More and more people are travelling, whether on holiday or for business, with carry-on luggage only. But what to pack!? Here are a few guidelines to help you pack when you only have a carry on.

Most people at the end of a trip realise they only needed half of what they packed. I want you to be that person that uses nearly everything you brought because you spent time thinking it through!

Ask yourself how many settings do you need outfits for? If you're in warm weather, you might want street wear for shopping the outdoor markets, something smarter for dinner in a nice restaurant and of course, items for the beach or poolside. If you're in cold weather, you may be hitting the slopes for some winter sports activities, visiting friends or family, taking in museums or historical sites. 

Picture yourself in those places. Now go to your wardrobe and start building your travel wardrobe with only these functions in mind. Lay out some choices on your bed. See if some pieces could work in more than one setting. If something works in only one way, start substituting other items for it.

The idea is to have pieces that can work in multiple settings. These wardrobe puzzle pieces will start fitting together. Taking the time to do this exercise will make traveling with just a carry-on possible. If you spend no time thinking it through, you’re definitely not going to just have a carry-on!

I'm not encouraging a dull, limited travel wardrobe. There is a way to get variety without the extra baggage. Variety is easy to manage when you pack things that are either small or can be rolled up. Some easy pieces to add for variety are print scarves (crinkle ones are a great choice), costume jewellery (leave the expensive stuff at home for peace of mind), and tops or blouses. 

Curb your enthusiasm for shoes and keep choices to a minimum. I suggest trying to keep it to three pairs of shoes. Chances are you’ll need a great walking shoe, a going out shoe and a casual shoe. If it’s comfy enough, sometimes your casual shoe can double as your walking shoe but know the comfort of your shoe before relying on it to play both roles. A way to really hone in on your shoe limit is to work backwards and build your outfits around the shoes you've decided to bring. 

Keep the idea of working around a core colour or two. Choose what's flattering on you and what’s most available in separates. Include solids and prints. You might choose a duet of colours like burgundy and navy blue, khaki and coral, or magenta and gray. Add a denim piece or two (jeans or a jean jacket)  

What are those other essentials that you don’t want to leave behind? Make sure you leave room for them in your carry-on! Airlines usually wont let you have even a small handbag in addition to the larger carry on, so make sure everything fits! Essentials could include your slippers, your music speaker, your book or Kindle. Is there an item or items that give you instant comfort? Having something with you that’s part of your normal home routine can make the chaos of traveling easier.

Assistance Needed?

I’m here to help. I’ve had lots of experience helping clients plan their wardrobes for all sorts of trips. This is one of the hardest things to do on your own so don’t hesitate in asking for my assistance. I’ll help you with those wardrobe puzzle pieces. You’ll start out your trip with peace of mind and the assurance that you have everything you need. 

Lizzie Edwards is a Personal Stylist, Image Consultant and Executive Presence trainer in London, UK.