Real life one bag travel: the 5 things I never pack – and what to pack instead

Hi Frugalistas!

I love clothes – beautiful clothes.  I have a lot of them, and I love wearing them.  I love creating new looks and going out knowing I look good.  When I travel it’s no different.  I still want to look good.  But I also love travelling light with just my one carry on bag when I go travelling.  Having a great carry on bag wardrobe comes down to choices – what you choose to take and what you choose to leave at home.

So, here are some of my clothes that I love, but that I never travel with…..

1.  A thick woollen overcoat

red woollen overcoat and blue YSL trench coat

When you are travelling to cooler climates it is tempting to take a thick overcoat to rug up.  But for me, a big woollen overcoat is a big no, no.  Too big, too bulky  and not helpful if it rains.  If it’s seriously cold an overcoat is not warm enough, and trans seasonal it’s just too hot.

My preference is a classic cotton trench.  In the wet it provides some protection, and in colder weather, I layer, layer, layer.  If you don’t want to wear your trench it will pack down making it easier to carry.

frugalfirstclasstravel tip:

A trench coat with some layers underneath is a much better option.  In seriously cold weather go for a down coat and forget about bulky, heavy overcoats

2.  A brown leather jacket

brown leather beaded Easton Pearson jacket and black cropped jacket

My brown leather jacket is a great piece.  It’s my never fail go-to jacket for all sorts of occasions.  It goes with jeans on the weekend and is perfect with a plain skirt for work.  Given my love of versatile pieces you’d think I’d love to travel with this jacket.  But I don’t.  Firstly, the front is beaded and quite fragile, so that means it needs to worn and packed very carefully.  Secondly, I don’t have enough options to make this part of my capsule travel wardrobe – the brown just doesn’t go with much of my preferred capsule pieces.

My preferred travel option is therefore a classic black cropped jacket.  It goes with everything and packs down to nothing.  It doesn’t crease.  When I’m travelling I want to concentrate on enjoying myself, not worrying about whether I’m going to ruin my clothes…..

frugalfirstclasstravel tip:

Leave items that need special care at home.  You’ll spend more time worrying about your garment instead of having a good time.  Stick to pieces that go with everything – the capsule wardrobe is king!

3.  My trendy grey skirt

Grey Easton Pearson skirt and Dianne Von Furstenberg skirt

The grey skirt on the right looks great on, but has limitations

When I bought the skirt on the right I thought it would be a travel winner.  It looked fabulous on, and was super light and comfortable.  It packs down to nothing and doesn’t wrinkle.  BUT……I don’t like how it looks with flat shoes (it really needs heels to look good) and needs grey, rather than my usual black tights.

So, disappointingly, it’s not going on my travels.  That doesn’t mean you have to settle for a boring plain black skirt.  Instead, I’m going for this stretchy patterned number.  It goes perfectly with flats, and the colours fit perfectly with other items I like to take as part of my capsule wardrobe.  I still feel great in it, and I know I’m not missing out looking good whenever I wear it.

frugalfirstclasstravel tip:

No matter how great a piece looks on you, it’s not worth packing if it needs special accessories, shoes or other garments.  Take something else that goes with everything, but still makes you feel special.

4.  Sneakers

Beautifeel black patent ankle boots

My ankle boots

On the weekends I love my sneakers.  I wear them with jeans, with skirts and with casual dresses.  But I never travel with them.  I like my shoes to multitask just like my clothes, and sneakers are just too limiting.  They are casual and that is that.

In warmer climates I go for flat espadrilles.  I can wear them all day, and then for a casual night out if I don’t want to get dressed up.  They take up no more space in my bag, and just deliver far more bang for the buck!

When it’s cooler I wear my flat ankle boots.  Again they go with everything.  They are comfy and can be dressed up or down.

Blue and white striped espadrilles and dark blue converse sneakers

Sneakers for home, but not for the road….

frugalfirstclasstravel tip:

Your shoes should multitask too.  Don’t take shoes that you can only wear with certain outfits or on certain occasions.

5.  Classic black flats

Arche leather flats and Roger Vivier Belle du Jour black flats

The little flats on the left pack down to nothing and have good rubber soles

My black patent leather flats (on the right) came from Paris.  They are smart and stylish and perfect for European travels.  They are comfortable and go with everything.  I wear them with everything from jeans to smart dresses and skirts.  Perfect for my one carry on bag, right?  No, I don’t travel with them.  They are very solid and quite rigid – meaning they take up a lot more room in my case.  They also have quite a hard sole, so are not so forgiving on cobblestones and uneven surfaces.

My preferred option is therefore a pair of ultrasoft ballet flats.  They pack down to nothing, and have a thick rubber sole that is far more forgiving on uneven surfaces.

frugalfirstclasstravel tip:

Think about how much room your shoes will take up in your case.  It’s also important to think about where you will be walking, and what you will be doing.  Uncomfortable shoes can make your trip miserable, so it’s worthwhile paying extra attention to making sure you have the exact right pairs.

Think about what you are packing.  Lay out your choices and think hard about your options.  Go for easy wearing, comfortable, multitasking pieces.  Remember capsule is king – forget about “outfits”, and make sure everything you pack goes with everything else.  Forget about boring – you can still pack, wear and enjoy fabulous clothes in your one carry on bag – just spend the time to get it right.

How do you decide what to pack?


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14 Comments on “Real life one bag travel: the 5 things I never pack – and what to pack instead”

  1. Christine Osborne 13/08/2014 at 5:05 pm #

    Oh dear God, a traveller all my life. I still end up taking too much so have studied your post which is filled with good advice.

    May I add two items that I find invaluable?

    I never leave without wearing a puffer/quilted 3/4 length coat. It is warm and light and once you board the aircraft,you can roll it up to cushion your seat on the flight.

    That and an East African kanga – a patterned cotton textile worn by African coastal women, are other essential items that go into my case. In a warm climate, the kanga can act as a sheet, a towel, you can wear it as a sarong and of course it folds flat.

    Indian women travellers are very lucky because they can pack a dozen different saris for any social or business occasion.

    Thank you.

    • frugalfirstclasstravel 13/08/2014 at 5:16 pm #

      Thanks Christine. I take a puffer coat (with down) for depth of winter travel. I agree with about how great they are to pack down to nothing – which is why they beat an overcoat handsdown

  2. Jen @The Haute Mommy Handbook 13/08/2014 at 5:49 pm #

    This is so helpful, thanks 🙂

  3. contentedtraveller 14/08/2014 at 10:57 am #

    Well, I hope you are right Jo. I am doing the one carry on bag this time for a month in Europe. I think that the way you said yes, I love it – but no – impractical – might help. The coat was a dilemma for me but the trench coat is now coming and the boots and flats. Now all I need is you to pack my bag for me. Paula

    • frugalfirstclasstravel 14/08/2014 at 11:02 am #

      Thanks Paula – add some packing cubes and it’s even easier! Trench, flat boots and flats are my uniform for Europe!

  4. jan 14/08/2014 at 2:10 pm #

    I am seriously impressed with your previous one carry on packing tips and these are great tips too. I think I shall have to look seriously at what I pack in the future. I don’t overpack but I think I could better choose things that match and have multiple uses.

    • frugalfirstclasstravel 14/08/2014 at 4:51 pm #

      Jan, if you can pack a bag where everything goes with everything else, your life will never be the same again. It’s not just a question of how much you pack, it’s also what you pack.

  5. - jasmine 18/08/2014 at 10:04 pm #

    Hey I love this, although I always pack sneakers. I find they double as hiking shoes for short treks, go great on bicycles and I feel bad for admitting this but my last trip I wore only flip flops or sneakers for a whole 7 months.. I def don’t fit the stylish travel category haha.. Love the jacket suggestions, I’m a puffer vest, in a plain colour u can dress it down for active times or dress it up with a scarf and black base layers.

    • frugalfirstclasstravel 19/08/2014 at 6:17 am #

      The actual things you pack really do depend on your own personal circumstances – I don’t need sneakers as I don’t hike and I like to eat in nice restaurants and cruise round fancy shops. The trick with my packing posts is not to slavishly copy me, but to look at the options I present, consider your own wardrobe and travel needs, and apply the principles and logic I explain.

  6. Lady Light Travel 10/09/2014 at 5:40 am #

    Hey Jo, I think the big problem with your grey skirt is that it is too long! Anything longer than knee length is going to look frumpy with flats. Any possibility re-hemming it? Or do you like the silhouette with heels

    • frugalfirstclasstravel 10/09/2014 at 6:39 am #

      Exactly Cindy. It is just that bit too long to wear with flats. However it is perfect with heels. I haven’t re hemmed it because it has a little flared piece set in the front that will be almost lost if I shorten it. It needs a serious remake to shorten it. I’ve got plenty of other things to travel with, so that one is easily left at home!

  7. ontheroadagain 15/01/2015 at 5:29 am #

    Hi Jo! Loved reading your tips. I’m going to Paris in May, and want to bring along a pair of black ankle boots. Do you think that would still work in the Spring?

    • frugalfirstclasstravel 15/01/2015 at 6:29 am #

      Yes! I think ankle boots are a great option in all but the warmest weather. Perfect for wet weather and always stylish

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