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While traveling is always something people look forward to, packing is not. As someone who’s had her luggage lost completely twice (more on that here), I’ve forced myself to never bring more than a carryon anywhere — even if I’m going to be gone for a two or three week jaunt. Now let’s be clear, packing light was not something that came naturally to me. I was a serial over-packer (you can ask my friend Nikki how much stuff I thought I needed to haul up Machu Picchu on our poor pack mules). But after a series of trips where more didn’t necessarily mean better – dragging suitcases up narrow European staircases and trying to maneuver around tiny cruise state rooms — I learned to leave some of it behind. I also learned I like having my belongings in my possession more than in the hands of careless baggage carriers. The first rule in packing: trust no one. And thus, carryon it is. Curious how I do it?
Pick Your Suitcase Wisely
Lately, I’ve been using the Travel Pro Crew 11 Rollaboard (you may recognize it as George Clooney’s bag in Up In The Air), which is what a lot of flight attendants carry. And who travels more than a flight attendant?! Since I only bring a carryon I need something that can maximize space efficiently and this expands like you wouldn’t believe. The other main reason I love it is the USB outlet built right into the bag. You need to supply your own portable charger (mine was $22 on Amazon), but voila, in a matter of seconds my suitcase has morphed into a high tech workstation. Who has time to hunt outlets down at the airport? So pedestrian. And I can rest assured knowing my phone will always be charged and ready for photo opps. My only grip is that it rolls so well that I’ve had to hang on to it tightly so it doesn’t bump people on the train or go flying down an airport ramp (TravelPro – add a wheel lock when you’re stationary, please?). If you’re even more ambitious and think you can get life down to a travel backpack, check out these recommendations.
What’s in My Bag?
Things I always have with me: multiple pairs of yoga pants, a big tote bag as my personal item, a small cross body bag to carry around town (no need to draw attention to yourself or make valuables easily accessible), a headband, a scarf for versatility, gym shoes, flip flops or boots (depending on the season), travel-size shampoo, conditioner and soap (you never know when the hotel’s will smell gnarly or your hostel won’t have them), dry shampoo, mousse (no straighter, adapt the natural look), some layering tank tops, a cute jacket, a dress or two, and some long sleeve shirts. That’s about it; most of my daytime attire is outdoor wear and neutrals I can dress up with a chunky necklace or statement jewelry. The key is versatility. You don’t want to bring that new shirt you’ve never worn before and are unsure of, you want only your favorite outfits and softest tees you’re always comfortable and can rock with confidence.
Pack Half as Many Clothes and Twice the Amount of Cash
A fun tip I picked up from Never Ending Voyage, packing light isn’t just less stressful because it’s less to carry, but getting life down to one bag is good practice because it’s emotionally freeing, philosophical and a good way to determine what possessions really matter to you (which is likely much less than you think). Plus, shopping is fun! You can’t look like a local if you don’t dress the part. Packing cubes are a great way to save space for items you acquire on the road, which will double as a happy memory of your trip every time you look in your closet. If you really have to, there are places to do laundry abroad, especially if you’re staying at an Airbnb. I usually bring a travel laundry kit (you can buy on Amazon) to hand wash in the sink if it comes down to it. You can also throw a fabric freshener sheet in your bag to keep everything smelling like roses.
Want a cheatsheet so you’ll never forget anything ever again? Download a printable packing list here!