How to Pack Your Carry-on Like a Travel Expert

Marianna Jamadi shares five easy steps for packing light but storing everything you need.

By: Chelle Morgan | Photos: Agnes Ciaciek and Marianna Jamadi


We’ve all been there – you’re taking off on a short 72-hour trip and the only thing left to do is pack your carry-on. Between the flight details, daily itinerary and figuring out when you can sneak in a drink with friends, it’s easy to put off packing until the last minute. With events, meetings and unpredictable weather, it can be overwhelming to decide what to bring and how to maximize the space in your bag.

Marianna Jamadi
lives out of her suitcase, exploring the world as a photographer and travel writer. Between multiple short trips, long vacations and her current assignment for the VSCO Artist Initiative, Jamadi is the ultimate nomad. After roaming through 17 countries and documenting every step, this world traveller has mastered the art of packing light – she is an expert at making the most of one bag.

We caught up with Jamadi during
a recent visit Peru to find out her tried-and-true methods for streamlining her carry-on.



Jamadi is strict with this rule. Before packing anything, make a list. “A list allows me to mentally wrap my head around what I need to wash, what I still need to pick up at the store and the right sized luggage to fit all my adventure necessities.”Use your list as a guide to visualize the size of the carry-on you’ll need for your trip.


Jamadi chooses neutrals and builds from there. “I always pack convertible pieces that can be dressed up or down in solid basics and then add a few bolder prints.” Think: classic t-shirts, a great pair of wrinkle-resistant pants and wash-and-go fabrics like Kaymace™ that transitions from day to night. Jamadi’s secret weapon? “I always pack a chic scarf that can keep you warm but doubles as a great accessory tied onto your bag or worn as a headscarf.”

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Combat dry skin, nails and hair with nourishing coconut oil – Jamadi’s cure-all solution – and choose hydrating skincare products (she always travels with Kiehls). It’s easy to get sidetracked from your health and fitness regime while in transit. “To stay on top of my health, I always pack my favorite teas to help my body detox. I try to stay active while I’m on-the-go, whether it's hiking, walking, yoga or meditation.”


Whether you are a roll-it-up or fold-it-flat packer, keep your items organized by zipping them into separate bags. “I pack my clothes in smaller bags for organizational purposes. I've sewed my own cute fabric bags with zippers to keep my clothes in helpful compartments.” Compartments eliminate loose items moving around during travel and save valuable space, squeezing extra room out of your carry-on.

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Unless you’re fully unplugging, your tech is essential. But it adds significant weight, so pack only the technology you need. A phone, Macbook Air, headphones and a portable power charger are Jamadi’s essentials for snapping photos, answering emails and staying in touch. Pro-tip: pack your tech last to make it easily accessible at airport security.

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Follow Jamadi on her world travels @nomadic_habit and explore a day in her life on the Brief.