Gillian Morris is the founder and CEO of Hitlist, an app that alerts you when there are cheap flights for places you want to go. Morris travels constantly — unsurprising for a travel startup founder — and one of the most important ways that she’s able to do it and keep her sanity is by carrying the tiniest bag you’ve ever seen.
“It’s small enough to count as a personal item even on the most stingy of budget carriers,” she says. “I never have to pay for baggage. I never have to gate check anything.”
You can watch the video above to get a inside look at her packing techniques. Or read on. I got this ninja travel packing expert to show me what’s in her bag and how she manages to pack so light.
1. Get the right bag: Morris packs everything she needs — for business, for working out, for going out — into a small Cote & Ciel leather bag that she can sling over her back. This hybrid backpack-and-tote measures just 13.39 inches high by 9.45 inches wide by 0.79 inches deep. Another benefit? It doesn’t look like a suitcase, so she can walk right off a plane and into a meeting.
2. Use space-efficient pieces: Morris’s mission? “It’s all about finding versatile and space-efficient pieces.” A pair of folding zeroUV sunglasses fits in her pocket and are cheap — just $11 on Amazon — so Morris doesn’t care if she loses them. They come with a folding case that packs flat, saving space when she’s not wearing the sunglasses.
3. Adopt a travel uniform: Morris has a pared-down travel wardrobe that she can mix and match to work in most every situation. That includes an Everlane silk top (“Every once in a while I clean it off in the sink, but you don’t need to do much more than that”), a pair of coated black Joe’s jeans that can be dressed up or down and a pair of poly-blend Banana Republic track pants that she got at a thrift store for $3 and that work as pajamas or for going out. She also brings a black leather jacket from Tahari or an Ann Taylor blazer that was another thrift shop find.
4. Keep it light: “I am fanatic about making sure everything is as light as possible,” says Morris, who packs a cashmere cardigan. “Cashmere is the best warmth-to-weight ratio out there. I don’t think they even have synthetics that have the same amount of durability.”
5. Multitask: A Chiceco dopp kit doubles as a purse and a clutch. “I like to think that it’s formal enough if I’m wearing something nice to take out for an evening,” she says.
6. Keep shoes to a minimum: Morris tries to travel with no more than two pairs of shoes, choosing between heels, booties, sandals and a pair of Nike Free 4.0 Flyknit sneakers, which compact down but are still the bulkiest thing in her bag (“I would love to find an even more compact sneaker, but I also don’t want to sacrifice on support because I like to go for runs.”). Her strategy: She uses the booties if she knows the trip will be a bit more casual and leaves the heels behind. If she’s not likely to have time to work out, she leaves the sneakers behind. “I usually travel with just sneakers and heels. The booties get swapped in for one or the other if I’m traveling in winter,” says Morris. “I never bring more than two pairs of shoes, excluding sandals, which I’ll throw in if I’m going to be on a beach.”
7. Don’t let electronics weigh you down: As any traveler knows, cords associated with electronics can take up a lot of room in your bag. Morris has boiled down of all her cords by using two essential pieces. Her favorite discovery: the slim-lined Kikkerland Universal Travel Adapter. “I am their number-one fan.” She also uses a retractable lightning cord for her iPhone to save space.
8. Keep your cosmetics lean: Morris relies on the products in her hotel room, but also brings a few key items, like the mini deodorant from Freedom.
9. Save space for the things you love: Morris always travels with a book. “I feel like I should have a Kindle because it’s more space efficient, but I really love leaving books with people,” she says. “When I finish a book, I pass it along to someone else, and you can’t do that with a Kindle.” Another surprising thing that’s in the bag of a tech founder? A packet of postcards and card stock. “I love sending postcards and write one almost every day, and I always send thank-you notes for people who invite me to dinner or let me stay at their house.”