Spring break has come and gone – and if you’re anything like me – you’re already planning your next getaway.
All those spa weekends and mini city vacations can thin out your budget, especially if you’re a frequent flier, and carrying a humongous backpack while navigating narrow cobblestoned alleys of quaint European villages will take a toll on your back and shoulders.
After a lot of head-scratching and a little digging through my old travel photos, I came to the conclusion that most of my travel related nuisances stem from my overpacking.
Whether it’s a three-week adventure on the South American Andes or a short business trip – overpacking seems to be every girl’s curse.
I set out to correct this cosmic injustice and help my fellow globetrotters avoid making the same mistakes I always do when packing.
Scroll down to see some of the tips and tricks you can use to pack light and feel free to add some of your own in the comments below.
Make a plan. A really, really detailed plan.
Smart traveling can’t happen without some detailed planning, and the same goes for packing.
First, consider the type and length of your trip – is it a weekend excursion or a week-long city break? Is it a seaside holiday with lots of partying or a family hiking trip?
After you’ve decided on what kind of trip you’re looking at, start planning your days a bit. When I say planning, I mean the right kind of planning – not the control-freak kind of planning. Make a list of all the days you’ll spend at your destination and the types of places you’ll be visiting. Knowing the general vibe of all the places you’ll be going to will make packing easier, and you won’t end up carrying ten extra outfits or run out of clean underwear.
Plan on going to a romantic dinner along the Seine? Want to go inside some of the hundreds of ancient monasteries scattered around the north of Italy? Or are you a lazy serial sunbather with no intention of moving three feet away from the beach? The things you want to do are what will determine what kind of clothes you need to pack.
Do your homework and make a general outline of your trip.
Packing light = small luggage
Packing light in a suitcase that can hold 50 pounds of clothes is almost near impossible. That’s why small luggage is a life savior.
You won’t be tempted to pack your new leather boots or that bulky coat you just bought if there’s no room for it. Limited space will keep even the keenest of overpackers grounded.
And as you’re already going small regarding luggage – why not go as small as you can and opt for a carry-on instead of check-in baggage. That way, you kill two birds with one stone – you won’t have to bother with waiting for your luggage, and you won’t overpack it as most airlines have a weight limit for their carry-on.
Ditch the toiletries
Shampoo, conditioner, shower gel, body lotion, makeup remover, day cream, night cream, dry shampoo – those are just the essentials of all the basic toiletries you use daily. Thinking of carrying them all on your next vacation? No can do.
To become a master packer, you must ditch everything but the bare minimum, and think smart when packing.
If your hair is frizzy and washing it without a conditioner is a definite no-no, get a travel-sized 2-in-1 shampoo to save a few bucks and a lot of space.
Skip the makeup remover and the shower gel and get a nice little fancy bar of soap you can use all over.
Take the smallest toiletry bag you have, buy everything travel-sized, and you’ll be surprised at the number of products you can live without for a week.
Also, even the shadiest of the motels you might find yourself staying in usually have toiletries, and you’ll rarely find a place on AirBnB that doesn’t provide you with at least a half-decent shampoo and shower gel.
Going somewhere chilly? Don’t go for your fluffiest sweater or your padded parka – layer up instead.
One ultra thick sweater will take up half of your carry-on, and you’ll get exactly one outfit out of it. Instead, pack a couple of items for each layer of clothing – a T-shirt, a long-sleeved T-shirt, a thin cardigan and a lightweight jacket. Delicate fabrics weigh less, take up less space and combine easier.
Not all boots are made for walking
Unless you’re going somewhere really cold or muddy – skip the chunky boots.
Think about how much walking you’ll be doing and where you’ll be doing the walking. If we’re talking a lot of beach hopping and casual riviera strolling – then go for a pair of sandals that are more on the fashionable than the comfy side.
However, if your trip will include a lot of cobblestoned, uphill alleys and stairs – not-so-fashionable walking shoes are going to be the only pair you’ll need.
Pack a pair of flip flops or sandals and travel in breathable canvas sneakers such as All Star’s or Roshe’s. That will take at least a pound and a half off your bag and stop you from dwelling on what to wear every morning.
Organize everything – and then organize it again
Ziplock bags, mesh purses and those cloth sacks you get with fancy shoes are your best friends. When it comes to packing light – organizing is the key.
Put all of your underwear in one sack and your socks in another to prevent losing track of what’s clean and what’s not.
Pro tip – always bring a bunch a zip lock bags. Use them to store dirty laundry, wet swimsuits, and muddy shoes. You can also squeeze them pretty tight to minimize the amount of space they take.
When you have all of your luggage all boxed up nicely with everything in its own compartment, it’s easier to keep track of what you’re carrying and avoid over packing, or – god forbid – forgetting something.