How to Travel Internationally With Only a Carry-On

As exciting as travelling can be, it can also be very stressful, especially when it comes to packing. As a lady who loves fashion, deciding what to bring along—and setting reasonable limits for myself—can be particularly difficult. Although I’ve managed to whittle down my once-obscene load over the years, I still find myself struggling not to overpack—not to mention pack things I’ll actually wear.

So in the days leading up to a weeklong international trip that would involve everything from a gala dinner to a woodsy hike, I challenged myself to travel only with a carry-on and to really think about what I was putting into it. By replacing my usual last-minute rush with a well–thought-out plan and clear limits set by my luggage size, I ended up feeling far more satisfied with what I’d brought along than ever before.

Scroll down to find out my crucial tips for travelling internationally with only a carry-on…

It may seem tedious, but writing out everything you plan to do on your trip—whether it’s going to a fancy dinner or on a morning run—will ensure that you cover all the important bases, but nothing more. You can try to keep track mentally, but I’d recommend scribbling down what you plan to wear for each event as you go. If there's anything left over that doesn't apply to an event on your schedule, don't bring it with you.

The first step will help you with this, but planning specific outfits is crucial when packing with limited space. If you forego this step, you’re more likely to end up with an excess of clothing that leaves you unsatisfied. By pre-planning each outfit, you can leave for your trip with zero uncertainty about what you’ll wear to specific events.

This may not be a groundbreaking tip, but we tend to pack so last-minute that we end up throwing in our normal-size toiletries anyway, which are heavier and take up a lot more space. To really make the most of your carry-on—and avoid buying new products—you’ll want to scoop up those empty travel-size bottles (usually found at your local drugstore) to carry your favourite products in.

Shoes can be a packing downfall, so it’s crucial to limit yourself to no more than four pairs: sneakers, flats or sandals, heels, and ankle boots (or a second pair of heels). This will give you the perfect amount of variety without taking up too much space.

Travelling brings with it a lot of fantasy, but it’s important not to let that affect how you pack. This is not the time to experiment with wild prints or colour if that’s not your usual MO, nor is it the time to bring any clothes that have been sitting in your closet collecting dust. As much as we’d like to be totally transformed once we hop off the plane, we rarely are, so it’s best to stick with what you’re sure you like.

If there are two areas you want to be especially tight on, it’s your pajamas and workout wear. I try to stick to one pair of pajamas for any trip under a week—you’re not getting very dirty lying in bed, and as long as you shower regularly, they should hold up fine. For gym clothes, limit yourself to two outfits, and bring a small bottle of Woolite to hand-wash them if you really think you’ll exercise more than that.

I’ve heard this tip a million times but didn’t do it until recently, and it was a game changer. Not only does it make for much more space in your suitcase, but it also leaves all of your garments with fewer wrinkles than the usual folding method. Bringing delicate jewellery with you too? Wrap it up in your clothes, and it will stay protected and untangled.

Scroll below to shop our edit of the best carry-on suitcases…