How to Travel Only With Carry-On… And Not Look Like a Tourist

travel outfits, comfy striped dresses, travel outfit ideas

You may have noticed that I’ve been traveling a lot lately. In fact, these days we’re away more than we’re home (I’m not complaining!). For the most part, this is nothing new for Fred Baby and me – after all, our shared desire to explore the world has always been a key factor in our relationship and even appeared in our wedding vows (and has prompted friends to nickname us The Gatsbys, though hopefully with a better ending!).

But last year, when I kept getting sick every other week, it put a serious halt on things. Trips were cancelled. Wanderlusting became couchbedding. And, most crushing, I missed out on sitting next to Jon Hamm on a flight from New York (the agony!!!).

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The silver lining and lesson learned, however, was that it’s so important to appreciate your health and not take it for granted – and to take full advantage during the good times…to live out your wanderlusties because you never know when that could all change. Luckily, I’ve gotten all my health hiccups ironed out and have been feeling the best I have in years (knock on wood), so I’ve been on the go, go, go. In the last few months alone, we’ve been so, so, so lucky to visit Maui, London, Rome, Amalfi, Capri, New York and Texas — and we’ll be heading out on another adventure abroad next week (details to come!).

But what you may find surprising is that in all of these travels, I only ever pack what will fit into carry-on luggage. Really. I literally go lightly! 

Not only does that mean no headaches with lost luggage, but it means a lot less lugging of bags – and when you’re constantly on the go, that is crucial. Unless you enjoy back pain, less is more. A few years back, when we took a year off to travel, we only took carry-on luggage as well. For a whole year! It is SO freeing. I know that may seem challenging, but once you get the hang of it and stick to a few simple guidelines, you’ll be a packing pro.

Here are a few tips to get you on your way + what to pack for a summer getaway…

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5 Tips for Packing Light:

  1. Pick a color palette and stick to it (I’ve been doing blue, white and black).
  2. Choose relaxed, comfy pieces with an easy breezy fit (think effortless Parisian) & pack pieces that don’t wrinkle much. No one wants to iron on vacation.
  3. Pack pieces that can be layered, worn over and over again & in multiple ways. (This oversized summer scarf is genius.)
  4. Pack bags within bags. Like a Turducken, I often put a lightweight, malleable bag like this or this (which I use as a beach bag, backpack, or overflow bag for souvenirs) inside of my larger weekender, and then a small crossbody inside of it.
  5. Wear your bulkiest items onto the plane (coat, hat, shoes) to take up less room in your luggage.

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20 pieces for effortless-chic style that will take you from the city to the beach:

  1. striped dress – to wear for comfy-chic daytime exploring (also here & cute too)|
  2. trench coat – to wear on the plane and when it rains (also cute & like this cool grey one & this trench coat)
  3.  white blazer – to toss on top of your dress at night for a more polished look (also cute)
  4. metallic flat sandal – that you can walk miles in, from traipsing around cobblestone streets to the beach (also like these silver & champagne ones)
  5. crossbody bag – there’s nothing worse than carrying a heavy purse all day; instead use this to stash essentials (credit card, passport, phone, lipgloss) & easily fits in a larger bag as your wallet (cute too); for night remove the strap and use as a clutch
  6. oversized summer scarf – to keep you both warm on the plane & at night plus does double duty as a sarong, impromptu beach blanket or headscarf (also get it here & here)
  7. striped shirt – an easy breezy essential that goes with shorts and pants (I live in this one & this one & am about to order this babydoll version)
  8. white sandals –  a low-heeled white sandal paired with a white blazer will elevate daytime looks to nighttime (love these & these too)
  9. white sunglasses – they go with everything!
  10. track pants – breezy track pants are a cooler, chicer alternative to jeans (these are great & these are also cute & cute)
  11. chic shorts – a more elegant alternative to denim cutoffs, the relaxed fit is key (also love these, these, these, these & these)
  12. LBD – for day and night an LBD in a comfy tshirt style is perfect for vacation; toss on a chambray top, scarf, necklace, blazer or trench to wear it multiple ways
  13. hat – a classic fedora or chic sunhat is a must
  14. chambray shirt – to be worn alone with shorts or track pants or as a topper to a dress (tie it in the front!) or as a beach coverup (this one is cute too)
  15. swimsuit – a chic little one-piece or bikini for dips in the pool or Med
  16. statement necklace: to jazz up day looks for night (love this one)
  17. pajamas – one light pair of pajamas plus underthings (lots of skivvies, a few bras/camis/tanks and a pair of cozy socks for cold planes & hotel rooms)
  18. toiletry bag –for your toothbrush, makeup and, well, toiletries
  19. weekender bag – I travel with a monogrammed weekender bag that zips shut similar to this one and often put a bag like this within it & my crossbody bag within that
  20. rolling carry-on bag – this is the striped bag I travel with, and word to the wise, four wheels are definitely better than two!


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Other than that, I toss into my weekender a clear bag with liquids, my laptop, Kindle OR book, camera, chargers, a few snacks (crackers, chips, nuts and M&Ms), and a trashy mag or two and I’m off!

Do you have any tips for packing light?


Photos: Fred Baby

Basic Instincts
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