Just One Suitcase packing list

mandarina duck suitcase


“He who would travel happily must travel light.”-Antoine de Saint Exupéry (1900-1944) French poet

One carry-on suitcase.

That’s all I take, regardless of my destination or the length of a trip.

You can do it, really you can. Don’t be tempted to take a larger suitcase…you’ll have to check it, and risk it being lost in transit. You’ll also have to heave-ho it onto trains, up flights of stairs, down cobblestone streets…trust me, it’s just more manageable to have one small suitcase, on wheels, with a tote that sits on top.

So how do I do it? First rule: Don’t pack anything you wouldn’t normally wear. Then, as long as you stick to basics that can mix and match, it’s simple.

Here’s my list for the girls. There’s a list for the guys, too—just click and download.

(The photos shown here are simply for illustrative purposes, not to recommend a specific brand unless link is provided.)

Download a printable women’s Just One Suitcase packing list.

Download a printable men’s Just One Suitcase packing list.

Wear on the plane.
I recently discovered the best thing since sliced bread: TRAVEL PANTS.

These skinny cargo pants from Anatomie are made of a magical stretchy, no-wrinkle, lightweight and breathable material. They look as good after a flight as when I first put them on. They’re machine washable, but I’ve washed them by hand in a hotel sink and they are dry the next morning. They are truly the holy grail of travel attire.

(Wear with any comfortable top. I like a long-sleeve t-shirt or henley under my ubiquitous poncho.)

Jeans. 3 prs.
Wardrobe staple. Black, blue, and white. (If you’re not traveling to a white jeans-worthy destination, take two blue.)

Fold all pants in half lengthwise, so legs are together. Lay top of pants in bottom of suitcase, with legs draped over the side. (The legs will later be folded over the top of other clothing, and thereby prevent pants from being creased.)

Alt. pants.
One pair, so you have a jeans alternative. Any color. For style, think Audrey Hepburn. Timeless. (Note: The above travel pants are perfect for this item. Two birds…)vince strapping stretch pants

Lightweight and able to be dressed up or down, and layered under sweaters or jackets.

Fold in half top to bottom so it lays flat in suitcase.
vince pleated dress with drawstring

A word about black clothes.
You just can’t go wrong with basic pieces in black. They can be combined with anything else, and you’ll always look put together. Add pops of color with accessories.

That said, I’ve found I substitute navy for black in spring and summer. Just pick a base color and coordinate everything else around it.

Shirts. 3 or 4.
Hint:  Synthetic or silk will wrinkle less than cotton, and prints will not show wrinkles as much as solids. Just avoid anything that will come out of the suitcase in a crumpled mess.
vince silk shirt

Fold each shirt so they fit into individual gallon-size ziploc bags. This saves on space and keeps everything neat and tidy because you can take each one out as needed, without disturbing everything else and making a jumble of your well-ordered packing.

One sleeveless silk top.
Doesn’t take up much space and is worthwhile to have along for an alternate, more formal, look. Great for layering under a sweater or jacket.  Pack in a ziploc as shirts.
vince silk sleeveless tuxedo blouse

Bring a couple if you’re traveling to cold weather. As lightweight as possible. Lightweight cashmere or merino are my personal favorites. V-necks and cardigans are best because you can layer over shirts and tees.

Lay flat, fold arms in, and fold in half.
vince sweater

Poncho or pashmina.
There’s nothing cozier than a poncho or soft pashmina to wrap up in on the plane and in the hotel.  The bonus: It makes a fabulous fashion statement when worn over anything.
cashmere poncho

T-shirts, long and/or short sleeve.
Essential, either for layering or wearing on their own. Bring 3 or 4, of varying colors that go with everything else.

These can be rolled up and tucked into the sides of your suitcase around your folded clothes, or folded into ziploc bags like the shirts.
vince little boy tee

Tank tops.
To layer under shirts and sweaters. You can put 3 or 4 in one ziploc bag. Easy peasy.
j crew perfect fit tank

Blazer or jacket.
A jacket you can wear over everything. Wear it on the plane so you don’t have to pack it.
theory jacket

Rain jacket or coat.
Lightest weight rain jacket or coat you can find. Bring it even if you don’t think you’ll need it. (Because if you don’t have it, you’ll need it. Murphy’s Law.)

I fold mine as flat as possible into the bottom of my suitcase. In winter I also squeeze in a lightweight down coat, along with a pair of gloves and a hat.
zara rain jacket

Pajamas, underwear, socks, and tights.
Just pack the bare minimum. Pack pajamas that are comfortable to hang around the hotel room in.

Lay panties flat in a gallon ziploc bag.  Ditto on the socks.

Shoes/boots/sandals. Depending on weather.
Two words: rubber soles. Sore feet can really put a damper on a trip (I speak from experience) so I will always advocate for rubber soles.

My current fave are these Ilse Jacobsen perforated sneakers. They cost under $100 and come in a rainbow of colors. And they are so lightweight and comfortable, it’s like wearing slippers.

If it’s boot weather, wear them on the plane to save suitcase space.

There’s always room for a pair (or two) of dressier shoes or sandals. Slip them into a shoe bag and place in the edges of the suitcase, around your folded clothes. These spandex shoe bags are great and can also be used for other items. (I put my hair dryer in one.)

These foldable flats from Yosi Samra are a celebrity fave. They come with their own pouch and can easily be tucked into a suitcase corner or tote bag.

yosi samra flats

Scarf. Wear it on the plane.
Not only is a scarf useful for keeping your neck warm, it just looks good. (Take a cue from the effortlessly stylish Parisian women.) Even if it’s summer, bring a silk or cotton scarf and throw it around your neck. It will make you look and feel less like a tourist.
vince cashmere blend fringed scarf

A belt or two.
Roll up and tuck into corners of suitcase.vince wide leather belt

If everything on this list is in the suitcase, and there’s still space, resist the urge to keep adding.

You’re going to want to buy things, and you’ll be glad for the extra space. Trust me.

Download a printable women’s Just One Suitcase packing list.

Download a printable men’s Just One Suitcase packing list.

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