Tips for Packing Light

Tips For Packing Light

Are you an over packer? Do you play the “what-if” game when planning out your wardrobe?

I used to be right there with you. Despite checking the weather and knowing my exact itinerary, I ALWAYS packed three to five extra outfits. As I look back, I blame it on the fact my family drove everywhere for our vacations, so we had the room to “go big” with our packing. It wasn’t until I started flying more with my travels that I began to downsize considerably. I mean who wants to drag a 50-pound suitcase through the airport or an unknown city?

My packing strategy has changed over the years. Regardless of whether I’m traveling to Europe for 10-days or across the United States for a long weekend, my plan is the same. Of course, packing involves deeply personal decisions so take this and adapt to your style.

Size Up Your Carry-On

My primary bag for traveling is my carry-on suitcase. It is small enough for me to handle on my own regardless of whether I’m traveling via cab or train. But, did you know all airlines have different dimensions for their carry-on bags? Do your research before leaving on all the airlines you will be using during your trip. This may impact which bag you use or how to pack that bag. Depending on my length of trip, I’ll use my daypack as my carry-on bag and will check my suitcase.

Make a List and Check it Twice

This may seem like a no-brainer, but checklists help ensure you do not over pack. Write down exactly how many shirts, pants and shoes you will need, taking into account the climate of your destination and the length of the trip. Then start narrowing that list down to exactly what you need. Additionally, consider wearing some of the same things twice and washing them in the middle of the trip. Cross the items off your list as you add them to your bag to ensure you do not forget anything.

Color Coordinate

When packing, make sure your outfits are all in the same color family. This will help as you think through mix-and-match possibilities as well as your shoes. Additionally, instead of using a shirt or pants to add color to your wardrobe throw in a scarf or bright accessory. These are smaller and will help cut down the bulk.

Layer Up

Traveling somewhere cold? Pack with layers in mind instead of packing one bulky jacket. If you need the heavy-duty jacket (hello really cold climates), then wear it on the plane. Additionally, layers can help create different outfits.

Compress and Conserve

There are a couple of different ways to compress your clothes to help them fit in a small space. The first is packing cubes. These help keep your clothes organized during transit and help ensure you do not over pack. Another method is to use space saver bags or ziplock bags to help compress everything and remove the air. I use this technique when I’m traveling for extended periods of time. I find I can take more with me in the same about of space.


Many travelers will tell you two or three pairs of shoes should suffice for your trip, no matter the length. I usually pack a pair of flats that are comfortable enough to walk over town, but that I can also dress up for evenings out, as well as a pair of flip-flops. Once you narrow down your selection, place these at the bottom of the suitcase as they take up the most amount of space. Then use smaller items, socks and underwear and scarves, to pack around them.

Lightest Items Last

It is recommended to save your lightest items for last. Toiletries are sometimes the trickiest items. Depending on where you are staying, you can leave the shampoo, conditioner, lotion, and soap at home. Your makeup bag should be the bare essentials. Once you have the bathroom down the bare necessities, then put them on top. This allows for easy access to those items upon arrival or in case you need to shed a few pounds at check-in.