How to…Pack A Carry-On

As a student, I do not often take the chance to go home. I would rather travel. Before university, I had never been to Europe. But now, just a few months ahead of graduation, I feel like I have conducted my own Grand Tour, spread out across spring breaks and weekends away. This has been an education in itself, from navigating public transportation to gaining free entry into museums. Learning to pack well, though, had the biggest learning curve. I used to do a terrible job, over-packing clothes I would never wear and over-loading myself with bags that were too heavy to carry myself. However, practice makes perfect. Here are some tips I’ve picked up along the way:

1. Pack light

It is important to plan outfits ahead and then stick to the plan. One thing that helps me is to bring clothes that I wear all the time, that are comfortable and easily matched. Traveling can be stressful, if only because the surroundings are unfamiliar. By dressing simply, you will be at ease on the plane, when you get ready, and while posing for photos.

2. Choose Your Colours

My wardrobe is mostly neutrals, but when I travel I tend to curate my outfits even further. On a recent trip, I decided to wear mostly blue and white. A couple pairs of jeans, a white tee and a striped shirt, a cardigan, and a big sweater were all I needed. Everything went with everything else, and I did not need extra shoes or jackets to match certain outfits.

3. Wear the heavy hitters

If it is wintertime and I need to bring boots and a coat, I always wear them on travel days. Lighter items – like a backup pair of flats – can be packed much more easily. I also like to wear a scarf anytime I travel, even in the summer. They are great for keeping warm on chilly planes and or serving as makeshift picnic blanket or beach cover-up.

4. Streamline your toiletries

When traveling, I also try to streamline my makeup routine, sticking to a basic look that requires a minimum number of products. Instead of bringing different day and night creams, I’ll bring one that I know is super moisturizing and can be applied on a drafty flight, on dry hands, or after a day in the sun. Hotel shampoo always makes my hair greasy, so I bought a travel-size bottle of my favourite brand and refill it ahead of every trip. But I’m happy to use whatever soap is available to wash my face, so I don’t worry about bringing my own.

5. Bring your book

One of my favourite things to do while on vacation is read a new book. The story becomes embedded in my memories of the trip and vice versa. But too often I am tempted to bring more than one book. I think this has an adverse effect because then I don’t read at all. Instead, it’s best to provide one option. Making a decision ahead of time of what to read (or wear) pays off in the long run.

6. Easy access

One of my pet peeves is waiting in the airport security line and watching someone dig to the bottom of his bag or her purse to remove liquids one at a time. I try never to be that person. I keep the plastic bag with all of my liquids in my purse and my laptop at the top of my carry-on so I access them quickly. I also keep my book in an outside pocket so I don’t ever have to rifle through my bag in the middle of a train station.

7. Experiences over souvenirs

During my first forays onto the Continent, I was totally taken by overpriced souvenirs. Now I know better. My favourite mementos are things I cannot find anywhere else. I love going to European pharmacies to buy cult products like Embryolisse or Homeoplasmine. While visiting a friend in Washington, D.C., I got my ear pierced at a Georgetown tattoo parlour, and I love that it reminds me of that trip. My mom is a French teacher and hinted that she wanted a recent bestseller; going to a local Parisian bookshop was a fun experience, and I was also able to buy her a gift that no one else could.

The best part of travelling, I think, is getting out of your routine. By packing well, there is nothing to weigh you down along the way.

Author: Emma Freer

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