Five Getaways, One Carry-on: A Packing Guide

Traveling with just a carry-on can be a wonderful thing in so many ways: it frees you up from the hassle of lugging around heavy bags and tipping the porters that carry them for you. It saves you from interminable waits at baggage claim and the anxiety of the ever-present possibility of lost luggage. Moreover, with airline fees for checked baggage skyrocketing, it can also save you a good chunk of change. 

Here are some destination-based carry-on packing strategies for everything from a high-powered business trip to an end-of-summer getaway. Know those stylish, unflappable women who effortlessly glide through the airport with nothing but a small bag? Next time, it can be you.

Get Going

Get Going

Traveling with just a carry-on can be a wonderful thing in so many ways: it frees you up from the hassle of lugging around heavy bags and tipping the porters that carry them for you. It saves you from interminable waits at baggage claim and the anxiety of the ever-present possibility of lost luggage. Moreover, with airline fees for checked baggage skyrocketing, it can also save you a good chunk of change. 

Here are some destination-based carry-on packing strategies for everything from a high-powered business trip to an end-of-summer getaway. Know those stylish, unflappable women who effortlessly glide through the airport with nothing but a small bag? Next time, it can be you.

Packing for a Big Business Trip

Packing for a Big Business Trip

Maybe it’s time for the annual conference, or you’re off to meet a potential client. Just because you intend to present yourself in the best way possible doesn’t mean you have to bring your entire business wardrobe along for the ride.

The Goal: Enough work-appropriate outfits to get you through several days, plus a few stylish looks for networking over cocktails and something to wear while you burn off stress in the gym. 

Pack: 

  • Wrinkle-resistant black dress pants (look for knits, synthetics blends or fabrics with a bit of stretch to them)
  • Sleeveless black sheath dress
  • Wrinkle-resistant oxford shirt
  • Dressy peplum top
  • 2-3 sleeveless shells in a bright color or pattern
  • Pair of leggings or lightweight yoga pants
  • Workout top
  • Workout shoes (consider a super-lightweight pair or even a pair of ultra-minimal Vibram FiveFingers)
  • Colorful silk scarf
  • A statement necklace or bracelet.

Wear on the plane:

Why this works: A boxy Chanel-style tweed jacket is easier to dress up or down than a traditional blazer and less prone to wrinkling. Work a business look during the day with the dress pants and jacket with a shell or crisp oxford shirt, or the sheath dress and jacket. For evenings, dress up the sheath with an attention-getting piece of statement jewelry or scarf, or go more casual with the knit pants and peplum top.

Tip: Bring a pair of foldable ballet flats to slip into during your flight.

Packing for a Romantic Rendezvous

Packing for a Romantic Rendezvous

A long weekend in Paris or San Francisco with your significant other? It doesn’t get better than that. Wait–it can, when you don’t have to worry about scrambling for something to wear after the airline loses your checked baggage! 

The Goal: To be ready for anything while still looking fabulous, whether it’s a lazy stroll along the Seine or a five-star dinner in Russian Hill.

Pack: 

  • Sleeveless v-neck dress
  • Slim black pants
  • Flowy floral blouse
  • Your favorite night-on-the town dress
  • Dressy shoes
  • Evening clutch

Wear on the plane:

Why this works: There’s no substitute for the dress that makes you feel like a million bucks, so pack the one that does. The relaxed v-neck dress can be dressed up for other evenings with the shawl, or dressed down with the cardigan for an afternoon of window shopping. Smart black pants with a flowy blouse goes easily from day into night, or you can turn up the sex appeal by throwing your pashmina over the camisole and jeans. 

Tip: There’s a reason why lingerie is often dubbed “sweet nothings.” They take up little room and can bring a lot of fun. Pack liberally!

 

Packing for that Last Gasp of Summer

Packing for that Last Gasp of Summer

You may have spent most of the season in front of the computer, but you still have time for a summer fling. Grab a deal on those last-minute tickets and head to the beach: you deserve it!

The Goal: A no-stress, relaxed look that works as well by the water as it does for brunch in town.

Pack: 

Wear on the plane: 

Why this works: Knit maxi dresses are a comfortable, put-together option whether you’re lounging with a good book or out on an antiquing mission, and are easy to dress up with a bold necklace and dressy sandals. Pair a solid-color dress with a vibrant sarong worn as a scarf, or use the sarong as a versatile beach cover-up. A collared sun protection shirt means less sunscreen to slather on, and looks as good with capris as it does over a bathing suit. Wrap your hair up in a gauze scarf on the beach, or toss around neck after the sun goes down.

Tip: Relaxing in the sun demands a big, flirty hat. Pack a crushable version into your carry-on and turn heads while protecting yourself from UV rays. 

 

Packing for a Girlfriends Getaway

Packing for a Girlfriends Getaway

You’ve finally pulled it off: everyone has synced their work schedules, found someone to watch the kids/pets/significant others, and now you’re ready for a looong weekend on the town with good friends. 

The Goal: Shopping, eating, drinking, dancing—not necessarily in that order. Ready to doll up at a moment’s notice, but still prepared for some well-deserved kicking back and catching up.

Pack: 

Wear on the plane:

Why this works: Simple cuts with statement-making designs or fabrics like cashmere are easy to dress up or down, while a casual black jacket pulls everything together. Enjoy exploring during the day in a comfortable knit dress or jeans and kicky  boots, then bring out the glittery tops and slim pants with heels for evenings on the town. 

Tip: Is your wardrobe running on a sequin deficit? Stores like H&M and Express are a great source for inexpensive, embellished tops for the dance floor.

Packing for an Outdoor Escape

Packing for an Outdoor Escape

Maybe you’re primed to watch the leaves turn, or steal away for a couple of restorative days hiking in the desert. Enjoying Mother Nature doesn’t necessarily mean you have to schlep a survival guide’s worth of gear with you. 

The goal: A wardrobe that will take you from the great outdoors to an intimate fireside dinner at a rustic B&B. 

Pack: 

Wear on the plane:

Why this works: You’re prepared for heat and cold outdoors with layers, and when you return from a day of hiking you’ll appreciate comfortable knits that will still make you look put together. 

Tip: Always wear your bulkiest shoes (like hiking boots) on the plane; tie them loosely on the way to the airport so they’re easy to slip off at security.

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One Response to “Five Getaways, One Carry-on: A Packing Guide”

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