traveling light
Fly light, fly right

Win an awesome ECBC carry on bag! Enter at the bottom of the article.

I’m a master packer. My husband’s brother is a pilot, so we frequently fly standby, and while dirt-cheap tickets are certainly nice, there’s one big drawback: There’s no guarantee you’ll get on the plane.

And let me tell you, it’s no fun to be stuck in an airport while your checked bag gets flown off to a faraway city without you. After losing a bag on one such occasion, I made a decision: Never again would I check a bag when flying.

I’ve managed to go checked-bag-free for six years, and it all comes down to proper planning. The key is to pack items that do double-duty, while wearing the right clothes to the airport. And don’t forget your “personal item” – you can pack a lot more stuff if you use it wisely.

Airport clothes: It’s all about the shoes

Airport security has gotten more lenient about shoe removal, but it’s always a good idea to wear slip-ons the day of your flight. But therein lies the problem: I would rather wear my bulkiest shoes when traveling so they don’t take up valuable room in my bag, and heavy boots or athletic shoes are rarely slip-ons.

The good news is you can turn pretty much any pair of shoes into a slip-on by switching out the normal laces for Lock Laces. Or if you want to wear a nicer shoe through security, opt for a low bootie (love these Taos Bolero Boots!) with a short zipper on the back for easy on-and-off access.

Other airport clothing tips:

  • Wear a jacket, cardigan or sweatshirt. Again, don’t pack these bulky items in your bag – they take up valuable space. By wearing layers through the airport, you free up room in your bag and you stay warm in notoriously chilly airplanes. Check out the Chrysalis Cardi (featured below) as an excellent, multi-purpose option.
  • Skip the jewelry. You have to take off all your jewelry when going through security, so just pack it in your bag. If you want to accessorize, opt for an infinity scarf.
  • Keep comfort in mind. You’ll be traveling all day, so the last thing you want is to feel confined by your clothes. A simple, breathable dress over a pair of leggings is an attractive and comfortable option.
  • Opt for an oversized purse as your “personal” item. I always travel with a carry on bag and a large, tote-style purse. I pack a smaller, stylish purse within the larger tote, along with anything I’ll need on the plane during the flight – snacks, magazines, and work supplies. I usually pack my cosmetics in the tote, with my Ziplock bag of TSA-approved toiletries at the top for easy access.
  • Avoid metal anything. Give your airport outfit a quick once-over to double-check for metal items that could set off the security alarm. Hair pins, belts, and extraneous zippers are frequent culprits. If you find something, figure out how to revamp your outfit to avoid its use. For instance, I used to have a piercing in an… interesting location – that bad boy always came out before flying.

Flying with the right bag

Carry on bags aren’t all created equal. You want a bag that’s comfortable enough to lug around an airport for hours, sturdy enough to keep your stuff safe and secure, and compact enough to easily fit in an overhead compartment. And if you’re an active traveler, you want a bag that can go with you wherever you land.

ecbc pegasus backpack

The ECBC Pegasus Convertible Wheeled Backpack is just about as good as it gets when it comes to carry on travel. Not only is it a wheeled bag sized perfectly for carry on travel, it features hidden backpack straps so you can wear it around the airport, or even around your travel destination.

Win this bag! Enter at the bottom of the article.

One of the best features of the Pegasus bag is its Fast Pass system. If you work while traveling, you know how annoying it is to unpack and re-pack your electronics when going through security. The Pegasus bag features a specially-designed, TSA-approved electronics pocket that can be unzipped to lie flat on the security conveyor belt so you don’t have to remove your laptop, tablet, or cables. It also includes a special battery pack that enables you to charge your electronics on-the-go while in the bag.

The bag is also water-resistant and constructed of outdoor-tested, nearly indestructible kodra nylon.

Packing double-duty items

It’s especially tough for active women to pack light because in addition to “normal” clothes, you also have to leave room for athletic shoes and apparel. The trick here is to choose items that really do double-duty – tights you can wear for workouts and casual activities, shoes you can take from day to night, products that are reversible or transformational so you can wear them multiple times in multiple ways. Check out these nine items designed to make multi-purpose packing easy for active travelers.

multi-purpose packing

NomadClip, $39

You don’t have to pack all of your charging cables as long as you have your NomadClip clipped to your bag. USB charging docks are practically everywhere – on computers, printers, TVs, cars, airplanes, and stereos, just to name a few – which means as long as you have the NomadClip in tow, you never have to worry about your phone running out of juice. The clip comes with a Micro USB cable or a lightning cable, so it works with practically every smartphone or tablet on the market, and even charges some cameras, laptops and speakers.

Because the NomadClip is also a functioning carabiner, it won’t take up any space in your bag, and you can use it to tote around a water bottle or other small items as well.

Nau Wrap Her Dress, $112

The Nau Wrap Her Dress is the perfect traveling companion – the super-soft MicroModal fabric is breathable and comfortable, offering a drape that’s flattering for all figures. You can dress it up with a blazer and heels, or you can throw it on with a pair of walking shoes to take a bike ride around the city. The fabric is also wrinkle-resistant, which makes it perfect for wearing and re-wearing when you’re on-the-go.

Taos Told You So, $140

You need one pair of shoes you can pair wear with dresses, jeans, and leggings, and the Taos Told You So is the perfect choice. The soft leather and suede materials make them easy to fold away in your bag, while the laser cutouts and five color options make them perfect for every occasion. The Told You So also features the Taos Curves & Pods removable footbed, which provides greater cushioning and comfort than your average pair of ballet flats. This means you can hit the boardwalk or take a walking tour of the city you visit without worrying about achy feet.

Tees by Tina Ballet Sleeve Tunic Slip Dress, $60

What could be better than a tunic top that doubles as a dress? The Tees by Tina Ballet Sleeve Tunic Slip Dress can be worn with leggings during a workout, or it can be paired with heels for an evening out – pick up two colors and you’re pretty much set for your whole vacation!

If you’re not a fan of longer sleeves during workouts, Tees by Tina features the same, double-duty tunic dress in a tank top and camisole style. Or if you’re heading somewhere cool, check out the long-sleeve or 3/4 sleeve options – all of them can be worn scrunched as a top, or smooth as a dress.

Lucy Women’s Convertible Power Legging, $89

One must-have item for every woman’s travel wardrobe is a plain pair of black leggings. You can wear them during workouts, thrown on under a dress, or even at night in place of pajamas. These Lucy Convertible Leggings can be adjusted at the ankle with shirring and ties to be worn at full length or shortened to a cute pair of capris. No one needs to know you’re wearing the same pants over and over again!

Urban Halo Studio Scarf, $44

Even your accessories should do double-time when you’re traveling light. I love the Urban Halo Studio Scarves because they’re designed for versatility. Most styles are reversible, with a different print on each side, and they all feature snaps that enable you to adjust the fit. Wear it as an infinity scarf, a traditional scarf, or around your shoulders as a wrap. I’m especially fond of the Tribal Revival print, but there are colorful and bold options for every personality type.

Switch Gear Day to Night Jewelry Set, $49

The Day to Night Jewelry Set is all the jewelry you’ll need when traveling. Inventor Lisa Monahan invented Switch Gear Jewelry to provide women with endless accessories without the expense and space needed to carry endless options. You can mix and match the provided interchangeable hoops and drops on the necklace and earrings to construct hundreds unique combinations.

Yogiiza Organic Freedom Bra, $26.50

The Yogiiza Organic Freedom Bra is the perfect option for just about everything – traveling, light activity, or a casual day of fun. The pullover, cross-back style offers support and comfort, even on long days, and the thin spaghetti straps make it easy to pair with everyday clothing.

Encircled Chrysalis Cardi, $138

This could be the coolest item on the list. The Encircled Chrysalis Cardi is much, much more than a basic cardigan. With a series of hidden snaps along the hemline, the Chrysalis Cardi can be worked and re-worked into more than eight different styles. You can wear it as a tunic dress, a scarf, a cardigan, a wrap, a top, or a cover-up. Check out a few of the options below, and if you want to make a purchase, use the code CARRYONONLY – it’ll score you $15 off through August, 31, 2014!

chrysalis cardi

Making the most of your space

How you pack is every bit as important as what you pack. Make the most of the space you have – stuff your shoes with socks, underwear and sports bras to take advantage of the foot space. Put your big items in first, and work smaller and more pliable items around them. Roll your clothing rather than folding it. And most importantly, leave your hair dryer and straightener at home – hotels usually have a hair dryer you can use, and you can always wrap your hair with a scarf or use sunglasses as a headband if you’re having a bad hair day.

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    I usually only use a carry on bag when I travel and try to keep my clothes in the same color family so I can change out pieces and accessories easily 🙂


    I prefer to only do a carry on and I roll as many clothes as possible. I try to bring as few shoes as possible and will sometimes use my workout clothes as pajamas so I wake up ready to go.


    That ECBC Pegasus Rolling Suitcase is Beauty-ful! I am past due for a new set of luggage. I try to be efficient with my packing, making lists and such but I do struggle with wardrobe options– there always seems to be an item that either I don’t wear or one tiny item that I could’ve used that I failed to pack.
    This tips are very helpful. Thanks!


    Sometimes I check a bag, but often I don’t and use a carry-on plus personal item, which I jam pack with snacks, work/leisure items and often workout gadgets (goggles, garmin etc). I make a packing list and try to pack clothes that match each other so I can mix & match and minimize.

    Sara Bettencourt

    I’ve only ever travelled once with just a carry-on.. Tends to be a difficult task for me, but thanks for the tips!

  6. I try to do carry on as much as possible, even if it’s on an international flight! I get too nervous about my bag getting lost and hate wasting precious vacation time in the airport. I try to pack items that can be worn with multiple outfits or workout clothes that can get me through more than one workout. Some workout clothes are designed to not smell after a workout so I try to use those if possible.


    I do not check in my bags. I roll up all my shirts and stuff my purse and bags leaving no empty air space anywhere!


    I only do carry-on as well! I love this bag though because it provides travel and work elements which are great. I recently started a year-long trip around the world and I’m working while travelling so something like this would be great!


    I’m largely unsuccessful at the carry-on only thing. I try – i do! I really like options though. If it’s a short trip to a warm climate, I can manage. It’s mostly my shoe collection that gets in the way!


    Wow these are all great tips and I almost wish I read this before my vacay and IdeaWorld blogfest;) I am more a “be prepared” just in case Girl Scout, my shoulders are usually sore from all the stuff. But I have always done the oversized carry on purse:) I tend to get my clothes wrinkled more when I roll, must be doing something wrong


    I sometimes travel light depending on how long I am going. I try to roll all of my clothes and wear my athletic shoes so they won’t take up as much room!!


    So many great tips that I truly agree with! I would also add that rolling small clothing items like t’s, cami’s, all workout clothes, saves TONS of space, as does the method of laying out items in a stack, then folding the stack. And yes, you CAN use hotel laundry– it’s worth it to avoid checking a bag. Use quick-dry undies and workout clothes, and they can be washed in your sink or shower in just a few minutes & be dry the next day.


    I prefer to carry my luggage on the plane but if I’m going somewhere for a week or more I usually check a bag. The ECBC bag looks amazing. I would love to get one!


    I typically check my bag because of hair products lol. I also wear bulky items on the day of travel. While packing, I stuff socks in my shoes and I bring 2 space saver bags. 1 I pack my clean clothes in, and the other is for my dirty laundry.

    amy mirate

    I NEVER check bags. I am the queen of double & triple duty items! Dresses that can double as skirts, cute running clothes that are perfectly acceptable casual wear, scarves that can double as sarongs…the list goes on! Oh, and make sure everything is a cotton blend so it doesn’t hold wrinkles!! I even use cosmetics & make-up that can do more than one job. I bring coconut oil as an all-purpose moisturizer, conditioner & “personal lubricant” (we are on vacation after all ;)), stain for lips & cheeks, highlighter cream in place of eye shadow & blush.


    If I’m traveling for a day or two, I carry on my bag. If I’m going a distance for a longer period of time, I check my bags.


    I always check my bag because I like to go hands free through the airport, but I’d be willing to give it a try with this bag 🙂


    I typically typically pack only a carryon and a backpack (with my purse stuffed in one of my bags), but I hate having to remove my laptop. I love that this bag has an extra pocket just for electronics!

    Michelle J.

    I try to use one clothing color pallet to keep things simple. I use scarves for color pop and to pull double duty for outfits. I also swing by Sephora to get samples of my essentials. Lancome is great because you get a 10-day foundation sample in a bottle that has screw lid. I reuse those all the time. I also love the Tarte rain forest after dark pallet bc you get eye and cheek colors plus bronzer all in one compact.


    I’m learning to travel lighter. I pack clothes that are interchangeable, minimal jewelry, carry a big bag with a smaller bag and plane necessities for the trip.

    Kristen M

    I never check bags for a weekend trip but even though I prefer to travel light, I haven’t figured out how to not check for a longer trip.

    Paula Hughes

    Great ideas for travel. I need a travel bag and this looks like the perfect one.

  23. I’m impressed Laura! Unlike you, I’m not exactly an efficient packer, even though I travel pretty often. Instead, I always wind up checking a bag & I’m always right at that 50-pound luggage mark, so I don’t think that I’m one to give packing tips! 😉


    I do check bags typically since I like to travel light through the airport and not use overhead space. I tend to have connections and long flights. I do travel light though in terms of carryon and streamline my experience going through security!

    Crystal M

    I try to always travel with only a carryon. I’ve been stuck one too many times to be without a change of clothes and necessities.


    I’ve been trying to just use carry ons but I need to be more organized in doing so. Sometimes I feel like everything I own is a necessity!! Haha!


    I try to limit liquids – solid shampoo and conditioner by Lush means I don’t have to pull out a toiletry bag!


    I had to travel a bunch for interviews and to go home (now that it’s >3000 miles away), so I’ve learned by necessity how to be as efficient as humanly possible at airports. I tend to just keep an overnight bag with all the essentials already packaged away in ziploc bags in the carryon at all times. That way, I know I won’t forget it and I don’t have to worry if I end up having to sleep over at the airport again! (Flight delays/cancellations are a load of fun! 😛 )


    I am a terrible packer, so I always have one outfit in my carryon, but tend to check baggage (it’s free with Southwest!)


    Such an amazing carryon. I loved this article so much, I try hard to only do carryon when traveling so this was a great article to read. I would love to win the suitcase!


    Depending on how many days we’re traveling, we typically carry our luggage. We’ll check if we’re going for a longer trip or it’s free on the airline. My best tip to pack lightly is to mix and match different pieces of clothing… Wear a different top with jeans, transition a day outfit into an evening outfit, etc.


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