Unless I’m going on a two week long international trip, I pretty much always just bring a carry-on for vacations. It’s so much easier to deal with, you don’t have to worry about the airline losing your bag, and you don’t have to wait at the baggage claim once you get to your destination. It can be a challenge to fit everything into one small suitcase, but it definitely can be done!

The Essentials

No matter where I’m going or for how long, the following is ALWAYS in my carry-on:

  • Skincare: I always bring travel size versions of a basic cleanser, eye makeup remover, moisturizer, retinol, and serum. It doesn’t take up too much space and lets me maintain my skincare routine wherever I’m going. Put it in a clear bag (I always reuse my Glossier or Milk resealable bags) so you don’t run into trouble at the airport.
    • Bonus: bring a nice moisturizing sheet mask for on the plane! It’s so dry on a plane, your skin needs some heavy duty hydration – don’t forget to drink a lot of water too.
  • Makeup: I pare down my makeup a lot when I travel. I used to bring soooo much, but found that I never even used it all. So now I just bring the basics: primer, foundation, eyeliner, mascara, ONE eyeshadow palette, blush, and highlighter. I might bring an extra lipstick if I know I’m going somewhere fancy, otherwise I just stick to my everyday lipstick that I keep in my purse.
  • At least two outfits: Even if I’m also checking a bag, it’s good to have a few changes of clothes in your carry-on in case your luggage is lost or misplaced. Don’t forget underwear too!
  • Toothbrush + toothpaste: You will definitely want these handy, especially if you’re on a long flight.

Thoughtful Outfit Packing

If you’re going on a weekend trip or even a week-long trip, you can minimize the amount of clothes you need to bring by being thoughtful about your outfit coordination. Make sure that every piece you bring can be matched with at least two other things – for instance, instead of bringing a pair of loudly patterned shorts, stick to a basic denim that can be paired with every top you bring. If you really want those patterned shorts, make sure you’re bringing at least two tops that can be matched with them.

Clothes that can be dressed up or down are also a big space saver. If you know you’ll be going out to a fancy dinner, bring something that you can dress up with some jewelry but also wear during the day instead of a dedicated cocktail dress that you’ll only wear on one occasion your whole trip.

Another thing to keep in mind is that a vacation is not the time to test out a new article of clothing or pair of shoes. You may be super excited about your new high waisted pants, but then discover that they’re not actually that comfortable when on the go for long periods of time. New shoes are a definite no – what are you going to do if they end up hurting your feet? There’s nothing worse than walking for hours in a pair of shoes that’s giving you blisters or making your feet ache. Comfortable, broken-in shoes are key on a vacation.

Winter Considerations

If you’re flying during winter and it’s cold either where you are or where you’re going, a winter coat is a must. Wear it on the plane so it doesn’t take up space in your suitcase! Same goes for scarf, gloves, and hat. If you have limited room in your carry-on, try to limit the number of bulky sweaters you bring. I love my Everlane cashmere sweaters because they are thin enough to pack easily, but are still super warm.

Uniqlo Heattech undershirts and leggings are super thin and don’t take up much room, and can be worn under your clothes for that extra warmth.

For the Plane

When you’re on the plane, there are a few things you can bring that make the experience better. For me, I always bring:

  • Noise canceling headphones
  • Travel pillow (unless it’s a really short flight)
  • Kindle
  • Snacks and a water bottle

That’s it! A personal item can also be used to carry extra stuff if it won’t all fit in your carry-on. I usually bring a backpack as my personal item, as it gives me so much more room to work with than if I just used my purse. I like to bring my Issey Miyake BaoBao bag on vacation, because it’s flat and fits easily into my carry-on. If you don’t want to use a backpack, a large tote can be good as a personal item too!