created your level surface, fold your outfits neatly and pack them next. Constantly aim to keep the surface even whilst placing the items in the case. Lay the laundry bag, or if your suitcase doesn't come with one, a plastic bag flat on top of your outfits. This will protect and keep them clean from the next layers you pack.
Tip #5 - Put each shoe into an individual shoe bag. This keeps them from soiling anything else, as well as protects the shoe from any scratches or scuffs that occur in transit.
I decided to travel in sneakers as I wasn't sure how much airport walking (or running) would be involved as I had never been to Houston before. This meant I had to pack two pairs of shoes, a comfortable pair for daytime activities and a fancy pair for dinner.
Tip #6 - Place your shoes around the edge. There tends to be some wiggle room around the edges, so the soles can sink down just a little bit adding to more space in the middle.
Tip #7 - Purchase travel size containers of your essential beauty products, for example, body lotion, toothpaste, mouthwash, soap/bodywash etc. Target, Walmart and other Pharmacy stores have a good selection. I cannot live without my Oribe Dry Texturizing Spray and thankfully they have a 2.2 oz travel container that I was able to purchase from my local Cosbar. If you cannot get a travel size of your favorite shampoo or conditioner or other such item, then purchase the small plastic containers and put some of your favorite products in these. Don't forget to label the containers - body lotion and hair conditioner can look the same!
Tip #8 - As you fill your makeup bag, set aside all the items that are either liquid or gel. For example mascara, foundation, highlighter, concealer. Do the same thing with your wash bag. Put all the makeup and other wet/gel beauty and makeup products in a clear plastic freezer bag. Since the airlines are very cautious about liquids and have strict restrictions, it's best to keep these items separate and to store them so they are clearly visible. The plastic clear bag will go in the outside zipped pocket of the suit case so it can be accessed and viewed easily without having to open the case and rummage through all your other personal items.
Your makeup and wash bag now containing only dry items can be placed strategically in the middle here between the surrounding shoes.
Now you should have sufficient space to pack your final items. I took a small cross body bag that I could use as a clutch bag for the evening. Most hotels have a hairdryer in the room (check this out online to be certain) and I could handle using an unfamiliar hairdryer for a short trip. My flat iron is another story (which I actually use to both straighten or put curls in my hair). Even if the hotel had this amenity I would not use it, ugh, the thought! My magnifying makeup mirror (even though the hotel has one attached to the wall in the bathroom, I feel more secure with my own free standing one, I know, this is weird!) and my electric toothbrush (protected in a freezer bag) and the toothbrush charger, hairbrush, media chargers and other odds and sods!
Tip #9 - To create more space, you can also stuff small items inside your shoes before putting them in the shoe bags, and/or stash a few small bits in your packed handbag.
Tip #10 - Take a large handbag that works for the journey as well as the daytime during your visit. I took my large black Mulbery Tote bag, which is a flexible vinyl type of material so it's very hardy. Unlike a structured bag it can be squashed without causing damage and is large enough to hold my tablet, reading material and a bottle of water.
Looking a little terrified, about to check in for my journey to Houston! I also took a long black cardigan seen here over my arm. It went well with all my outfits and I'm so glad I took it - the air conditioning in some buildings was on par with a refrigerator!
I hope you were able to glean some useful information from this article. I will be travelling again very soon, and plan on taking much the same as here since I found myself to be well covered for any and all circumstances.
As always thank you for stopping by and hope the month of May has started well for you!
Karen Serino is a life and style blogger, sharing fashion, fitness and fun for youthful women in their forties, fifties and beyond.
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Click the picture below to see my interview with the lovely Jonet Wooten from Fabulously Chic Over 50