Keep Calm and (pack a) Carry-On

When I travel, I tend to give myself some pretty set instructions: eat All The Food™️ in the name of research, don’t be scared to talk to (non-threatening) strangers, and one week only needs one small suitcase. On a 7-day trip to Portugal this winter, here are the essentials I rolled, wedged and – yes – stuffed into my carry-on. All aboard the Packing Express.


1.) Carabiner Clips

Diamonds Carabiner clips are a girl’s traveller’s best friend. I attach them to everything – from handles on my backpack to fabric hooks on my skirts and coats, and I hang everything off them – from scarves to bags to my LifeStraw bottle. No more leaking water flasks in bags, lost keys, or overstuffed carry-ons. Buy some carabiner clips in bulk and enjoy your new, dangly jangly life.


2.) A Neck Pillow

For me, neck pillows have to be firm, comfy and sporting some serious innovation, so I opt for styles like Cabeau’s Classic Memory Foam. They roll down into a tiny bag, ideal for those who pack light, or perhaps especially those who don’t – either way, it frees up so much room. I used to prance around airports wearing them like scarves to save on space, as if I really needed that extra neck warmth in Italy in July. But that all changed when I started packing these bad boys into a snug corner of my carry-on and/or hanging little baggy from one of my aforementioned travel clips.

3.) Packing Bags and Cubes

I don’t want to tell you that these bags suck, but I also do. There’s really no other way to describe the satisfying escape of air that turns, say, three piles of t-shirts into a strange, flat zip-locked chunk of …matter? Some people claim these space bag babies don’t work, but I personally always include one each time I pack. Due to the weird shapes they end up as, adding too many could indeed mean less ease for the game of Suitcase Tetris we all play, but I’ve found these to be especially useful for steamrolling bulky jeans and sweaters.

I partner these with packing cubes, which – speaking of Tetris, always end up in fabulous patterns, piles and placements in my carry-on. A good idea for both of these methods is to label each bag/cube; when you’ve really committed to the rolling and flattening game, sometimes the headache of having to locate everything again afterwards is hardly worth the hassle.


4.) Travel toiletry bottles

If your trip is going to be short, shrink those product sizes, too. I’m not a fan of buying those overpriced mini versions of my favourite exfoliators and moisturisers, so I just pour what I already have in full size into these little travel-friendly jars, containers and bottles. It always helps me define what I’ll really need to use every day; sometimes the excitement of travel inspires me to take along every body wash and perfume I own, but the process of deciding what will go in these always brings me back to the essentials.

Labels will also be essential here, unless you’re keen on wasting a minute of shower time on the daily by sniffing every container, just to make sure you don’t confuse conditioner with sunscreen. Also, these will look super clean and organised in your liquids pouch; Airport Security’s gonna luuurve you.

5.) A smile!

Just kidding. My last quick trip classic is this tiny backpack I got in Paris – from Décathlon for 2 euros. It doesn’t usually go in my carry-on, because I use it as my personal item. But the best part about her small stature is that even when you’re hit with those airline restrictions that only allow a single bag on board, you can still fit her in your carry-on somewhere, especially now that you’ve mastered the all-important clipping, flattening and downsizing maneuvers. Handbags simply aren’t as easy to squish. Also, I swear just about every second person I see in Europe has this same bag. Makes for interesting inception moments any time you leave a restaurant or train carriage.

Basic backpacks are a hit!


What core items do you tend to pack for a quick trip? Let us know in the comments!


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