As an experienced traveller, you quickly learn that there’s little to be gained by dragging around too much luggage. Packing light is a skill that is learned with time and practice, but I’d like to share some of my tips to help you slim down your luggage and make your trip more comfortable. Once you know how to do this, you will have a small but versatile wardrobe and you won’t feel deprived of options.
What you pack specifically depends on where you’re going, what you will do when you get there and how long you’ll be away. But to start with, get out all the things you think you will need and then ask yourself these questions:
- Do I really need to bring this?
- How often will I use this?
- Can I carry all my luggage on my own if need be?
The Guidelines I Recommend
Its tempting to just pack all your favourite stuff, but you’ll be much happier if your wardrobe coordinates, so try to pick a wardrobe from one colour family. (For me that tends to be neutrals – black, white, grey and blue – but that could just as easily be coral and turquoise if you’re that kind of a gal.)
Choose fabrics which will deal well with being compacted into a tight suitcase or packing cubes and which will easily release wrinkles. As with colour, make sure the textiles all will work well together.
Cut & Style
Try to make sure that the cut of clothing is simple, that it suits your personal style and above all is comfortable and suitable for all the activities you’ll be doing at your destination.
How Many Pieces Should I Bring?
As a general rule, I pack 12-15 main items of clothing for any trip 5 or more days in length. This will be reduced to around 5-6 pieces if I’m just away for a long weekend. Its summer now, so here’s what I’ll be taking with me to Canada next month. I choose to buy most of my clothes second hand from eBay, Frenchy’s (a chain of second hand shops in Atlantic Canada), and here in the UK from charity shops, Shpock and Preloved*.
I always bring one pair of very comfortable walking shoes wherever I travel. This summer it will be my Vivo Barefoot vegan trainers* which roll up super tight for tight packing and have ultra thin puncture resistant soles.
As its summer, I’ll also bring a pair of comfortable but stylish sandals which will look good but also stand
up to hours of walking. I have tried bringing heels with me on holiday but its always an utter waste of space unless I’m on a business trip. Thank goodness Birkenstock now make vegan sandals which aren’t just horrible moulded plastic (like they used to be) and look good with shorts and dresses alike. You’d never think these beautiful Mayor Birko-Flor in Anthracite were vegan, and they’re what I’ll be wearing this summer.
1-2 pairs shorts
I bought these Gap shorts second hand on Shpock from a local lady. They were exactly the colours and cut I was after. I wear shorts a lot during the summer, so I’ll probably bring 2 pairs with me on this occasion.
1 pair jeans
Cropped jeans are the perfect length for warmer weather trips and just what I need when the weather gets a bit chillier in the evenings. If you’re looking to buy a pair of really comfy jeans in a jegging style (that doesn’t look like a jegging), Hue jeans are what you’re after. My mom bought me this pair last summer when I was visiting her in Canada and I didn’t stop wearing them until the end of September – they are so flattering! – and you can buy them in the UK now*.
1 pair leggings
For me, a pair of good quality soft cotton black leggings that are comfortable and high waisted with a comfortable waist band are an essential for travel at any time of year. I usually wear them on the plane for long flights because they’re comfy and feel a bit like you’re wearing pyjamas. And of course, they can double as a pair of pyjamas when worn with a t-shirt. In the summer I might wear cropped leggings rather than full length ones. Sadly these seem to be difficult to buy second hand. I choose black because they’ll go with a neutral wardrobe, they’re more forgiving to the figure and also more forgiving to getting a bit dirty while travelling.
3 -5 t-shirts
Three is a good number to bring, but bring 5 if you know you’ll have limited access to a washing machine during your travels. I’ll usually make sure at least one is 3/4 length sleeve for a more versatile look. These organic ones are the Maple design from Absolutely Bear.
1 casual shirt
I usually opt for some sort of crisp white, chambray blue cotton or linen shirt that I always wear with the sleeves rolled up. I can wear it with a pair of jeans for a smart casual look in cities or when visiting museums, or I can wear it open like a jacket over a t-shirt with a pair of shorts for a preppy summer look.
I’ve had my black North Face zip up fleece for probably 15 years and I love it so much and its still in ace shape. Its great for hiking when you don’t know what’s going to happen with the temperature and you want to layer. I don’t know that I’ll necessarily replace it with another microfibre whenever it does reach the end of its life (because, you know, fish) but to be honest it looks like its not going anywhere soon.
1 jumper (sweater)
If you’re going somewhere a little too smart for a fleece its good to bring a jumper (sweater for my fellow North Americans) instead. I have a favourite second hand grey one which has another year or so of life in it, but I love the jumpers from Absolutely Bear since my husband bought his back in January. (I’ve been wearing their organic Maple t-shirt for years now.) They’re beautiful quality, designed here in London, ethically made and give 10% of their profits to charity.
1 dress or skirt
For me, there will inevitably be some occasion to look moderately smart when travelling as my husband likes going out to a nice meal or two. As such I’m not so minimalist that I would veto a touch of elegance in my life. I’ll either bring a simple black jersey maxi dress or my knee length Gap denim skirt which I bought second hand, but I’ve not decided yet.
Swimsuit & swim shoes
Obviously this applies only if I’m going to a location where I’ll be swimming…which is usually most places I travel. I just bring one suit. I’ll also bring a pair of swim shoes because often the best and most beautiful places to swim have ouchy rocks, pebbles or coral and I have weenie soft feet. They’re also an essential for kayaking, my favourite summer hobby, and I’ve never regretted packing them.
Hat & Accessories
I’m not much of a hat person so I’ll probably just bring my old Roots baseball cap because ultimately my only need for a hat is just so I don’t get a sunburn. The one accessory I cannot do without is a pair of sunglasses. I believe in wearing good quality sunglasses for the sake of your eye health and have always worn a pair of Ray Ban Aviators, but will be making the switch to a pair of more travel savvy folding Wayfarers. I also should mention that I don’t travel with jewellery. I always wear my wedding ring (although not always my engagement ring depending on where we are travelling – if its somewhere with a higher crime rate or in poorer communities where it may appear ostentatious) and a plain silver bangle that I always wear, but that’s it. Travelling with jewellery just provides one more thing to worry about losing or have stolen.
I recommend having a bag which holds somewhere between 25 and 45 litres. Personally I pop my clothes along with my LL Bean toiletries bag and my laptop into my 25 litre Tom Binh backpack and I’m fine, however I may upgrade to their 45 litre carry on (which also conveniently has backpack straps) for longer trips and to allow room for my camera gear.
There are a few affiliate links in this post marked with an asterisk*, but mostly just links I’ve popped in for products I like and have no association with. The affiliate links are companies whose products I know and have years of experience using as a plain old regular customer. I’d never try to flog you something I don’t have experience of using myself. When you buy through these links you are supporting my blog and you’re not paying any more than you normally would on those sites. Thanks!