Nothing ruins a vacation faster than stepping off the plane in Bali and discovering your bags have been routed to Mali. Experienced travelers know that baggage snafus happen with disarming regularity and that it can take days for the airline to reunite you with your wayward luggage (if they manage to track it down at all).
There is, however, one surefire way to prevent your bags from being lost and potentially ruining your much-deserved getaway, and that’s to make like a travel editor and become a carry-on pro. Whether shipping off for a week-long vegan cruise, a 12-day food lover’s tour of Thailand, or traipsing to Los Angeles for a long weekend, my packing strategy remains the same: one carry-on bag and one personal item. Together, this minimalist approach holds everything a plant-based traveler needs—and then some. Admittedly, traveling light takes a little getting used to for everything-but-the-kitchen-sink types, but take it from a globetrotting pro—a low-maintenance travel style is the ticket to stress-free mobility. In other words, bringing only a carry-on bag and one personal item are exactly what you want on your next vacation. To help you navigate this unchartered territory, follow this packing roadmap, and your next getaway is guaranteed to be smooth sailing.
1 In the bag
Airlines have varying size restrictions for carry-on luggage, from the generous 24 x 16 x 10 at Virgin to the more restrictive 16 x 12 x 10 at discount carrier WOW. My own bag—a Paris thrift-store find made of thick vinyl—is 14 x 10 x 6 inches, or roughly the size of the average woman’s purse. No pully handle and no wheels—just two straps, a zippered closure, and a side-pocket with enough room for a few Primal Strips. Find your own compact leather-free weekend bag and take it for a trial run on your next weekend escape.
Pro tip: If you’re traveling as a couple, share an airline-approved carry-on bag and take turns playing porter.
2 Trim the toiletries
One fun strategy for instant integration into a new locale is to leave your shampoo bottles and toothpaste at home (squeeze enough onto your travel toothbrush for in-flight freshening), and make the quest for toiletries a jet lag recovery activity. Hit the streets in search of the local supermarket or pharmacy, learn to read labels in a new language, and get familiar with the local currency, all in one practical exercise.
Pro tip: Sunscreen is one personal-care item worth packing, since it’s almost always sold at premium prices in tourist destinations, where your favorite brand might not be available.
3 Pare the footwear
Limiting yourself to one pair of shoes and a pair of flip-flops is the roughest pack-like-a-pro rule for most people. Depending on the type of travel, I make my shoe allotment a pair of sporty flats, espadrilles, or clogs that can transition from day to night. Try it, and if you really can’t live without that second pair, make “vegan shoe shopping” one of your vacation activities.
Pro tip: Instead of more shoes, pack a second pair of sunglasses. Without a backup pair, you’re guaranteed to lose the ones you brought and end up paying a small fortune for emergency replacements.
4 Bottle behavior
I never leave home without my trusty reusable water bottle because a fresh supply of H2O is indispensable to keep me hydrated (and to fend off jet lag). Bringing a water bottle is also better for the environment because you’re taking plastic cups and bottles out of the equation. So, guzzle your water before going through security check, and refill it at one of the water-fountain refilling stations near the bathrooms in many airport lounges before taking it with you as you explore your vacation destination.
Pro tip: Save precious room in your carry-on bag by toting your water bottle in your hand as you board the plane.
5 Totes necessary
What did we do before compact tote bags were invented? They come in handy when you’re exploring local markets and want to try all the amazing fruit for sale, or when you’re headed to the beach and need something to hold your vegan snacks, sunscreen, and towel. One reliable option is the ChicoBag—it’s lightweight, squishes to the size of a small potato, and is strong enough to carry all your vegan provisions.
Pro tip: Ended up with too many travel souvenirs at the end of your trip? Use your compact bag as your “personal item,” and stuff your actual purse inside your totes with all your newly acquired goodies.
For more vegan travel tips, read:
The 7 Best Airlines for Vegan Meals
Santorini’s First Vegan Boutique Hotel Is Now Open
5 Vegan-Friendly Beach Towns You Need to Visit