Earlier this year I went on two-week trip to Vietnam and Cambodia with only a book bag carry-on. Shortly after that my husband and I packed our apartment up to travel the states with only two bags each. How we pack lightly is one of our most frequently asked questions. The key to packing lightly is to think about versatility and necessity.
The best tip is to only pack clothes you can mix and match. Every shirt I pack matches every pair of bottoms. Every shoe we bring also matches every outfit. If you have one pair of leggings, jeans, shorts, and work out bottoms with 10 tops you’ll have over 40 different outfits to choose from throughout the trip by mixing and matching them all. The key is to make sure you bring comfortable clothes that are versatile. Save your statement, stand-alone pieces for full outfits like a dress or romper so you don’t have a shirt that only matches with one bottom.
Pack double the number of tops than bottoms for multiple reasons. Your shirts will get dirty quicker than bottoms and you’ll need to swap them out more. Shirts are lighter than bottoms making your pack lighter to carry. Tops are also the most noticeable thing you wear. You could wear the same pair of jeans the entire trip, but paired with a different shirt it will look like a whole new outfit. When traveling I don’t wash denim items unless it’s absolutely necessary. If your denim gets dirty you can spot clean them and put them in the freezer overnight to kill any bacteria. This will save you time doing laundry during the trip.
For shoes we aim to pack three pairs per person. These will undoubtedly be the heaviest items you pack so packing fewer shoes is important! One pair of sneakers, sandals and hiking shoes will be enough. Make sure that your shoes match every outfit, too. Those statement shoes will be perfect for a special occasion, but leave them at home for now. It’s good to note that I rarely, if ever, wear heels and we don’t go to many fancy events so extra shoes for special occasions aren’t necessary on our trips. You can still look cute in sandals, I promise!
Toiletries are on a necessity basis. We pack the basics along with anything we use at least twice a week. Ladies, you don’t need every make up item and lip stick for your trip! Pick the items you can wear day and night. I wear Glossier makeup because it doesn’t require a brush for application, one less thing to bring! The key is to only pack necessities and purchase anything extra that you may need along the way.
This is the tricky one for my husband. He loves bringing every cord and knickknack “just in case.” Electronics are heavy to carry, not to mention having to remove them through airport security. Try to stick with the basics for your trip. Phone cameras are just as good as GoPros nowadays. Invest in a waterproof phone case and you’ll be good to leave the GoPro and all it’s accessories at home. Only bring your laptop if you absolutely need it during the trip. Leave your electric toothbrush at home. One less thing to worry about and it takes up time looking for the charger every other week during your trip. Remember, every electronic you bring will take up your valuable vacation time that you could be spending catching sunset or going on a walk.
Ladies, only bring one electronic item for your hair, like a blow dryer or wand. Most hotels, Airbnbs, and motels provide a blow dyer so you may not need to pack anything at all. Let’s be real, you don’t need to do your hair. Leave your curling iron at home! You’ll spend less time doing your hair and more time enjoying vacation. Who knows, you may even fall in love with your natural hair.
Another thing to think about is weather. If you are going to be in varied, cold weather pack layers you can wear as separates instead of one big and unpackable coat. I prefer to bring a fleece flannel, lightweight feather coat, and hooded packable rain jacket rather than packing a large puffy coat that doesn’t fold up well. If it starts snowing you can layer these items to keep warm. We hiked through the Southwest during a winter snowstorm and stayed warm a lightweight coat and layers. If you need more layers you can always purchase them during your trip.
Always bring one bathing suit because you could stumble upon a lake, ocean, or hot spring that you want to jump into. Men can wear their suit as bottoms and my favorite women’s one piece swimsuit can double as a bodysuit under jeans or shorts. Versatility is always key! For extras, the key is to think about whether you will actually use the item during your trip and if it will enhance your travel experience.
During the trips you will find items that you packed and aren’t using. USPS will be your savor. Ship these items back to someone in your hometown and have them hold onto them for you. Sometimes people don’t have the storage space so you’ll want to secure a BFF who would be willing to accept packages before you ship items out! USPS is always the cheapest option for mailing, and you’ll be thankful to shed the extra items during your trip. The issue we have during our current 5 month trip is that we have accumulated more things than we need so mailing items back that we don’t need has been key.
If you need more tips or have a specific question reach out to me on Instagram! I’m always happy to help you travel and live with less things so you can experience life to the fullest. My motto is have less and do more. Everything you pack will take up time. Time spent organizing, repacking, cleaning, fixing, or using. If it takes up too much of your time with minimal value, leave it at home! Stay safe out there and have fun exploring.