carry on luggage

Traveling in Style Part 1: How to Travel With Only a Carry-On Bag

When I was in my thirties I saw the movies, “Enchanted April” and “Room With a View”, and was possessed by a dream of traveling Europe.  The elegance of  the characters, the steamer trunks, the sweeping landscapes, the camaraderie of friendships and the respite from the unhappiness of their lives, struck a personal note and showered a mist of wander dust that set alight my passion to travel.

The following are a beginning few tips to alleviate pre-trip jitters and allow you to breeze through airports looking more glamorous than harried.


No heavy luggage. On one of my first trips on my own, I traveled to visit my parents on their yearly spa vacation in Slovakia. I was waiting in line behind two women who, as I had, booked their tickets to Vienna with a last minute discount fare for a short sprint over a long weekend. They came straight from their work, and at that moment in time, pre-flight they had only their purses and their passports.  I was so impressed!  I observed all the travelers back then.  The ones with the duffel bags looked like they would strain from the sheer effort of lifting.  The tourists with full size suitcases looked clumsy.  And then there were my heroes, the ladies with the purses, they looked so carefree, graceful and fun.  I decided right then and there, that would be ME! When I grow up and become a world traveler, I would pack for my trips with nothing but a passport and my “purse”.

Consciously think calm thoughts. Chaos and worry portray the trips we all took as young families. We would constantly inventory our children, luggage and passports. We would obsessively check signs to be sure we are headed in the right direction of the gate, baggage claim, car rental or transportation, while also making sure the correct number of children and luggage are in tow.  The sheer anxiety could set off a full blown panic attack.

Passport control is an ever difficult challenge because, calmness, meditation or even deep inhaling and exhaling cannot preclude the constant lines and ever present pressure of foreign persons, speaking a foreign language, in uniform. Be it, London, Morocco, any of the EU countries or the U.S., the lines are endless and require calm and patience. Even today, while I am a much more savvy traveler, I still get that awful stomach ache and jittery nerves as I approach the customs desk. I am convinced the best answer is what I have actually  trained myself to do and you can too. I envision my own funny thought, the two ladies with the purses, I plaster on my brightest smile, march forward to the uniformed border police and hail the cheeriest “Good Morning” I can muster.

Today, one of the easier components of airport travel for me is baggage claim, because I simply don’t do it. I almost never send through luggage. I am only forced to go to baggage claim if the overhead is so full my luggage is taken away. I have this great soft Samsonite boarding bag, about two thirds the size of what’s allowed in the overhead (smaller just to play it safe) and I think it must have a trap door.  Additionally, something I have noticed in my travels, no matter how little I bring, there are always one or two things, I don’t wear or use. Don’t be afraid to excise from your list. I find that floating in and out of the airport without the hassle of big luggage or the visit to baggage claim area is a perk well worth sacrificing an extra change of clothing. The easy breezy feeling is such a liberating way to begin an adventure out into the world.


Coach Backpack

I also have the perfect pocketbook that is somewhere between a postman’s shoulder carrier and a doctor’s bag. It is the twin of the Mary Poppins bag, packed items just keep coming out. My bag is Ralph Lauren, but there are others, for example, Coach and Royce Leather. They are sometimes referred to as messenger bags or crossbody bags. Women, don’t be deterred by one that is labelled men’s, chances are it is bigger.  I shake it up and sometimes use a Coach leather backpack, (that’s my favorite) and my husband uses a soft side Dash (Brookstone) backpack that feels like it weighs about an ounce. These can also fit limitless amounts. Backpacks are great for running through airports to catch connecting flights.  Optimally, try to keep this bag featherweight for the plane. This bag should have a book, magazine, a warm pashmina or cashmere shawl, a pair of socks for when you remove your shoes and eye blinders. All the cosmetics pouches that came as free gifts are now put to good use. Fill them with some petite size samples of makeup and moisturizers, deodorant, Fresh Sugar lip moisturizer, small perfume spray (with a safety close) and make sure to include Bobbie Brown BB cream SPF 35. BB or CC creams are the new miracle products because they are a combination of commodities into a single tube. There are still airports, domestically and internationally that require you to separate liquids, so you’ll be prepared with your handy pouch.

The carryall gets all the last minute additions thrown in, so it has to at least start off as lightweight. Need a last minute salad for the plane? Throw it in. A last minute stop at duty free? Throw it in. You’re ready, get set, go!

Next blog:  What to wear on the plane and what to pack in your carry on overhead luggage.


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