Over the last few years, as Andy and I have been traveling more often, we’ve learned quite a few tips for how to pack light. When people find out that we went to Europe for 10 days, with just one weekender bag each, and no additional carry-ons, they are always so surprised. I promise we weren’t stinky or dirty! We just planned ahead and packed only the bare necessities.
My 10-Days Packing List*:
- 1 short-sleeved top
- 2 long-sleeved tees
- 2 button-up tops (chambray is my fave)
- 1-2 cardigans (I took 2 but only wore 1)
- 1 pair of black legging jeans
- 1 pair of skinny jeans
- 2 dresses (shift dresses are my favorite because they can be worn sleeveless or with a top underneath for different looks)
- 5+ tank tops (I wear them to bed as they get dirty)
- 10 pairs of undies
- 10 pairs of socks
- black tights
- yoga pants for sleeping and lounging
- small cross-body bag that can go from day to night
- sneakers (black converse always work)
- ankle boots
- rain coat/light jacket (I wear this on the plane so it doesn’t take up space in my suitcase)
- toiletries: face soap, moisturizer, contact solution, anti-frizz cream, hairspray, hairbrush, comb, razor (I also bought a mini straightening iron when we got to Dublin)
- makeup: BB cream, cover up, pressed powder, cream blush and stick eyeshadow (so I don’t need to take any brushes), 2 lipsticks/glosses, waterproof mascara and liquid eyeliner (in case we get stuck in the rain)
- iPad to read on the plane
*Adjust for weather — more sweaters or more short sleeves/tanks or more dresses.
This is what I took with me for 10 days in Dublin, Paris and Lisbon in September. The only change I would have made would be to take one less cardigan… and to make sure one of my dresses didn’t have a giant stain on it! I had to buy a new one. I also would have taken ballet flats instead of booties if I had a pair that are comfortable for walking, because it ended up being warmer everywhere than expected. In the future, I would also consider possibly packing even less and just washing what I have half-way through. Most hotels offer laundry services for a fee. That way I’d have more room to buy things and my bag would be lighter.
Andy follows the same basic packing strategy: 10 t-shirts he can wear during the day and as undershirts, a couple of button ups, a couple of polos, a couple pairs of jeans and sneakers.
10 tips for packing light:
1. Pack neutrals: Sticking to a neutral palette means everything matches everything else. I didn’t do this on this trip, but it’s also fun to pick one pop of color that you repeat, like a colorful cardigan or ballet flats that you can wear with everything else. (I talked about doing this HERE.)
2. Double up: I generally plan on wearing everything twice, other than socks, underwear and tank tops. And then I just try not to spill anything on myself!
3. Mix and match: This goes along with packing neutrals, but think about ways that you can creatively re-wear something and make it feel like a different outfit. For example, a black and white striped tee looks cute with jeans or under a shift dress, and will look totally different each time.
4. Dress nice: I don’t always have time to change before dinner on vacation, so I like to start the day wearing something nice enough to last me all day and night. Instead of t-shirts, I like to pack button-up shirts and dresses, so I won’t feel terribly underdressed no matter whatever the circumstances. Both of us are naturally pretty casual people, so I understand this may not work for everyone and obviously doesn’t work in every circumstance.
5. Plan ahead: This might sound too type A, but before I pack, I like to write down a general plan for each day of a trip so I can make sure I have the clothes I’ll need. I tend to create imaginary outfits for everything I’m doing, so it’s easy for me to think, “I kind of want to wear a dress to Versailles” or “I want to wear chambray for a hike in Ireland.” I can always change my mind later, but planning ahead like this gives me a better idea of exactly what I need and how many ways I can mix up pieces.
6. Try it on: I tried on a few different outfits ahead of time, to double check that everything fit and looked ok together.
7. Test pack: Andy and I both did a complete test pack a couple of weeks before we left, to make sure we had enough space in our bags for what we wanted and to make sure we didn’t need to buy anything else. This isn’t something we’d do for a short trip, but for 10+ days it’s really helpful to be as prepared as possible.
8. Check the weather: This is pretty obvious, but don’t forget to check the weather forecast and do a little research about what the normal conditions are for the time you’ll be there. That way you’ll get an idea of whether you need to pack sandals or wool sweaters, or a little of both.
9. Let it go: For me the hardest part is leaving things behind. I tend to want to take ALL of my favorite outfits, but it’s more important to take only the absolute basics. And I’ve found that when I do take more, I don’t end up wearing it all anyway.
10. Be comfy but don’t look like a tourist: We all know the stereotype of the American tourist in big white Reeboks and fanny packs. You will be walking a lot, but comfort and style don’t have to be mutually exclusive. Things like black legging jeans and converse sneakers can be cute and comfy at the same time. There’s no reason to look like a tourist just because you are one. I also know from experience that it’s totally possible to run really fast through the airport in ankle boots with a heel!
The weekender bags we used were my black and white striped bag by Kate Spade Saturday, and Andy’s gray and navy bag by Everlane. I love his bag — it’s nice and lightweight and deceptively roomy. Mine is a little cumbersome and awkward for me to carry, but I like that it has a separate shoe compartment in the bottom and a detachable shoulder strap.
So what do you think? Do you have any packing tips I might have missed? Do you think this packing list would work for you or would you make some changes? I’d love to hear what your packing strategy is!
Photo and illustration: by me!
P.S. Sorry for the unplanned day off from the blog on Monday. It turns out house painting is WAY more stressful than I had expected. I had been working on a post for Monday all about our exterior paint colors, but then our painter didn’t really agree with our choices… at all. Sooo I spent all day Monday researching new paint colors and basically freaking out that I a) have no idea what I’m doing and b) don’t want a purple house.