One-bag travel

It is possible to travel with one bag.

I’ve spent three weeks in Europe, including a cruise requiring formal wear, and up to six weeks in Asia with all my needs in one airline-approved carry-on bag plus a handbag.

Why? In today’s travel world, airlines are becoming stricter about the size, weight, and numbers of bags you can bring aboard. Not to even mention the extra costs and risks of losing your checked-in luggage.

Being unencumbered with multiple bags also allows you to better enjoy your environment and be more nimble to changing conditions.

For example, when my husband and I were travelling between the Cambodia and Vietnam border, our only option was to hop on a motorcycle taxi.

If we’d had huge luggage, this would have been impossible. But thanks to careful planning, we only had to strap on our backpack suitcase and off we went.

If you’re considering ditching the heavy luggage, OneBag.com is a fabulous resource for helping you choose the right kind of carry-on and how to pack it lightly.

With their advice, we chose the Mother Lode Weekender Convertible backpack, sold through eBags.com. This bag can also be used with a shoulder strap or carried in hand; the backpack straps tuck away when not in use so you don’t look like a teenager going to college.

Wheeled luggage may seem easier, but consider where you are going. In both Europe and Asia, the streets are cobbled or dirt, buildings have lots of stairs and few elevators, and you must negotiate crowded bus and train stations.

In these conditions a carry bag is much simpler.

In addition to your carry-on, most airlines allow a smaller, hand-held bag such as a purse. Use one that can hold all your in-flight essentials such as tablet, magazine or book, ID and travel documents. 

Inside, make your wallet double-duty by using a WOC (wallet-on-a-chain), such as the Chanel pictured above. These compact bags have slots for credit cards and pockets for money, but also include a strap so you can carry it on its own for evenings.

When it comes to packing your carry-on suitcase, the biggest user of space will typically be shoes. In order to carry one bag, you can only pack the most useful and multi-purpose pairs.

I typically pack one pair each of flats and sandals that are both stylish enough for evening and comfortable enough for touring all day, runners for exercise and hikes, and flip-flops for the beach or pool.

There are many shoe manufacturers that make immensely wearable shoes that don’t scream “tourist,” such as the Vionic sandals and flats pictured above. Just make sure you have broken your footwear in before travel.

When it comes to clothing, this is when you are going to appreciate your capsule wardrobe. Bring items that can be mixed and matched to create multiple outfits.

Layers are the key to enjoying variable weather conditions. On a cold morning, you might wear a T under a hoodie under a light jacket, and in the warm afternoon peel off the two outer layers.

I love large silk scarves for travel. They take up no room in your bag, and are insulating to wrap around your neck and shoulders in cool climes. Then, they can be used as a beach pareo or top in hotter locales.

I used colourful silk scarves with a simple black tube dress to create looks for formal nights on our European cruise. 

So it is possible to be a savvy lightweight traveler without looking out of place. For more specific tips by region and season, the website Travelfashiongirl.com is full of packing lists and tips.


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About the Author

Marla is best known for her 19-year career in the local charitable sector as a fund development and marketing manager with the Okanagan Regional Library, United Way, UBC Okanagan, and Kelowna Community Resources. 

In 2014, Marla and her husband decided to take a break from the work world, and, four years, later they are still enjoying Okanagan summers, winters in Mexico, and extensive travel. 

Marla has had a life-long passion for fashion, designing her own graduation dress and formal gown for the 1990 Miss Interior competition before age 20.

In 2014, she was named one of nine Style Ambassadors for a year-long marketing campaign at Orchard Park Mall. Her motto is “Life is short...you might as well go through it looking good."

If you have a style question or topic you’d like Marla to cover in this column, contact her at [email protected]

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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