4 essentials for carry on only

The first time I travelled the world for 9 months, I took a massive suitcase. And wheelie day bag. And very large handbag. It was less than ideal, as I was effectively solo backpacking and lots of walking was required. I was packed for every season, and I thought that had to mean a lot of stuff.

There was a definite outfit-related FOMO element, and I couldn’t bear the thought that I’d miss an opportunity to be glamorous on a waterfront or wintry hillside. I needed to cover all bases.

Several years (and many back injuries!) later, I understand completely the value of intelligent carry on packing.  I LOVE the feeling of gliding on and off international flights without stopping - no missing luggage or battling crowds to pick up bags from a squeaky travellator.

Even better, living cleverly out of one bag has reduced my reliance on fast fashion, and means I maintain a capsule wardrobe even when staying still for a period of time.

Here are my best tips on living a capsule wardrobe lifestyle and travelling carry-on only, for any length of time.



Reversible & Multi-Option Clothing

YES! A million times, yes. While I wish there were more travel and planet friendly reversible clothing options out there, I have found some gorgeous examples of pieces that can be worn a minimum of two, even up to 8 different ways! 8 outfits from one piece of clothing is what I dream of.




Great Black Pants

A really great relaxed cotton pair can be comfy day pants, dressed up for night with a silk top, and even be pyjamas when needed. They take up almost no room and can be layered using tights to stay warmer. Brilliant!




Bright Coloured Tops

A few well-made block colour tops are essential. I choose a range of styles to suit different cultural and environmental needs – one longer sleeves, a cap sleeve, and a sleeveless/thin straps are staples. For hot days they can be worn alone, and when it cools down simple layering with thermals or long sleeved tops and a cardigan keep you warm and styled. Block colours are easy to accessorise – and it if it reversible, even better!


The Basics

Then I add tights, a couple of long sleeved tops and t-shirts for layering, a light cardigan and a jacket (which I wear or carry on the plane). One or two layerable summer dresses, a pair of light but warm gloves, a couple of pairs of socks and plenty of underwear, and that’s IT!



Liquid limits and weight can be a real barrier to using carry-on luggage only. Now we can reduce this issue by using products that come in solid form, instead of liquid. Hooray! Not only do these not need to go into a transparent bag, but also weigh much less and last much longer.

TIP: Try these out and use before travelling so it feels comfortable when you are tired or jet lagged and just want your “usual” products.

Examples: Lush solid shampoo and conditioner, perfume, moisturiser (coconut oil)







Moisturiser: Organic Extra Virgin Coconut oil! Fill a small, water- and airtight container for an all-purpose edible moisturiser. Great for flights and night cream!



After lugging around heels and hiking boots on that first big trip, and never, ever using them, I now have a strict 2-3 pair rule.

Robust Ballet Flats – by choosing a pair of flats that look like casual ballet flats but are actually designed for long hours on your feet, you will literally wear these everywhere. I choose black as I never regret having them with me. EXAMPLE:


Fancy Flips – Thankfully women can get away with delicate shoes when men need closed shoes, saving weight and space in packing. Choose a pair that are light but well-soled with support for day walks, and smart enough to be worn to a restaurant or even nightclub. There are very few places in the world this won’t be acceptable.



(Optional) Walking Shoes – doing lots of hiking or exploring? Choose a pair that weigh as little as possible and can squeeze into the side of your bag for the times when ballet flats just aren’t robust enough.

***Won’t I need my heels?!*** No, you really won’t. The most beautiful places I’ve visited have had cobbled streets, or dirt paths, or steep hills – none of which work with heels. For a posh event, you can buy a pair there for less than extra luggage will cost you. Unless it’s a business trip, leave them at home.



Airline carry-on weights have been changing rapidly. It is really worth knowing which airlines have the best allowances, whether you can take one or two bags, and if a handbag counts as a second piece. Knowing you can add a second piece can make a big difference!

Do your homework before booking and make this a consideration.

It’s as simple as that! Pack with intent on having the best experience, not just the best outfit, and prepare to have an exciting, beautiful and stress free trip wherever you go!

*Disclaimer: Products above are an example only and personal preference. I am not an affiliate of any of these companies, and no part of this post was sponsored.