A friend recently asked me, “Do you think you could sweet talk Jolene into sending me her advice on how to pack light for women?” I said, “You bet! And not only that… I’ll happily turn that advice into a post for the website.” So with no further ado:
How to Pack Light for Women
by Jolene Kay
The number one problem I run into is packing variety. I constantly fall into the trap of wanting multiple colors, styles, and options of outfits for whatever occasion may arise while traveling. I think ladies deal with this a lot. We romanticize the possibilities of travel, and it’s so easy to feel that you need to bring all the options of home, so you’re not “sacrificing” anything. That’s not a practical way to pack if you want to keep it light. Speaking from experience… you’ll look just as great in pictures not having all your stuff with you, and you’ll only use a fraction of what you think you will anyway. 🙂
For me, these tips help cut down on baggage bulk tremendously:
1. Pack layerable, lightweight, anti-wrinkle fabrics in neutral colors for your base layers. I’ve found that I actually only need two base layers for most any trip.
2. Keep all of your base layers the same color and type. I keep mine of similar neckline / strap type; this eliminates the need for multiple bras. Nothing eats up suitcase space like trying to fit a nude, a black, a push-up, and a strapless… you gotta keep it practical. I usually pack one normal bra, and a couple of sports bras. That’s it.
3. You can be stylish, but be practical. The other layers can be stylish, but they have to remain practical. Vests with pockets, an anorak that’s functional but still looks cool. That sort of thing.
4. One pair of jeans. Yes, only one pair. Trust me. 🙂 Most of the time, I wear a pair of REI pants or leggings while traveling. I can’t stand being uncomfortable. While the skinny jeans look great in photos, they don’t hike or move well, and remember, jeans take forever to dry if they get wet.
5. Do laundry. If it’s a longer trip, simply find a place to do laundry. This keeps your number of needed items way down. Most Airbnb’s have laundry and if not, most places you’ll travel have a laundromat somewhere close by.
6. Wool socks are your friend. Daniel introduced me to Darn Tough and Smart Wool socks. This was SOOOOOO helpful. Wool has come a LONG way. It’s no longer the scratchy, hot and uncomfortable thing you think of. Quite the contrary. Good wool socks are actually some of the most comfortable things you’ll ever wear, the keep your feet warm in the cold, and breathe in the heat and the best part… they don’t smell very easily. Forget about cotton. With my wool socks, I could wear the same pair for more than one or two days and I never stank. 🙂 They’re practical, easy to pack, and can go through multiple uses, especially in the winter.
7. The golden 50% rule. When doing the actual packing – I let myself take everything out of my closet that I want to bring, spread it out, and reassess. One hundred percent of the time, what I want to bring is not what I need. Did I really choose three different, similarly-styled green sweaters? Jolene, C’mon. But allowing myself that initial want phase really helps. After I have everything laid out, I try to practice the golden 50% rule, which means… put back 50% of what I took out. I have gone against this rule many times and without fail, every time I have, I’ve been in the middle of traveling wishing I’d left more stuff at home. Trust me, you don’t need all the things you think you do.
8. The one hat to rule them all. Bring one cute hat with you that goes with everything. I usually want to bring four, I get it. You only need one, and then when you’re traveling, you can buy a new hat and have a great memory every time you wear it back home!
9. Two pairs of shoes. Yes, I know that sounds like blasphemy, but if you want to pack light, bring two pairs of shoes, that’s it. I always bring my running shoes, and maybe some flat boots. Or a cute pair of flats. Are you really going to wear a pair of heels more than once on a trip? If it’s a wedding, okay maybe. But otherwise… c’mon. Trust that you look hot in a cute pair of flats. And even if you don’t, if you’re traveling somewhere new, you’ll likely never see those people ever again, so…
10. Bathroom bag. There are lots of really great options on Amazon. Keep it simple. I bought this Compact Hanging Toiletry Bag.
I’ve taken it to three continents and many countries and it’s great. I commit to the size of this bag, and whatever doesn’t fit in it, doesn’t go with me. Toothbrush and toothpaste, razor, tweezers, nail clippers, face moisturizer, a travel brush, travel deodorant. These are the essentials. Anything else can be borrowed or gotten at a hotel.
11. A good menstruation app. I live by my menstruation app when traveling. I need to know exactly when it’s coming (I know this assumes regularity of cycle) – that way I can prepare and know whether I need to allow space in a carry on for period products, or whether I can store them in a checked or other bag for later. I also look at the medical practices of wherever I’m going, especially for international travel. You can’t always get the over the counter stuff we can in the U.S. If my app says part of my trip will be Aunt Flo time, I make sure I have all the Midol and Ibuprofen I need in a teeny pill case, like this one.
12. One actual book to read. One.
13. Calculate your underwear. I always calculate the exact amount of underwear I think I’ll need, and then add one. This works great.
14. Makeup. Oh man, this could be a whole list unto itself, but simplifying your makeup routine for traveling is essential if you want to pack light. I use the same strategy as the bathroom bag – I only take what I can fit into the travel pouch I’ve chosen for makeup, nothing more. No. Liquid. Foundation. Otherwise, you have to take it all out, put it into a plastic bag with any other toiletries to get through security… it’s a whole thing and a pain in the butt. So I keep my makeup to one mascara, one powder, one blush, one liner, one tinted chapstick, and I have some brow gel. This is another area where variety takes a backseat. Take practical shades that go with everything. Do you really need that sparkly blue eye shadow? You haven’t worn that since high school.
As far as a cosmetic bag, you can certainly buy one and I’ll link to a few below, but you can also get creative. For travel, it doesn’t have to be a bag designed specifically for cosmetics. You want it to be functional, not take up a lot of room, and be easy to access on the go.
15. Jewelry. If I feel I must bring jewelry, I keep it to one silver option and one gold. That’s it. Keeps packing light and keeps the risk of something nice being stolen to a minimum.
16. Pajamas. Don’t bring “pajamas.” Bring a pair of sweatpants and a cute t-shirt that can double for both a casual, comfortable outfit, and pajamas. Two-in-one!
17. Pockets and a backpack. If you really want to pack light, learn to rely on pockets and a backpack. Ditch the purse. A backpack can be a personal item on a plane, as long as it’s below a certain size (check your airline requirements), it’s easier to carry, and way more practical to carry around a city than a purse. Trust me on this. Daniel also talks a lot about getting fit properly for a backpack. He’s 100% right about that. Go to your local REI or sporting goods / outdoor store and ask them to fit you for a backpack (call first and make sure they do). During the fitting, you’ll try on different brands and learn how it’s supposed to fit. Chances are, if you’ve never been properly fit before, you’ve been wearing the wrong backpack and that can lead to a lot of problems, not to mention make traveling pretty miserable.
18. Your hair. If you can fit your curling iron or straightener in your bag, okay… but otherwise, I actually research a few cute ways to style my hair up while traveling so I don’t have to deal with those things.
19. Packing cubes. I thought these were a gimmick when they first came out. I love them now. They’re really great not only for organizing things in each cube, but for keeping your luggage organized as well, and I find that I can actually carry more using packing cubes. I bought these and have been very happy with them. Bagsmart makes a nice set of cubes that we bought and really like. You can buy them here: Bagsmart 6-Piece Packing Cubes.
20. Rolling vs. Folding Daniel is going to be posting a video about rolling vs. folding, but in the meantime, just know that rolling your clothing is the BEST. It actually allows you to see what you have at-a-glance, works great with packing cubes, and allows you to fit more stuff into any piece of luggage. For now, you can search YouTube for “How to roll clothing for packing,” and there’s all kinds of videos up there like this one: How to Pack Clothes for Traveling. We recently spent three weeks in Germany and rolling was THE way to go!
Overall, remember that for women, when it comes to packing lightly, it’s mostly about getting strategic and being honest about what you want to take vs what you need to take.
And trust me on the golden 50% rule.