I Travel for a Living—3 Things I Always Leave at Home When I Pack a Carry-On


(Image credit: @megansgraham)

There was a time when I thought traveling with a carry-on would be impossible for an overpacking fashion lover like me. But I challenged myself recently to travel with just that for quite an extensive trip and somehow managed to succeed. While visiting four different countries in just under two weeks, I packed over 20 outfits in my carry-on. Staying in multiple places, many of which required a hefty set of stairs to ascend to my temporary abode, meant that I simply did not want to deal with lugging a heavy bag around. 

If you’ve made it through a long trip with just a carry-on, you know the feeling of waltzing past baggage claim with all your belongings in hand while other passengers pray their valuables didn’t get lost in transport. That’s what Megan Graham described as one of the greatest parts of traveling with just a carry-on when I asked her how she manages to squeeze it all in. Graham is so passionate about squeezing everything you own into a suitcase for a quick getaway that she invented a whole new process for storing the many beauty products that comprise both our a.m. and p.m. routines. I’ll let her catch you up on the seamless process below. 


(Image credit: @megansgraham)

What was it like traveling for Vogue and Allure? 

I love the feeling of being on the road or in transit, and I’m lucky to have traveled heavily for most of my career. It’s definitely not always glamorous. But that’s something that I love about travel—it’s a great equalizer. We all feel turbulence the same, we all fret about over-/underpacking, and we all feel a flutter of nervousness or excitement before any trip. 

The biggest difference is what I pack when traveling for work, not necessarily how I pack or travel. When traveling for work, I bring more beauty products (foundation, blush, eyeliner) and more fashionable work attire. When I travel for pleasure, all I really care about is if the bikini makes it in the bag, and everything else figures itself out!

Since leaving those titles, how have you approached your personal travel plans? 

Not much has changed. Owning a travel and beauty company has quite literally made travel my job, so every trip is both personal and work related.

Any favorite destinations you’ve explored? 

Palawan, Philippines, is the most beautiful place I’ve ever been.

Why did you create your brand Ries? 

After years of working for brands like Vogue and Allure, my desk was covered with every coveted beauty and haircare product, but none addressed the lack of functionality I’d encounter when packing my toiletries for a trip. The process was inconvenient at best and, at worst, incredibly wasteful. It required so many mini bottles made of virgin plastic that are impossible to reuse, or the curly haircare products I used in my regular routine weren’t made in a travel size. From a user standpoint, that entire process haunted me.

Shop the life-changing packing essential:

Ries (it rhymes with please!) makes the only refillable, reusable travel-size bottle designed for beauty. We’re all about the freedom to take care of yourself and the environment. Ries is the thoughtful way to be on the move with your beauty routine.

Are you an overpacker, or have you learned how to pack just enough? 

Oh my gosh, I’m such an overpacker! I’ve gotten better over the years. You know that old adage about accessorizing an outfit (take off the last jewelry item you put on)? It works really well for packing too. If it’s not one of the first things I put in my suitcase, I probably added it last minute in a spurt of packing anxiety!

This article is all about squeezing it into a carry-on. Do you have any general tips for this before we dive in?

It’s such a power move to deplane and waltz past baggage claim with all your belongings in hand. The Essential by Ries has changed the way I travel with my toiletries. It’s empowering to have everything you need to look and feel your best, for as long as you need, in a convenient and compact way. I’m actually writing this from an airport right now—Ries comfortably sitting in my carry-on bag.

If your suitcase just won’t close, what things do you take out? 

Skip: Too Many Shoes


Shoes that are worth a squeeze:

Skip: Multiple Pairs of Pants

We all have that one pair we typically favor anyway, right?

Shop pants worth favoring:

Skip: Fancy Beach Clothes

I love a gilded caftan, but a good pareo is more multiuse as a cover-up, beach towel, or for some in-flight warmth.

Shop pareos:

What three beauty products do you find impossible to travel without? 

A good hand lotion because it’s so dry in-flight. Right now, I have D.S. & Durga in my Ries Essential.


Conditioner. It’s a nonnegotiable! Right now, I’m using Mielle.


A powerhouse face moisturizer. Stratia’s Liquid Gold is perfect for my combination skin and gives the tiniest hint of a golden glow, which I’m grateful for after a long haul or red-eye.


Shop more vacation-ready items:

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Associate Editor

Sierra Mayhew was always destined to work in fashion, but she didn't know it at first. Growing up with no choice but to wear a rotation of school uniforms and activewear, her love for fashion really blossomed when she moved away for college and was able to finally define her very own personal style. Shortly thereafter, she interned at Elle magazine and instantly knew that editorial was for her. After graduating from the University of Notre Dame, she worked for ShopBazaar, contributing regularly to Bazaar.com, and finally made her way to Who What Wear, where she is an associate editor. When she’s not working, you can catch her always trying to catch a flight, rollerblading through New York City traffic, or exploring the latest luxury vintage boutique.