Before we began our ten day trip to Cambodia and Thailand, Jarv broke the news to me. "I think we're going to have to do this trip with carry ons only." I stared at him blankly for a few seconds. Does not compute.
As it turned out, we had a couple of very short connection times (I'm talking one hour or just under). At first, I grimaced and shook my head. No. Way. I have shoes. Heels! They take up half a suitcase on their own. Then, I decided I would take it as a challenge. It's hot in South East Asia, I had that going for me at least.
So, I did it. I made it work, it wasn't as exaggeratively difficult as I'd imagined and now I'm sharing my tips for packing light for a summer/warm country trip. Hand luggage only.
1. Begin by choosing all the smallest/lightest essentials in your wardrobe. Undergarments and swimwear. These will be easy to stick inside shoes, purses, tight areas later on.
2. Pick your most basic pair of heels, the ones that will go with almost any colour or outfit. Choose one pair of shoes for the beach, one very comfortable pair for sightseeing (that you don't mind getting a little scuffed) and one for nice dinners (that aren't fancy enough to warrant heels). If you have a pair or two that covers more than one of the above, even better.
3. Separate your clothing into 3 categories: tops, bottoms and dresses. Try to pick dresses that can double up as daytime or evening options, worn with heels or flats. Choose at least two neutral colours when it comes to tops/bottoms, so that you can mix and match easily. I went a little overboard with the neutral, as you can see...and ended up with a very monochromatic holiday wardrobe, haha.
4. Next, toiletries. Use sample sized everything, buy travel sized containers from your local Boots or Amazon, and use these to take things such as makeup remover, night cream, vitamins, etc. The liquids shown above are ALL I took, I didn't pack anything extra (also switched out the 25 SPF sunscreen for a stronger and smaller travel sized one I bought after shooting this, just FYI). You really don't need or want to wear a lot of makeup when travelling to a hot country. Sweating off mascara is not a strong look.
5. Miscellaneous items. Personally, I have a checklist app on my phone that I use every time I pack. A prescription dive mask is one of my hot country essentials (well, hot country with an ocean I intend to swim in), as are sunglasses, a book, my chargers and wallet (the smallest one I own). I also like to throw in some healthier snacks in case I feel hungry whilst stuck in a car or on a boat during a dive trip (Nakd bars are currently my go-to; enough carbs to fill me up for a little while, but still all natural with no added sugar).
6. Now for the packing. Start by laying any narrower items down in between those ridges that most suitcases have. No room for any space wasting here. Next, lay out items on top in a neat fashion, as flat as possible. This means minimal folding. Items such as bras can be squeezed in around certain items to hold their cupped shape.
Extra tip: I also like to separate particular items into lightweight shoe bags or amenity kit bags collected from previous flights for easy access without messing up the entire contents of my suitcase during a short layover. I keep underwear in one, all medication and supplements in another, any face-related products that aren't in my liquids bag (dry makeup, cotton pads, brushes, etc.) in another.
All that fit surprisingly easily into a Rimowa carry on suitcase, and I still had room for a laptop on top of everything, ready to easily be pulled out for security screenings along with the liquids bag (always kept on top, as well). I also packed an extra pair of leggings I forgot to photograph so that I could throw together a makeshift gym outfit. I had no trainers, but my slip-ons proved an acceptable alternative (and for yoga, who needs shoes?).
Full disclosure, I did also have a very small handbag, literally only big enough to carry my passport, cash, tickets, mobile phone, headphones and lip balm.
Have you travelled long-haul with just one carry on bag? How did you find it?