Getting Started

Women’s Carry On Packing – Getting Started

Thinking of trying carry on travel?  Here are some quick tips to get you started:

Learn from the best

The best “one bag” website is   I can’t improve on the principles laid out by Doug Dyment’s work.  His supplied packing list is also awesome.  I suggest studying and then coming back here to feminize the information.

Some hints to get started


      • Your attitude is more important than anything – if you think “I can’t possibly do this” then you can’t.
      • Your goal is to pack as lightly as possible.  If you do it correctly your carry on bag will only be half full.  Don’t bring more stuff just because you have room in your bag.
      • Focus on the five key principles of light travel.  These are key to packing light but having everything you need.
      • You won’t need any specialized equipment or clothing for one bag travel.   You may, however, want to consider some of the items I’ve listed on the “Recommended Travel Gear” page.


      • Go with the lightest luggage you can find.  Many so-called “carry on bags” are too big and heavy for efficient one bag travel.
      • If possible, delay the purchase of an expensive carry on bag until you’ve figured out your one-bag style.
      • I can not recommend the E-bags Weekender or Mother Lode convertible packs as starter bags.  While they are inexpensive, they are also quite heavy.  All the extra pockets add significantly to the weight.  I can recommend the following bags for US travelers:
        • Campmor Essential Carry On  – Warning – this bag is floppy and soft.  If you want a structured bag, this isn’t it.  It is, however, one of the lightest bags in the market and will hold an amazing amount of stuff.  An incredible value.
        • LL Bean Quickload Convertible Travel Pack – My personal favorite.
        • IT-0-1 – If you absolutely need wheels.
        • Rick Steves Rolling Backpack – I started using this for work when I had to carry heavy paperwork.  While slightly smaller than a regular carry on bag, it has held all my documentation and my clothing with no problem.
      • Don’t get bags with lots of dividers and compartments.  All those zippers and material add to your total bag weight.  If you need compartments, consider using zip-loc plastic bags instead.
      • Travel packs are soft, compressible, and will rarely be challenged by gate agents (especially if they are black).  If you do buy one I also suggest buying a high quality shoulder strap like the Op/Tech SOS strap.  These stretchy neoprene straps absorb the shock of the bounce.  I now own several and have converted my commuter bags over to them too.
      • You don’t need a bag with a computer compartment.  Get a computer sleeve instead.  It is lighter.


      • You will create and use a travel capsule wardrobe to maximize your outfits.   Some trips are casual, some dressy, so your capsule will change with each trip.  I’ve included some hints on how to plan a travel capsule wardrobe for vacation.  If you are traveling for business you may want to take a look at my posts on long term and short term business trips.  Also take a look on my links page and my real life examples page for capsule suggestions from other blogs.
      • Only bring a weeks worth of clothes, no matter how long the trip.  You will easily get more than a weeks worth of outfits if you pack a capsule wardrobe.
      • Plan your capsule wardrobe ahead of time – waiting until the last minute raises the probability that your wardrobe doesn’t work well.
      • Start planning your capsule wardrobe with your shoes.  Pick a pair of walking shoes and a pair of dress shoes.  Then choose the neutrals for your wardrobe.  After that you can fill in the rest of the clothes.  I know it sounds strange, but it works.
      • Use multi-colored scarves and tops as color inspiration for your capsule wardrobe colors.
      • Keep bright colors confined to your tops and scarves.
      • Look to the Vivienne Files for capsule ideas – she has almost any color combination you can think of.
      • Bring more tops than bottoms – people focus more on the top part of your body, so you want greater variety on top than on the bottom.
      • Try to use summer-weight clothing.  It layers much more easily and dries faster when washed.
      • Avoid the temptation to bring “just one more” piece.


      • I can’t emphasize this enough – You must decant your liquids  ahead of time if you want to be successful.  Do you really want to haul around the weight of excess product?  Lani Teshima has an excellent article on how to decant liquids on her website.
      • Try to figure out how much product you need for 1 week.  Then you can plan amounts appropriately.  I usually carry 2 to 2-1/2 weeks worth of product with me.
      • Try to go for solid products as much as possible.  Water is heavy, so dumping the liquid for a solid really saves weight!
      • Consider pre-packing a toilet kit and 3-1-1 bag.  Buy a separate travel toilet kit and stock it with everything you need ahead of time. It is a bit of an investment, but it is a great way to ensure that you won’t forget anything – it is already packed!  Refill items after each trip, and you’ll always be ready.

Don’t worry about your first trip

  • Don’t let fear of the unknown force you into over packing!
  • You are going to make some mistakes and you will learn from them.
  • Think about trying a weekend or one-week trip before trying a multi-activity multi-week trip.
  • If you are really worried, try a test run at home.  Live out of your suitcase for a week and see what does and does not work.
  • Relax!  If you forget something, you can probably buy it there.