How to Pack a Carry-on for a 10-day Trip Home for Christmas

I’m always surprised when people tell me they are still checking bags when they fly. First of all, it costs at least $25 these days to check a bag on an economy ticket, and come on, who wants to wait in those lines? Especially during the holiday season when lines are full of families weighed down by gifts. I always go for the carry-on option, check-in online and avoid as many lineups as I can.

Disclaimer: I am by no definition of the word a fashion blogger.  In fact, most of my wardrobe is the same colour, but I can brag about my carry-on skills. In the past few years I’ve been on several lengthy trips where I used only a carry-on, including two months on an archaeological dig in Turkey. The key is prioritizing and minimizing what you bring.

To help you out, I created a list of must-haves for your carry-on, and laid out what I’m taking on my trip home to St. John’s for the holidays. Which, by the way, includes a weekend stopover in Halifax to see friends.

 

The perfect suitcase

The items you bring on the plane with you have to be small. Some airlines are charging for even a carry-on, but most will allow a purse and one other item. Last year, I had one thing on my Christmas wish list: an ultra-light suitcase. I chose the Dauphine 2 from Delsey in a pretty Olive colour, which I got super on sale on Black Friday at the Hudson’s Bay Company. When I lifted it off the shelf I nearly threw it across the store because it was shockingly light! Having a light carry-on allows you to bring more stuff, so that’s a no brainer.

Everything needs to match

This is the most important thing to remember when you’re packing a carry-on. Every top has to match with every bottom so you can use multiple items several times during your trip. For me, it’s pretty easy as I wear mostly black, but having colour is okay, as long as it all matches.  Packing in one colour palette simplifies everything, and eliminates stressing about what to wear. Going out for dinner? Dressy top with jeans. Holiday party? Silver skirt and black top.

I wear my bulkiest items on the plane to save weight in the suitcase: winter boots, a sweater, textured leggings and a big blanket scarf that doubles as a plane blanket. For me it’s the ideal outfit for winter travel. Just make sure the sweater is lightweight or made from a breathable synthetic material; sometimes planes blast the heat, making for a sweaty ride.

Accessorize

The easiest way to make it look like you’re wearing a different outfit is to change your jewelry! I always toss in a few statement necklaces and some big chunky earrings so that silky black top I love looks different at a holiday party, even if I wore it to a brunch the very same day.

Did I mention the unmentionables?

There was no need for me to layout my undies — I usually bring 4 pairs each of socks and panties, 2 bras and a pair of black tights. You can always do laundry at mom’s, right?

Outfit by number

How to pack a carry-on for christmas outfits by number

 

If you roll your clothes, everything will fit in a traditional carry-on with room to spare for gifts! This is also a helpful reminder NOT to wrap your gifts until you arrive at your destination, CATSA will thank you. Inside my carry-on there are more than 60 items if you include undergarments, cosmetics and power cords, and I have created more than 15 outfits to last me the 10-day trip.

Here are some of the outfits in my carry-on

Transit in (comfortable) style

A black sweater dress from Aritzia (3) is perfect on the plan with a textured legging (4), or dressed up with black tights and a necklace (12) for a holiday party. I always take my red leather purse from Roots (14) inside a tote bag; it counts as one item and I have something to take with me to the bar.

Brunch with the girls

My black rayon blouse from Uniqlo (5) is my favourite item of clothing because I can rock it for dinner, brunch, or with a skirt for nicer occasions.

A holiday party

This simple navy top from Uniqlo (13) is perfect with flashy earrings and a bright red lipstick. Wear this day-to-night top for brunch with the girls or dinner at a friend’s house.

Shopping for last-minute gifts

Tossing on a stripped sweatshirt from Joe Fresh (18) with a camel bootie from Topshop (6) makes shopping a little more stylish. Also the sweatshirt is a great layering piece, a key aspect of carry-on only.

Girlies’ secret santa sleepover

Because you gotta sleep sometime (maybe). My old-man PJs from Joe Fresh (7) are my fave. My cosmetic case (8) is small enough to fit in my tote and the backside is clear so I don’t have to use a baggie going through security.

Christmas Day

This silver skirt from Primark (10) is great with a black top (16) and has an elastic waist so its ideal for all the eating!

Curling up by the tree

Reading a good book in front of my parent’s tree is one of my favourite things to do at Christmas. I just finished reading Delicate, Edible Birds (15) with my bookclub and I plant to read Lauren Groff’s other works over the holidays.

Skating on the pond

My blanket scarf (9), tuque (20) and mittens (19) are warm for skating, but let’s be real, I’ll need them the whole time I’m in Newfoundland.

New Year’s Eve

Break out that silver skirt (10) again, this time with a lacy top (1). For extra glam, I pair them with my super sparkly Kate Spade shoes (11), the Winners find of the century. They go great with a black lace top (1) and my Rag & Bone high-waisted jeans (2) for a more casual night ringing in the new year.



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