It’s that time of the year when we start taking long weekend trips and week-long vacations. And that means packing for the trip. A friend recently asked for tips on how to compactly pack for a 10-day trip so she isn’t lugging unnecessary baggage and can enjoy her travels more. She couldn’t have come to a better source since my husband and I (well, mostly just me) engage in competitive packing to see which of us can pack for a trip in the smallest amount of space. Spoiler: I almost always win.
The key to organizing everything you need begins with your mindset, and the degree to which you can be compact is a function of how long you’ll be gone and what you’ll be doing while you’re on R&R. Is this a rustic, backwoods hiking trip or an urban, see-the-sights get-away? If you are committed to the idea of seriously packing light, you need to shift your mindset to minimizing wardrobe changes and maximizing coordinating pieces of clothing. That means you will be either doing laundry in your bathroom sink (pack lightweight items that are quick drying and bring a compact clothesline) or wearing some pieces more than once. Then, Step 1: Decide whether you will be using a full-size suitcase, carry-on and/or backpack.
Step 2: Pick your color palette – I typically choose navy or black. On casual trips, I select one complete outfit for going out to dinner at a nice restaurant, perhaps with a scarf or jewelry to accessorize differently. Then I consider which pair of shoes I will pack and which pair I will wear – limiting yourself to 2 pair of shoes is important because they are so bulky that they take up a lot of available packing space. Three is the absolute max.
Step 3: Plan out your wardrobe with one outfit for each day you’ll be gone. Be mindful to pack things you can layer to be ready for any kind of weather. Once you’ve done that, go back and eliminate one-third to one-half of what you’ve laid out. Keep in mind, the less you pack, the less you’ll be lugging around airports, hotels, and cabs. (And the more you can buy clothing as souvenirs!) When you can carry all your own baggage, you greatly minimize the possibility that it will be lost in transit! This rule goes for everyone on the trip – children should be able to manage all their own belongings, too, by the time they’re age 5.
Step 4: I recommend packing cubes of various sizes. I roll my primary clothes tightly (smooth them out first so they don’t wrinkle) and place them into a packing cube, then place another layer on top. It might look full but think again. Your socks, underwear, and pajamas can be rolled up and tucked along the side of folded clothes or laid flat over rolled clothes to pack your cube(s) tightly. Your toiletries should all go in one smaller cube, so you can just grab it all in one fell swoop when you need it. Don’t overpack toiletries. It won’t ruin your vacation to use hotel shampoo and body wash, but it will save you space and weight in your baggage.
Step 5: When you place items in your backpack or suitcase, start with shoes and other bulky items (curling/straightening irons for hair; every hotel should have a hair dryer), then layer in your cubes. If you’re using a backpack, separate the larger cubes into the front and back compartments. If you have a jewelry case or bag, it can easily fit inside a shoe or in a packing cube. If you’re bringing along a jacket, fold it into a rectangle the width of your baggage, then roll it up and tuck it in along the side before you zip up. Outside zipper pockets are good for travel journals, headphones and charging cords.
If you’re competitive, then your next step is to line up everyone’s baggage and declare who has won the contest to pack the lightest! If you’re not into that kind of family fun, then just pick up your lighter load, and focus on having a wonderful vacation!
FOLDING GUIDES from Spark Joy by Marie Kondo
STEP-BY-STEP PACKING GUIDE
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