Back in the day, I was the worst kind of packer – An over-packer. I would throw every little extra thing into my bag at the last minute thinking that maybe, just maybe, this trip would be the time that I’d wear that snug, itchy sweater that hadn’t seen the light of day in two years. Then, Mike and I started traveling together. And when Mike travels, he travels on budget, which means when we travel together, we travel on a budget. And by on a budget, I’m talking about those low-cost economy airlines that we all know and love for their $100 round-trip fares. The thing with these economy lines is that if you really want the flight to be a deal, you can’t fall for their add-ons, like baggage. This means – backpack packing.
For about a year, I griped and groaned to Mike (and everyone else) about the woes of packing everything I needed in a single backpack. But as time passed, I got used to it, started to appreciate it, and now I wouldn’t travel any other way. Even when I have the option to bring more, I try to stick to a backpack or smaller bag. Flying with only a backpack makes travel so much easier and enjoyable. No lifting the heavy, rolling suitcase up into the overhead compartment. No holding up the line as everyone is desperate to get off the plane at disembarkment. I just pull up my bag up from under the seat in front of me. I throw it on, and I’m good to go. Every day of vacation is easier at my destination because the limited clothing choices make getting dressed every day a breeze.
I don’t consider myself an expert in packing by any means, but I’ve had more than a few years of experience in packing light at this point. I thought it might be fun to share a few tips today. Read on at your own peril, if interested.
A note before we dive in: I’ve spent those same years that I griped to Mike about packing light paring down my wardrobe to only the essentials. It seems like the two happened hand in hand. I am proud to say that I’m not afraid to wear, re-wear, and over-wear again. This is very helpful when thinking about keeping your packing light. Take a gander here for more helpful tips on keeping a small and well-loved wardrobe of clothes. But in case you don’t feel like delving into a new lifestyle, here are a few tips to think about when traveling in a backpack:
#1: Choose your colors wisely. When packing light, you’re looking for versatility. I usually stick to basic colors – blues, whites, grays, blush. Keeping everything in the same color family means that everything can be mixed and matched. Think “This top can be worn with either my jeans, or my drawstring shorts,” or “This plain tee can be worn to work out or with my shorts and cardigan for a dinner out.”
#2: Bring your favorites. Clothes that you love and wear all the time! A couple dresses, tees, jeans and shorts that you love are all you really need. Seriously, you’re not going to wear that itchy sweater you haven’t worn in two years. Don’t bring it. Obviously, if you’re heading to a wedding, or some formal affair, there are exceptions to the rule, but it’s a good place to start when trying to keep your packing light.
#3: Lay it all out. Lay everything out on the bed to eyeball what you’re really bringing. I usually end up eliminating one or two things when I take the time to look over everything and really think through what each item goes with or what all I’ll be doing on my travels. Doing a lot of walking? Bring an extra tee. Going to museums and eating out a lot? Bring an extra dress.
#4: Wear your heaviest items on the plane. I think most people have this one figured out. Wearing your bulkiest items leaves space in your bag for other things. For me, this usually means tennis shoes, leggings, solid tee and a zip up sweatshirt on the plane.
#5: ROLL, don’t fold. Rolling is the most space effective and wrinkle reducing way to pack. Fold your clothes in half and roll up into a burrito. Line them all up, and they’re easy to slide into your bag. It’s also much easier to rifle through your bag for a particular top when rolled rather than folded.
#6: Toiletries. Hairdryer, straightener, curling iron, deodorant, contact solution, toothpaste, etc. These things add up spacewise. My tip is to acquire a set of travel-sized toiletries that you keep in your travel toiletries bag. Contact solution bottles can be re-filled from your big bottle before you leave. A mini toothpaste will last you for a while, deodorant too. Use the hotel lotion. And if you’re truly desperate, you can just buy these liquids when you get there. That’s cheaper and easier than paying $50 for an extra bag. I only bring a brush and a travel thing of hair mousse when I travel. There’s always a hairdryer at hotels, friends’ or family’s houses that you’re visiting, or you can do like me and air-dry. Curling irons and straighteners are fairly space effective, so slide them in the side of your bag after you’ve packed everything else if you need them. Make-up is another story. Only bring what you need! Don’t bring the giant palette of every eye shadow you’ve never worn. Mascara, a tiny pot of face lotion, chapstick, blush. That does it for me.
#7: Limit yourself to two pairs of shoes. I know. It’s hard. Depending on the shoe, you might be able to squeeze a slim third in (especially if it’s a sandal). In summer-y weather, I usually bring one pair of sandals and a pair of sneaks.
#8: My last tip: Plan to re-wear. I usually do end up bringing one top or cute dress that doesn’t really go with anything else, but that I know I’ll wear multiple times because I love it and feel good in it. And if you’re going to be somewhere longer than a week – plan to do laundry. I always do a load when we visit family, even when it’s less than a week, and most hotels have a laundry service that you can pay for.
Packing with a baby is going to be another ballgame.
For those interested, this is my backpack. It’s actually our new diaper bag! Multi-use already!