02/01/2013 05:06 EST | Updated 04/03/2013 05:12 EDT

How to Travel With Only Your Carry-On

I travel a lot for work. One of the ways I've lessened the stress of all this flying is by only travelling with carry-on when I'm travelling for work or short trips. It takes discipline and, of course, there are rules and restrictions to follow, but it is doable! Here's how I pull it off.

In this Wednesday, Sept. 26, 2012 photo, a passenger carries her luggage past a flight direction sign at the Beijing Capital International Airport in Beijing. From almost none a decade ago, Asia now has more than 50 low cost carriers. The fast growth of no-frills airlines underline surging demand in the region for affordable air travel. But in China, where the government still keeps tight control of the rapidly growing airline industry, three big state-owned carriers dominate, leaving Chinese travelers out of the massive budget airline boom that has swept the region. (AP Photo/Andy Wong)

One sure way to combat these winter doldrums is to get away to a sunnier clime. Whether you take a regularly scheduled winter vacation, or travel is more of a work necessity, the mechanics of travel have become a lot more cumbersome in recent years. With longer check-in times, increased security and ever-tightening baggage restrictions, many of us struggle to travel with that freedom-of-spirit that travel should conjure.

I travel a lot for work -- and as often as I can to favourite cities for leisure too. Having overcome my phobia of confined spaces (and therefore flying), I fully embrace the convenience and speed of air travel. It's not unusual for me to be in multiple cities in one week; recently it was Montreal, New York and Toronto in 48 hours! And in February I'm looking forward to LA, Manchester, London, two trips to New York, Dominican Republic, Montreal and Toronto -- phew! just writing it is exhausting never mind living it. Needless to say, packing for it all will be a daunting prospect!

One of the ways I've lessened the stress of all this flying is by only travelling with carry-on when I'm travelling for work or short trips. The slower pace of a longer holiday allows for check-in luggage, but when I'm staring down three cities in a couple of days, carry-on only makes sense. It takes discipline and, of course, there are rules and restrictions to follow, but it is doable! Here's how I pull it off:

(1) Consider shoes first

Shoes take up the most space in your luggage. And if you're like me, they're also the "signature" item, the thing that often makes your outfit stand apart. I bring just two pairs of shoes -- one flat (yes, I do occasionally wear flats -- mostly studded Converse high-tops!) and one heel -- on every trip. The first thing I do when packing is decide what shoes I want to wear when I travel... everything from the ankle up takes its cue from that! At this time of year, wearing your favourite shoes can be a risky business on our salty and icy streets, so it's even more of a pleasure to dwell on the possibilities of donning those favourite heels in friendlier climates!

(2) Stay neutral

I'm unapologetic when it comes to my all-black closet (what can I say? I LOVE it!) But it really does serve me well when travelling because I don't have to worry about colour-coordination. I need only concentrate on shape and length, rather than colour, when choosing clothing. With the right selections, I wind up with pants, tunics, dresses, a leather jacket, tights and sweater-coats that can be coordinated and layered to create different looks. Often my dress will act as a tunic over my pants topped with my leather jacket!

Even if you're the kind of person who adores colour, I'd suggest narrowing down your palette when packing so that you can stick with fewer items that can be worn interchangeably to create different looks. If you're going for a change in climate, think about exploring a palette that you might not wear during winter in Canada. I even occasionally reach for white, though my "stretch" colour is mostly navy!

(3) Day-to-night accessories

A black dress can be taken day-to-night with just a purse swap and the addition of a dramatic piece of jewelry. An evening clutch or envelope and dramatic necklace will take up very little space in your luggage, but will ensure that you can go from office to evening easily. Because my job often involves both daytime and evening events, making this transition easily and quickly is a real secret of success.

It's a pet peeve of mine, but I also think about the hardware on my purses. If I'm only wearing a few things and my clothes are all black, I find it really jarring when the hardware on my purse clashes with my jewelry or the hardware on my shoes. So, if I'm going to be wearing silver metals, I make sure my purse has similar hardware, likewise for gold. It may sound nit-picky, but these are the details that make you look polished and put-together.

(4) Pack travel sizes

Many skincare and cosmetics companies offer travel-sizes of your favourite products -- take advantage of them! I keep travel sizes of all my favourite Kiehl's products at the ready. When you're away from home, it's especially nice to have those familiar favourites and it becomes a way of creating a home away from home. Even scented candles come in a travel size and I always travel with my favourite Costes candle because it instantly makes a hotel room feel a bit more like home.

(5) The sweater coat

The sweater coat is one of my all-time wardrobe staples -- my favourite is by Jil Sander. I always wear one the plane so I don't have to pack its bulk away in my luggage...but it's an essential travel garment too. Even if your destination is warm, airports and planes can be cold and draughty. If you're travelling red-eye, you'll also appreciate having something cozy to curl up in too. And when you're tired and just dying to get home, a sweater coat nearly doubles as a security blanket -- something warm and familiar to make you feel comforted!

(6) Downsize the technology

This is one area where I really take advantage of the most recent advancements. Remember those unwieldy first laptops? No more! I don't even bring a laptop with me any more, but rely on my iPad Mini. Before you load up your luggage with bulky technology really think about the tasks you'll need to perform and what devices you can use. Maybe you're more likely to Instagram on your iPhone than carry around that DSLR with all its lenses. Be honest -- and ruthless -- with yourself!

I know many people aspire to travel carry-on, but can't seem to make it happen. But, trust me: If I can do it, ANYONE can! Hopefully these tips help you on your next trip. If you have any of your own tips you'd like to share, I'd love to hear them too!

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