Packing for a trip can be a frustrating experience for most people. I have learned a lot about the importance of lightening my load throughout my years of travel.
Far gone are the days of me rolling a huge bag over ridiculously uneven cobblestone and paying hefty fees for checked luggage only to find it lost in transit.
I have greatly limited my frustration by downsizing my belongings to one single backpack. Seriously. It IS possible! And I cannot encourage it enough!
Here are my recommendations on how to pack [as lightly as possible] for traveling during ALL seasons + the travel products I just can’t live without:
I used to lay out entire outfits and pack twice as many as there were days for my trip because “I never knew what I would want to wear or what the weather would be like.”
Now, I choose a color palette and make sure that most everything can be paired together and layered as needed. It has been such a game changer!
For example, I choose between brown/tan or black/gray. Then I only bring shoes in that color. Which, right off the bat, helps me limit my choices. I choose a secondary main color and an accent color and stick to this minimal scheme.
For my last European winter trip, I chose black/gray, white and blue. Some patterns had a couple other accent colors but this was the main palette. Hats, gloves, shoes, and clothing all matched while also being interchangeable for weather or occasion needs.
This also encourages rotation so you don’t feel like you are always wearing the same thing [just like a capsule wardrobe, but the travel edition].
I roll all clothing into packing cubes. Eagle Creek offers many options including travel sets [Eagle Creek Travel Gear Pack-It Cube Set, Black, One Size] and my favorite 2-sided bag [Eagle Creek Travel Gear Pack-It Clean Dirty Cube, Black, One Size] so dirty clothes stay separate from clean clothes.
Exact clothing will vary by season, but here is a general recommended list [Lady + Dude Friendly] aka exactly what I pack:
- 1 Dressy Outfit
- I prefer a dress that I can make fancier with accessories. For the Dudes, 1 dress shirt with pants that you don’t mind wearing more often. And, if possible, make sure it is lightweight material that won’t wrinkle too much.
- 1 Long Sleeved Shirt
- I get cold easily, so I usually bring 2-3 if colder months [and lessen the short sleeve/tank count below]
- 7 Tops/Shirts
- 3 Undershirts/Tanks
- I can layer for weather purposes and sleep in these
- 7 Pairs of Socks
- I wear the tiny ankle ones so 7 pairs barely takes up space. If you like the larger ones limit this number and note that quantity depends on what type of shoe you are wearing most often.
- 3 Pairs of Pants
- If it is summer, I bring 1 pair and substitute the others with skirts or dresses. I bring leggings to wear underneath my pants in winter and I use them as PJ’s. You can wear jeans most everywhere but I make sure they are nicer jeans. I often wear colored jeans because they seem fancier than blue jeans to me.
- I make sure that items above can also double as my sleepwear (T-shirt and leggings for example)
- I don’t do Shorts
- I feel like they are too casual and many religious-type places won’t let you enter while wearing them…so I do skirts or dresses in the warmer months instead. But bring 1 or 2 pair(s) of shorts if that is your thing.
- 1 Sweater
- Even during the summer months I bring a light sweater in case I need to cover my shoulders to enter a cathedral/place of worship or an extremely air conditioned building.
- 1 Jacket
- If it is cold enough to wear a jacket everyday, I bring it and wear it everyday otherwise it is a burden to carry. If it is warm but you want one for rain, just get a super lightweight rain jacket.
- 1 Bikini/Bathing Suit
- 14 Pairs of Chonies/Underwear
- They are tiny and I don’t want to do laundry more often than every 2 weeks…you can easily wash them by hand so you can get by with 7. If you plan on hand washing bring a sink stopper.
- 1 Towel
- I suggest a quick dry that is super lightweight and can double as a wrap…I use one called Sevi Towel and it is amazing! It also is my blanket on the plane.
- 1 TINY Bag of Accessories
- I choose one metal color and stick to it (gold, rose gold, silver, brass etc) so I can dress up casual outfits as needed, but I never bring expensive pieces that I couldn’t bear to lose.
Note: I mention casual versus fancy a lot above. For me, I would always rather feel a bit too dressed up than too casual. I would much rather blend in with a culture, than stand out as a tourist.
In the States, we dress down quite a bit compared to everywhere I have traveled to (and modesty definitely varies by place as well). I live in flips, jeans and a T-shirt at home, but prefer to do a dressed up version of that when traveling. Nothing too fancy by any means. Just comfort combined with some class.
Also, when traveling to larger cities you will have endless shopping opportunities. For those who love to shop, I can’t recommend enough that you bring less clothes and shop for new ones at your destination. AND if you don’t love to shop, pretty much anything you forget or wish you had brought along will be available for purchase.
- 1 Pair of Flip-Flops
- I live in my flips, but during winter months you may not need these. However, I always bring 1 pair for community shower type situations.
- 1 Pair of Sneakers
- As tempting as it is to wear these often, sometimes they make it obvious that you are a tourist, so I limit how often I wear them. Regardless, I like to find hiking opportunities when I travel so I always bring 1 pair.
- 1 Pair of Boots
- I heart boots! So if the weather is cool at all, this is usually what I wear to avoid being too casual but maintain comfort [make sure they are comfortable]. BUT, if you bring them they will need to be your primary shoe as they take up a ton of bag space. Please note that I wear these as a part of my dressy outfit also, so if I bring boots I do not bring sandals/flats.
- 1 Pair of Dressy Sandals [if warm weather] or Flats [if cold weather]
- This is so that I have something to wear for fancier occasions. For the Dudes, I suggest a very comfortable pair of dress shoes that unfortunately will be the largest thing in your bag. And Ladies, please note that I do love my heels/wedges, but they just take up way too much space [and are miserable to wear on uneven cobblestone and/or unpaved roads].
- 3 Pairs Total! To sum up…
- LADIES: in cold months = comfortable boots OR flats, sneakers, flips + in warm months = sandals OR flats, sneakers, flips
- DUDES: comfortable dress shoes, sneakers, flips
Weather Related Accessories [only as needed]
- 1 Mini Umbrella
- 1 Pair of Gloves/Mittens
- 1 Hat/Beanie
- 1 Pair of Sunglasses (and prescription glasses as needed)
Any small toiletry bag will work…I find the hanging style comes in handy often, like this one from Eagle Creek, but any bag will do [Eagle Creek Travel Gear Pack-It Wallaby, Black, One Size].
I suggest limiting the toiletries you pack. Just bring what you must use every single day and only that.
Travel size is needed to make sure your bag qualifies for carry on [3 ounces or less for all liquids]. If you have any products that don’t come in miniature, you can put them in these handy GoToob bottles [Humangear GoToob Travel Bottle, Clear/Blue/Green, Large (3 Oz), 3 pack].
- 1 Toothbrush [foldable]
- 1 Toothpaste [travel sized]
- 1 Dental Floss
- 1 Razor [with backup blades based on length of travel]
- 1 Small Shampoo + Conditioner
- 1 Small Shower Gel + Facial Cleanser/Wipes
- 1 Lip Balm
- A Couple Hair Ties
- A Couple Bandaids
- 1 Tweezers + 1 Nail Clippers
- 1 Small Deodorant
- 1 Small Container of Q-Tips
- 1 Small Hair Product [whichever one you can’t live without if you must]
- 1 Brush and/or Comb [the smaller the better]
- 1 SMALL Bag of Makeup
- 1 Small Moisturizer
- Contact Lenses and/or Eyedrops
- Ear Plugs
- The older the hotel, the thinner the walls and hostels always have people coming and going. These help you sleep soundly.
- Hand Sanitizer + EmergenC
- Exploring new places and using public transportation combined with a change in diet/sleep can take a toll on your immune system. Take some precautions to avoid spending your trip sick in bed.
- I purchase sunscreen upon arrival because my pale Irish skin requires more than a small travel tube. Seriously, this skin is blinding when looked at directly LOL! 😀
- 1 Tiny Perfume
- I like the roll on kind due to size, but I only use this in non-mosquito climates because they LOVE it!
- I try not to take pills for really anything, but if you are prone to headaches etc bring a travel size bottle of Tylenol/Motrin etc + obviously anything prescription that you need.
- ZipLock Bags
- These are very convenient to keep liquids in, and come in handy far more often than imagined. Throw a few in your bag for sure!
Note: If you’re staying in hotels, even the budget ones have blow dryers these days [just double check when booking it]. And tons of AirBnbs too. On the days where I stay elsewhere I just use product and let my hair air dry.
I have a miniature flat iron by Croc [Turboion Baby Croc Professional Dual Voltage Mini Travel Flat Iron, Fuchsia, 5/8 Inch] that I bring occasionally. The thing is…I would rather take all of that getting ready time and use it to see my destination instead.
So Ladies especially, I cannot recommend enough that you really limit your hair/makeup time as much as possible. Unless you have unlimited travel days, your time is precious. And I KNOW you are beautiful without all of that makeup!! *MUAH*
Electronics [aka how I work while I travel]
Laptop – I have a Macbook 13” Air named Marilyn. I love her! She is so light weight and fits into my shoulder bag with ease. She allows me to get all my blogging, photo editing and web design freelance work done while traveling with no issue. Worth. Every. Penny. [Apple MacBook Air MD761LL/B 13.3-Inch Laptop]
Camera – I have a Nikon D5200 named Nik. I love him and would be lost without him. When purchasing Nik you also get Nora, my 18-55mm lens. She takes sweet city and landscape shots which is perfect for travel [Nikon D5200 24.1 MP CMOS Digital SLR with 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 AF-S DX VR NIKKOR Zoom Lens (Black)]. Niklaus, my 70-300mm lens, is a super light weight, inexpensive zoom lens. He captures all the wildlife and close up shots [Nikon 55-300mm f/4.5-5.6G ED VR AF-S DX Nikkor Zoom Lens]. I have found that these 2 capture all my needs and range from 18mm – 300mm in total. I do also zoom with my feet. 😉
Also, Pacsafe makes a great anti-theft camera strap [Pacsafe Strapsafe100 Carrysafe Anti-Theft Camera Strap (Black)]. And, I store Nik and Nora in my Op/Tech soft pouch [OP/TECH USA Soft Pouch Digital D-Midsize (Black)] while my larger zoom lens, Niklaus, is wrapped in the Sevi Towel mentioned above.
iPhone (Phone) – I use this as my go to camera when I need to quickly take a photo/video as well as utilize all apps, social media and maps with wifi whenever needed. You can setup International phone service, however I have found that wifi meets all of my communication needs. Here are the apps that I use to stay in touch with family/friends/clients back home as well as new friends abroad. Click to download from the App Store here:
- Viber: Viber – Viber Media, Inc.
- WhatsApp: WhatsApp Messenger – WhatsApp Inc.
- Skype: Skype for iPhone – Skype Communications S.a.r.l
GoPro [Video Camera] – For video, I cannot recommend this enough. I take my GoPro underwater, strap it to my head/chest when hiking, secure it to my handlebars when riding a bike, and hold it when walking through town. It is such a handy way to capture video of your trip. You can control your GoPro from your smart phone.
Outlet Converter – This is a must for International travel. Because multiple things need to be charged I often times bring 2 per Country. [Travel Smart by Conair M-500E Polarized Adapter Plug Set]
Make sure to make the most of your space and store all cords + chargers inside your shoes to save room. [Make sure you have all needed chargers, forgetting something like that is the WORST]. Backup your work regularly…I use a thumb drive so that I can easily work offline as well as Dropbox and iCloud for storage.
The Backpack – Ahh yes. The actual bag that all of this will fit in. I use a North Face Overhaul 40 Pack (41 Liters) named Norm. (Yes, I like to name inanimate objects…trust me they last longer when they are loved lol).
Backpacks definitely need to fit the individual so I recommend visiting a store like REI and trying a bunch on. Bring something heavy to put inside and walk around with it while you shop. (Note: don’t put unpaid merchandise in the pack as that is technically considered shoplifting LOL).
I chose this pack size because I do not NEED to bring more than will fit inside of it. Warning: if you buy larger than this the temptation to fill the space will be great!! [North Face Overhaul 40 Backpack]
Only if you are going to be sleeping in public areas often there are additional products you can use to keep your belongings safe. A Pacsafe bag protector is definitely the way to go [Pacsafe 55L Backpack and Bag Protector]. You can wrap your backpack in your jacket then surround it with the protector and a lock. Kryptonite combo lock cable with led light is very handy [Kryptonite R-4 Retractor Combo Cable].
Messenger Bag – Pacsafe messenger bags are fantastic. Thieves cannot cut the strap nor can they steal credit card/passport information. (There is wire in the strap and the bag blocks RFID). These are the 2 I use (I choose based on my destination which one to bring) as they both fit my 13″ laptop and all my other electronics. The Vertical Travel Bag 300 GII [Pacsafe Luggage Venture Safe 300 GII, Black, Large] gives you more space than the Travel Handbag 200 GII [Pacsafe Luggage Citysafe 200 Gii Handbag, Black].
If you are not traveling with a laptop or a large camera, Pacsafe offers a wide range of other shapes and sizes.
And that is it!
Just remember…everyone’s packing list will vary a bit. Just be safe [avoid theft by taking a few extra steps in your product purchases…they may not always be necessary but they provide peace of mind]. Be respectful [dress to fit in with the culture you are visiting]. Be comfortable [bring clothing and shoes that you will be comfortable using stored in a bag that you can actually lift easily].