Two weeks, One Carry-On

Travelsmith Road Tester, Aysha Griffin, with her Eagle Creek carry-on rolling bag, ready to board the Eurostar from London to Paris.

Traveling light is an art… and a great relief once you master it. With excess baggage charges and the inconvenience of schlepping more than one piece of luggage, it’s smart to feel in control and have only just what you need to embark on your next adventure. As travel guru Peter Greenwald says, “When it comes to the airlines, there are only two types of luggage: carry-on and lost.” I prefer to carry on.

I planned this two-week September vacation for four of us: 4 days in a Kensington vacation rental, the Eurostar from London to Paris, five glorious days in a St. Germain flat with views of the whole city, and four days with a rental car traversing northwest France, including Giverny, Honfleur, Mont Saint-Michel and part of the Loire Valley.

General Tips:

  • Use the largest wheeled carry-on permitted (24-inches). Mine is an an Eagle Creek’s Hovercraft. I use all Eagle Creek bags because of their thoughtful, solid design and lifetime warranty. Attach a (Eagle Creek) Messenger Bag to the handle and zip through airports and cities as needed. Stuff a purse inside that which can lie flat diagonally across the front of your body when sightseeing.
  • Pack a foldable tote bag, you can always bring back souvenirs or extras in that, along with stuffing your messenger bag, and then check through your main carry-on. You can also mail back any purchases, but I personally avoid buying stuff overseas because now; with the dollar being so devalued, you can buy almost anything in the states for less.
  • Digital photos can be your most precious gifts and memories. Get a large memory card so you don’t have to worry about downloading at a cybercafé to make room on the card.
  • Do not bring a laptop (unless absolutely necessary), as cybercafés are almost everywhere and it’s easy to check email and stay in touch.
  • Your U.S. cell phone will not work overseas unless it is tri-band or quad-band and specifically “unlocked” for a SIMMS card. You can rent or buy a cell phone before you leave which will work in the countries you’ll be visiting, or buy a cheap pre-paid cell phone once at your destination.
  • Keep your passport, credit cards and cash in a safe place. I used to use a money belt but now (when I visit first-world countries and stay in nicer accommodations), I often just use my purse, with a slim wallet, journal, smart phone and digital camera inside, and carry it diagonally across my chest, always zipped. No matter where you are, it’s important to stay alert to your own safety. My Eagle Creek purse comes with an indispensable side net for a water bottle.
  • Avoid fanny packs as they scream “tourist”.
  • If you cancel reservations online, be sure you receive an email confirmation and keep that as proof, in case the charge appears on your credit card.
  • Never reserve or pay for accommodation using wire transfer or money orders, as they cannot be contested or refunded.
  • Bring at least 2 credit cards and make sure your PINs work before you leave home.
  • Buy some local currency from your bank or an online Fx converter (order at least a week before departure) and stash some small denomination dollars which can be easily converted in case you have trouble getting local currency from an ATM.
  • If possible, avoid major airports and fly to smaller, outlying ones.

My Packing List:

* = what I wear on travel day

Pants (two pair): TravelSmith Max Studio pants (black, light-weight, nicely draping, appropriate for more-formal wear)*, Black jeans (not blue)

Shirts (5; could have done without last one; all no-iron!): Black built-in-bra camisole*, Black long-sleeve V-neck pull-over (Chico’s Traveler), Light-wool turtle-neck pullover (lavender-colored), Long-sleeved button-down big shirt with black background and many colors in a pattern (to wear over pants; goes well over any under shirt)*, polyester Max Studio wrap shirt (see photo).

Outerwear: Silk sweater, button-down, long enough to cover big shirt, has hood (olive-sage green)*, Overcoat (lightweight, mid-calf); TravelSmith has some great rain-proof or rain-resistant overcoats*

Shoes: Dansko clogs (any excellent walking shoe will work)*

Accessories: Wide fashion belt (woven black leather with large silver & gold buckle) to spruce up with all outfits as needed, Pashmina wool/cashmere scarf in golds & greens to match all outfits (doubles as a shawl)*, Wristwatch, one pair of gold small-loop earrings, and the 2 rings and gold pendant I wear all the time*

Underwear: 5 pair panties (wear one pair*), 4 pair socks, (wear one pair*), 1 bra, Danskin black tights, Long T-shirt for sleeping

Toiletries: Nail clippers, emery board, clear hard-as-nails polish, blush, toothbrush, throat lozenges, brush picks (like floss), small flashlight
•  All liquids must fit into a clear 1-quart Zip-Lock bag, less than 3 oz each: Leave-in hair conditioner, Liquid make-up, mascara, Small tube toothpaste, Lipstick/gloss, Body lotion, Eye cream, Cologne Splash (You can always buy shampoo and/or soap wherever you go if needed)

In Purse: Hairbrush, Wallet, Passport & Tickets, Itinerary, Pill case, Lip gloss, Business cards, Sunglasses*, Clear Glasses

In Messenger Bag: Travel Guides, Magazine, Journal & Pens, Book (paperback) to read, Address Book (this could be stored on one’s smart phone), Digital Camera, Foldable nylon tote bag, photocopy of credit cards (front and back) and passport numbers.

As you can see from the asterisks, I wear quite a few clothes when traveling to keep the luggage light. It’s easier to wear a coat than pack it, and you may want to use it as a blanket on a long-haul flight, now that airlines don’t provide blankets anymore, or much service at all…unless you’re in first or business class, which is another story.

I’d love to hear your tips about packing and traveling light. Please leave your comments below.

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Elyn Aviva January 17, 2011 at 6:20 am

You go, girl! Love your style!

Aysha Griffin February 2, 2011 at 8:51 pm

Elyn, May the mutual admiration society continue! Your enjoyment of my writing/photos means a lot to me. Thank you!

Louise Lague September 27, 2011 at 9:40 am

Aysha… this is EXACTLY what I faced on my recent trip to Santa Fe…17 days on the road in a car with an infinitesimal trunk. What is strange is that we packed so many of the same things in the same way. In the same colors. I ended up with one carry on and one tote…but still had too many clothes. It was astonishing how little one needs. Life lesson there?

Keep up the good work!

Aysha Griffin September 29, 2011 at 3:18 pm

Louise, Isn’t it amazing how we’ve been “sold to” in the consumer society? The irony is that we not only need so little, but if we lack some essential we can find it almost anywhere, and cheaply. Traveling light is such freedom, and I’m so pleased to hear you had such a remarkable and happy trip!

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