travel

What to Pack in Your Carry-On for International & Domestic Travel

what to pack in your carry on for international travel

Regardless of whether I'm spending several months abroad or just escaping for a quick weekend away, my carry-on bag contains some "tried and true" items that I never leave at home. Recently, I've really optimized how I pack this particular bag by using some new organizational tactics that I'm really excited about. So whatever travels are on your horizon, here are some items I think will help make your carry-on less cluttered, more organized + filled with items you'll actually benefit from.

WHAT IS MY CARRY-ON?

Before I dive into what’s in my bag, let’s talk about the actual bags I use. Most (not all) airlines allow one carry-on bag and one personal item per passenger. Depending on the length of my trip, I typically use one of the following combinations:

I love these bags because they’re high-quality and polished without costing a fortune. I will caveat that this Calpak suitcase (which has held up for over 2 years now, so I can’t complain!) does feel a bit more on the trendy side and not quite as much of a timeless piece as I would prefer. My plan is to use this luggage until it breaks/wears out- then I plan to switch to the AWAY luggage (which comes with a lifetime warranty, but still falls in a great price range).

If I’m carrying on the Calpak suitcase, the contents inside that bag don’t really apply for what’s needed for a flight (it’s either alleviating weight from my checked bag, or it’s serving as my suitcase for the entire trip). That bag will either be gate checked, or stored overhead during the flight. So let’s focus on what’s inside my Cuyana Classic Structured Tote or my Leatherology Kessler Duffle Bag.

Cuyana Classic Structured Leather Tote

A lot of people love Louis Vuitton or other designer carry-all bags for travel days. While I may splurge and pull the trigger on an investment piece like that eventually, at this stage in life while I’m traveling non-stop, I still prefer to spend that sum of money on an actual trip versus a bag alone. With that said, I am a big believer in high-quality products (contrary to the seemingly disposable fashion world we live in). This Cuyana carry all is a perfect middle ground: it’s not a cheap bag that will fall apart and need to be replaced quickly, but it’s also not going to cost you what a trip to Paris would! Furthermore, Cuyana is an ethical brand that sustainably sources their materials, and I’m always happy to support them.

ORGANIZATIONAL BAGS

Inside my Cuyana tote, I’m now incredibly organized thanks to a few organizational bags I recently acquired that sit neatly inside:

Let’s start with the Truffle Clarity Jetset Case. First, I love this brand because they offer thoughtful, eco-friendly bags that are stylish and functional. This particular bag is TSA compliant to serve as your liquids bag (so you’re not throwing away single-use plastic bags every time). The clear plastic components of a TRUFFLE are made with biodegradable TPU, a solvent-free material that is certified for safety by the FDA and NSF.

Inside this particular bag, I store my liquids that I carry on every flight, including:

carry on liquid bag

The next bag I use is another Cuyana one. This is actually the smaller bag in a set (I use the large bag for my toiletries, which is checked in my suitcase). In here, I keep all my tech-related adapters and cords. Everything from my computer charger, phone charger and external charger, to the different converters and plugs for each respective country I’m visiting. Cords can be the culprit of incredibly cumbersome and tangled messes in your bag if you don’t keep them tucked neatly away, so I’ve loved having this bag to hold them all in one place.

This bag set is great quality (again, from Cuyana). I’ve had them both for over 3 years now and they’ve held up beautifully. I love the pebbled leather and the option to add a simple monogram detail for a bit more customization and polish.

cuyana tech bag

Looking for a great external charger to tuck in this bag? I actually have two I can recommend! For a long time I used this Yoobao power bank, which I still swear by. I will say, it’s not the best for portability (it’s about the size of a brick except flat and not as thick). But I swear, the thing just never dies! I can sometimes go an entire trip without ever needing to recharge it.

Haley gifted me a much more portable option (which is what I now pack in my carry because of its weight, but I actually still check the Yoobao power bank). Now, I love having this Anker Powercore as a more lightweight option to keep on me. While it definitely doesn’t last as long as the Yoobao power bank, you still get a few charges out of it before it needs to be recharged- which is plenty for a carry-on companion.

Again, I always bring both on trips (personal preference: it’s just easier to have one recharging while one is with me) but I think both are great options depending on your personal preferences.

cuyana tech bag

Moving onto my next organizational bag, this clarity clutch is another piece by TRUFFLE. Again, this is TSA compliant for your liquids (although I don’t really use it for that). Between this piece and the Truffle Clarity Jetset Case, I think the latter is better for your liquids, as it doesn’t lay flat and can hold more bulky pieces.

With that said, I love this clarity clutch for holding some other miscellaneous items that typically would float freely throughout my bag, causing clutter.

carry on essentials

I like to think of this as my “refresh” bag. In here, I have everything from antibacterial wipes (because I always wipe down my airplane arm rests, window and tray table), breath spray, mints— even underarm deodorizing wipes for moments on-the-go where I wish I could take a shower. I also use it to hold some items that provide a little “in-flight pick-me-up”: whether that’s a healthy snack like almond butter or under eye illuminating patch masks to brighten the eye area. Finally, it has a handful of travel-sized beverage options I can easily dissolve into water or coffee, like this goopglow skin superpowder, or Vital Proteins collagen creamer.

what's in my carry on
carry on essentials

My Cuyana tote also carries my laptop, glasses, wallet, etc. so sometimes (usually for longer trips) I need a bit more space than what it can hold. For this, I’ll turn to my Leatherology Kessler Duffle for larger, more bulky items (and anything else that can’t squeeze into the tote).

leatherology duffle bag

In here, I’ll usually carry some sort of layer- no matter the season! Temperatures on airplanes vary so much, and I tend to get cold rather easily. This Cuyana alpaca cape is a great way to cozy up in style (while feeling like you’re in a blanket). Another article of clothing I’ll throw in here (especially for long flights!) is compression socks, which not only keep your toes warm, but they also help reduce swelling and that pins-and-needles feeling you get when sitting still for long periods of time.

If I’m planning to sleep on the flight, I’ll pack my Trtl neck pillow, which I love so much more than traditional travel pillows (it properly supports your neck and takes up a fraction of the space).

If my bag is overweight, I’ll usually stick a pair or two of heavy shoes in here to help alleviate my weight allowance. Otherwise, I use the remaining space to store a book (see below for some current reads I’m enjoying), some snacks, and a few other miscellaneous items in here or my Cuyana tote- it just depends on the trip and how much space I have in each bag!

MISCELLANEOUS ITEMS

TRAVEL WALLET: I love having a place to keep my cards, currency, passport and travel documents all in one place.

LUGGAGE TAG: This technically goes on the bag and not inside, but nevertheless, I love this added detail to make my travel ensemble more elevated and polished (plus, it’s better for the environment not to use those single-use paper options!)

TRIANGLE POUCH: I love this little pouch for a variety of reasons (I personally keep my AirPods in here, but it’s also great for coins, hair ties, etc.)

PASSPORT CASE: Depending on your travel wallet, this may not be a necessity, but nevertheless I personally love this little detail (if you can’t tell by how many times I’ve used the words “elevated” and “polished” already, I’m clearly a sucker for anything that creates this aesthetic).

CARD HOLDER: While I love my travel wallet, I love having a smaller card holder option to use once I’m at my destination so I’m not carrying around quite as much every day.

NECESSARY SUPPLEMENTS: I like to keep all my prescriptions and supplements in one place (I actually use a TUMI case that Delta provides in Business Class, which also came with a sleep mask, however this Truffle Clarity Pouch would be a great alternative). Some supplements I recommend that anyone can benefit from include NotPot CBD gummies (which offer anti-inflammatory, neuroprotective and anti-anxiety effects - all great for flying!) If you’re looking to catch some z’s, I swear by these Bulletproof Sleepmode Softgels (I got the best sleep of my life on a plane using these and had no groggy after-effect). I also recommend always traveling with some type of pain relief should you have a headache or anything like that.

travel supplements

While there are slight variances in each trip, hopefully this post helps you optimize the way you pack to not only be more thoughtful about the items you bring along on a trip, but to stay more organized along the way!

Did I leave anything out that you swear by bringing in your carry-on? I’d love to hear in the comments below!

Thanks for reading + happy travels!

xx

Whitney

carry on essentials
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The Best Day Trips & Overnight Trips From London

WEEKENDS AWAY AND DAY TRIPS FROM LONDON

One of the most common questions I’m asked is what are some of my favorite day trips or overnight trips to add to an itinerary while visiting London. For starters, there are loads of great options- far more than I can condense into a single blog post! But since I’ve spent quite a bit of time exploring the UK from my extended stays in London now, I thought I’d at least share my favorites thus far to help you as you plan your travels. What I have listed as day trips vs. overnight trips is completely arbitrary based on my personal experiences, but hopefully these serve as a helpful starting point to more effectively plan your time.

DAY TRIPS:

CAMBRIDGE:

CAMBRIDGE ENGLAND

In just a quick hour by train from King’s Cross Station (and a few others around London) you can be in Cambridge, a charming University town known for it’s quaint streets and beautiful buildings. Once an important trading town back in Roman times, Cambridge rose in popularity when it’s famous university was established in 1209 (former alumni include Charles Darwin and Sir Isaac Newton). We honestly just arrived with no agenda and had so much fun exploring the campus, the local pubs and charming cobblestone streets. Some highlights I would recommend include:

-Climb the tower at Great St. Mary’s for a view over King’s College Chapel

-Tour King’s College Chapel (home to the largest fan vaulted ceiling in the world) and Trinity College (where 30+ Nobel Prize winners were once students. It’s famous Wren Library is home to two of Shakespeare’s first pieces).

-Go for a punting tour (essentially a boat ride along the River Cam) which is one of the most famous things to do in this town- weather permitting!

There are also loads of charming pubs along the riverbank which make for a cozy lunch spot (I recommend trying The Anchor or The Punter).

cambridge england
cambridge england




OXFORD:

OXFORD UNITED KINGDOM

In another quick hour by train from London (I departed from Paddington but loads of stations can get you here) you’ll find yourself in another prestigious university town: Oxford. Once nicknamed the “City of Dreaming Spires”,

I had the best day exploring here with my aunt and uncle: both retired professors who spent many summers at Oxford for work. Letting them be my guide, here are some of the must-see spots they took me to:

-Touring Christ Church College: This is a wealthy and prestigious college, and CC people are especially proud of the cathedral (while all Oxford colleges have chapels; the “chapel” at CC is the cathedral for the city of Oxford!) This is also where Lewis Carroll wrote his Alice in Wonderland books (the hall has characters from the books in one of the stained glass windows.) And if you’re a Harry Potter fan, you’ll also appreciate that several locations here on campus were used to film various scenes at Hogwarts in the films.

-Blackwells Bookshop: Located in the Broad Street and close to the Bodleian, this is one of the most famous bookstores in the world (I purchased a copy of “Brideshead Revisited” here- which takes place at Oxford).

-The Turf Tavern: This is a wonderful spot to have lunch! My aunt pointed out to me while we sat at the tables outside and to the back, that from that seat you have a good view of New College Tower, which is famous for its gargoyles.


-Radcliffe Square: While Oxford’s colleges scattered all around the city center, my aunt always enjoys a stroll through Radcliffe Square — which is right at the heart of Oxford. This circular library has the Bodleian to the north, the university church of St. Mary the Virgin to the south, All Souls College to the east and Brasenose College to the west. Whichever direction you choose to stroll, there is architectural beauty on all sides.

-St. Mary’s tower: Climb this ancient stone staircase for a stunning view at the top.

-The Sheldonian Theatre in the Broad Street, designed by Christopher Wren, is used for university ceremonies as well as concerts. Beautiful ceiling, uncomfortable seats!

-Bridge of Sighs is a skyway built in 1914 that connects 2 parts of Hertford College.

-Bodleian Library (which is the UK’s second largest library and contains over 11 million works).

OXFORD UNITED KINGDOM



WINDSOR:

With it’s recent spotlight from Harry & Meghan’s Royal Wedding, Windsor has become quite a popular day excursion from London. I’ve been a few times now and have always enjoyed my time in this charming little town. It’s definitely worth touring Windsor Castle (where you can currently see all the Royal Wedding outfits on display!) This is the oldest and largest occupied castle in the world, and there is so much interesting information to learn audio tour (I always love doing audio tours at places like this so I can learn, but at my own pace). On the grounds of the castle, you can’t miss St George's Chapel, where the Royal Wedding was (it was so cool to sit in the choir loft exactly where the Queen did!) The chapel was designed in the high-medieval Gothic style and it’s truly an architectural marvel.

Aside from Windsor Castle, it’s also worth strolling through the little town to explore (it has so much charm!) You can feed the swans (you’ll see them along the Thames) and then head to lunch at The Boatman (a lovely little pub right along the river).


windsor castle
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HAMPTON COURT PALACE

Just 12 miles (and a short train ride) outside of London is the former home of the tyrannical Henry the VIIIth: Hampton Court Palace. I did a day trip out here with my family while there were in town visiting and I really enjoyed it a lot. Not only were the ground beautiful, but there is SO much interesting information to learn about how extensive of a staff it took to keep such an elaborate property well-kept (and such a gluttonous patriarch satisfied!) Again, I love audio tours because they let you skip the bits that doesn’t appeal, but give loads of information if you really want to dig into something else that fascinates you.

On the palace grounds, there’s also an incredible playground, also known as the “Magic Garden”, that’s perfect on a lovely day (my 10 and 12 year old cousins had a lot of fun here). We also all enjoyed doing the hedge maze, which was actually built by George London and Henry Wise for William III of Orange back in the late 1600s.

For food, we packed sandwiches from Pret because we didn’t have high expectations for what our dining options would be, but they ended up having a lovely cafe area with fresh menu items made from the gardens— so I would recommend just doing lunch there!

It’s also worth noting that in the summer they show outdoor films here on the lawn, which looked like great fun (but unfortunately didn’t align with my travel schedule).

hampton court palace

HARRY POTTER STUDIO TOUR

If you’re not a Harry Potter enthusiast, kindly disregard. But if you are, run- don’t walk to tour this incredible attraction! My brother, sister-in-law and I had such a fun day here. It’s out in Watford- which is about an hour outside of London (and it’s not super easy to get directly to the studio either). We actually booked a tour through Viator, which included our ticket, but also brought us directly to/from in a coach so we didn’t have to fret about sorting out transportation (the coach leaves from Victoria Station in central London). It definitely is an all day affair- we left around 9am and didn’t get back until about 5pm (can vary depending on London traffic!) It takes a good 3-4 hours at least to go through the entire experience (could be more or less depending on your level of interest).

harry potter studio tour london united kingdom
harry potter studio tour london united kingdom



OVERNIGHT/WEEKEND TRIPS:

BATH

Bath certainly has more to offer than what you can squeeze into a day (in my opinion anyway!) We loved coming here for just under 48 hours for a quick little history lesson and to marvel at the beautiful Georgian-style architecture (it’s often referred to as Edinburgh’s little sister, and if you’ve been you’ll understand why when you see it!)

Bath has been a wellbeing destination since Roman times (and the waters are still a big draw, both at the ancient Roman Baths and the thoroughly modern Thermae Bath Spa, which houses one of the 2 only natural thermal hot springs in Britain you can bathe in.)

If you were on the fence about whether to stay overnight or not- let the Gainsborough Bath Hotel & Spa tip the scale for you. This hotel was voted “Best Hotel in the UK” by Condé Nast Traveller, and it’s not hard to see why. Their service is unparalleled, the interior is a beautiful fusion of classic and contemporary, the cuisine at their in-house restaurant is delicious, and my favorite bit? The Spa Village Bath.

Again, if you’re looking to spend some time in Bath’s infamous thermal waters, your options are either a more public/accessible route through Thermae Bath Spa (which we also visited and really enjoyed) or The Spa Village Bath at The Gainsborough (pictured below).

BATH UNITED KINGDOM
gainesboro hotel bath spa

It’s worth mentioning once more what a delight it was to stay at The Gainsborough. Treat yourself to a luxurious stay and I promise you that you won’t regret it for a second.

Some other things you should add to your to-do list whilst in Bath? Here’s what my friends at Visit Bath recommended (and we throughly enjoyed).

-Visit the Roman Baths: Immerse yourself in history and see how Bath’s former residents relaxed all those centuries ago. Interactive exhibits and CGI reconstructions bring this unique ancient site back to life, showing how important the baths were to our Roman ancestors.

-Climb Bath Abbey’s Tower: Take the Bath Abbey Tower Tour to see the different, working side of this iconic landmark. Ascend 212 steps to the top, and you will climb past the ringing chamber to the bell chamber, to have the chance to stand above the Abbey’s vaulted ceiling and sit behind the clock face. Once you reach the roof, you’ll be rewarded with breathtaking views over the city and surrounding countryside.

-Get Lost in Austen: Visit The Jane Austen Centre to delve into the life of Britain’s favourite author. Exhibits and costumed characters tell the story of Austen’s time spent living here in Bath between 1801 and 1806 and the impact it had on her work.

-See Bath from Another Angle: Take a stroll on the Bath Skyline Walk. Just a short distance from the city centre, this six-mile route takes you through lush meadows, secluded valleys and ancient woodlands. Alongside the natural splendour, you’ll also take in some spectacular wide-angle vistas of beautiful Bath.

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THE COTSWOLDS


I actually wrote a blog post on this region that will provide a lot more valuable information than I can fit in this little section— head here for more information!

BROADWAY COTSWOLDS ENGLAND
COTSWOLDS

four seasons hampshire united kingdom
Four Seasons Hampshire UK

I technically did just come here for a day trip, but having done so I would recommend Four Seasons Hampshire for an overnight getaway from chaotic London. My friend Victoria and I came for a little spa getaway and lunch, but there is so much more to enjoy here than just that! The property as a whole offers lush English gardens, horseback riding along the rolling hills, and is all set in a restored, 18th-century manor on 500 acres of picturesque grounds outside of London. I’ve always loved visiting Four Seasons properties around the world— their staff is consistently incredible and the quality of attention they put into every detail is unparalleled.

four seasons hampshire united kingdom
four seasons hampshire spa uk
four seasons hampshire united kingdom

This is a post I’ll continue to add to over time, because my list of day trips and weekend trips has not been completed! There are so many lovely places to explore, but hopefully this gives you a good starting point to help plan. Have you done a day trip, overnight trip, or weekend trip near London that I failed to mention? Tell me in the comments below so I can visit it as well!

Thanks as always for stopping by!

xx

Whitney

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SPRING TRAVEL ANNOUNCEMENT

SHE LOVES ADVENTURE

Ever since I left Europe, I’ve gotten lots of questions about what’s next. I’ve been asked by you guys via Snapchat or in e-mails, from friends I recently re-connected with after being away, and even from people that I’m just meeting for the first time when they hear that I just moved back.

 

First and foremost, my answer isn’t that I’m simply going back to normal life at home. As dramatic as it may sound, my “normal" life died a long time ago. For a while that term could have meant having my same circle of friends I had always had. Then it spoke more to having a great corporate job.  Then it was a season of navigating starting a business, followed by a season of planning to move abroad. Long story short, things have progressively become less and less “normal” in my life these past few years, so I wouldn’t really know which of those normal lives to go back to, even if I tried.

 

So if I’m not going “back to normal” that brings us back to the original question: what’s next?

 

The long term answer is that I’m still figuring that out. While I do have several possibilities I’m mulling over, the reality is that none of them are certain yet. I mean, do any of us actually know what we’ll be doing later this year? You may think you do, but life has a funny way of throwing us curveballs...

 

As for the short-term future, I’ve had something up my sleeve for a little while now that I’m excited to share: I’m hitting the road in February for a six-week road trip to the west coast and back!

 

Seeing so much of Europe made me realize how many places I still haven’t seen in my own country (there really are so many wonderful places to travel in the US).  I’ve never seen the Grand Canyon or lots of other National Parks. I’ve never seen some of the amazing cities in the southwest. I’ve never been to some of the spots I’ve always wanted to go in cities where I’ve already been. So since I already had a few speaking gigs coming up at Universities out west (and since my car had a nice little break for about 5 months) I decided I want to hit the road and see some of the best travel destinations in the US before making any further plans abroad. 

 

I’ll be using the next few weeks to sort out details from the last adventure and to prep for this next one. I can’t share all the confirmed locations just yet (gotta keep some mystery!) but to give you a little taste of what’s to come, expect to see travel guides featuring: SantaFe, The Grand Canyon, Palm Springs and a handful of surprises that I can’t wait to share!

 

I also have a few open slots in my itinerary if you’re interested in booking me to stop through your city and host a goal workshop for you and your friends. I love hosting these dinners + dreaming big with people, and there’s no better time than the first of the year to make the happen! Click below to learn more or shoot me a note at: theblondeatlas@gmail.com.

 

 

Lastly, if you have any requests for cities you’d like to see travel guides on or any suggestions you think I should check out, I’d love for you to share in the comments below! 

Stay tuned for more details to come, and cheers to another year of adventure ahead!

xx- Whitney

 

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