My husband and I love to see the world together. It’s one of the most important things to us. Forget the car payments, the fancy labels, the cable TV, and the high rent. The open road will be all for us, thanks.
With all of our travel experiences, we’ve gained little bits of wisdom each time. So, I figured why not share some of these discoveries we’ve made along the way.
For today, we’ll be sticking with the packing aspect of travel. Nothing fancy–just a few pointers:
A carry-on plus one small bag is ideal. If you can get away with only one or the other, even better! The less luggage you have to haul around between destinations, the better. Making the choice to only pack essentials is crucial in travel ease. When we eloped to Ireland, my husband and I thought we were sticking to the bare basics, but quickly found out that we still weren’t wearing or using half of what we had packed! Despite packing light compared to everyone else around us, we could have packed even lighter!
If you must check a bag (which, as you already know, I’m against), make sure to pack 1-2 changes of clothes in your carry-on. You will be thankful for this if your luggage gets lost or you spill something on your outfit between flights. I also recommend including anything you absolutely wouldn’t want to be caught without on your trip: toothbrush/paste, deodorant, chargers, and of course money and travel documents.
Don’t be afraid to do laundry at your destination, especially when staying somewhere for longer than a week. We planned ahead, staying in places with laundry facilities 1/3 and 2/3 of the way through our trip. This was a lifesaver! Knowing that we could wash everything we packed and start over after a few days gave us such peace of mind. We just found a grocery/market type store and picked up a small container of laundry detergent once we arrived and let the clothes wash and dry while we slept or went out sightseeing. Easy peasy. Also keep in mind, most articles of clothing aren’t “dirty” after only one or two wears. Get the most out of your pieces by re-wearing them when possible. Hanging something up to air out at the end of the day while you sleep is usually just enough to make the piece feel fresh again. (Note: quick-dry and wrinkle-resistant fabrics are your best option in travel scenarios for obvious reasons.)
Stick to a basic color palette with your clothing. Try to stay with black or brown and not both. This way, all your pieces (including shoes and bags) will match each other, giving you more interchangeable outfit options. Believe me, this is important when packing as little as you can get away with. Try to avoid anything overly trendy and stick to the basics. That pair of jeans and solid top will be much more valuable to you on the road than a cute dress that only matches one pair of shoes. We all like to be fashionable, but the truth is, on the road, you will probably be more excited about the day-to-day activities than you will be to get all gussied up. To have a little fun with your wardrobe while traveling, pick a vibrant accent color to pair with your neutrals. Game changer. (Also, striving to not attract too much attention to yourself is a smart move. Flashy tourists who stick out in a crowd are more likely to be pickpocketed, as it is known they tend to carry more cash on their person.)
If you’re a girl, pack dresses! Dresses were my life-saver on our elopement trip. They take up very little space in your bag–not much more than a top–and they are a full outfit on their own. You could almost pack a week’s worth of knee-length dresses in a medium-sized day bag. Also, since they can be dressed up or down–for a night out or a day of sightseeing–they’re extremely versatile!
SHOES + ACCESSORIES
If you can’t help but want to feel super adorbs on your journey, pack a few pieces of statement jewelry in a Zip-lock bag. This will keep your accessories contained, while allowing them to really help that dress go the extra mile for that fancy dinner out. The same principle goes for shoes. Try to only pack 1-3 pair of shoes, and wear the bulkiest ones on your flight if feasible. This will help save your precious luggage space. Keep the shoes neutral so they will match everything you’ve packed. A pair of sandals or boots (depending on climate), walking shoes, and cute (yet still comfy) flats should be enough to get you through your trip. Also, try to stick to one day bag/purse and a small night-out option, both of which should match everything in your packed wardrobe. Don’t over-pack in this department!
If you’re going to over-pack anything, make it your underwear. They take up almost zero space (especially women’s), and they definitely aren’t something you want to be caught without. Stick to fabrics that dry more quickly (avoid cotton), so that if necessary, you can hand wash a pair or two in your hotel room sink. Undies are not something you want to have to re-wear. They’re not like your outer clothing. Do yourself a favor and pack plenty.
These suckers were lifesavers on our international vacation. They help keep like items contained together for simple storage and stress-free retrieval. You can find some like these on Amazon.com, or even pick them up at your local TJMaxx, Target, Wal-Mart, etc. Another option is to separate each day’s outfits into separate Zip-Lock bags and label them according to your itinerary for a no-fuss morning routine. It will allow you to unpack as few items as possible for the current leg of your trip. (It is also smart to keep your shoes in plastic bags to keep them from rubbing dirt off onto your limited clothing options.)
I’m a huge fan of extra plastic bags during travel. You never know when you might have a damp or dirty garment (or liquid purchase–detergent or toiletry item) that needs to be secluded from the rest of your luggage contents. Taking a few extra Zip-Locks, garbage bags, and/or plastic shopping bags can’t hurt. They pack flat, weigh nothing, and may just save your wardrobe in a pinch.
You never really know 100% what your accommodations will be like upon arrival. There have been a few times on various trips, the cleanliness of the place wasn’t up to my germaphobe standards. A simple travel pack of Clorox wipes and/or Wet Wipes was usually just enough to put my mind at ease–along with my always-in-my-purse bottle of hand-sanitizer, of course! Your surroundings can sometimes be messy, and it doesn’t hurt to be prepared for it. Better to designate a tad bit of room for these little guys, just in case, than be caught without them.
Really work on streamlining your beauty regimen for travel. Can you just get by with a tube of mascara and lip balm? Go for it! If you’re comfortable going completely bare-faced, more power to you! We actually found it easier to purchase a few toiletry items once we arrived at our destination. This saved us the aggravation of trudging through airport security with all those liquids. Then, we just left them behind at our last stop before we boarded the flight home. Also, try finding ways to spend minimal time on your hair. Letting it air-dry while allowing your natural waves and texture to shine through can not only be liberating, but also very beautiful. A low, messy pony of partially air-dried hair was one of my faves on the road. And remember, sunscreen should always have a reserved spot in your bag! The more you take care of your skin, the less you should have to cover it up with all those layers of make-up.
Rethink your technology. You can probably just get by with only your smart phone on a trip. This one device is the Swiss Army knife of electronics. With it, you’ve got your camera, your computer, your GPS, and your entertainment. It’s all there. Save space in your luggage or carry-on, and just take this one item with you.
To save on international data costs, consider purchasing a wifi hot-spot at your destination. Most hotels will have wifi available to you, but sometimes this service can be shoddy and unreliable. With a hot-spot, you will be able to use your phone wherever you are (minus the calls and texts). We did this abroad and talked with family via Skype/Facetime and email, even when driving down the motorway. If your friends and family have iPhones, you will be able to receive texts when connected as well, so long as the iMessage feature is turned on on all devices involved. (When traveling abroad, make sure the hot-spot you purchase is international if you purchase it in advance. If not, it won’t work once you arrive overseas.)
Do you really need to purchase all those souvenirs? A true minimalist knows that the best souvenirs are the photos and memories you take home with you. I know people who leave open room in their ginormous luggage so they can bring back gifts for themselves and all their friends and family. It’s a nice thought, but such a hassle and total waste of space! Honestly, your loved ones probably don’t want all those cheesy knickknacks from all the places you saw, anyway. Instead, if you must get them gifts, consider purchasing a bottle of wine or some other perishable item, save space in your luggage, and ship it to them. Other than the photos and memories, these are our favorite types of souvenirs!
If you visit multiple cities per trip like my hubby and I do, consider purging before leaving each location and heading to the next. You’d be surprised at all the unnecessary, extra “passengers” you can pick up along the way. Instead of loading everything up without a thought, do a quick run-through of your luggage and any bags/purses/pockets, and toss what no longer suits you for the remainder of the trip. This can include local maps, brochures, airport paraphernalia, shopping bags, or any “freebies” you might pick up from your sight-seeing. I even “purge” my receipts from my day purse, moving them to a designated pocket or Zip-Lock bag in my carry-on, so they’ll be out of my way until I get home to check my bank statement for all the cleared charges as well as any fraudulent activity. Doing this simple act every time we changed locations kept the clutter at bay, making the transition to each new city a breeze.
Thanks for reading! I hope this helps with your upcoming adventures! If you have any questions on anything I didn’t cover, please ask below in the comments.