The first thing to think about when you are packing for a trip is the kinds of activities you will be doing, because this will inform the necessities you need to bring and help you differentiate between what you'd like to bring, and what you MUST bring. For me, this is mostly outdoor activities like rafting, mountain biking, hiking, etc. Prioritize the specialty gear you'll need for these activities. In some cases, you'll be better off getting certain gear when you're there. For example, when I traveled to Patagonia, I brought hiking shoes for the outdoor activities I was planning like ice trekking and mountain hikes. However, Patagonia is such a hub for those types of activities that you'll find tons of places renting hiking shoes for the day or week. I wish I had done this, because I really only used my hiking shoes for 2 or 3 days and for the rest of my 4-week trip I had to haul them around. But some things you just need - and that's fine. The point of packing light is to make your travels are easier and more convenient - you don't want to end up doing the opposite.
The next thing I try to plan are outfits. You don't have to fully decide what you'll be wearing on each day, but think about your clothing in terms of outfits, not separates. And pick from your most comfortable and most flattering, favourite outfits. Just because you're on vacation does not mean you have to look like a tourist. A cute outfit at home is also cute abroad! I find if I bring my best outfits, I don't mind wearing them over and over again. I try to have a week's worth of outfits, plus maybe 1 extra just in case. This usually looks something like this (for hot climate vacations:
- 3 dresses (1 that can be dressed up for nice evenings out)
- 2 long flowy pants (these are my fave - ultimately comfortable, have a super vacation-y vibe, and cover your legs fully so you don't have to worry about sunscreen or bug spray as much!)
- 3 t-shirts
- 1 legging
- 1 pair of shorts
- 1 sweater (for the airplane)
Even though that is not a huge amount of clothes, it will last you over 1 week easily. Just add your undergarments (try to pick a versatile bra or two!) and you're good to go.
The next thing I think about is hair, makeup and jewelry. This is where I've really learned to cut down! Ladies, you seriously only need 2 looks when traveling. A day-to-day look - I stock concealer, powder and lipstick, and an evening look - add blush, eyeliner, masacara. I pick 3 of my favourite lipsticks that go well with my chosen outfits. This way you still have variety. I find I really don't need anything more than this. For my hair, I have a mini flat iron that I swear by. It's super tiny (travel-sized) but still works great for me since I have short hair. For jewelery, really limit this. Bring one versatile statement necklace and a few pairs of earings. It will allow you to give the finishing touches to your outfit and won't take up a lot of room. I like to keep all of these items contained inside my fanny pack, within my luggage, for easy organization. The various pockets make it a great place to keep track of small items like earrings.
Next up is toiletries. Since you're traveling with carry-on only, you are only able to bring liquids that are less than 100ml and that fit in a small ziplock-like bag. To make this work, I buy small containers and then fill them with my shampoo, body lotion, etc. You can get these at the dollar store and they really help keep things compact! I usually store my toiletries in a clear plastic bag. This way I can easily bring them out for airport security and there are never problems.
The last thing remaining is shoes. This is where things get controversial. Pick an EXTREMELY comfortable pair of sandles as your main shoe (this is if you're traveling to a hot climate, of course). Then pick a nice flat that could be casual or more formal depending on the outfit. I have a cute gold lacey pair that work great for this. I've even mountain biked in them, they were actually perfect for that! If you are able to limit yourself to two small pairs of shoes like this, your life will be much easier. But I know this is probably the hardest part for most people!
I hope these tips have helped you consider how you can more efficiently pack your bags for carefree travel. Instead of stressing, just remember that you can always pick up something you may have forgotten when you arrive. So it's really not a huge deal.
Feel free to comment below with any questions or tips of your own for traveling.