My Top Ten Tried and True Tips for Packing Light

I’m not a planner. And I’m not generally an organized person. At all. Except when it comes to packing.

I really don’t like to carry heavy bags—and I don’t want to wait for a checked bag—so packing light is a necessity for me.

I just got back yesterday from four days in New Orleans for work and I’m leaving in three days for a vacation in Copenhagen (yup—that sounds completely ridiculous and made up—but it’s real).  So you can believe these tips are tried and true.

Here are my top ten tricks to traveling light with a carry-on—even for more than a week—with room for purchases:

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  1. Roll everything: I can’t remember where I learned this trick—probably on Oprah back in the day—but it’s legit in keeping your packing game tight. It makes your clothes compact and easy to cram into tight spaces.
  2. Wear dresses: Dresses make packing light easy because: math. It’s takes less space to pack one thing versus two. Plus dresses roll easily. Bonus points for packing dresses in fabrics that don’t wrinkle i.e. no linen ever.
  3. Bring one pair of jeans: Seriously—just bring your favorite pair. You’ll feel the most comfortable in them and you can just hang them up at night if they need some airing out.
  4. Maximize your bra game: I try to bring just one black, white and/or nude bra for traveling. I also prefer bralettes which roll down to nothing. But if you need a bra that offers more coverage—just stick to ones that go with the most outfits and plan to re-wear them during the trip. You can always wash them in the sink and air dry overnight.
  5. Plan ahead: I know—I’m not a planner—but I do plan what I’m going to wear. And I don’t give myself options. I plan exactly what I will wear including the undergarments that go with them.
  6. One pair of shoes, two max: Don’t think about shoes as fashion, think about shoes for function. Shoes are heavy and take up too much space. Ask yourself:  what can you walk in and what goes with everything?  Bring day-to-night black flats and a pair of running shoes/trainers—if the trip calls for them. Bring Vans or Converse or sneakers that can go casual with your jeans or funky with a dress. Bring sandals that go with everything. But no more than two pairs.
  7. Pack an extra bag: Roll up a canvas bag or a drawstring backpack and pack it at the bottom of your bag. Now you have extra space for new purchases and it can double as a purse. Or at least serve as a laundry bag.
  8. Holy Grail makeup only—and preferably ones that don’t require lots of tools: Pack only the makeup you love, what’s absolutely necessary and what you know works best. If you can skip a step, like your powder, skip it. I go with one foundation like a CC cream with sunscreen so no primer  is needed, a stick blush, one eyeshadow palette, eye lash curler, mascara, and a couple lipsticks—generally my favorite red (OMG! my favorite red is discontinued!!!!) and a nude. I will generally skip my brows (although the Glossier Boy Brow Pam got me for my birthday is small and divine—so I’ll probably add this to my kit), a highlighter, bronzer and liners. But if this sounds like horror to you, pack what you need, but just pack one.
  9. Bust out skin care samples: All those Sephora packets you have lying around—use them. While I don’t recommend experimenting with makeup when you travel, I do think it’s a good time to try new samples. They are packed in travel ready containers, are small and can easily be shoved in small side pockets or between layers of clothes. Plus you can toss them out when you’re done leaving more room for new purchases.
  10.  Remember–most places have stores: Even when hiking in the Himalayas I was able to purchase a face mask when I desperately needed one and a deep hair conditioner that saved my life. You don’t have to plan for all scenarios. Just buy something once you’re there if you need it.

Here’s to a summer filled with carefree travel! What are your favorite packing tips or products for packing light?

13 thoughts on “My Top Ten Tried and True Tips for Packing Light

  1. Lots of good advice! I’m going to Europe in mid-July. I was just there in May, and I SWORE to myself I would pack less. I think my main issue is that I still want issues. I think things like “what if I’m in the mood to wear this? or maybe this?” Your suggestion of determining your exact outfits and nothing else is excellent.

    I will stick to your rules, and report back. 🙂

  2. And it’s always fun to find new fashion when you’re on vacation! Packing light gives you an excuse to pick something up when you see it!

  3. Dresses yes! I absolutely agree!! I’m actually going to try some yoga dress pants from BetaBrand because lately I’ve had to travel with business professional pieces and I HATE ironing. I roll the pants, but they still need some TLC after unpacking. I love the rest of your advice and am going to try some of it on my upcoming trips!!

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  6. These tips are great. (Yes, I am watching Olympic volleyball on my ipad and reading your entire blog rn. Work is a little slow.) I like to travel and I always tell myself that I can pack lighter/better. I agree totally with the NO OPTIONS thing. It saves so much time and space.

    Love the blog.

  7. I meant to say something about this at the time but forgot: I do LOVE the packing tips, but the notion of buying yourself something impromptu overseas becomes extremely difficult when you are a plus-sized woman. And packing comes with a whole set of extra baggage (see what I did there :-D). In my particular case: my whole wardrobe is painstakingly cultivated to my larger shape, and it makes for drapey, heavier clothes, unfortunately. Add some body dysmorphia to that and being restricted in one’s choice becomes somewhat psychologically distressing. I have a touring job so I manage, and I try to follow the rules laid out here (which certainly does make things easier), but I always feel like I am never going to not suck at packing. I definitely have gotten by on one or two pairs of shoes, but man, I miss my closetful of choices 😀

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