I used to be an overpacker.
I would bring way more than I needed because I felt like I wanted options.
I was afraid of being limited to whatever I had in my suitcase.
And worse, I used to be paranoid about forgetting things.
But then I got tired of having to roll around a heavy suitcase and waiting for my luggage to come out at the airport (which we all know takes forever).
So I decided I needed to be a smarter, more efficient traveler. These days, when I travel for a few days up to two weeks, I fit all my things in one carry-on suitcase. No more check-ins, no more annoying waits. There’s a certain pride that comes with successfully fitting your two weeks into one dainty little sack (I gotta be honest, I take a lot of pride in this accomplishment).
You may think it’s hard to do, but no! All that’s needed is a little pre-planning! Now, I’m happy to share with you my tips on how I pack light for my travels. Enjoy!
1. Check the weather.
What you pack into your suitcase will differ drastically depending on your destination—the Swiss Alps versus a St. Tropez beach resort. And to be safe and sure, check the weather forecast for your destination to get a sense of the types of clothing you will need in order to feel most comfortable.
2. Select two travel outfits (one for departure and another for return).
A rule I always follow when traveling is to wear something warm – definitely no mini-skirts or shorts. And if I wear a sleeveless top I am sure to layer it with a cardigan or jacket. When traveling internationally and to a cold place, I almost always opt for a shirt and jeans (or leggings) plus a jacket or sweater or cardigan. If I’m on a short trip to a warm place, I usually wear a tank with leggings with a cardigan or chambray shirt over it. I also make sure I have a scarf with me in my bag during travels in case it gets cold.
3. Wear your bulkiest and heaviest clothes/accessories.
If you’re bringing a hat, do not stuff it in your suitcase – you’ll just ruin it. It’s best to wear it on your flight. The same goes with bulky or thick jackets or bulkier shoes such as wedges or boots. Wearing them while you travel on the plane will save you plenty of space in your suitcase.
4. Select ensembles and accessories.
Pre-select your outfit for each day of the trip (top, bottom, undergarment, shoes, accessories, bag). I know you may think, “what if I don’t feel like wearing that outfit on that day?” or “What if I change my mind on an outfit?” You may think you want to bring more than you need, but having more options is going to drive you crazy. Make up your mind about which top goes with which bottom, and you will save so much time getting ready. This way, you won’t forget anything!
5. Take a photo of each outfit.
Lay each ensemble that includes top, bottom, shoes, and accessories on a flat surface such as your bed or the floor. Use your smartphone to take a photo of all ensembles to make it easier to recall your pre-selected outfits when getting dressed.
6. Vary your outfits and mix and match.
When you’re putting together ensembles, it’s better to have one pair of jeans, one skirt, and a pair of shorts instead of 3 different pairs of jeans or skirt or shorts. When you vary the types of tops and bottoms, you’ll end up with more to work with. And feel free to have fun with mixing and matching different tops with different bottoms to get new ensembles.
7. Choose lightweight clothing.
Instead of packing your 2-piece fleece pajamas, opt for your practically weightless one-piece silk or cotton nightgown instead. In lieu of thick sweaters or jackets, pick up your thinner cardigans instead.
8. Bring at least one dress for going out.
Even though you haven’t made plans to go out on any night, it’s wise to bring at least one pretty (semi-formal) dress in case someone spontaneously asks you out on a date to a fancy restaurant, or there’s a party or function that requires a dress code.
9. Take note of undergarments to match clothing.
No, we don’t mean color. No one will sue you for wearing blue underwear underneath a pink dress. We mean, take note that with some clothing colors or textures, say a sheer white top or a tight-fitting skirt, you may need to wear it with a nude bra or nude lace-less panties that don’t show themselves when pressed between you and the skirt.
10. Fold and roll.
The most space-saving way to pack a suitcase is to fold and roll all your clothing. That way, you not only make room to fit other things, but the items are more visible.
11. Shoes in shoe bags.
Place shoes inside shoe bags to keep the rest of your things clean. One shoe bag usually fits one pair, but sometimes you can even fit two in one.
12. Jewelry in jewelry pouch.
Store your necklaces, rings, earrings, and other jewelry in little fabric pouches to protect them and to make it easy for you to find them.
13. Choose colors that go with many outfits (nudes, blacks, whites).
This applies to shoes, jewelry, bags, jackets, bottoms, and even tops (although I like to bring more neutral bottoms to pair with colored tops for contrast). Especially useful for when you are traveling for more than a week, this way you’ll get to play around more with different outfits.
14. Carry a few extra underwear, just in case.
You may be walking, out in the sun, engaging in strenuous activities, and sweating in the day, so it’s best to bring extra undergarments to wear after a shower at the end of the day before bed. I simply can’t tolerate going to sleep in dirty underwear. Gross!
15. Store toiletries in small containers.
Bring just your essentials—shampoo, conditioner, face wash, moisturizer, soap (if I know I’m staying at a nice hotel, sometimes I’d even skip soap and use the hotel’s) and instead of bringing huge bottles, transfer them to small containers to save space and comply with the liquid/gel/aerosol regulations. An extra helpful tip I learned is to store face moisturizer, liquid foundation, and powder in contact lens containers.
16. Make use of toiletry bags.
I usually bring 2 toiletry bags: one for my soap, shampoo, and etc., and another for my makeup products and brushes. Separating the two groups helps me save time getting ready so I don’t have to dig deep and scramble to get what I need.
17. Optional items.
Other things you may consider carrying along may include a hairdryer (although again, if I know ahead of time I’ll be staying at a nice hotel I usually leave it), hair straightener or curler, and hair products (these can go in your soap and shampoo bag).
18. Just bring the basics!
As with all items you decide to carry with you, remember to bring just the essentials. For instance, for makeup, bring one of each instead of packing your entire collection (1 foundation, 1 concealer, 1 mascara, 1 blush, 1 eye shadow palette, etc.). Another useful tip: you can use your favorite bronzer as an eye shadow.
Voilà! You are set! Tell me that wasn’t easy to do? Now, where should we travel to next?