Travelling these days can be challenging in so many ways. Aside from keeping up with covid-related requirements and ensuring our passports are up to date we also have to worry about whether or not our luggage will make it to our final destinations. We’ve all heard the stories of missing or delayed luggage and the surge in demand on Apple AirTags is very real — and no one is exaggerating. Think you can pack all your needs into a carry on? I had my doubts but I was determined.

Our most recent two-week trip to Lake Como, Milan and Zürich had me pack like a pro. Having searched up what people wore in these destinations meant I had to pack smarter, lighter and more stylish than ever before. This was not going to be a shorts and t-shirts kind of trip. I mean, Google “Amal Clooney” and you’ll get the picture. One carry-on luggage and a tote (that qualifies as a personal item) was what I was challenged with. A saving grace — we had a washing machine in our second stay as we booked into an AirBnb. Ideal for essentials but I’ve also hand washed items on previous travels. Diane Kroe, Kit and Ace, and Uniqlo have been labels I found easy to travel with when it comes to style and care.

But like travels before, I knew what was reliable to get me from day to night that would look so effortlessly chic. Not only that, my travel must-haves are often items that could do double duty. So, what really, really, truly came in handy?

Here are (at least) 10 items worth considering if you’re planning to travel only with carry-on luggage. Obviously, you’re not going to pack like me necessarily, but you may be interested in a few handy and stylish items to include in your carry-on limited travels. For this travel article I have lux destinations in mind but really I travel pretty much like this even to a beach vacation — but swap out the shoes for flip flops and sandals.

Diane Kroe’s “Chic Shirt Dress”: This Canadian designer is known for her timeless pieces that can take you from city exploring to pool side and everything in between. When she recently launched this versatile piece, I knew it was a must have. I love the dress shirt style that continues to trend but what makes Diane Kroe’s dress a stand-out is the option to tie at the waist for a more polished look (the tie-in is built right into the dress and can also also be hidden). It also has pockets!! And the fabric is fabulous — stays crisp looking and just a shake out of the luggage and onto a hangar meant I didn’t have to bother ironing it in hotel rooms. It also washes and dries fast.  It can be worn with leggings, or bicycle shorts and a tank for a casual look. It can also be worn as a swimsuit cover up. This also comes in white as well as Oxford blue. Also highly recommend checking out her other pieces. The Origami Dress is another favourite of mine! By the way, Diane Kroe is all about slow fashion movement and ensuring quality in fabrics and how each piece fits on a customer. She also doesn’t mass produce her pieces to help ensure minimal waste overall. So, order in advance. 

More Dresses! They take up little space and you can throw your cardigan or thin scarf over to cover up if it’s cooler out. There are many options available out there at various price points. Silks, pima cotton and other fine fabrics offer sophisticated looks. Solids or prints– floral prints help hide lots). I managed to pack 8 dresses at varying lengths on this trip into my carry-on!  Some favourites? Check Club Monaco, Oak and Fort, Banana Republic, Kit and Ace, and Hilary MacMillan.

Kit and Ace is one of my go-to labels. Love their thoughtful details like pockets!

Silk Slip Dress in Rose Gold from Banana Republic

Love the added detailing on this Hilary MacMillan two-toned slip dress that makes it more unique.

Knix Leakproof Period Underwear: Forget panty-liners, pads and other menstruation products. These will take up less space in your luggage and wash up quickly. I also prefer the leakproof undies since I have an unpredictable period (thank you menopause) and don’t want to be caught off guard while travelling. These will buy you a bit of time so you can get to a local shop to get what you need instead of packing lots. Smooth design helps eliminate panty-lines and a variety of colours and styles offer options for any occasion.

Kobo eReader: I love to bring a good book or two on the plane and for any chill-out time while on vacation. A Kobo eReader makes sense with it’s sleek and portable design. The Kobo Libre 2 is what I currently take with me from airplane, poolside, bathtub and bed. This latest version has a waterproof design, ComfortLite Pro to adjust automatically to your reading environment and offer blue light reduction (so it’s better for your eyes), glare free,  massive 32 GB of storage, Bluetooth wireless capability (yeah, audiobooks!), and an amazing battery life.

Sneakers: A good crisp pair of white sneakers will take you anywhere. We are not talking running shoes or trainers. Just a simple pair with very minimal embellishments. Wear with dresses, skirts, linen shorts, leggings, or pants. It’s a look that continues to offer a modern look for daytime outings. My faves? Saint Laurent, Maison Margiela x Reebok, Ecco, and Prada. If you plan to do a lot of walking then the Reeboks and Ecco will offer more support. Heading into fall you can also swap out for black. Again, go simple. 

Uniqlo Ultra-light Down Jacket: as we transition into Fall, you may want to add a light jacket for cooler nights depending on your destination. I own several of these in a variety of colours. This jacket has a modern box silhouette that looks sharp with over the ever popular floral printed dress, skirts, cropped pants and joggers. It also folds super compact and comes with it’s own carrying bag. Comes in a variety of colours.

However, when I travelled these past two weeks it was still warm so I brought a light weight cardigan sweater in neutral black to go with  what I brought when I needed. BTW, stick to a colour scheme base of neutrals that you can work around. Black, white, and tan are usually a good base.

Tanya Heath Shoes: I’ve invested in a pair of shoes from this designer and they’ve remained a go-to for at least 5 years. Aside from the beautiful leather quality, I love the versatility of interchangeable heels to create completely different looks. From stiletto to kitten this is the smartest shoe design I’ve come across- especially for business travel. She also has bootie styles too.

If you’re going somewhere that doesn’t require a heel and it’s still warm-ish, opt for a sophisticated slide. Birdies has nice options that are more classics than chunky that don’t scream tired feet on tourist.  They go well with pants, skirts, dresses and can take you from day to night looking polished. They also pack really well.

Birdies “Swan” style has added cushion footbed and no-slip bottom.

Travel size skincare and toiletries: if you’re specific about your skin care and toiletries while travelling like I am, then yes, many brands now offer travel-sized products to help meet TSA requirements (read: not be confiscated). I often will ask for samples  like when I purchase my all time favourite  Victoria Radford’s BUFF daily enzyme exfoliant,  to take with me. Her TINT also does double duty as a lightweight foundation and moisturizer that’s full of great nutrients for the skin.  Bathorium is another brand that offers travel kits that I enjoy after a long flight. I always have a beauty serum, particularly one that is hydrating no matter where I travel to. For this trip I brought Dermalogica’s circular hydration serum with hyaluronic acid. It’s both hydrating and balancing!

Additional Tip: we all know that liquid and gels must not exceed 100 ml each to get through your TSA checkpoints. However, in Zürich, they took it one step further. Every liquid you carry must all fit into a clear plastic bag the size of a sandwich bag. Also, still pack a few disposable masks with you and carry some small local currency. In Italy we were still required to wear masks but only on public transit (including ferry boats) and uber/taxis. People were turned away if they didn’t have locally approved masks too.

Philips One Battery Travel Toothbrush: Sure you can bring a regular toothbrush but if you prefer, this toothbrush offers all the benefits of an electric toothbrush on the go. Microvibrations help to gently clean. SmarTimer guides you through the recommended 2 minutes of brushing, includes one AAA battery and you can also charge up in a pinch. It comes with it’s own travel case making it slim and super portable! Got mine from Shoppers Drug Mart.

Dyson Corrale: I probably don’t need to explain how amazing Dyson products are (and yes they are worth the $$$). This one is considered a hair straightener but it also doubles as a curler if you like loose waves like I do. So, once again, double duty! Because its technology uses less heat it means there’s also less damage to you hair. Just remember to bring the right electrical outlet adapter when travelling overseas. It also comes with a travel protector sleeve. Make sure you remove the battery pack from the straightener before going on a flight. Even though this was designed with travel in mind and generally it is accepted as a carry on item, it may be a good idea to check with your airline to be sure.

Additional Tip: If you can’t live without a curler or straightener and don’t want to travel with one, you can also check with your hotel to see if they have one you can borrow. Higher end hotels with spas often will have them in the women’s change room. BTW, the spa change rooms often will also have haircare products beyond shampoo and conditioner (hairspray, mousse, and fresh combs/brushes) that are part of the amenities.

TravelPro Carry On Luggage: I have several carry-on sized luggage to choose from but this particular one is what I tend to take because of its thoughtful and thorough design. Loaded with pockets inside and out, it’s ideal to keep your travel adventure super organized. This one has slim pockets on the exterior where I can store my laptop (if I was to bring it — and hallelujah it was liberating to NOT need one on this trip!), documents, magazines, eReader and anything else that can store flat. I also love that it has a pocket for an additional power bank (I also store my additional charging cables in here) and an additional port in the back. Handles on the side and top are convenient. Four wheels go all directions for a smoother commute. Adjustable handle for pulling. The built in luggage tag lays flat so no worries about being it caught on a conveyor belt. The exterior fabric is durable and continues to look great even after 5 years.  TravelPro is a line of luggage that was actually designed by a pilot. Lots of options and colours on the site. 

So, there you have it! Packing must haves for your carry-on only lux  trip! If you have any other handy ideas do let us know!

Bon voyage!