Dedicated to traveling light, I always create a detailed packing list for vacation so I don’t bring too much or not enough. I make sure to have outfits that will take me from historical sites to posh restaurants. Clothes that mix and match in a neutral color palette, toiletries, electronics, and a few odd “essentials” fill my carry-on and supply me with enough items to travel for at least a month.
Having once had my luggage misplaced by an airline (I had traveled to four countries before my bag and I were reunited), I learned I didn’t need all the stuff I had packed. From that point on, I packed savvier so I could travel with just a carry-on bag on the way to my destination (I check it on the way back, if needed).
I have never uttered the words, “I should have packed more.” Over the years, I’ve streamlined my packing and created my own packing list that allows me to be a lean, mean packing machine. Today, I travel the globe comfortably with only a carry-on suitcase. To help you achieve luggage-packing nirvana, here are some of my best packing tips.
Make a packing list. I keep a standard travel packing list for vacation of things I always need that details all my toiletries, electronics, clothes, and miscellany. I pack my travel packing checklist in my carry-on and then consult it before leaving the hotel to make sure I don’t leave anything behind. Here’s a sample travel packing list you customize for your next adventure: Packing List for Vacation
Consider what’s already available. Don’t pack items, like hairdryers, irons, soap, or any products that will already be available.
Don’t pack for worst-case scenarios. A few bandages aren’t going to take up too much room, but a full emergency kit just isn’t necessary unless you’re traveling to a remote area of the world where pharmacies aren’t available.
Minimize the size of your toiletries. Some items I just buy there, whereas some items I use little trial-size containers, Ziploc bags, silicone containers, or contact lens cases to hold. To learn more about how I pack my toiletries see my Toiletries blog. https://roaminghistorian.com/2021/10/03/packing-list-toiletries/
Make sure travel gadgets make sense and will be used. Those bulky travel pillows, coffee mugs, and water bottles can take up unnecessary space. I just buy a disposable water bottle when I get to my destination and reuse it. Same goes for coffee mugs. As for pillows, when I need one for a long-haul flight I use the kind that are inflatable so I don’t have to worry about carrying an awkward ring around. I do have some essentials I won’t travel without to read about them check out my “Odd Travel Essentials” blog. https://roaminghistorian.com/2021/09/05/packing-list-for-vacation/
Ziploc bags are awesome. I use snack-size bags for vitamins, medicines, and jewelry. They take up hardly any room making them much less bulky than a bottle of aspirin or a container of one-a-day vitamins. The little bags keep my jewelry from getting tangled, too. All my liquids go in a quart-size Ziploc bag making getting through security points quite easy and they do double-duty by protecting my luggage from unnecessary spills. I bring a few extras, too, for wet clothes.
Pack a foldable bag. I have a 35-liter packable backpack that weighs .7 pounds and folds into a package that is approximately 8″x8″x1″. I use it for day trips and then have a separate carry-on bag in case I buy too many souvenirs. And I often buy too many souvenirs. I also have a foldable tote bag with a zippered top that is great for days out and picking up picnic essentials. It, too, can make another carry-on if needed and I can check my regular carry-on.
Clothes should mix and match. Make sure a top can be worn with more than one bottom so you can make multiple outfits out of a few items of clothing.
- Create seven separate outfits by mixing and matching. Wear one on the plane and pack the rest. Two pants, one skirt, two shorts, two shrugs, and seven tops are what I pack/wear for 30 days.
- Make sure clothes are in the same color palette. Select darker-colored clothes for versatility.
- Choose items where you won’t need a bunch of different undergarments.
- Layer—bring a cardigan or shrug to turn short sleeve or sleeveless tops into long-sleeved ones.
- Evaluate the likelihood of using it. If there isn’t a 90% chance you’ll wear it, don’t pack it.
- Only pack clothes that make you feel good when wearing them.
- Make sure you have an outfit for each occasion (one for dressier occasions, one for active, etc.), but just one of each for events you won’t be doing for long or frequently.
- I recommend having only two pairs of shoes total–one comfy pair that you wear on the plane and one dressier (but still comfortable) pair that you pack.
Invest in packing cubes. Packing cubes are an essential part of organizing my luggage and protecting my clothes. I also pack my shoes in a cloth bag for another added layer of protection
Store earbuds, chargers, and other cords in cloth, zippered eyeglass cases from a dollar store. These cheap cases keep you organized and protect delicate electronic accessories.
Start with lightweight luggage. My hard-sided polymer bag weighs only eight pounds, but can withstand being thrown around better than a cloth bag. Even when fully loaded I can easily lift it into an overhead bin.
To roll or fold? I find that rolling tends to leave my clothes with fewer wrinkles, but can use more space depending on the weight of the fabric so I do a hybrid—roll tops and fold pants.
My best friend when trying to pack efficiently is my packing list. On it, I itemize each piece of clothing, which helps curb excess, and I list every single item I’m bringing. Seeing a list of every toiletry, clothing article, and gadget helps me determine where I need to pare back. Pack your list in the bag when you’re done so you can make sure everything you left with comes home with you. The list will also come in handy if you decide to check your luggage and the airline loses it (I found this out the hard way). Hopefully, your packing game will be so tight that you will only need to travel with a carry-on bag like I do. Happy travels!
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