Travel the World in a Carry-On

Clockwise from top: V-neck linen t-shirt / Grey maxi dress / Black dress / Madewell shirtdress /  Victoria Beckham dress / Current Elliott stiletto / Alexander Wang t-shirt / Jimmy Choo 'Youth' boots / Alexander Wang blouse / Equipment lace shirt / Sweater / Louis Vuitton coat / Alexander Wang tank / Nike Sky Hi / Christian Louboutin D√©collete / Silk scarf / Ancient Greek Sandals / Christian Louboutin espadrilles / Linda Farrow sunglasses / Eres maillot and bikini / Hanro silk leggings / Prada skirt / Rimowa Topas suitcase

My husband introduced me to the joys of the Rimowa Topas, which we share during vacations. Before that, I traveled only with a little Adidas book bag my mom gave me- originally my aunt's, it carried Mom through law school, internships, the birth of a son, and so on. My travel steamer took up half the space, and the only way I could carry it was a single shoulder strap, but that sturdy thing accompanied me from London to Paris to Berlin, Istanbul, Russia, Southeast Asia, India and Iceland. At one point, I ditched the steamer and used a laptop carrier instead; sheer sentimentality rescued the Adidas from obscurity, and it remained my go-to travel bag until my cats decided to use it as a toilet.

When far from home and surrounded by strangers, you're judged on the merits of your external appearance, so it's important to be nicely and respectfully attired. This precludes extreme modes of dress- somewhere between J. Lo in a velour tracksuit circa Ben Affleck, and J. Lo wearing Marchesa to a sports bar. I've bypassed TSA checkpoints because an agent liked my shoes, and gotten free bottles of wine in lounges, just for brushing my hair. Once I talked to John McCain for ten minutes in an airport, and though I didn't recognize him until later, I was happy not to own any Victoria's Secret PINK sweats then.

If traveling by car, it makes sense to be more casual; a t-shirt and full skirt are comfortable and virtually wrinkle-proof. I'm so sick of the tunic + white pants + Tory Burch flats combination- it's so old rich white lady! The wardrobe above is seasonless and multitasking, as close as I could come to the clothes I wear when traveling. Try using a maillot as a top, a lace shirt as a cardigan, and silk scarf as a skirt or cover-up. Oh, and packing cubes make me roll my eyes. A repurposed cloth drawstring bag is fine.

Pack more or less, depending on the destination and length of trip- my longest trip was 90 days, and I did laundry four times thanks to the contents of that little bag. Of course, underwear and bathing suits should be washed more frequently, in the sink, then hung to dry; all you'll ever need are seven pairs of underwear and two bras. I usually pack three pairs of socks, but wish I'd brought more for Cambodia and India. They keep feet clean while sightseeing, and also prevent monkeys from biting your toes.

Sometimes I travel with a purse, other times I pull a Carine Roitfeld and stick everything in my pockets. I've never used an RFID blocker or money belt and don't plan to. Toiletries should be especially minimal when traveling long distances. A little oil for cleansing, moisturizing, and conditioning; a sustainably harvested wooden hair brush, bamboo toothbrush, glass jar of baking soda, homemade eyeliner and unpackaged soap make an aesthetically-pleasing, TSA-friendly zero-waste travel kit. No mess, no spills- just leave the safety razor at home. UPDATE: So far I've been able to take a safety razor in a carry-on to the US, Norway, Thailand, Singapore, Canada, and Indonesia.

Below are a few sample outfits appropriate for almost any country or culture:

For more on my wardrobe and beauty routine, click here and here

Paris to Go

10 comments:

  1. I'm sorry if this is too personal of a comment, but if you leave the safety razor at home, how do you shave your legs? Thank you for all these great tips!

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    1. Hi! It's not too personal :) I have one plastic disposable razor left that I haven't used up yet. It's four years old and I dry it after each use, so the blade hasn't rusted. TSA let me bring my safety razor in a carry-on when I moved to Paris, but I had the blades in checked luggage.

      I tried this sugar wax on my most recent trip:

      http://magazine.good.is/articles/bikini-kill-diy-wax-recipes-for-hippie-hair-removal

      It took me forever- I think the hairs weren't long enough, or maybe I'm just slow, I don't know. When this plastic razor finally gives out, I'll have to rethink what I do when traveling... I'd love any ideas you have! Thanks!

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  2. Don't you find that unpackaged soap ends up covering everything in your toiletry bag with soap? I use a container for travelling with soap. It also helps if it hasn't dried out before you need to pack it to go home.

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    1. I put it in a cloth bag because I haven't found a nice container for mine! May I ask where you got yours? In the cloth, it doesn't dry out, but it flakes a bit. The Rogue Ginger, a wonderful zero waste blogger in Australia, uses vintage tins for toiletries. I'd love to find something like that! My mom uses the Lush tins for soap.

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  3. Great tips but want to point out that these old ladies where tunics and flats because they are the most comfortable and flattering on a "over 50" figure. How about another article on what to pack when you are not svelte and 30?

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    1. Here ladies over 50 wear body skimming clothes and I just love it :) Like t-shirts that hug their curves and are cut at the most flattering point of the arms. They look amazing! Looking back what I said was pretty rude and immature though. I'll get cracking :)

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  4. Just a heads up: wooden items need to be specifically declared when entering New Zealand. This will mean a longer wait (we waited over 2 hours to have a wooden Chinese fan carefully inspected) and your bags opened up. Bring a plastic hairbrush and toothbrush instead if you ever visit. Cheers.

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    1. Thanks for the tip! I might be going to Auckland in October so I'll keep that in mind. I don't have a plastic hairbrush and toothbrush anymore but I don't mind waiting. Thanks for letting me know!

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  5. Do the low-cost carriers in Europe ever give you grief over the four wheels on your Rimowa Topas? I'd prefer to get a 4-wheeled carry-on, but I've read two wheels are better to avoid hassles.

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    1. Hi Cat! That's probably true but I haven't had a problem yet. I've flown Ryanair, Wow and Transavia and there were no issues so far.

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