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Some Tips for Traveling Light

Updated on July 31, 2017

It’s time for a little travel honesty: I love packing for my trips. Absolutely love it. And since I am a firm believer in carry-on only, including international travel, sometimes it can be a bit of a challenge. Which is why I rely on a list.

Oh, how I love my packing list! I start writing my list about a month before leaving on a trip. Yes, that’s a bit early but then I’ll pore over it for days, adding and checking to make sure it’s exactly what I want. And because of my crazy devotion to the thing, my packing process ends up being incredibly smooth and easy.

My husband (and dedicated travel partner) could not be more opposite in packing. Enter his more slap-dash packing approach: the night before departure, pull handfuls of clothing from various drawers and shove them every which way in the suitcase to make them fit. Then grab numerous extra phone coords (just in case), prescription bottles, all necessary electronics, and pack until bursting in a bulky backpack.

Hey, it works for him and somehow he knows where everything is squirreled away! But as for me, I need a little more law and order going on in my bags.

And so, I’ve devised a foolproof system for packing everything we need in as convenient a way as possible. Packing for one isn’t much different than packing for two; you can follow similar guidelines so you make sure not to forget the important things.

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What to Pack For Where You're Going

My first rule of packing: suitably pack for your destination.

You’ll need to consider climate, local customs, and the reason for your trip. Unless you’re traveling for business or a special event like a wedding, you can pretty much get away without packing formal clothes. If you do have to take something dressy, consider clothing that can be rolled or twisted without leaving too many wrinkles. Most large hotels have dry cleaning/pressing services if you need them, and there’s generally an iron in the closet if your garments just need a little touch up.

Men’s suits are the big exceptions so if a suit is a required travelling garment, you’re most likely not going to get away without checking a bag. Tuxes can be rented but it's not very practical, or always possible, to rent a suit for business meetings or conventions.

If you’re going somewhere hot, packing light can be easy. A few swimsuits and tank tops, a couple of pairs of shorts; you really don’t need much. Packing for colder weather can be trickier. Sweaters or jackets are definitely bulky and add weight to your bag, making things more cumbersome. Pick the most versatile clothing you can find. Layering can be an amazing way to stay warm without the bulk.

Choosing the Right Colors

Colors: Stick with basic colors that you can mix and match. You can create a variety of looks using white, black, gray, or beige. Gray and beige are especially good at camouflaging dust and dirt you may pick up in your travels.

Keep flexible outfits so you can wear a shirt or sweater more than once without looking like you’re just wearing the same clothes everyday (even if you sort of are). And you can always switch things up a little with colorful accessories, like scarves and hats (the easy to fold or roll up kinds only, of course!)

To Roll Or Not To Roll

Roll it or keep it flat? It’s long been proven that tightly rolled clothing fits better in the suitcase...or has it? Not surprisingly, this subject has been debated for years. I say: pack the way that makes sense for you. If you can get everything in there folded flat, then do it. If you prefer the functionality of rolling, go for it. #donthateappreciate

Space savers, like stuffing socks into shoes, are still tried and true. Use up all available space that you can.

Cubes Rock!

The cube way: Have you tried packing cubes yet? Total game changer!!! I purchased a set of packing cubes on Amazon for the first time last year and I can’t believe it’s taken me so long to buy them.

Why are these cubes so great? Each cube is actually a thin, deep, zippered container which allows you to organize your clothes to a finer degree than just sticking them into a suitcase. Imagine being able to pack specific pieces of clothing or other items together without the hassle of things getting separated in transit!

I was able to use the cube system to organize everything I brought. The resort we stayed at did not have a dresser so having my clothes divided between cubes helped keep everything tidy and clean.

If you haven’t invested in cubes yet, you can get a workable set for pretty cheap online (I bought my set by Vayeebo here for around $13: Packing Cubes), or you can get something a little nicer for a few dollars more. The cheap sets work great, although they may not hold up as well as the higher-quality ones over time.

Travel-Sized Means Fun-Sized

Containers and travel-sized products: If you’re just going to be doing carry-on, you won’t be able to take full-sized beauty and bath products. Sometimes the travel-sized versions can be relatively pricey per ounce but the amounts in them are consistent with TSA guidelines. If you’re feeling a little more thrifty and don’t mind filling your own containers, then that’s a cheaper way to go. Empty containers are cheap and plentiful at Target, Walmart, or can be found at most small drugstores.

For things like shampoo, conditioner, or body wash, you may decide to just use the little ones provided by the hotel you’ll be staying at. Toiletries are replaced daily at most nice hotels and you may even be pleasantly surprised at the high-quality brands they provide.

For other liquid or cream-based products, consider using empty sample-size containers that you can fill yourself. I swear by the small, round bead storage containers that you can get at any large craft shop. They're made from a hard plastic, which makes them durable and easy to clean and reuse a few times.

Whichever method you decide on, be sure to keep all of your bath and beauty products in resealable plastic baggies in case of accidental leaks! And it’s a good idea to bring a few extra plastic bags with you.

And in case of minor injuries, a small first aid kit is a smart thing to bring as well. Someone always ends up with a boo boo on vacation and best to have band-aids and peroxide on hand.

These are just a handful of great ideas that have helped me pack like a pro. Do you have some tips that work for you? Feel free to comment below and share with fellow travelers!

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