I travel for 14 days at a time with just a carry-on suitcase - here's exactly what I pack

suitcaseMaya Kachroo-Levine

  • I travel for weeks at a time with just one piece of luggage: a carry-on suitcase
  • My mantra is, if the product isn't multi-purpose, it isn't coming with me.
  • The first thing I eliminate is shoes-it's the biggest space saver.

Checking luggage just isn't for me.

It's partially because I'm opposed to the notion that checking a bag should cost money, and partially because I worry about my suitcase getting lost. When I'm in a new place, it really grounds me to have my essentials in tow. And if my suitcase gets lost for the first few days of my travel, I'll spend the trip feeling unsettled rather than exploring my new surroundings.

That being said, I try to always do long trips with only a carry-on. I once moved to France for six months with just a 30-pound checked bag, so packing for a two-week trip in a regulation-sized carry-on is a piece of cake. I've never Marie Kondo'd my life, but I love to Marie Kondo my packing list.

Here's what my packed carry-on looks like for a typical two-week trip:

suitcase shoesMaya Kachroo-Levine

When it's time to start filling the suitcase, I try to keep color palette in mind as much as possible so I can mix and match what I've brought. Most of the clothes I bring for travel are various neutral shades, black, or muted colors (like a slate gray or olive green), so they can be paired up interchangeably.

Here are my must-haves for a 14-day trip with only a carry-on:

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1. Slip-on athletic shoes

1. Slip-on athletic shoes

The biggest space saver, for me, is bringing fewer shoes.

I need one active pair of walking shoes that are also good for the plane, inter-country train travel, and long car rides. I swear by my Merrell Gridway Mocs, which are super-comfortable even for walking long distances, and easily slip on and off at airport security.

If I’m going on a trip where I’ll need a nicer pair of shoes, I’ll bring low-wedge sandals that can also pass as casual sandals. If there’s no need for a nicer shoe option, I’ll use Birkenstocks as my second pair of shoes.

2. Leggings that present well

2. Leggings that present well

I am a fan of versatile leggings that are good for a morning stroll around a new neighborhood, a run or hike, and plane wear. I’ll typically pack two pairs, just because I hate to continually wear my plane leggings. My go-tos are Lululemon’s Wunder Under High-Rise Tight, because they stay comfortable for an entire 12-hour flight, and somehow make me look put together when I land.

3. Soft jeggings

3. Soft jeggings

Are they tights? Are they leggings? Who knows, but coming from someone who likes to spend the bulk of their time at home in sweatpants, jeggings are the ideal travel pant, because you can do a whole day of walking-based activities in them.

Everyone has their own denim preferences of course, but the DL1961 Emma Power Legging Jeans are a personal favorite because they transition perfectly from daywear (sightseeing around town) to nightwear (for dinner or drinks).

4. Comfortable cropped trousers

4. Comfortable cropped trousers

These are a great day pant, and they are versatile enough to work for unpredictable weather. I tend toward a softer trouser in khaki or olive, because it can be dressed up or down. Soft trousers are also a perfect plane pant if you prefer to avoid traveling in athleisure or sweats.

5. Multi-purpose toiletries and makeup

5. Multi-purpose toiletries and makeup

Again, if it’s not a multi-purpose product, it’s not coming with me.

First, I brave life without a cleanser and wash my face with hotel bar soap. The only skincare routine I bring is Kiehl’s Ultra Facial Cream, because it works as a day and night moisturizer, it helps my skin stay hydrated post-flight, and you can buy it with SPF.

For makeup, I bring eyeliner and NARS The Multiple, because I’ll use it as a blush, highlighter, eyeshadow, and even lip color. This way, I avoid bringing my entire makeup bag. And I bring a travel-sized bottle of Bioderma Sensibio Micellar Water for cleansing and makeup removal. Plus, of course, a toothbrush, travel-sized toothpaste, and mouthwash.

6. A chambray, shift, or sweater dress

6. A chambray, shift, or sweater dress

A comfortable, loose-fitting dress that can stand up to a full-day adventure is essential. For the spring and summer, a chambray or shift dress is ideal. For later fall, a sweater dress or even a long-sleeve chambray dress with tights works.

7. A dark, lightweight jacket with a hood

7. A dark, lightweight jacket with a hood

I bring one jacket that can work for outdoor activities, but still look nice paired with jeans. And it must have a hood, because no matter the season, statistics show that it will pour in any place I travel to. I’ve been using the Merrell TrekPro Mid-Layer Jacket with great results.

8. Lightweight, cotton button-ups

8. Lightweight, cotton button-ups

9. A good base layer

9. A good base layer

Whether you’re an athlete who needs an Under Armour base layer, or you prefer to just use a fitted T-shirt, having something to layer on a chilly day is important.

Ideally, I pack a couple fitted shirts that I can use for layering under athletic wear, or under a button-up for dinner. (For a sleeveless base layer, I pack the classic Fruit of the Loom Sleeveless, and for long sleeves, I’m on the Swiftly Tech Lululemon Crew Neck train, because I can also wear this shirt in the evenings with jeans.)

10. A scarf

10. A scarf

No matter the season, I always pack a scarf, because it can also be a shawl, a blanket, or even a neck pillow if things get desperate. Not only that, but a scarf can change up an outfit that you actually wore three days before.

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