Friday, September 9, 2011

Packing Light: Tips & Tricks

Last month, I mentioned that I'm currently working part-time at a travel store called Changes in Latitude here in Boulder. The store sells anything you'd need for international travel including adapters, guidebooks, luggage, and travel clothing. Every Tuesday night they hold a travel program where a speaker come in and shares about their journey to some far off destination. Some of the places on the schedule for the fall include Turkey and the Greek Isles, Uganda, Peru, Israel, and China, so I'm really excited to attend some of these shows, see pictures from all these places, and hopefully get some ideas for our next international trip (which will hopefully be soon!). However, this week's travel show was actually a clinic all about packing and traveling light. Since it's an issue that I generally tend to struggle with when going on a trip, I wanted to share some of the tips with y'all!

The biggest thing when traveling by plane, especially when traveling internationally, is learning how to go with just a carry-on bag. I know that may sound like a daunting possibility, but it can be done.The woman who owns Changes in Latitude traveled around the world for a year and a half with just a carry-on sized bag, and Cam and I only brought carry-ons (our backpacks) when we went to Europe last year for almost six weeks. By simply bringing a carry-on, you a) avoid baggage fees from the airlines (so annoying) b) you eliminate the risk of the airlines losing your luggage and c) you have less to haul around when you get to your destination, which is especially important if you're taking a vacation where you're going to be going from place to place. The maximum size allowed for a carry-on bag that will fit in the overhead compartment is 22'', and you can really fit a surprising amount in that space provided that you're smart about what and how you pack. In addition to your one carry-on, you get to bring one personal item, so in order to maximize your space it's smart to bring a roomy tote type bag as well. What I like to do is bring a small purse and put it inside of my tote, that way I have something light to carry around when I'm sightseeing all day. Here are some cute carry-ons & totes that have caught my eye lately on Pinterest:
Who's excited for Missoni at Target in less than a week? This girl! (Source)
Fun and Modern (Source)

Classic yet feminine (Source)
Preppy and girlie (Source)
A Longchamp tote makes a perfect personal item--it fits under the seat in front of you, while being roomy and durable (Source)
Another adorable tote option (Source)
Super cute luggage tag with the smart girl's travel mantra (Source)

Once you've selected the right bag, choosing what to bring with you is key. Now obviously that's going to be dictated by where you're going/what you're doing, but there are some tips that can help streamline the items you select no matter where you're going:
  • Start early: Packing light means packing strategically, so you can just throw everything in to your suitcase the night before you leave. I'd suggest laying everything out at least a week ahead of time to see what you have and what you can cut out. Try everything on and make sure that it all fits and flatters your body. (Nothing worse that realizing that you look 10 lbs heavier in all your vacation photos because of poor fashion choices) Make sure it all fits in your suitcase and eliminate unnecessary items. 
  • Stick to one color palette: By choosing one or two neutral colors to base your wardrobe around, you give yourself a lot more outfit options to play with, plus it helps reduce the amount of shoes/accessories you'll need. Black is a pretty fool proof base color for most city/international travel, and tan pairs nicely with it all year round. For summer travel, I like navy and white as neutrals, and then I find that brown or gray works well for fall/winter. Choose simple, well-made pieces, and then incorporate a few complimentary pops of color, but try to stay away from bringing tons of different patterns as those will be more difficult to mix and match.
  • Layer layer layer: Bringing a combination of clothing that can accommodate a wide range of weather is key. It's nice to start with a simple tank or tee, and be able to add a long sleeve top, a light jacket, and a rain coat in case the weather should change. Scarves are another great item that I never travel without (I love them so much they got their own post awhile back!) because they are both functional and stylish. They can add a splash of color to your outfit, and then serve as a shawl should the weather turn cool, plus if you buy them while you're on vacation they make great souvenirs.
  • Limit yourself to two pairs of shoes: I know that some of you are probably reading this and thinking that I am cray cray, but hear me out. Shoes take up a TON of space, and so by bringing the least amount of pairs you can the better off you'll be. Now I understand that certain types of travel will require more footwear depending on the occasion/activities planned, but for most vacations where you're just going to be sightseeing and walking around, two pairs of shoes will be plenty. The basic rule of thumb is that one pair should be more casual and the other more dressy, so depending on the destination that may mean a flat leather boot and a more dressy pair of ballet flats, a hiking shoe and a cute sandal, or maybe a pair of TOMS and a pair of heels. Whatever the case may be, really think about what you're going to be doing each day and ask yourself whether you really need that extra pair of shoes. (I'd also suggest sticking in a pair of flip flops but I won't count that towards your two pairs or shoes since they're flat!) Also, make sure that you break any pair of shoes in before you bring it on a trip. Chances are you're going to be doing a lot more walking on a vacation then you normally do and there is nothing worse than realizing that your shoes give you blisters when you land overseas. (Trust me, I'm speaking from experience on that one!)
  • Choose clothing that travels well: If you're really trying to travel light, chances are that you're going to have to do laundry on your trip. By choosing clothing that dries quickly, you can wash a few pieces at your hotel or hostel and know that they'll be ready to wear again in no time. It's also important to choose fabrics that resist wrinkling and that will look good every time you pull them out of your suitcase. 
As far as packing methods, I am a big fan of rolling my clothing and using packing cubes when I'm trying to travel light. Using packing cubes allows you to keep your suitcase organized and allows you to find things easily without having to pull everything out of your bag. I like to use a smaller cube for socks and underwear, and then a larger cube for pants/dresses, and then another cube for tops. The packing cube also allows you to compress items down a little bit so you can fit more in your suitcase than your could just by folding alone. I personally am a big fan of a brand called Sea to Summit; their Travelling Light packing accessories are (as the name suggests) extremely lightweight, yet very durable.
Another item I like to include when I'm trying to pack light is some sort of stuffable bag that packs small but can be unfolded into a large bag, as I inevitably know I'm going to end up buying things on any trip I take. Chances are that a majority of the space in your carry-on suitcase and tote will be filled, so by bringing this extra bag with you, it gives you a way to bring back your purchases without trying to have to squish them in your suitcase. Plus on the way back if you have three bags instead of two, you can go ahead and just check your carry-on suitcase because if for some reason it gets delayed on your return trip home it's not as big of a deal. Sea to Summit also makes some of these types of bags, and they're great for everyday use as well.

One last thing that's always great to have with you when you're traveling light is a collapsible water bottle. You can roll it up, put it in your purse, and then fill it up at the drinking fountain after going through airport security instead of bad for the Earth/your wallet bottled water. Plus, when your bottle is empty you can just put it back in your bag versus having to lug around a huge bottle that takes up tons of space. A few different companies make them, but I really like the ones by Vapur, and they come in a variety of colors:

So there you have it, my tips for traveling light! Speaking of travel, Cam and I are actually getting ready to head out to the airport to go pick up my parents who are flying in from Michigan today! I am so so excited for their visit! We're going to be heading straight from the airport out to the mountains for the weekend, and then we'll be heading back to Boulder and they'll be here until next weekend, so just a heads up that posts may be sporadic for the next week or so!

Have a fabulous weekend and happy travels lovelies! xoxo



  1. These tips are so practical & useful tips! I'm a horrible packer so this will be a big help. I also did a post on preparing to pack that might help too:

    thanks for sharing!

  2. Um, HELLO! Such good ideas! Wow, I will be referring to this page fairly often :) I'm an over packer, I admit it. Thanks for the ideas and cute items! The water bottles are a great idea :-D

  3. thanks for visiting my blog! love yours as well. I need that tory bag! and can't wait for missoni to come to target. counting down the days :)

  4. Great tips...layers is so key. I traveled a lot through Europe and it was sooo worth it to pack light!
    P.S. thanks for coming by our blog!

  5. So true! I only use my carry on because my luggage has been lost one too many times. Sure, it can be tough to fit everything in, but it's even WORSE to show up and not have ANY luggage!

    On a side note, if you haven't already, you should take a look at my post at what happened to my carry on suitcase at the airport....needless to say, I had to buy a new one :)

  6. Great tips. I fail miserably on shoes, but I do try. I also am intrigued by the cubes! I may have to give those a try.

  7. Love this!
    I will definitely use these tips when I study abroad in January. :)
    Have a great week!

  8. Such great tips! I love the colapsable water bottle idea. I never would have thought about that and I never fail to grumble about having to fork over $4 for a water bottle at the gate that I end up hanging on to forever just so I don't throw it away.

    So happy I stumbled onto your blog today.

  9. Really informative ideas of each products. I like the most stuffable bag which i like to buy as soon and indeed for me during traveling.

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