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Packing is hands-down the worst thing about traveling. Often we over-prepare and pack many things we don’t even use. Carrying a big luggage with you can be a nightmare, especially if you’re flying. In my and hubby’s experiences, we’ve run into all sorts of issues with our checked baggage, including spilled and/or broken cosmetics containers, our luggage not making it to our destination with us, and having a brand new pair of sunglasses stolen from us during a bag inspection. This is why I am a big fan of packing minimally, and whenever possible, only taking a carry-on luggage with me when I travel. I’ve found I can live out of a carry-on for up to 2 weeks. I’m confident knowing where all my belongings are at all times, and don’t have to lug around a huge bag wherever I go. Read on to find out how I do it.
Make a packing list or use a pre-made list. Start eliminating things you don’t need.
There are lots of pre-made lists online and in the Apple app store that you can use depending on your needs:
- Her Packing List has dozens of packing lists organized by destination and activity.
- Travel Fashion Girl has several wardrobe packing lists, including a minimalist one!
- Women on the Road has a comprehensive packing list.
- If you prefer apps, I’ve used TripList in the past with success.
Once you’ve chosen a packing list, go through each item and start to cross off things you could live without for the duration of your trip.
Find out what amenities are available at your destination.
This will help you eliminate things from the aforementioned list. Most places of lodging have at least basic toiletries available. I have treated hair so I bring my own shampoo and conditioner, but don’t mind using whatever body soap is provided. Towels are also usually available in most places. If you are staying with a host family or at an Air BnB, contact your host and ask what household items will be available for your use. Recently, a friend of mine had a host who let them use all of their beach equipment, including chairs, beach towels, a mat, and a cooler!
Also check if there are laundry facilities at your place of lodging, or at least a laundromat nearby. This brings me to my next point…
Plan a capsule wardrobe and pack laundry soap.
Clothing can quickly take up a lot of luggage space. Truthfully, you don’t need to wear a different outfit every day of your trip. My general rule is to pack one dress, two bottoms, three tops, and maybe a light jacket, sweater, or scarf depending on the climate of my destination. You’ll want to rely mostly on separates so that you can mix-and-match them to make different combinations.
Since you will be mixing and matching your clothing, pack items that are complimentary in style and color. Comfort is key, as well as versatility. I’d sooner pack a lightweight, flowy skirt that is equally suited to hiking through the city or going to a nice restaurant, rather than a pair of cutoff shorts better suited to a beach resort vacation. It all really depends on the activities you have planned and your personal style. In terms of color, a palette of neutrals (blacks, navies, whites, tans) is always a safe choice. A couple of years ago, I invested in a color analysis by a certified 12 Blueprints Color Analyst and was given a palette of harmonizing colors. This has helped tremendously with packing quickly and minimally, as all of the clothing in my wardrobe falls within the same color palette.
Since you will be rotating your clothing, remember to pack a small container of laundry soap if you don’t want to buy it at your destination. I find Tide Pods to be the most convenient option.
Roll your clothes.
This is one of those things I read in passing on a “travel secrets” type of article forever ago. I tried it on a whim one day and it was a revelation. Talk about a space saver! It also is a lot quicker to pack and unpack your clothing if it’s rolled. If you’re still folding your clothes into your luggage, I implore you to try rolling them instead. You’ll never switch back.
Use organizers, such as packing cubes.
Packing cubes were another revelation for me, as I used to throw everything into my luggage loose and have to empty the whole thing out whenever I looked for something. Never again. I use these garment bags from Muji and love how lightweight they are. I’ve also heard good things about eBags Packing Cubes as well. I tend to use my largest bag for clothing, my medium for undergarments and swimsuits, and my smallest for toiletries. If I need to look for something, I know exactly which bag to pull and the rest of my belongings remain tidy.
I also bring a couple of extra pouches for cosmetics and skincare items. Department stores frequently give away these pouches as a part of a “gift with purchase” promotion. Keep a lookout when you’re shopping for makeup and you may snag one along with some additional travel-sized products!
Use your beauty samples!
If you’re a compulsive beauty buyer like I am, you have a big stash of untouched makeup and skincare samples somewhere in your home. I never think to use them in my regular beauty routines. But they are perfect for travel! Instead of messing with travel containers and potentially wasting your favorite products, bring some samples instead and use them up.
Bring toiletries in non-liquid form.
Liquid toiletries are a pain when you’re traveling. You have to often transfer them into special TSA-sized containers, they might leak into your luggage during your trip, and in some cases you need to separate them into a zip top baggie when going through security to make sure you don’t go over a certain limit. For these reasons it’s a big plus when I can find a solid form of a typically liquid toiletry. Some of the things I’ve used in the past are:
- Solid sunscreen. Sunscreen in stick form resembles a deodorant stick. It’s awesome because you only need to pack one for the family and it’s mess-free. I use the Neutrogena Sunscreen Beach Defense Stick because it also smells great – no greasy sunscreen smell!
- Shampoo bar. I was surprised when I first found out that shampoo came in solid form! I used J.R. Liggett Bar Shampoo for months because of its all-natural ingredients. Lush also makes several different types of shampoo bars.
- Cleansing wipes. At home, I double-cleanse with oil followed by foam cleanser to get all of my makeup residue off. Away from home, it was much easier to take off my makeup with Simple Cleansing Facial Wipes instead.
Carry a big tote bag.
I don’t bring my cute, every day purse with me as my personal item. I bring a huge, old, beaten-up tote bag packed to the brim with the essentials I anticipate needing during the trip so that I don’t have to open up and dig through my carry on. Make sure it’s a bag you don’t care too much about. If you’re flying, it’ll be lying on the floor most of the trip and you’ll inevitably want to use it as a footrest. Some things you might want to consider packing in your tote bag are:
- Your laptop (easier to take out for security this way too)
- Electronics chargers – phone, computer, other handheld devices
- Reading material, such as books, magazines, Kindle, etc.
- Travel documents – passport, tickets, itinerary
- Wallet (find somewhere to put this that’s within easy reach
- A small pouch with toiletry essentials – toothbrush, lip balm, hand sanitizer, wet wipes
- Water bottle (bring to airport empty, fill it up post-security). I use a HydroFlask.
And there you have it!
Anyone can travel with only a carry-on. It’s not just for low-maintenance ladies who don’t mind roughing it. Do you have any other tips to add? What do you think you’ll try doing on your next trip? Let me know in the comments below!
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