Ten Tips for Carry-On Packing Bliss | Minimalist Packing | GeoEx Blog
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10 Tips for Carry-On Packing Bliss

By Jennine Cohen | September 7, 2018

Last fall, I packed for a nearly month-long trip in the Andes mountains. The journey involved a trek to 15,000 feet, the weather equivalent of four different seasons, and a professional conference. Peers were impressed that I managed to pack everything in a carry-on and still look professional (and no, I didn’t show up at the conference in my hiking boots).


Efficient packing isn’t about having everything–it’s about having the right things. With a little advanced planning, minimalist packing can be fun and easy. Here are a few things I can’t live without when I travel, and a few tricks of the carry-on traveler’s trade.

1. Clothing

I always get compliments on Prana’s black dress. It makes me feel a touch elegant with zero effort. Since it’s a complete outfit, it’s easier than putting together a shirt and pants! Quick drying with a built-in bra, it’s both a good-looking and practical travel piece. 

Patagonia’s Houdini Jacket is as thin as rice paper, and packs into almost nothing. I bring mine on every trip as a layering piece. It works perfectly with a long-sleeved base layer (I like Smartwool) and blocks wind and even light misting rain (for tropical downpours, you’ll want a proper raincoat).

Patagonia’s Down Jacket is GeoEx’s unofficial staff uniform for good reason! It’s the perfect warmth and packs into a daypack, plus it can be used as a pillow on long drives or flights.

Packing tips by GeoEx destination expert

2. Fitness

Gone are the days of having to rely on a yoga teacher when traveling. There are many apps now for fitness on the go, but I love MoveWith since it blends music with the audio for its yoga and fitness classes. MoveWith also features pilates, bootcamp, and more. With this app and Grippy socks and gloves, I can practice yoga from anywhere with a WiFi signal (which is almost everywhere these days).

Packing tips by GeoEx destination expert

3. Style

To pack less, I always go with dark colors and pick a consistent color palate throughout the course of the trip. I love to mix nearly all black with pops of color for the accessories and always stick to solids as opposed to more memorable prints (in case I’m wearing the same outfit day after day).

To spice the outfits up, I love jewelry by Bluma Project. These pieces pack well since they’re chunkier and not delicate, and they won’t be easily lost or knotted.

One of the best things I’ve ever bought at an airport (this time in Santiago, Chile) is my blue sapphire-colored llama’s wool shawl. It serves double duty as a blanket on a plane and keeps me cozy warm. Many countries in South America, including Peru, Chile, and Argentina, have high quality and stylish llama’s wool shops.

4. Wellness

I always supplement my traditional medical kit with natural remedies. My homeopathic supplements include an immunity booster, oregano oil (a natural antibiotic), raw bioactive whipped honey as a topical antibiotic for small cuts, essential oils, and more. My most important addition of all is ginger capsules, which are good for motion sickness and tummy troubles. My favorite brand is Sailor’s Secret because they’re the highest quality and come in a convenient, travel-ready blister pack.

Also, I never ever leave home without a good probiotic (I start upping the dosage a week before traveling). I always look for the strongest shelf stable brand available; some now even include Vitamin C.

Packing tips by GeoEx destination expert

5. Beauty

Hands down, the best beauty product I’ve used to date is Everskin’s tinted moisturizer with SPF 32. It comes in a travel-ready tube and has improved my skin tremendously. It’s super moisturizing, lightweight, and natural enough for any outdoor adventure.

I also am in love with Pacifica’s tinted Lipbalm. It’s small, and at $5 a tube, I keep one in every bag.

6. Snacks & Hydration

Eating healthy snacks on the go can be a challenge, especially with my dietary limitation of gluten intolerance. Most bars are filled with sugar, additives, and other ingredients that sound like they are straight out of a chemistry lab. I prefer Perfect Bars, which are straight-up nut butters in a bar form.

I also bring along powdered coconut water as an electrolyte to stay well hydrated–especially when traveling in warmer climates. And, if I’m not feeling well, it’s easier to keep down because of its mild taste.

Packing tips by GeoEx destination expert

7. Luggage & Storage

Every time I travel, people ask about my Patagonia Black Hole bags. I have both the large backpack and rolling duffel, both of which are highly water-resistant and carry-on sized. Mine are teal (my signature color), and I even managed to find a beautiful Italian leather purse in Venice in the same shade. Having matching luggage is an easy way to look pulled together when I’m traveling–and looking good means I’m more likely to feel good and be nice, and improves my chances of getting upgraded.

Ziploc’s Space Bags are one of the greatest inventions ever! They allow my clothes to pack down and keep everything dry in tropical and rainy environments. Since they are clear and come in various sizes, they also help me stay organized and keep inventory of my travel clothes on the road without even opening the bag! Waterproofing truly doesn’t get any better than this, and at $3 a bag (they can be used again and again), it’s the biggest bang for your buck.

I also travel with a locking travel pouch with a combination code for cash (always crisp and clean and of varying denominations) and credit cards. It gives me peace of mind when I’m traveling in a more remote area where there’s no safe available.

Packing tips by GeoEx destination expert

8. Sleep

When I’m traveling, I try to maximize every opportunity to get a bit of shut-eye. A few tricks have helped me up my napping game.

What I love about the Trtl Pillow is that it allows me to rest in a much more natural position than other travel pillows, packs down small, and keeps my neck toasty warm and snuggly.

A natural sleeping aide like 5HTP + melatonin also helps me keep a regular sleep schedule through multiple time zones and rest on long-haul flights without the grogginess of a pharmaceutical sleeping pill.

9. Tech

My portable 2nd screen has changed my work life and given me the ultimate geographic freedom. I’m now able to work from any location around the world with the same speed and attention to detail. It packs light, so I’m even able to keep both my laptop and 2nd screen in my backpack.

When I’m on research-and-development trips, I also pack Keys-To-Go, which has a Bluetooth connection to a smartphone to take notes of my travels.

I also never leave home without cordless earbuds and an extra portable battery for my iPhone.

10. Shoes

I love that women’s sneakers are finally getting the moment that they deserve! Jigsaw’s Cross Strap Trainers are the most comfortable urban shoe I’ve ever owned. The navy blue embossed trainers match everything and are smart enough for the most sophisticated cities. I even wore them recently to a week-long conference!

Olukai’s Upena Sandals have also served me well; with the metallic accents, they’re nice enough to wear with a dress, yet they’re durable enough for a light hike.

Packing tips by GeoEx destination expert

Minimalist packing doesn’t have to mean sacrificing style or comfort. I hope these tips and tricks can serve you as well as they’ve served me!

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Jennine Cohen, Managing Director, Global Sales at GeoEx, is a luxury travel expert, as seen in Afar, Vogue, Travel + Leisure, Condé Nast Traveler, Yahoo Travel, Fortune, Forbes, and other publications.

To see where her next adventure will be, make sure to follow Jennine on Instagram! Learn more about all the inspiring destinations that GeoEx offers by visiting GeoEx.com, or contact Jennine at 888-570-7108.

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