It can be done. I know you’re skeptical. But hear me out.
Traveling with carry-on luggage only to a destination wedding weekend really has it’s merits. For one thing, it means you have already done the editing so your outfits are planned and known. No vacation time spent trying on, taking off, mixing, matching… you know, your usual Friday night drill. This approach transfers extra time into packing thoughtfully, but it’s worth it on the back end. Here’s the other thing: you’re low-maintenance. You need to transfer hotels because a tropical storm floods your room? No sweat. You meet a cute guy at the wedding and decide to ride with him to the airport? With that compact suitcase you’re the total catch. And of course, the obvious bonus is no need to wait at the airport for luggage, no risk of lost bags, and more time for your tired dancing feet to sleep before your departure. Try it: liberate yourself from your luggage.
Because we’re in that seasonal window when tropical wedding destinations populate our calendars, I’ll use a warm climate as the proxy for the packing guide. That being said, the below is simply a guideline and it can be easily adapted to other destinations. (A Norwegian fjord wedding might require you to check a bag. But, you get the point.)
1. Consolidate footwear. No one remembers what you wear on your feet. Bring one pair of versatile dressy shoes for both nights (rehearsal and wedding), one pair of cheapie flip flops, and one pair of wedge sandals for daytime, non-beach activities. Ditch sneakers if you can: do yoga for a workout or jog on the beach. On the flight, wear lightweight, bendable flats like the ones pictured from Tieks.
2. Versatile clothing. Favor sundresses over shorts and tops; they take less space. As far as separates go, cotton t-shirts in pretty colors like the one pictured from J. Crew, are easy to dress up or down depending on your activities. Lightweight cotton poplin swim cover-ups, like this one by Melissa Odabash, are more space-saving than jersey, maxi dresses.
3. Wear your heaviest clothes on the plane. Sport slim-leg jeans during the flight that you can wear during the weekend should a cold-front move through. Wear a large, lightweight cashmere scarf on the plane that doubles as a wrap for the evening wedding events.
3. Accessories are worth their weight. A chunky costume necklace will come in handy for a brunch event, and a collapsible sun hat looks glamorous while fending away unwanted sun. I love Calypso’s packable raffia hat.
4. Don’t skimp on the apothecary. Going to new places can cause various unexpected physical issues, some more benign than others. A feisty blister or nagging bug bite is the last thing you want to monopolize your attention when you’re mingling and meeting new people. Pack remedies for allergies, indigestion, hangovers, blisters. Be prepared with sun-defense, insect-repellant and antibacterial wipes. This stuff takes up no space; it pays to be prepared.
5. Don’t pack a hair dryer. Waste of valuable luggage space. Your hotel will most likely have one. Besides, most people find tropical weather to be the outright nemesis of straightened, controlled hair. A better alternative? Heat and humidity will make your curls want to emerge; pack a slim curling iron to assist that natural curl, or a salt spray for a beachy-hair look.
6. Size down those liquid products. Pack toiletries in a hanging bag with clear compartments, like the one pictured from The Container Store. Transfer shampoo and conditioner to 3oz travel size bottles. Pump small amounts of facial cleanser, facial moisturizer, etc, into sample-size hinged cosmetic jar containers. You can buy them online, or request samples at Sephora and reuse the containers they give you. Don’t pack a perfume bottle. Instead ask for sample vials the next time you purchase your fragrance. Or, next time you purchase any beauty product from an upscale retailers such as Space NK or Blue Mercury, ask for fragrance samples of mild scents. They usually are very generous with samples for paying customers.
7. Simplify your beauty regimen. Get your skin glowing by doing some face masks at home before you leave (I love Tata Harper’s resurfacing mask). This way, you can pare down your travel makeup to a few items that spotlight your natural beauty. Here’s my list:
1 eyeshadow. Bronze works for day and night. Try Benefit’s Creaseless Cream Shadow, which is easy to apply with your finger.
1 eyeliner. A liquid liner for a clean look or kohl pencil liner for a smudgy look.
2 mascaras. One for daytime like Clinique Naturally Glossy Mascara, and one big, bold, waterproof mascara for night. Try one of the many Diorshow options for high drama.
1 all-purpose cover up. I love RMS “Un”coverup. So great for travel. So great for day and night.
1 powder. A small pot of setting powder, to combat shine in photos.
1 cheek color. A stick blush like the ones from Ilia or Nars are also easy to apply with your finger.
1 highlighter. Again, a can’t live without product. RMS living lumizer is hands down the best illuminator. Sheer, sophisticated.
1 bright lipstick. Try coral, sunset orange, or a magenta inspired lip color for your formal event, inspired by the carribean colors around you.
1 lip gloss. Natural, or sheer pink.
Tools: a brush-on brow gel, a lip color brush, powder brush, tweezers (always!), bobby pins and hair elastics, hairbrush, toothbrush and, fyi, disposable razors and cartridges ARE permitted by TSA.
8. Packing order is by weight. Heaviest things in first, starting with shoes in felt bags. Pack the delicate, wrinkle-prone dresses, tops and lingerie last. Don’t pack linen anything – not worth it.
9. Use your carry-on personal item wisely. In addition to your suitcase, pack a large tote with a zipper for your carry on essentials. Use a lightweight, lined pouch for in-flight cosmetics (a face mist, chapstick, dramamine). The ones from flight 001 are adorable and practical. Slip an envelope clutch, like the one pictured from BCBG into your tote to house your loose electronics (your cell phone, charger, headphones, camera). This clutch will double as your formal event clutch. Don’t pack heavy books. Load podcasts onto your phone or use an e-reader.
10. Lastly, a bright, unmistakably-yours luggage tag is always recommended.
That’s it! Happy hassle-free travels.