The Art of One Bag Travel

Face it, you’re carrying too much sh*t. That’s what I told myself right before challenging myself to something I’d never done in my travels. Sure, I’d gradually, proudly shed away a few of my possessions with every destination. A few months back, however, I got this wild idea that to truly know freedom (and perhaps rub elbows with minimalism), I’d have to successfully fit all resources into one bag- anything more deemed unnecessary.

There are so many types of travelers and travels. There are frequent fliers gone for a weekend and backpackers camping out for weeks on end to name a few. I’ve been both of these examples at some time or other. There is no one way. And no matter how similar our venture may be, our bags with always be different. Packing is personal. So I’m going to be personal with you in hopes that my experience may shed light (and pounds) on your own travel stash.

After a year of experimentation and many adventures, this is what I pack for a five day trip and flight + how I picked the right bag for me.

Part 1, the bag

It took me an embarrassing amount of time and research before deciding which bag I would use for one bag travel. It was obsessive. Not a single Chase Reeve’s bag review slipped past me. In all that time spent, I learned a lot of information about what makes a bag great… which outside of this one topic is completely useless information. (Trust me when I say that discussing luggage stats at parties isn’t a hit.) Anywhoo, these are my preferences.

Great quality is a must, no matter the budget.

This was an item I didn’t want to be cheap about. I wanted a thick zipper for the main compartment, comfortable straps, durable materials, and some bells and whistles. The bag I picked came with a laptop compartment, organizational features and an outside water bottle pocket with hidden elastic to keep tucked away when not in use. Equal parts bourgeoisie and brilliant.

Self tips on a budget: Sacrifice features/extras, NEVER quality or functionality. The cool TSA ‘approved’ laptop compartment/panel isn’t necessary as TSA often asks the laptop to be removed anyway. Power banks can be purchased separately. No one needs 100 pockets unless they carry 100 things. While pockets and all this stuff rocks, it skyrockets the price.

Practicality. All the things must fit.

The bag needed to be big enough to pack for a week of travel, yet small enough to fit under seat of plane. I love the versatile compression straps on my pack as it can easily become a day pack.

The right look.

The pack needed to fit in with the outdoors and the city. It couldn’t be too tech-y or hippy or chic. Black is generic but perfect for my needs. 

Part 2, what’s in my pack


They take up a lot of space which is why I pack pieces that easily mix and match for multiple wears. For example, I’ll take one sweater that goes with everything for the week so I don’t lose space for big outerwear. I also like to pack lots of one pieces like dresses or jumpers to save space and time! Shoes take up space, but taking an extra pair is important to me for variety. My go-tos are a pair of cute sneakers and something with a little heel. I always pack at least one hat. Baseball caps are a part of my airport uniform. Additionally I pack a swimsuit and light, waterproof jacket for all weather conditions. A compression sack is key or none of this would fit! All of the outfits above were purchased at various thrift stores. See my latest thrift store post here.

Personal care items

This takes up the next biggest amount space. See my skincare products/regime here. When flying, a moisturizing mask is at my fingertips to combat the dry quarters with extra hydration. Natural deodorant, lip-balm, toothbrush, tongue scraper and OraWellness’ mouth blend are also necessary. Also in my pack is Tarte’s travel sized essentials and a few lipstick shades for variety. Plus LivOn labs vitamin C gel packs to-go to help with immunity, travel sized shower products, dry hair shampoo for when a shower isn’t an option, lavender essential oil and CBD oil to calm any stressful situations that may arise, and an eye mask with cooling gel pack to block out light. An eye mask is great for long plane rides, buses, hostels, and any time I need sleep in public places and/or during daytime hours.

Gadgets and whatnot

The two key words to my survival are Power Bank. I also take a laptop and charger for work, phone, Fitbit watch and a notebook with multicolored pens to organize ideas. Leftover space is designated for a book, gratitude journal, and some additional accessories to shake up my outfits. The compression straps on the outside of my pack make for a great tripod or yoga mat holder, but these are not items I pack unless I’m certain I’ll need them.


It’s important that I take healthy snacks with me as not all airports have healthy options. I love Kencko’s instant to-go juices so much because they can go anywhere- even through TSA! The packets take up almost no space and just need water. My other faves are the oh so delightful Raw bars and dried fruit but it doesn’t really matter as long as they’re there.

The results

It brought me a stronger sense of freedom than I expected. It’s encouraged me to fly in to my destination early to start exploring right away, no need to drop anything off. Bringing a bag onto a flight for free and walking right past baggage claim is liberating! One bag travel is like most things, equal parts art and science. If this sounds like your cup of tea, find the equation that works for you and let it happen.

How do you pack?

Mary Caitlin
Mary Caitlin

Lifestyle blogger and creator at Rosy Remedy, exploring the connection between intention, authenticity and happiness. On the hunt for small moments, big water, everything vintage and the best dry cappuccino in the Galaxy.

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