I Travel for a Living—This Easy Packing List Has Never Once Failed Me


Traveling is designed to bring about excitement as opposed to stress. Sure, you have to pay an alarming amount for a taxi to the airport, get through security without your belt or a 4 oz. bottle of perfume setting off the alarms, and sit in a tube for an annoyingly long period of time (no matter how far you’re traveling). But once you actually make it to your destination, the good times should roll. There’s only one problem: If you don’t pack well, they won’t—period.

Luckily, there are experts for that. “If I am an expert in anything, I swear it’s packing,” says Monica Mendal, a writer, editor, and consultant who traded in fashion for travel about five years ago. “Growing up, my dad never let us check bags so I learned how to travel light from an early age,” she explains. “Believe it or not, it is possible to go one month with just a carry-on—and I’m a fashion girl. I love fashion!” She’d know. She’s done it plenty of times. According to Mendal, she travels for more than half of the year. “I think an easier question to answer would be how often am I home?”

To find out from the best about what to always pack for a successful travel experience, Mendal shared her tried-and-true packing list. 

How to pack everything: “Shoes go in first and roll your clothes (don’t fold!)—that’s number one. I realize I always pack more than I end up wearing, even with a carry-on. One to two pairs of shoes, one bag, and a bunch of easy layering pieces that I can wear multiple ways always do the trick. Wear your bulkiest items on the plane. For longer trips, I try to book a combination of hotels and Airbnbs with washing machines so I can do some laundry halfway through the trip. Just remember to pack less than you think you need and leave space for souvenir shopping. You’ll thank me later!”

“No matter the season, I always pack a cashmere sweater. I’m big into comfort and layering, so whether I’m wearing it styled with pants, over a dress, or just draped over my shoulders for some extra warmth, I always get tons of wear out of it.”

“Whether it’s the classics or my Gucci or Wales Bonner versions, I never travel without a pair of Sambas.”

“I simply cannot travel without one. I need it to keep my phone alive as I’m constantly using it for GPS/navigation/google maps, etc. It’s so unnerving to stress about your phone battery when you’re traveling– especially as I often travel solo.”

“I don’t wear much makeup but I don’t leave the house without SPF and this is my go-to. It protects my skin while also giving me a healthy, dewy glow!”

“I use my Porto pouches (I have every color!) day and night. I seriously don’t bring any other bags! They fit everything I need and are really easy and lightweight to carry on your wrist. Best of all, they take up no space!”

“It’s easy to lose track of time and deadlines while traveling, but writing things down always helps me stay organized. I keep everything in my Smythson planner; it’s compact and comes with a pencil so it comes with me everywhere.”

“Again, I’m not big on makeup, but I do love to use a little creamy blush after long travel days so I don’t look as exhausted as I feel. I love everything by Merit, but I especially swear by their flush balms.”

“I love my Saks Potts AirPods case. I have the orange, so it’s easy to find in the depths of my bags and I also use the keychain to keep the keys to my AirBnB’s safe.”

“I’ve had Kallmeyer’s opera trench for a couple of years now and it’s always the first thing in my suitcase. It’s super lightweight, easy to layer over any outfit, and a piece that’ll keep you looking chic on rainy days. It’s also a big showstopper; I get tons of compliments when I wear it!” Kallmeyer’s opera trench is currently sold out. Shop a similar style from Everlane.

“Getting sick while traveling is always a bummer. For that reason, I keep packets of Hilma Immune Support in all of my suitcases and take them almost every morning while traveling.”

“I travel frequently to Europe and I always like to have coins on hand for bus and metro tickets, my morning coffee, and service tips. That said, I can’t live without my leather coin case from Pettinaroli (my favorite shop in Milan!)”

“For my personal item, I only ever use the Paravel Weekender bag. I love the trolley sleeve and it’s really spacious.”

“Away is arguably the best [luggage option.] I travel almost exclusively using a carry-on.”

“Even if you need a check-in bag, their check-in bags are definitely the best bang for your buck.”

“Get one of their flex bags so you have the option to expand on your return if you do a lot of shopping.”

“Rimowa luggage is chic but pretty heavy, and frankly, doesn’t fit as much as Away suitcases. Though, I did recently get the Essential Cabin S for my small plane Euro trips and it’s been great. It’s lightweight and fits more than other Rimowa suitcases I’ve had in the past.”

It goes without saying that if you’re traveling to another country, you should pack an international adaptor. Take it from someone who traveled to Norway without one only to discover that the entire country was sold out of EU to US adaptors. 

If ever you’re feeling not so fresh after a flight or a long night of dancing in a foreign country, this French facial elixir will save the day. 

Uniqlo’s socks are both comfortable and stylish when styled right, making them perfect for wearing during the flight as well as paired with loafers, ballet flats, or sneakers for your long jaunts around whatever destination you find yourself in next. 

No travel wardrobe is complete without a pair of wear-with-anything sunglasses. 

The secret to packing light is bringing along items that can be worn in multiple ways, thus tricking people into thinking you brought a lot with none of the hassle and worry of checking a big bag of luggage. A simple poplin button-down can be layered over a turtleneck, under a crewneck, or worn solo—and those are just the highlights. 

It’s true, this $8 lip balm really is a great alt for the Rhode peptide lip treatment. 

Instead of packing one or two pairs of skin-colored underwear (Skims has a great range of shades), opt for them to make up the entirety of your selection. Don’t risk the highlighter yellow pair being the one left when you’re planning to wear a sheer slip dress or skirt. 

Forget worrying about liquid sizes with this solid moisturizer that’s become a cult classic among editors. 

Slouchy trousers that won’t wrinkle can be worn on a plane just as easy as they can be donned for a formal dinner out in whatever city you’re traveling to next. 

All the hydration you need after a long flight with none of the bulk inside your carry on. 

Jewelry can be a hassle to pack, especially if it involves items that can get easily tangled. Instead of bringing your entire jewelry box, pick one item that can be worn with everything you packed. 

No matter how well you pack, your clothes are bound to wrinkle at some point. This travel steamer will be there to pick up the slack (and flatten out your essentials). 

Next: I Just Got Back From Aspen—9 Trends I Packed to Get the Après-Ski Look

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