Packing light is a bit of a game for me. My husband laughs at me, but each trip is an opportunity for success as I whittle down my baggage weight. I’m a systems girl, and travel is no exception. I do things like leave a hair dryer, curling iron, and straightener at my mom’s house. It’s our first stopping point on multi-city trips, and the plugs only work in the United States. So I save the space and effort. Plus it lets my sisters-in-law have access on their trips!
Photos via Banana Republic.
Limiting the things I bring on a trip also saves energy, because after a long week of lugging around a heavy suitcase, I’m flustered and drained. It also saves money on checked baggage fees. And it allows me extra room to bring home souvenirs and decor, one of my favorite parts of traveling!
Packing light essentially takes two steps: limit what you bring and pack efficiently.
Step One: Limit what you pack
Plan your clothing. Choose coordinating colors, durable materials, and simple layers. Get fancy with accessories, like jewelry and scarves. I usually pick one neutral to work with, like navy blue or gray, then build my outfits around that. I make sure each piece goes with multiple options. The cardigan can be worn with the dress, skirt, and jeans. Each top needs to go with at least two bottoms.
Limit your shoes. One dress, one casual, one active, all in similar colors. For example, a pair of ballet flats, heels, and walking shoes all in shades of brown.
Pack for the best case scenario. Forget taking everything you might need, that list will never end! Instead, pack for the best and plan on purchasing anything you might need. In all of my trips, that might have cost me $100 total.
Buy basic toiletries on site. Central America, Europe, United States. I’ve never been ANYWHERE that I haven’t been able to find travel sized toiletries that work perfectly. In fact, they’re sometimes cheaper when purchased internationally. Leave the shaving cream, shampoo, conditioner, and soap at home. But take any specialty items that you know you won’t be able to get on site (face wash, eye cream, makeup…).
For longer trips, pack for a week to two weeks, max. If you’re going anywhere for longer than 10 days, you can plan an afternoon to do laundry or use a local service which is a much cheaper option internationally. Kilkenny has a service that costs €1 per lb of clothing. Granada had another option that costs roughly $10 for a week’s worth of laundry. A simple Google search will show the most reliable source, usually posted in travel forums by English speaking travelers.
Pack a lightweight tote bag. You can check your bag on the way back and carry on all your pretty souvenirs!
Step Two: Pack efficiently
Roll, roll, roll. Take those clothes and roll them up. It’s a method taught to me by my military trained brothers. You can pack twice as much, and your clothing won’t get wrinkled.
Start with your shoes. Wrap them in bags. Plastic bags might not be as eco-friendly, but I’m convinced that cotton bags don’t really contain the dirt. Line your shoes around the edges of your bag. My bag has built in shoe holders on the lid, but I use them for holding intimates and accessories. It’s just easier that way, and they’re more flexible than bulky shoes.
Add in heavyweight items. Take your rolled jeans and sweaters, and line the bottom of your suitcase.
Add the lighter items. Camisoles, tees, intimates, and other lightweight items go in next filling in the holes and space as needed. Try to keep the layers even, it will help when you’re adding in toiletries.
Side note: I travel with a camera, but I don’t have the patience to carry a laptop bag, camera bag, AND carry-on bag. I combine my camera and laptop bags by packing my lenses in between the layers of my lighter items, making sure they are well padded and protected from liquids and jostles.
Top with accessories and toiletries. Make sure they are bagged properly, and place them on top. I also leave room for my jacket on the very top of the bag if necessary. It’s usually uncomfortable to wear it while on a flight.
Tighten the straps. You’d be surprised how much room those seemingly useless straps will create when you tighten them down. They also keep things stable and safer.