Countdown to Japan, this year’s pick for our annual 3 week family getaway. On the docket: Tokyo, Kyoto, Naoshima, Niseko (Alps) and back to Tokyo for a few final days of eating, karaoke and absorption of a culture I have been intrigued with for well over a decade. I would love to bring half my wardrobe, especially since we are staying at swanky hotels. But, experience dictates what a massive pain it is to lug n unwieldy piece of luggage on trains and into small rental cars. Also, I hate waiting for bags after a long international flight, not to mention potentially dealing with them being lost, a travel nightmare that I have dealt with on countless occasions. So, it’s carry-on for each family member. How do we do it? We pack for 1 week, include something dressy and bring accessories (well,not my husband) to add zip to  basics. I do laundry (or, ask hotel to do it) every 5 days or so. And, just buy new undies when we need it. If we end up acquiring a lot of things, we purchase a cheap duffel bag. Checking a bag on the way home isn’t such a big deal.


I begin packing two weeks before a trip. The living room couch is ground zero for trip preparation. Grooming and medicines are stockpiled in one area.  Clothes, divided by category-Pjs, undergarments, nighttime outfits, day outfits-are in another. Then, I check and recheck to make sure that everything proposed is essential. Packing basics (solid colors that work with everything) is key so you can mix and match them with an interesting scarf or necklace to create a variety of looks.


  • Favorite carry-ons? I have a Briggs & Riley carry on which is incredibly sturdy and expands. I got my daughters the Genius Pack which are stylish and sturdy. The best feature is labelled interior organizational compartments that act as a checklist and make packing easier. Both are spinners which make schlepping luggage a breeze.

Genius Pack Spinner Suitcase

Interior Compartments for Organization + Easy packing



  • Items are packed in Eagle Creek packing cubes. These packing aids keep everyone organized and compress the clothing inside of the suitcase. When we unpack, we often just toss the cube into a drawer versus unpacking.


Eagle Creek Cubes


  • Grooming-sunscreens, moisturizer, cleanser, makeup-are all travel sized. They are put into a gallon-sized ziplock.
  • Snacks are also compressed into gallon sized ziplocks. Go-to items are almonds, Go-Go squeeze apple sauce chia bars and instant oatmeal.


  • Each child brings a backpack stuffed with books, digital devices, snacks,  anti-bacterial wipes and a sweatshirt for the flight.


  • I bring a small half-filled duffel bag on the flight that fits on top of my suitcase. In it: books, gum, snacks, a mini pharmacy with just-in-case meds (Epipen, Alleve, Pepto Bismol, Ear drops, Immodium, Benadryl cream, eye drops, anti-bacterial wipes) a shawl and space for the treasures that I am sure to bring home from the trip.


Packing light seems like a tall order. But, it’s actually liberating. Once you travel without the albatross of heavy luggage, yo will never go back to checking bags.