The Only Item You Need on Your Topical Vacation Packing List

Wondering what to pack for your tropical vacation?


Putting together the perfect tropical vacation packing list is always a challenge. Shorts, tanks, and swimwear are obvious choices for a casual day on the beach, but if you’re someone who likes a little more coverage, there hasn’t always been a lot of lightweight, fashionable options. Until now. I’ve discovered the perfect ensemble for any occasion. It’s fun and flirty, comfortable and cute. It’s the boho jumpsuit, and it’s truly the only item you need on your tropical vacation packing list.

As someone who breaks into hives every time the sun kisses my skin, I struggle to come up with cute clothes that are appropriate to wear when the Mercury rises over 80 degrees. What’s more, I like to be uber comfortable when I’m not obligated to dress up for work. When I came across the boho jumpsuit, I knew I had found the perfect balance between comfort and fashion. Thanks to the way the flowy fabric drapes over your body, the jumpsuit looks like a dress, but because it’s got pant legs, it gives you a bit more leeway in terms of when and where you can wear it. I’ve done everything from hike through muddy rice fields to dine at a gourmet restaurant while wearing a boho jumpsuit. It all depends on how you style it.

The rayon jumpsuit is the ideal solution for places where the humidity is high since they don’t tend to stretch out when they’re drenched in sweat. And the great news is that they’re wash and wear. You can easily rinse them out in the sink at the end of the day and hang them over the towel bar to dry. By morning, your boho jumpsuit is ready to go for another day. If it’s wrinkled, don’t worry. The wrinkles will likely release shortly after you start walking around, and if they don’t, just say it’s part of the look. No one will know the difference.

Raining outside? No problem. Simply tie a knot in the bottom of each pant leg to turn them into capris! Headed to the beach, toss a boho jumpsuit on over top of your swimsuit as a coverup, and simply slip it off if you want to go for a dip. If you’re traveling to a place like Indonesia or Cambodia where there are a lot of temples or sacred places, it’s important not to expose too much skin. The boho jumpsuit has you covered—literally. It’s ideal for every situation.

tropical vacation packing list

If you’re like me, you prefer to pack light. The boho jumpsuit folds up into a neat little square that fits perfectly into any carry-on bag. Pick up a few colors (I have four), and you won’t need to put anything else on your tropical vacation packing list. During the daytime, wear a kimono or wrap with your boho jumpsuit to keep your shoulders from burning in the hot sun. It’s always a good idea to have on ein your bag just in case one of those sacred places is on your itinerary.

At night, turn your jumpsuit into the perfect outfit for an evening out by pairing it with a wide belt or statement necklace. You can even jazz it up with a pair of pumps or embellished flipflops.


From Southeast Asia to the Caribbean, I don’t know how I would get by without my boho jumpsuits.

paradise point st. thomas

Want to steal my signature look? All you need is a hair scarf, funky shades, and Birkenstocks.

Like this post? Save this pic to pin it!

tropical vacation packing list

3 Tips for Packing Toiletries

Packing toiletries is never an easy task.


How much of your favorite shampoo or face cream should you take on your next trip? What’s the best bag to put them in? What if they explode? These are just a few of the questions that might run through your brain when you’re packing toiletries. There’s a lot to consider

Follow these three tips for packing toiletries to help take the anxiety out of the task.

packing toiletries

1. Pick the Right Bag

How do you know which bag is right for you? That all depends on what you want to get out of it. Some help you stay better organized, while others are simply easier to fit in your bag. Let’s look at a few basic types.


The cube is cute and compact, so you don’t have a ton of room to overfill it. And if you pack a lot of bottles, you can stand them all upright in organized rows. But if you have lots of random stuff, it gets lost in a big pile. Not to mention the cube can be clunky. If you’re planning to take just a carry-on, it likely won’t fit well inside. Most cubes are a bit too tall to fit on one side of the carry-on bag.

Pros: Compact and easy to organize bottles

Cons: Everything could end up in a pile and too tall for most carry-ons



Hanging bags are great if you want to stay organized once you arrive at your destination. Just hang it on the towel rack, and presto! You’ve got everything you need right at your fingertips—you never need to fully unpack. But the con of a hanging bag is that it’s easy to over stuff. This makes it hard to fold up neatly for packing.

Pros: No need to unpack

Cons: Hard to roll up neatly to fit in your suitcase



The great thing about a pouch is that it tucks neatly any to any nook and cranny. You can squish it between stacks of clothes or in the side of your bag. But it’s really impractical if you want to find anything easily. All of your toiletries get dumped into one cavernous space.

Pros: Tucks into any empty space

Cons: Difficult to organize neatly



My personal favorite is the square bag, particularly the kind with two distinct sides that come together when you zip up the bag. I put all my liquids, like face creams, sunscreen, contact solution, perfume, and shampoo on one side and all my dry goods, like my comb, toothbrush, and Band-Aids on the other side. No matter how much I cram inside, it always closes up flat. And it tucks perfectly inside a carry-on bag.

Pros: Fits perfectly inside a carry-on, hard to overfill, and easy to organize

Cons: Can be a bit on the large side


2.  Sample Sizes

Take only what you need with you on vacation. I know a lot of women who take a big bottle of shampoo or lotion for a weekend getaway. You simply don’t need all that stuff. Think about what you’re really going to use, and take just that.

Nowadays, you can get sample sizes of just about every kind of toiletry—soap, shampoo, hairspray, Vaseline, deodorant, and more. Head to your nearest big box department store or even a dollar store, and you’ll find a vast selection to choose from. They come in appropriate package, making a spill or explosion much less likely. I don’t take anything I can’t get in a sample size.

Packing toiletries

If you simply can’t find what you’re looking for, get a set of travel bottles and make your own samples. But again, only take what you need. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve filled an entire bottle with my favorite shampoo only to forget all about the leftovers when I got back from vacation. By the time I got around to me next holiday, it was either a goopy mess or no longer my preferred brand. The same thing goes for just about any type of lotion or potion. And that stuff’s not cheap. Don’t pour good money down the drain by taking too much.

Pro tip: Get the squishy travel bottles. With these, you can squeeze out every last bit of lotion or shampoo, unlike those hard plastic bottles. They may be a bit harder to track down and cost a few extra dollars, but you’ll waste a lot less product.


3. Don’t Unpack

If you travel a lot, have a bag pre-filled with all your favorite stuff so you don’t have to worry about packing toiletries for each trip. Just grab and go. For example, I travel at least three or four times per year. Plus I go camping 15 to 20 weekends each year. I use my toiletries so often that it’s not worth unpacking them. I have doubles of all my standard stuff. packing-toiletries-double

These are just a few ideas for packing toiletries. What other ideas do you have? What’s your favorite type of toiletry bag? Share your ideas on the Wanderlust Wayfarer Facebook group.

Perfect Folding: The Secret to Fitting More in Your Carry-On

Perfect folding is the ultimate tool for fitting more stuff in a smaller bag.


But what is perfect folding, you ask? Well, it’s exactly what its name implies: a way to fold your clothes perfectly. The more perfectly your clothes are folded, the flatter they lay. This means you can fit more of them in your suitcase.

I first learned to perfect fold when I worked at the GAP in my teens. Gap was meticulous about folding everything just so. Nowadays, this same technique is common across most retailers. You’ve probably seen store associates standing at a table with a plastic board and a pile of shirts and wondered what they were up to. The answer is perfect folding.

While you can purchase a board to help you with the task, it’s not necessary. You could also use a sturdy piece of cardboard cut to the right size. But I prefer to fly solo. After a few practice attempts, you should be able to as well. Follow these five easy steps for a perfect folding experience every time.

Step 1

Lay your shirt face down on a solid surface. Be sure it’s flat, and smooth out any wrinkles.

Perfect Folding

Step 2

Fold back the right arm. Make sure to include at least 1 or 2 inches of shoulder as well.

Perfect Folding

Step 3

Fold back the left arm and shoulder in the same manner.

Perfect Folding

Step 4

Flip up the bottom 5 or 6 inches of the shirttail.

Perfect Folding

Step 5

Fold in half.

Perfect Folding

And voila! You can apply this technique to all types of shirts and dresses.

Perfect Folding

For pants, follow these three steps:

Step 1

Hold the pants by the waist and fold them in half vertically.

Perfect Folding

Step 2

Make sure the crotch seam is pulled out flat, then flip-up the bottom of the pants to about the knee.

Perfect Folding

Step 3

Fold in half.

Perfect Folding

You’ll be shocked how much more you can fit in your bag by simply perfect folding your clothes. On my most recent vacation, I packed an obscene wardrobe selection in my carry-on bag. It included:

  • 3 dresses
  • 4 pants
  • 4 tank tops
  • 2 kimono sweaters
  • 1 sweatshirt
  • 5 t-shirts
  • 4 blouses
  • 1 jumpsuit
  • 2 scarves
  • 1 swimsuit and cover up
  • 4 pairs of shoes
  • 1 hat
  • Multiple necklaces

Let’s not forget all of the underwear, toiletries, hair appliances, and travel pillow I also packed into that small carry-on bag. I’m not saying it was easy to close, but it made it there and back, and I wore every single thing I packed at least once.

Perfect folding is my secret packing weapon. What’s yours? Share your ideas with the Wanderlust Wayfarer Facebook group.


Cruise Wear Tips for Getting on the Ship

Cruise wear is a fashion phenomenon all its own.


The cruise wear you choose for embarkation day depends on several factors. Here are four things you need to consider when putting together the perfect outfit to get on board the ship.

  1. Say Cheese

cruise wear

After checking in at the cruise terminal, you’ll begin your trek on board the ship. But before you get too far, photographers from the cruise line will be waiting to take your picture. You can skip the photo queue, but they won’t make it easy. If you plan to document every moment of your travels, you may want to choose cruise wear that is photo ready.

2. Cruise Line

cruise wear

Depending on the cruise line, you’ll want to dress up…or down. I try to look nice when I first get on the ship. I like to make a good first impression, but on a recent Carnival sailing out of California, even a striped jersey dress was a bit too upscale for embarkation day. Jeans or leggings and a t-shirt would suffice for a Carnival cruise ship. NCL, MSC, and Royal Caribbean are also quite casual, but most people put in a little more effort. That same striped jersey dress would be the perfect choice. Jeans or leggings with a flowy blouse and a scarf or necklace to give it a bit of pizzazz are also good options. For higher-end cruise lines, proper slacks or a pretty sundress are definitely in order.

3. Points A and B

cruise wear

If you’re setting sail from a climate that is quite different from the one you’re sailing to, there’s fine line to walk when choosing your cruise wear. You want to wear something that speaks to your destination, but you also want to look appropriate for the current climate. For example, if you’re headed to the Caribbean in January, shorts and a tank might seem like a great idea. But if your sailing out of New Orleans, it might be a bit chilly. A t-shirt dress and a kimono wrap will give you a lightweight look with the extra warmth you need for the cool chill at your starting point.

4. Activities

cruise wear

Sometimes, you’re luggage doesn’t arrive at your room until after you’ve set sail. This means you’ll be wearing the same thing all day—possibly even to dinner. When choosing your embarkation cruise wear, consider the activities you’ll be doing throughout the day. If you arrive on board early, you may want to spend some time sunning yourself on the Lido deck. Wearing a swimsuit under your outfit may be a good idea. Or, perhaps you’ve booked a dinner in one of the more refined restaurants. While most cruise lines are more lenient about dress codes on the first day, typically you would try to look a bit nicer for your special meal.

Selecting the perfect cruise wear for getting on the ship can be stressful. But follow these helpful tips, and you’ll look just right when you set sail. Have other tips for what to wear when you get on board the ship? Tag your Instagram photos with #wanderlustwayfarer to share your ideas.

Travel Tips to Help You Dress Like a Local

One of the best travel tips I can offer is to do what you can to avoid looking like a tourist when you’re in other parts of the world.


It’s a simple safety precaution. The less touristy you appear, the less likely you are to stand out to pickpockets and other shady characters. Besides, I always think it’s super flattering when someone in another part of the world asks me for directions. I usually assume it means they think I look like I’ve walked those streets before. Or they might be trying to figure out if they should mug me. It’s a crapshoot, really.

The reality is, there are a lot of pros to not looking like a tourist. These travel tips will help keep you from doing anything to stand out on foreign ground.

Look Like a Tourist

1. Be Season Savvy

Just because it’s winter back home and you’re heading someplace with a warmer climate doesn’t mean your Hawaiian shirt is appropriate attire for your vacation. Let’s take Barcelona, for example. It can be quite warm in the middle of March. If you’re from a colder climate, it may even be shorts weather for you. But the locals will likely still be wearing heavy sweaters and light coats. You’ll stick out like a sore thumb in a sundress and flip-flops. Consider a shirt dress in a dark color and ballerina flats instead. Toss a cardigan over top, and you’ll have all the advantages of a lightweight outfit without looking out-of-place.

Look Like a Tourist

2. Accessorize Appropriately

You know that giant camera bag you’re wearing? It screams mug me. And if you think you’ve outwitted the bad guys by wearing a money belt, think again. Those flip-flops you’re wearing in the middle of February long ago gave you away. I think money belts are great, but there’s no point in being discrete with your accessories if your outfit makes you look like a tourist. Consider a fashion-forward hidden pocket scarf to stash your cash. Or carry a trendy travel-friendly cross-body bag with special security features, like slash-proof straps.

Other things that give you away include pulling out a map in the middle of the street and carrying a giant SLR camera. I know, some things are hard to avoid, but if possible, step into a coffee shop if you need to pinpoint your location on a map. And unless you need manual focus or to hand-pick your F stops, you should be able to take pretty good pics with a point and shoot camera or even your smart phone.

Travel Tips

3. Consider the Culture

If you’re in an ultra-conservative country, like Israel, be sure to dress in a way that won’t offend the locals. You may want to skip the daisy dukes or crop tops if your walking the streets of Jerusalem. On the other hand, long pants and a heavy sweater would be extraordinarily out-of-place in more liberal cities like Rio de Janeiro or Miami, for example.

But considering the culture goes beyond simply understanding what the locals wear on a daily basis. You need to also know if there are wardrobe restrictions or dress codes at area attractions, such as sacred sites. In some places, like the Vatican, you need to have your shoulders and knees covered. An easy fix if you keep a scarf or two in your bag. You can wrap one around your waist like a sarong and the other over your shoulders. But things get a bit more complicated at a place like Angkor Wat in Cambodia. Here, it’s not enough to cover your shoulders with a scarf. Your top needs to have sleeves. My loose-fitting kimono was called into question until I showed the guide it had armholes.

Travel Tips

These are just a few of the things you can do to keep yourself safe and aligned with local customs while on vacation. What travel tips do you have for people who don’t want to dress like a tourist. Use the #wanderlustwayfarer on your Instagram photos to show off your vacation looks.

Packing Light: 5 Easy Outfits for a Night Out

Packing light is always a challenge, especially when you’re cruising. Every woman wants to look good, even when she’s working with limited resources.


Cruises have a lot going on at night. Formal dinners, live shows, bars, pool parties—the options are endless. But most of us don’t have enough room in even our biggest suitcase to pack a different outfit every night. Not to mention you may not know the types of events you’ll be dressing for.

If you’re planning on packing light, you need some easy outfits to take you from belle of the ball to dancing diva. The good news is that there are plenty of options. And the even better news is that none of them have to break the bank.

Devine Dark Denim

packing light

It’s simply not practical to take a lot dresses and skirts when you’re packing light. So every woman needs a good pair of jeans. And by good, I don’t necessarily mean the kind that cost $200 a pair. I mean they should fit you like a second skin, hugging all of your curves and accentuating your femininity.

It doesn’t matter if they are slim, skinny, or boot cut. They just need to make you feel good. And they need to be the darkest wash you can find without being black. This is key if you’re going to make them work as evening wear. Unless it’s between Easter and Labor Day. Then you could get away with substituting white jeans.

Personally, I look my best in a pair of $40 Levi’s. They’re classic, fit like a glove, and make me look 5 pounds lighter. What more can a girl ask for? And there are many other affordable jeans brands that can make you feel like a million bucks. Lee Rider and Joe Fresh are just a few options.

Dark denim is my number one can’t live without evening wear item for cruising, especially if I’m planning on packing light. I use a pair of dark jeans as the base for nearly every outfit I wear out at night, whether it’s to dinner or dancing. Most cruise lines offer a huge variety of dining options, and very few have a formal dress code. In my experience, most women are casting aside their cocktail dresses in favor of more versatile attire. On my most recent cruise, I didn’t see a single evening gown.

There are a million ways to wear a good pair of dark jeans, which is great news for ladies who want to create a fresh look every night. Ships are like small towns—even though there are thousands of people onboard, you always run into the same ones. My wardrobe stands out—people will notice if I’m wearing the same thing every night. Maybe I shouldn’t care, but I do anyway.

Beautiful Blouses

packing light

You can create countless looks by simply pairing a beautiful blouse with your dark denim. Typically, I pack one pair of jeans and one “top” for each night of the cruise. Sometimes, I pack a few less if one or two of my blouses are neutral and can be paired with other items to give them a different look. A white poplin blouse is a perfect example for packing light. You can wear it with a chunky necklace and heels one night, and two nights later, you can pair it with a scarf and flats. No one will know it’s the same shirt worn two ways.

Fluttery, loose-fitting tops look fantastic with skinny and slim fit jeans. For a more tailored look, consider a peplum to accentuate a narrow waist and shapely hips. If you’re a boot cut kinda gal, a form-fitting top balances out the wider width at the ankle.

My favorite tops to take with me are elegant and timeless, but they pack a lot of punch. HD in Paris makes lovely lacy tops with a subtle twist. My favorite is the Lily Lace Blouse. They make a new version of it each year. It’s perfect for any season and looks great with jeans.

Abundant Accessories

packing light

Often when we travel, we forget to bring along the little things. We think no one will notice or that it’s not worth the effort. But it is if you want to look good with less. You’re packing light. You’ve got one pair of pants and a handful of tops to work with. Your accessories are going to make or break your look.

There are few things I love more than a statement necklace. A good necklace can take a t-shirt and jeans from typical to terrific with the simple click of a clasp. Remember that white poplin blouse? Well, add a long pendant necklace for a low-key look one night and recycle it three or four nights later by pairing it with an oversized bib necklace. No one will know it’s the same top because it will look so different. Pull it out a third time by accessorizing with a blazer or cardigan and a scarf. One top three ways thanks to a few simple accessories.

You can even repurpose some of your day wear by adding the right pieces. I have a black jersey jumpsuit that I wear for lounging in the afternoon. At night, I add a belt to cinch in the waist and a big necklace. It’s the perfect outfit for a poolside party.

To keep your style diverse, be sure to pack belts, necklaces, bracelets, scarves, and earrings that complement your outfits and create different looks. Accessories are small and much easier to cram into the empty spaces in your bag than more clothes. They’re key for packing light.

Hair Affair

packing light

Long or short, your hair is one of the first things people notice about you. And it’s one of your best accessories. I know the way I wear my hair impacts my look overall. If I showed up at the gym with my long waves wrapped in a chignon, people would think I’d lost my marbles. Well the same would be true if I was to wear messy topknot with a ball gown.

If you’ve got short hair, consider using a few embellished bobby pins or a glittery headband to add some extra pizzazz. For ladies with long tresses, you can wear your hair up or down, straight, wavy, or curly. You can add some sparkle or keep it simple. Regardless of length or cut, it’s important not to overdo your look.

If you’re wearing a top with a lot of beading and embroidery or a necklace that makes a big statement, there’s no need to add any extra adornments to your hair. I tone down my hair, leaving it loose waves or in a simple bun.

You can have more fun with your hair if your outfit is less likely to make a statement on its own. For example, if you’ve got on a simple white blouse, you might style your hair in a Bohemian up do. You can carefully place a few pearls between strands for a subtle and soft look that will turn heads.

 If the Shoe Fits

packing light

Every woman wonders how many shoes are too many to take on vacation, especially if she’s packing light. I try to take no more than four pairs—five if I don’t include heels. Sometimes, this means sacrificing a fan favorite for a more versatile option or going with second best for a certain look. The goal is to find a few pairs that work well with every outfit. But don’t forget comfort is king for day wear, so you need to find a balance.

Stick to a single pair of heels. This may mean a strappy sandal if you’re sailing the Caribbean, an ankle boot for European adventures, or a nude pump if places like New York or Dubai are on your itinerary. Each of these will work well with your dark denim, and if you play your cards right, any dresses you may have packed as well. I love ankle boots with a Boho swing dress—super stylish and dual purpose.

Pack at least one pair of flats. You know you’ll be sorry if you don’t. Choose a neutral color that complements the rest of your wardrobe. I wear a lot of ivory and pale pinks, so I have a blush ballet flat that I take everywhere I go. If you wear a lot of darker colors, you can’t go wrong with grey or black. For a little fun, you can try a metallic. Silver or gold are great neutrals and add a bit of spice to your look.

The other two pairs of shoes I take are dedicated to my daytime activities. I usually take a pair of Toms or Soludos because they’re both stylish and comfortable. I also toss in a pair of Skechers Go Walks if I know I’ll be spending more time on my feet. These can double as workout shoes if you want to do some light weightlifting. Lastly, a pair of flat sandals—flip flops or Birkenstocks—are in order if you’re headed someplace warm. They’re also perfect for poolside lounging.

These tips have served me well over the past few years and have helped make packing light a much easier task. I used to take countless dresses, tops, and bottoms on every trip, but now I stick to the simplest combinations I can put together.

Check out the Wanderlust Wayfarer Pinterest page for more outfit inspiration. Then, head over to the Facebook group and post your own outfit ideas.



Travel Essentials: Four Things You Should Take on Every Trip

No one wants to be bogged down with stuff they simply don’t need. But these travel essentials should be in everyone’s carry-on.


It’s easy to remember to pack the basics: sewing kit, camera, nail clippers, and sunscreen, for example. But there are a few items I consider must-haves that aren’t in everyone’s bags.  

Krazy Glue

No matter where I go, I always carry Krazy Glue. Some people swear by duct tape or other adhesives, but they simply can’t compete with my fave. Krazy Glue can be used to fix a broken nail, repair a suitcase, seal a shoe sole, sew a ripped seam, stitch a small cut, or affix a loose button snap. It’s super small and weighs next to nothing, so there’s no reason not to take a tube of Krazy Glue with you. It’s truly multipurpose.

Wet Wipes

If you’re traveling carry-on only, it’s likely you won’t be allowed to take the travel-sized Lysol aerosols they sell at the supermarket through security. Wet wipes are your next best bet. While hand sanitizer is great for keeping your fingers germ-free, I prefer to carry a small pack of wet wipes. They’re ideal for cleaning up messes of all kinds. Spending the night sleeping on an airplane seat? Give it a quick cleaning before resting your head. They’re also handy for getting sand out from between your toes after a day at the beach.


Whether or not you’re expecting rain, it’s always a good idea to have an umbrella. Nowadays, you can buy a sturdy, lightweight umbrella that can fit in a small purse for a reasonable price. You’ll barely notice it’s there. If you’re caught in a slushy snowstorm without proper winter wear, you can use your umbrella to stay dry. Or you may find yourself melting under the hot sun at an outdoor concert in the Caribbean. You can pop your umbrella overhead to ward off the sun’s rays.

Tide to Go

You never know when you might slop your meal down the front of your shirt or sit on something yucky. A Tide to Go stain remover pen can be a true lifesaver. Just last week, I pulled a freshly dry cleaned white blouse from my suitcase to find a big, yellow splotch of something nasty smack in the center. I pulled out my trusty Tide to Go pen, and in an instant the stain was gone.

Are there other items you simply refuse to leave home without? Head over to the Wanderlust Wayfarer Facebook group to join the conversation by telling us about your travel essentials!

Choosing the Right Travel Bag: 3 Options that Really Work

Every woman faces this same dilemma when we’re doing our final packing for a big trip. What’s the right travel bag to take, and do I need more than one? I’m a pretty savvy packer, and I think I’ve found the perfect balance.


Every woman needs a travel bag that acts as a catchall for all the stuff we think we need to take on the plane. Personally, I take crossword puzzles, a Kindle, a laptop, lip gloss, an old-school iPod, pens, notebooks, hand sanitizer, a snack, extra socks, and playing cards—ridiculous since I only know how to play Go Fish. Anyway, I need a bag that allows me to easily access all of these goodies while on board the plane. I also want it to be large enough to pop a few fragile souvenirs inside on the flight back if necessary. But it can’t be so large it doesn’t fit under the seat in front of me. I also like something that can double as a beach or day bag during my trip.

1. The Tote Bag

Travel Bag

Longchamp Le Pliage has some amazing travel options in just about every size, color, and style you could ever desire. They’re a bit pricey, but they are amazing quality and super fashionable. If you travel a lot or want to make sure your travel bag lasts the test of time, they’re worth the splurge.

I like the medium to large size Le Pliage bag because it’s manageable. Any larger, and I tend to overfill will useless items (like the playing cards), or I can’t find what I’m looking for at the bottom of the bag. The best part about these bags is that when they’re not in use, you can fold them up super small. I pop mine in my handbag and use it for shopping.

If Le Pliage is out of your budget, check ebay or Amazon to see if you can find one for a deal. I got mine at a fraction of the price from an authorized retailer. But a word to the wise, no matter how good the deal, pass it up if it’s for the bag with the short strap. Get the long strap so you can toss it over your shoulder when you’re running from one terminal to the next. Trust me, it’s worth the few extra bucks. I made the mistake of getting the short strap, and I’m still sorry I did.

Another option I love is the quilted tote bag from Roots. At under $80 it’s a great deal and very durable. It’s got a lot of pockets to help keep all of your odds and ends neatly organized. I found mine at Marshall’s for a fraction of the full price. Discount retail chains are a great place to find the right tote bag in a range of prices, styles, sizes, and brands. But remember, you want a bag that:

  • Has a long strap
  • Fits under the seat
  • Can double as a beach or day bag
  • Has a bit of extra room for souvenirs
  • Has pockets or other organizers
2. The Satchel

Travel Bag

A tote bag is great to get you there, but what do you carry when you arrive? I like to take a smallish satchel to haul around things I think I may need during the day. My favorite destination travel bag is a canvas cross-body bag that measures about 1 square foot. It stays fairly dry in rain—or on water rides—and can hold a lot. It never shows dirt, is super durable, and thanks to the wide shoulder strap, never feels heavy.

I’ve had my canvas cross-body bag for nearly a decade, and I take it on most trips. It easily holds a small umbrella, sunscreen, light jacket or sweater, wallet, camera, phone, hand sanitizer, tissues, lip gloss, and more. I can usually even squish a few purchases inside to keep my hands free.

If I plan to take both a carry-on suitcase and a carry-on tote bag, I toss my satchel and its contents inside one of them for the flight. Then I pull it out and pack it full once I arrive. For smaller trips, I don’t even need a tote bag—my satchel does the trick.

3. The Wristlet

Travel bag

Call it what you want—wristlet, pouch, clutch—it’s a small wallet-like purse that contains just the bare necessities. I use one of these in my daily life since I hate carrying a lot of stuff if I don’t have to, a necessity when you leave the hotel at 9 a.m. and return at midnight.

I often don’t have a lot of use for a wristlets when I travel except for evenings out. They are perfect to pair with a pretty dress or dark jeans and a nice blouse if you’re heading to an upscale restaurant or out dancing. I often pop my bank cards, ID, and a lip gloss inside a small wristlet to use as my wallet during the day. I keep it inside my satchel during the day, and I carry it as a purse for a night out.

Pro tip: For those times you forget to pack a little something that goes with your evening wear, I’ve got the perfect solution. Dump the contents of your makeup bag and put everything you need for the night inside it. If you’ve got a traditional camera with a wrist strap, you can use it to make a handle for your makeup bag. Simply loop the strap through the zipper. Alternately, you can use a hairband for a handle—we’ve always got those looped around our wrists anyway.

With these three simple styles, you’ll have just the travel bag you need for just about any type of activity. And the best part is that they all fit inside one another.

The Great Carry-on Debate: 7 Packing Tips You Need Now

Preparing for a vacation is hard work. Consider these packing tips to help you decide if you need the big bag or the carry-on.


To carry on or not to carry on? That seems to be the question of the hour. And it’s one I consider often—not daily but close.

Almost every time I open the cover of a travel magazine, the featured story offers some sort of packing tips or tricks for fitting everything into a smaller suitcase or putting together more outfits with fewer pieces.

mary-poppins-bagNow, I’m a little like Mary Poppins. I can cram copious clothing options into the tiniest bag. But I’m far from practically perfect, particularly at packing. I’ve traveled enough to know that just because I can fit something into my bag doesn’t mean I should, especially with airlines imposing loftier fees for exceeding weight restrictions. But it doesn’t mean I follow that rule all the time.

So, I as I sit here reading another review of the ultimate capsule wardrobe for a 10-day Canary Islands cruise or how to fit 40 pieces of clothing into a pint-sized shoulder bag, I can’t help but wonder…why? Don’t get me wrong. There are definitely times when size matters. But I often read comments from people stressing out because they just can’t make it work. And I’m one of them.

Travel can be stressful enough without the added packing pressure. I’m on the side of traveling light whenever it makes sense. But that’s the key—knowing when it makes sense. Here are my packing tips for figuring out when it’s best to take the bare bones and when it’s most ideal to indulge.

run1. Are you going to be moving from one place to another? And how often?

If you are moving around a lot, a carry-on is the way to go. No one wants to lug around a hefty bag to multiple locations, which many include various flight connections or plans to travel by train to several destinations. Not to mention, without a home base you can’t unpack. Digging through layers of clothes inside a suitcase just isn’t practical. Pare it down to the minimum.

clock2. Are you short on time?

If you have a tight layover, waiting for checked baggage can be a deal breaker. Pack a carry-on so you can dash from one gate to another without worrying about your checked baggage.

ship3. Do you have a captive audience?
Cruising and touring offer a creative challenge to the fashion conscious, especially if you’re like me and have a particularly unique wardrobe. Other women will notice if you wear the same thing over and over again. I find it difficult to leave home without a few extra outfits for trips where I know I’ll run into the same people often.

journal4. What’s your budget?

I’m cheap, so if I’m traveling within North America, I’m not likely going to spend the extra $25 each way to check a bag. But for overseas travel, I’ll take advantage of the free baggage allowance and check a bag if I’m not moving around a lot or short on time between flights. Why not?

woman5. How do you feel about laundry?

If you hate doing laundry, do you really want to do it on vacation? Smaller bags mean less room for the basics—socks and undies—so you’ll need to wash them throughout your trip. On the flip side, if you don’t want to be bogged down with piles of laundry when you return home, pack light and look for a laundromat. I hate unpacking. In fact, I often don’t fully unpack until I need an item that was last seen in my suitcase or until my next trip when I need to use the bag again.

bike6. What types of activities will you be doing?
If you have a lot of different types of activities planned, packing light simply may not be an option. If you’re going to climb mountains, swim with sharks, take walking tours, and enjoy the local nightlife, it might be worth the extra few bucks to check a bag that can carry everything from hiking boots and sneakers to flip-flops and stilettos.

world7. What makes you happy?

Finally, if it’s going to cause you nothing but angst to try to fit everything into a tiny bag or give you hives because you can’t take that extra sweater, just do it. Forget the hype—I know it’s trendy right now, but do what makes you happy, whether it’s delighting in the joys of fitting everything in that one small bag or throwing everything but the kitchen sink in a good old-fashioned full-sized bag.

Try these helpful packing tips to decide if you should take a big bag or a carry-on for your next trip.