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City Planning! How to Pack a Carry On for Urban Getaways

Hiking in the outback is about as far from a New York City holiday as an apple is from a pink martini. So, how to pack a carry on for a weekend in the big city is clearly different. Pack conscientiously with outfits that can go anywhere. You can fit everything you need in a carry on travel bag--if you pack as smart as you dress. 

how to pack a carry onBalance Looking Chic and Staying on Your Toes

Comfortable Shoes for Sightseeing

You will need shoes right for trekking all day, but hiking shoes are different for a concrete jungle. Whether Rome or NYC, you will be walking and standing a lot on hard floors. You don't want your bag to weigh you down any more than painful feet would. 

  • You can have a pair of heels for nice dinners, but avoid tall, pointy, or painful heels. 
  • For daytime sights and public transportation, think on your feet with a pair of walking sandals, flats like espadrilles, mules, or wedges. 
  • If you must take boots, wear them to the airport to save space. Warning: wear boots that can be taken off for TSA easily. 
  • Bring a folding pair of flip flops or flats that fit in your backpack or purse. 
  • Pack blister care in your purse. 
  • Get good insoles--and think about bringing an extra pair. 
  • Avoid slippery bottoms that may cause falls in marble halls or wet areas.
  • Be sure to pick a pair of shoes that is forecast-appropriate.

Tally: 2 Pairs of shoes (and maybe a foldable third--but that doesn't count). 

how to pack a carry onPrepare to Carry Flats or Flip Flops if Wearing High Heels Anywhere

Jeans That Go Everywhere

A pair of dark, well-fit jeans can easily be dressed up with heels and your favorite bangles. You don't need to bring denim for every day. Simply bring one or two pairs of jeans that can go anywhere. Don't choose jeans that are too tight to be comfortable. And, avoid capri cuts since they are generally more daytime. 

Tally: 2 Pairs of Jeans

Don't Pack Bottom Heavy

We love bottoms, but your bag doesn't. In addition to a pair of anywhere jeans, pack a pair of versatile black pants and/or a beige or light pair. You can also choose skirts, weather permitting. Fold them lengthwise with a strong seam and roll them tightly to save space. 

A perfect day-to-night dress can cut down on the clothing clutter. Replace a skirt and blouse with a single comfy dress like: 

  • Jersey dresses
  • Halter A-line dresses
  • Sundresses (for summer) 
  • Long sleeved turtle neck or tunic sheath dress (for winter) 

A lot of dresses can transform to casually cute with sandals or flats to flirty friendly with heels and a little lipstick. 

Tally: 1-2 Pants/skirts or 1-2 pants and a dress. That's 2-3 total! 

how to pack a carryon for the city

'Top' Tier Packing Tips

When it comes to packing, you are tops. You keep your shirts to a minimum and love to layer. 

Just like jeans, a simple top can transform with a few accessories or swept up hair. Keep your fluffy stuff home. Opt for simple, easy-to-coordinate tee shirts or blouses that don't wrinkle. You only need a couple--and maybe one nicer blouse if you have an event planned. Count on accessories instead of countless outfits.

That adds up to 2-3 tops. If it's cold, you may want to add a couple for layers. 

Sunshine or no-shine, you can be prepared. Bring one or two layers that are easy to carry, like a:

how to pack a carry onScarves and Light Layers Add Versatility to Style and Function

  • Chic hoodie
  • Cute cardigan
  • Convertible shawl 
  • Handsome hat
  • Gorgeous gloves or arm warmers
  • Winsome windbreaker 
  • Undoubted undershirt or shell
  • Stylish scarf (great for hair or flare) 

You should be able to bring a layer in your handbag or backpack everywhere you go. 

You know that a big coat is a burden. So, unless it's wintertime, you should layer in style instead of bringing a bulky coat. If you do decide to bring a coat, keep to the same rules for coats as you should for travelling bags, only bring one.

Tally: 2-4 tops.

Travel coats should feature:

  • Lightweight
  • Easily compacted and wrinkle-free
  • Tough materials, preferably water-resistant
  • Secure, zippered pockets

Jackets and coats, like bubble coats or packable down coats, that can be squished into a bigger bag are a worthwhile investment. Bonus points if it has a hood. 

Keep Your Beauty Regimen Travel Friendly

Your travel gear should strive to multitask and miniaturize. Check the amenities at your destination to eliminate the need to lug around hair dryers. Don't bring anything you have to iron. Try and keep it down to one toiletry bag and one bag of makeup essentials. If you love product, just stick to sample sizes. 

  • Day-to-Evening Makeup Essentials
  • Toiletries 

Tally: 2 pouches

Packing Other Urban Essentials

You don't need maps, but you do need to avoid getting lost. Be sure to upload public transportation information to your phone or note help sites. 

Don't forget to pack:

  • Cords, converters, and chargers
  • Local currency
  • Emergency contact information (Put this on a luggage tag and in your handbag or travel backpack.) 
  • Sunglasses in a protective case
  • Socks, tights, and undergarments. 

If you're expecting bad weather, be sure to pack a travel umbrella and extra socks. If you are at a hotel, many 3-star and up hotels carry loaner umbrellas to keep you from getting soaked through. 

Tally: This counts for one more pouch (for cords) and a maybe 6-8 small units. 

What to Carry for Your Carry On?

The final tally: you can get everything you need for a long weekend or overnight in a city in a single carry-on. That's about 20 items total. It's the perfect amount for a carefully packed weekender bag, large duffel, or carry on suitcase (for those who can't do without a little more). Throw your things in the trunk or shuffle on board with everything on hand. 

how to pack a carry onStay Metro with Modern Backpacks

Carry on travel backpacks or totes are perfect places for laptops, in-flight comforts and entertainment. If you are going to be heavily relying on public transportation or want some extra security, choose a travel lock bag for the overhead bins on trains and planes. 

Finally, be careful to bring the right handbag for any urban expedition. 

Purses for travel should: 

  • Strap comfortably across your body
  • Feature zippered tops (nothing open!) 
  • Be worn on the front of your body
  • Be worn with zippered outside pockets closer to your body.
  • Not be left on the back of outdoor chairs--even in cafe seating. 

Having an organizer purse or wallet with a chain means not taking your wallet off your person to get money. That means pickpockets and purse snatchers can't catch you in vulnerable moments. 

how to pack a carry on


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