Pack light? Not hardly! I felt extremely stupid the year I brought two gigantic suitcases to Europe and had to wrestle them up long staircases by myself. I was, in a word, clueless. I wanted to prepare for any eventuality, and I did. I had outfits for every occasion and I do mean EVERY occasion. Even those that never happened.
Since then, I’ve traveled all over the world and have learned (mostly the hard way) how to pack light. I’m sharing those tips with you.
I am never going to be that girl who rinses her dainties in the hotel sink. Sorry, won’t. Except for bras and with those, I wear one and bring one, making sure I have one dark, one light. And I might wash lightweight socks out. But only lightweight.
As far as other unmentionables go I either pay for laundry OR pack enough for one a day plus a couple extras. The key is to ROLL them up and use a packing cube. I can usually fit a few pair of lightweight socks and the extra bra in that same small cube. The bonus to using a cube is they’re all organized together and the cube can go right in a drawer without unpacking.
I have never needed more than one dress. Ok, except for that one time at a friend’s private club in Antigua. But I could’ve gotten away with one. So one dress and one pair of dressier shoes. If you don’t wear dresses, bring black jersey pants. The fabric looks dressy and packs light — like a dream. If you’re going to be with the same people for multiple dressy events, a second top, a chunky necklace and a scarf can transform one outfit into three.
Capsule wardrobes are all the rage today, but it’s just a new term for what we called mix and match. Mix and match is made for travel. Compatible colors and styles can make two outfits look like six. Or even more, if you’re clever.
I bring flats so they can do double duty. I never bring heels on a trip because they take up too much space. Actually, I rarely wear them at all any more. I usually bring two pairs of walking shoes in case one gets wet. One wet fall in Rome I brought tall, heavy rainboots. They were cute and pink–and super heavy. Soo heavy. Soo cute with jeans tucked into them. But they took up a LOT of space in my bag. Never brought them again and finally gave them away. Just too impractical. And heavy. Sooo heavy.
Cosmetics & Toiletries
Travel size. Everything from cosmetics to toiletries. That’s the beginning and end of it. Tiny everything, including lippies.
A friend travels with full sized shampoo and conditioner. Her bag is the size of China. Ok, India. It would take months to go through that much shampoo. If you haven’t stolen hotel shampoos, start now. To avoid leakage I package small tubes (which don’t usually leak) in a ziplock snack bag. I also pack a mini flat iron. I have to bring a hairdryer with brush attached because I’ve always been too uncoordinated to manage the two handed blow dry. So that takes up space.
But when I go to Maui with friends, I don’t bring any hair tools at all. I let the humid air reveal my naturally curly hair and I enjoy it. I don’t bring makeup to Maui either–we have a super-casual visit with our good friends. Almost like camping. But in their large 3BR 3BA luxury condo on Wailea Beach. Next to the Four Seasons. No, not camping at all. But without all the warpaint and tools I can fit almost a week’s worth of clothes, two pairs of shoes, 3 bathings suits, a big sunhat and hostess gift in one small bag. I’ll be doing this in Sept.
I think I’m going back to Maui for a Ram Dass event in December. I’m going to take the same approach to packing. The question to ask is “how great do I have to look every day?” and if the answer is “my friends love me just as I am” leave your warpaint and tools at home. If you’re going for work or a special trip, it’s a different story.
I always leave the good stuff home so I don’t have to worry about it. I had a small travel wedding band made with tiny diamonds from one of my mother’s rings. It’s got sentimental value and I wear it on all my trips. Or I will wear a sterling silver band. I’ll bring two pairs of costume earrings, if that. Sometimes, just one pair of hoops, which go with everything. If I really need necklaces and bracelets I try to choose the ones that work with several outfits. I do wear a watch.
One travel pocketbook and a small clutch if I have evening events. In France last May I have to admit I skipped the clutch, even though we stayed at really nice places and ate at really great restaurants. I was serious in my quest to pack light.
I once went to Rome for a month with an entire suitcase full of used books. I did not pack light. In my defense, it was back in the day before electronics. I do know people who still fight against an E-reader but I love my Kindle Paperwhite and bring it and a charger. I also enjoy a good Audible book on long airplane flights and download a few before I leave.
Because I do a lot of writing when I travel, I like a real keyboard, Microsoft Word and my old Air that’s small and portable. It’s also dying. We have regenerated it time and time again because I don’t like the new Macbooks or Airs but at some point I will be forced to replace it. That is, if Apple doesn’t completely go to the tablet. Which I would hate.
I don’t bring my Ipad unless I’m going to be gone a while and want to watch my home DVR or Netflix on it. I don’t write on Pages, don’t like to connect a separate keyboard and have to bring it, blah blah blah. Usually it’s me, my Kindle and the Air.
Lightweight, obnoxious luggage
I’d be a terrible Real Housewife because my luggage is practical rather than luxury. I have a super-light Samsonite carry on I bought at Penney’s and another I bought online. I suppose if I had a valet I’d do it differently, but I don’t.
My bigger suitcase is an obnoxious purple so it stands out on a luggage carousel. Which sounded good in theory until we landed in Mumbai and Michael picked up our obnoxious purple suitcases only to get to the hotel at 3 a.m. and discover that someone else ALSO had an obnoxious purple suitcase and we had his. Fortunately, this story ended well. I have some striped tape I might use to make our obnoxious luggage look even MORE obnoxious next time. Make your luggage stand out and people won’t accidentally carry it off.
No, not to weigh you, to weigh your bags. Some flights have luggage weight restrictions. Buy a luggage scale so you save yourself hassle at the airport. They are STRICT.
A few other things
When luggage doesn’t appear….Keep your baggage claim check and ticket confirmation number hand as at some airports you can scan the claim ticket at baggage claim areas to determine where your luggage is. Also, know your airline’s policy on late bags. Delta posts on the bag carousel the time luggage is due out and if they are half an hour late they will give you 2,500 frequent flyer miles. You must ask for them. This happened to me in Atlanta in January and I tweeted my information to Delta and got instant credit. Instantly. The only reason I knew this is that I had hung out with four other passengers with disappearing luggage, who told me.
Never ever pack necessary meds or electronics in checked bags. Just don’t.
Make sure your carry on complies with size requirements so that you don’t have to gate-check important things. Like meds. Or your laptop.
There are a zillion You Tubes that show you how to roll tshirts and clothes so they don’t wrinkle. Sometimes that works, sometimes not. What CAN work is folding them with tissue paper or dry cleaner bags. And I am a fan of the packing cube because I do not like to pack and unpack. It’s nice to be able to leave some things in the cube.
If you’ve got a favorite practical packing light tip, share below, I’d love to hear it!