Last week I talked about the gear and tools that help in packing light. This week, I am going to talk about some specific packing light tips for women. These are the tips and tricks I actually use while on vacation. There is a lot of advice out there and I feel like I am always learning something new when it comes to packing. Continue on to read 10 of my tips for packing light.
Packing light tips for women
Packing light is hard because there is no room for “what if” or “just in case” items. You have to evaluate each item carefully before you put it in your bag. It is much easier to randomly toss whatever you think you might need into your bag. Less stuff, in this case, means more work. However, that work is worth it when you are out on the road. So try out the following tips and see if they help make your bag a little lighter on your next trip.
1. Make a list
I am not a big fan of packing. I hate it, actually. But I love lists and making one helps tremendously with the packing process. Sometimes I jot the items I want to pack on a piece of scratch paper. Other times I use a pre-printed packing list. Then sometimes I use a packing app. It really does not matter how you generate a packing list, it just matters that you have one. This is especially important if you are new to travel. I promise that if you wait until the last minute and start haphazardly throwing stuff into your bag, you are going to over pack. Or you are going to forget something. A little planning goes a long ways.
2. Do not skimp on quality
Packing light means packing less…that means less clothing. For a weekend getaway, this is not too big of a deal. For two weeks in Europe, this is a very big deal. You will have to wear things more than once. You may have to do laundry. Your clothes will take a beating. Cotton, my friends, will not cut it. It is time to invest in performance fabrics. They help regulate your temperature, they dry fast and most importantly, they last longer before they start to smell.
There is a reason I love Icebreaker clothing. Yes, it is stupid expensive. Because of that, I only own a few pieces instead of an entire wardrobe. But those few pieces have been worth every penny. There are many brands like Icebreaker that make quality clothing and gear—the kind of stuff that will last you for years to come. I suggest you start with just a piece or two. Look for sales or check out a consignment store that specializes in performance gear (check out my post for where to find affordable travel clothes for women). Slowly build up your arsenal. Once you travel with quality gear and clothing, you will never go back.
Sierra Trading Post is a go-to for outdoor gear. You can get good brands and much steeper discounts after using the coupon codes. Boise is one of the lucky towns to have a brick and mortar store, but otherwise you can shop from their website.
3. Figure out your shoe situation
Deciding on which shoes to pack is definitely my biggest packing challenge. Shoes are bulky and heavy. You want to limit the number you pack which means you need to carefully evaluate each pair and its purpose. Why would you pack those heals unless you are positive you will wear them? If the unexpected happens and you need heals, you can always buy a pair. But it doesn’t seem worth it to haul them around just in case a heal-worthy event unfolds.
R subscribes to a three-pair rule: one pair of closed-toed shoes (e.g. trail runners, hiking boots, etc.), one pair of adventure sandals and one pair of flip-flops. I tend to stress a bit more because if I can get away with only bringing one or two pairs, then that is what I do. Take some time to figure out what shoes work for you. They are probably the most critical part of your wardrobe so it is worth figuring out.
If push comes to shove, wear your bulkier shoes on the ‘travel days’ while on your trip. For example, we knew Air Baltic was a stickler for the sizes our bags could be without paying extra. By wearing our bulkiest shoes, our bags were more compact.
4. Get versatile
Your clothes should all mix and match. If a top only matches one bottom, it is not a good choice. It does not matter if you are going on a cold-weather trip and all your bottoms are pants…or it is going to be hot and all you want are skirts…or you need to prepare for varied temperatures with a mix of short and long. Everything should still be interchangeable. And layer-able for that matter.
I try to pick a color scheme and then choose weather-appropriate pieces that fall within that scheme. That way I know all of my clothes will match in some way. (Note: scarves and jewelry make good accessories without taking up a lot of room.) Do not be afraid to wear things more than once—which is why you want to pack higher quality fabrics as discussed in item 2. No matter what you do, you are going to be tired of your wardrobe by the end of the trip. That is one of the downsides to packing light. But at least you will have more options if everything is interchangeable.
5. Minimize your routine
I am already a minimalist when it comes to a beauty routine (much to my mother’s dismay). I have nothing against women who enjoy themselves a good primp before they leave the house; that is just not my style. However, if it takes you two hours and a suitcase full of beauty products to get ready, you may want to think about how that affects your travel. Not only will all those beauty products make it difficult to pack light, but also the time it takes to apply them all will take away from time you could be out exploring. Places do not care if your hair is perfect. So do yourself a favor and keep your travel routine simple. You will pack a little lighter and see a little more.
Just as clothes can be versatile, so can makeup. There are several products out there that can work as blush, eye shadow and lipstick, all in one convenient package.
6. Beware lists on the World Wide Web
When doing research on the internet, be sure to take what you read with a grain of salt (and yes, I recognize the irony here). I love reading stuff about packing light, but it amazes me what some people recommend. I recently read an article about packing light that recommended two layering sweaters along with two jackets. Excuse me? This was not specific to a cold-weather trip. It was just a general list. If I am traveling somewhere tropical, when am I ever going to need two sweaters plus two jackets?
The same list also said to always pack a bathing suit. A long time ago, I subscribed to that advice. But no more. Nowadays if I am going on a trip and, for example, my lodging does not have a pool or hot tub, it is February in the northern hemisphere and I do not have time to hit up a spa, I am not going to pack a swimsuit. If my plans are a little more lose and there is a chance we might hit up a hot springs, then yes, I will throw in a swimsuit. But it should not be mandatory for every trip (few things should). A little common sense and some logic will help you decipher some of those lists floating around out there.
7. Leave room for souvenirs
Shopping for souvenirs is one of the best parts of traveling. We love to bring home unique items made by local artisans. In order to do so, it is important to leave room in your bag from the very beginning. Sure, a pair of earrings does not take up much room. But what about that cool clock R brought home from Tallinn, Estonia? It needed some space.
Even if you do not end up filling that space with bought goods (which I cannot understand at all), you will not regret packing less and having a lighter bag. In the event that you buy too much or too large, yes, you can always purchase an extra bag to carry your new stuff home in (I have done this more times than I can to count). However, it is far preferable and much easier all around if you space in your bag to start with.
8. Roll it
I am sure you have all heard that it is better to roll your clothes than to fold them. I myself am a roller and feel rolling is a good rule of thumb. Combine rolling with a couple of packing cubes and you are well on your way to an efficient and compact bag. However, there are plenty of other tips for getting your stuff well packed.
R, who tends to pack an entire pharmacy when she hits the road, likes to stuff several medications into one bottle (well labeled, of course) instead of packing multiple, half-filled bottles. You can also stick things, like socks, into your shoes. If you have some bulky or odd-shaped items, do a Google search to see if anyone else has a trick or two for packing a similar item. You will be surprised at how much space you can save with just a few adjustments.
9. Buy as you go (if necessary)
Guess what…the rest of the world does have stores. Many of them carry the same items you buy in your stores at home. Unless you are traveling somewhere super remote (and even then, you will probably fly into a major city that has stores), you do not have to pack everything you “may” need. In the event that something unexpected comes up or you forget an item, you can buy it on the road. That is not to say you should plan to buy what you need along the way, but keep in mind that you have options.
For example, I always pack a couple of bandages for blisters or cuts or whatever. However, if I end up needing more than the two or three I pack, I can always buy more. There is no sense in packing a whole box just in case. Here is a real-life example: on a trip to Ecuador, R forgot to pack a day bag. Luckily, there was a mall within walking distance to our hotel. R was able to purchase a cute, little backpack from an outdoor store that she still uses to this day.
10. Get Lasik
Okay, I realize this is not for everyone. However, if you are considering Lasik and you are a traveler, do not hesitate. Trust me on this. Other than getting my passport, this might be the greatest decision I have ever made in terms of travel (and life in general).
I hardly remember the days of having to pack extra contacts, saline solution, eye drops, regular glasses and prescription sunglasses—all “just in case” something goes wrong. And something always goes wrong on a trip. I have lost contacts in windy moments, stumbled blindly into the wrong room in the middle of the night (looking for the bathroom), and had unexpected allergic reactions that resulted in painful eye infections. But no more! I see better, pack less and express gratitude during sand storms in Morocco. Lasik makes life better. At least it did for me.
I hope you enjoyed these packing light tips for women. Overall, my message is that a little preparation beforehand goes a long way to packing light. Do some research and make a list. Avoid “what if” items and practice, practice, practice. Happy travels!