Keep calm with carry on.
[A five minute read]
After locking in my South American adventure, I realised I would be on 10 flights in 30 days.
Sydney – San Francisco – Cancun – Medellin – Cartagena – Santa Marta – Bogota – Los Angeles – Sydney.
I was not keen to drag a suitcase though cities with haphazard footpaths, or spend extra time checking in and hoping my luggage would turn up on the carousel.
Carrying a huge backpack is not my thing either. I find them hard to pack, harder to carry and always end up needing about five massages to eliminate the knots from my shoulders.
In a crazy moment, I wondered if it was possible to forego the luggage altogether and just take a carry on bag. Friends told me I was deranged: “whaaaat for a whole month?!?!”
Since I love a good mission: impossible, these comments spurred my determination to make it work.
I had two months to plan the perfect carry on bag and would have warm weather for most of the trip. Totally achievable. Here’s how I did it.
Firstly, I already had an Antler Cyberlite which had coped with my rough handling for the past two years, so this became my ‘suitcase’.
Every time I travel, I return home with half my suitcase unworn. So I just needed to pack smarter.
I was staying in a mix of hotels and Airbnbs, so realistically only needed 4-5 outfits between wash days.
I needed layers for my two cooler days in San Francisco, business casual outfits for two days at the Global Entrepreneurship Congress in Colombia, a nice dinner outfit, then spring and beach casual. My criteria for clothing was:
> Low crinkle or no iron
> Easy to wash
> Light and breathable
> Versatile with multiple outfits
> Neutral or complimentary colours
I ended up with:
> Nine tops (2 nice singlets, 2 cotton singlets, 1 tshirt, 1 long sleeve top, 2 shirts and 1 sweater)
> Six bottoms (2 pairs of pants, 3 pairs of shorts, running tights)
> Two dresses
I could take 4 pairs of shoes since I would wear 1 pair on flights. Everything needed to be stylish, comfortable, lightweight and versatile. So my old Havianas were out.
> Walking shoes: my new Etikos in white. They weigh less than other similar versions.
> Sneakers: Nike Airs in black.
> Casual flats: Birkenstocks in black.
> Smart flats: Strappy camel slides with gold detail.
> One camel and one black skinny platted belts. These are great because you can adjust them to any size so they can be worn as a traditional belt or higher on the waist for a dress.
> One blue light scarf. Creates a whole new outfit and good for covering up when visiting cultural sites.
> I bought a vegan leather tote (with inner bag) in camel and black/camel clutch handbag from Urban Originals and LOVE them. They are well made, versatile and great for travel. During flights, I used my tote as my “carry on” with everything I might need in transit, and my Antler stayed in the overhead compartment.
I collected smaller bottles to decant liquids into, to comply with the OTT international security rule of < 100mls. Apart from the usual suspects, here are a few handy things I included:
> Tea tree oil. It’s an antiseptic, takes the sting out of bites and good for zapping flight inducing spots.
> Facial mist. I NEVER get on a flight without this. Very refreshing, rehydrating and prevents my face from resembling crocodile skin.
> This awesome Lavanila organic vanilla grapefruit fragrance in a compact roller-ball. Perfect because I was phasing out my chemical laden perfumes and they usually come in bulky bottles anyway.
> Heavy duty bug repellant. Because Zika virus.
> Coconut oil. It’s a moisturiser and face cleanser, great oil to cook with and turned out to be handy at de-squeaking doors. Unfortunately this got confiscated by the Sydney airport drones because my 99mls wasn’t in a bottle with the “100mls” marked on it. Luckily I found some more in Medellín.
I decided to leave my Macbook Air at home because I naively thought this would mean I wouldn’t do too much work. Most of my life is on it, so wasn’t keen to risk it being dropped or stolen. Instead, I bought my iPad with one of those handy covers that include a bluetooth keyboard.
In reality I ended up sneaking onto Dad’s laptop a lot, so in hindsight I wish I just packed my own laptop.
I received this awesome travel charger as a birthday gift and it is perfect. I only needed USA adaptor and it is compact, fast and can charge up to 4 USB devices, so I could leave the powerpoint plugs at home.
I also bought my portable charger which is super handy for day trips when you are taking a lot of iPhone photos.
A few extras that came in really handy:
> Earplugs and eye mask. Because South Americans party a lot, and I like to sleep sometimes.
> Lots of clip lock bags. I needed four of these just for my liquids.
> Antibacterial gel and wipes.
> This roll up drink bottle from Kathmandu, which fit into my clutch.
> A pocket Spanish book, for translations when Google Translate is offline.
Other random tips.
You can never have too many bags and pouches. Each pair of shoes was in a shoe bag, my smalls travelled in a laundry bag and I took two space saver travel bags just in case. I also put all my tech chargers in a pouch and carried another small toiletry pouch for in flight essentials.
Overall, I have used most of what I packed and have never once wished for an extra clothing item.
Apart from my laptop, the only other thing I wished I packed was a mini lint roller for clothing, which I ended up buying.
I have absolutely loved travelling with just my carry on and tote bag and unless I attempt a winter Eurotrip, don’t plan on checking in bags ever again!