Your highly anticipated adventure is finally here. You just are so excited to be surveying a new city, sipping on local suds and experience seeing the same moon you see every twilight from another place in the world. To me, there’s nothing better than that thrill. That is, until I’m a solid 48 hours outside of flight takeoff and realize I have to pack. And light travel packing is not first-nature or easy.
Then, excitement turns into distress. Daydreaming quickly morphs into to-do lists, and ultimately fear of how much I’m going to forget to check off from that to-do list.
A year ago, I decided to make a packing checklist to keep in my phone that was suited for almost any type of trip. Depending on time of year and length, I could modify as needed. But it helped to jump start my planning travel mentality.
I’ve referenced this list so many times. It’s come to be the most handy when I have procrastinated to pack for far too long, and find myself flying through the door and tossing things into a bag. At least I can pull up my packing checklist and ensure I bring the absolute essentials, which include my glasses and contacts (I have terrible vision), socks, solid walking shoes, an umbrella, and layers.
Due to a high volume of request, I’ve put together this light travel packing guide to help you stay on excitement-vacation mode and be able to enjoy the two days leading up to your next big journey rather than dread them. If you want some help on what to pack in your carry on and how to make a long flight more comfortable, I’ve got some info for you on those, too.
The packing list below pertain to 10-day trips, since this blog focuses on short trips. As a young professional, time is not yet at my disposal to take off. So a 10-day trip is usually what I aim for to get a taste of at least 2 or 3 cities, especially when traveling abroad.
The beginning of this guide lists out items that you would want to have on your packing radar all times of the year. My suggested clothing lists vary on where you are going and during which month. Fall and spring are grouped together since they are similar in temperature in general; entering into and coming out of winter, chilly wind combined with catching glimpses of the sunshine.
I will add that this light travel packing guide does work for guys, but is mostly geared towards girls since that is where my knowledge lies from personal experience. I also find I pack much more than Luke does due to things he doesn’t worry about like beauty items, and more layers during the cold.
Non Replaceable Essentials
- glasses/contacts and solution (if you’re like me and not lucky enough to have perfect vision)
- device chargers, portable and plugin
- charger adapters
- Advil and Tums
- beauty products. Only the items you cannot live without. For makeup, I pack:
- two eyeshadow colors
- 2 lip colors
- 1 brush each per brownzer/blush and eyeshadow
- setting pray
- hair straightener
- small bag that carries your passport, ticket if you print them out, and ID for you to have out in the airport (needs to be small enough to tuck into your carry-on)
Rules of thumb:
- Pack as little patterns as possible. I mostly pack solid-colored clothing to be able to mix and match.
- You may rewear clothes. This is a definite during the winter since you’ll want to only take a couple items for heavier layers, but in the summer this could be tricky since you’ll be hot as you explore your destination. Keep this in mind when selecting your clothing choices.
- Scarves. Doesn’t matter what time of the year you’re going, you need a scarf. It is also a pillow on the plane, a way to accessorize when you are rewearing clothes during the cold months, a key element of staying warm especially when it’s windy, a way to modest-up your attire when touring sacred places, and more.
- You can’t bring too many pairs of socks. They don’t take up a lot of room, and we all know how horrible it is when you walk through a huge puddle accidentally and have soaked toes for the rest of the day. Also, blisters. You don’t want blisters.
- Walking shoes. Non-negotiable. Your knees will throb at the end of a day of walking miles and miles if you opt for trend over comfort on this one.
- Bring 1 plane outfit. I usually wear the same thing there and the same thing on the way back, just because the rest of the trip wearing what I wore overnight for hours on a plane just doesn’t sound appealing.
- Try to get educated on norms of your destination when it comes to style and attire. The last thing you want is to stick out like a sore thumb. I do not like drawing attention to myself as a tourist as a safety precaution.
- 4 pairs of shorts – I usually do one pair of jean shorts, and 3 that are a thinner, more comfortable material for walking around all day
- 8 tops – tank tops, light-weight blouses, backless for staying cool if available
- 2 sundresses – I try to choose dresses that I could easily dress up if I found myself going to a nice restaurant for dinner by throwing a jacket over it, or to a performing arts show
- 1 pair of walking shoes
- 1 pair of cute sandals
- 1 pair of vans/keds (cuter sneaker of choice)
- 2 bathing suits (if you’re going to a beach/swimming location)
- 3 sleeping options
- 1 plane outfit – leggings and tank top supplemented by fuzzy socks and a scarf
*Bonus – if you have spare room:
- a pair of wedges/heels – I have brought these multiple times on trips to places like Portland, California, Europe, and New England and I usually am so tired from sightseeing that my exhausted feet opt for flats. Heels are a nice to have, but not an absolute necessity
Consider Your Destination
When I sight-see in the US or am actively navigating throughout a city in the summer heat, I will sport an active-wear outfit with some running shoes. However, in Europe, wearing this type of outfit will scream, “I’M AN AMERICAN!” People don’t really wear workout clothes to go about their day, even when they’re visiting a foreign place. I even wore Chacos (not the cutest, but definitely practical for summer walking shoes in Europe) and got many odd stares for that.
- 3 pairs of jeans, 2 pairs of shorts – it’s good to have options since the weather during these times of year will primarily be determined based on if the sun is shining or hiding behind clouds. You could end up much colder or warmer than the temperature displays, so options are good for fall and spring
- 2 skirts/dresses and tights – tights are easy to add to a dress outfit if it’s chilly. You could even put them in your purse to add onto your outfit once the sun sets and the evening chill sets in
- 8 tops, half long sleeve and half short sleeve – options and layers are the goal
- 3 scarves – probably more of a fashion statement than method of warmth, solighter scarves should work
- 1 pair of boots, 2 pairs of sneakers/keds – boots can automatically dress up your outfit, and the walking shoes can be cute and comfy for sightseeing during the day
- Socks – plenty, and mix of textures for cool and warm
- Light headwear – a beanie or two should suffice
- 2 jackets, 1 coat – the jackets should be various levels of warm, and coat can function as waterproof and warm for nighttime temperatures
- Two winter coats – I take one peacoat and one wind breaker coat that is waterproof and very warm. The wind breaker, down type of jacket will come in handy if you’re doing a lot of outdoor activity
- 3-4 scarves – they don’t take up a lot of room, and layers are better than bringing lots of chunky jackets. Scarves also allow you to accessorize your winter outfit and not look like you’re wearing a uniform on your trip
- 8 long sleeve shirts
- 2 winter dresses and two pairs of leggings – packing dresses saves space since it’s a full outfit yet one item of clothing. I also feel warmer with leggings than jeans in some environments
- 4 pairs of pants – during the winter, my pants choice is jeans. They’re warmer than leggings and more water-resilient for snow. Also, jeans don’t feel terrible to re-wear
- 2 pairs of boots – one pair of booties and one pair of knee highs. Tall boots dress up your outfit, and are very warm. I’ve walked all over Europe in tall boots without my feet hurting at the end of the day
- 3 beanies/warm headbands – another way to accessorize while staying warm
- 2 pairs of gloves – being a Floridian, I often overlook packing gloves and regret it. Having warm hands is a game changer
- Plenty of socks – again, these don’t take up room. Warmth and coziness are critical!
Staple Entertainment that I Always Pack
- Journal – one of my favorite parts about traveling is the actual travel. It forces you to sit still on a plane, train, or car ride. You get time to think, a rare gift. It’s also great to bring along pen and paper to capture what you discover everyday. Months after your trip is over, it’s hard to recall all you experienced and felt each individual day. It all sort of blurs together. My favorite thing to write about on a trip are the elements of other ways of life that I love, and want to remember and embody in my own life.
- Magazines – I still love mindlessly flipping through pages with words and pictures decorating the inside.
- Kindle or book – kindle to save space, and to be able to red on a red eye flight.
- Music – I can’t imagine traveling without music. I purposefully select artists and songs to listen to throughout my trip so that upon my return, when I listen to that same music later, nostalgia time-travels me back into taking a bus in Koh Samui, Thailand or landing in London
- Snacks – I admit, I normally don’t like the idea of food as entertainment, as I try to eat healthy and maintain an active lifestyle. However, I just love some yogurt-covered pretzels and an RX Bar rather than having to order who knows what for a jacked up price on a train