“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 then 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.)
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.)
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…)
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.
I don’t go anywhere without a white cotton shirt. It’s basically my uniform. But add a couple of synthetic or silk shirts because they wrinkle less than cotton. Also, prints will not show wrinkles as much as solids.
A word about folding.
I like these packing cubes because they compress my clothes into a neat and tidy bundle and separate types of clothing so I don’t disrupt the whole suitcase if I want to take out one thing. (You can also use a gallon-size Ziploc bag for this purpose.)
Alternatively, you can use the Marie Kondo method of packing. I can honestly say that all the items on my packing list spark joy.
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.
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.)
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.
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 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.
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.
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.