You finally booked that trip to Europe! It is all roses and fireworks in your mind until the moment comes to pack your bags. When I first moved to Europe, I had an anxiety attack and a beer as I tried to fit in nonsense items into my large suitcase that was already half the weight allowed on board. I get it, you need the heels and hair iron just in case David Beckham decides to show you around London.
Before you regret rolling a heavy suitcase down the cobblestone streets of your next dream destination, let’s discuss essentials. I have been a nomad for the last 4 years. Whether I am packing to move continents or go on a 5-day trip, I get more selective each time. I have packed suitcases, hiking backpacks, and beach bags enough times to realize a few hacks that will make your life easier when you are embarking on your adventure.
1. Make a list
This has never failed to relieve at least 50% of my stress before packing. You can do this on your commute, or while you watch Netflix on the couch with a cup of tea. Simply relax and think about the place you will be exploring. What will the weather be like? What kind of activities do you anticipate engaging in? Is it a nature focused trip or a big city trip? Do you anticipate walking a lot or will you be lounging by the beach? All these questions will help you determine what kind of clothes and toiletries you will need to take with you. Picture yourself in your location and start writing down what things you will need. You can divide your list into columns: clothes, toiletries and beauty, electronics, medicine, important things (this is where you will remind yourself to bring your passport, bank cards and house keys). I recommend starting this list a week before you pack so you can add things to it as you think of them throughout your days.
2. Cut the number of items by half
Let’s be real. I can almost guarantee you do not need half the items on the list. You might need to get a little cold-blooded as you cross out the heels, eyeshadows, extra pairs of jeans, and hairdryer. How often have you gone on a trip and used every single piece of clothing in your suitcase? I challenge you to cross out at least 30% of the items on your list, though 50% would be ideal.
3. Minimize the toiletries and beauty items
It hurt when I ditched my mascara on my trip to Ireland. But did I think of it once while mesmerizing at the Cliffs of Moher and hearing live Irish music at a pub in Galway City? I don’t think so. You will learn so much about yourself when you realize how little you need to feel happy. Hair dryers and flat irons often burn due to different voltage, even if you have a converter. You are better off braiding your hair after showering to create a pretty wavy look, or simply letting your hair dry in the sun! I challenge you to bring less toiletries, and if you desperately need that special conditioner for your hair, know that you are likely to get it wherever you go. It is amazing how far capitalism has traveled.
4. You only need two pairs of shoes
This has been the hardest point to master, but it keeps proving true time after time. When I travel, I tend to walk around a lot. Not only am I trying to hit the landmarks in a city, but I also want to walk its less crowded streets. Hiking boots have been the best kind of shoe to travel with, no matter where I go. If you want something more stylish, white or black sneakers are a big, functional trend in Spain. This is the hardest advice to take for many girls, but experience will be the best teacher. Uncomfortable shoes will turn the most excited of travelers into moody campers and Debbie downers. I now have a 2 shoes rule: my comfy pair of shoes (hiking boots or sneakers) and a cuter pair in case I want to look nice for dinner.
5. More bottoms, less tops rule
Funny enough, as we try to create outfit options we often choose one pair of jeans and 3 tops to go with it. That is absolutely fine, except if you truly want variety focus on more bottoms and less tops. Pick out a simple white or black top and pair it with a flowy skirt, ripped jeans, and funky-pattern pants. Now take that pair of ripped jeans and pair it with a white t-shirt, a blue tank top, and a striped shirt. Which outfits look more different? From now on, focus on packing less shirts and more bottoms. I also like to travel with a little bit of detergent in a travel bottle in case I need to wash a top to re-wear it. This has been the most innovative discovery of all.
6. Choose a smaller suitcase
My most recent packing hack was when I realized I needed a smaller suitcase. I used to have a massive red suitcase to move countries, and it always happened that I could barely drag it across the airport. You should have seen me hauling that thing down the escalators in Madrid’s subway. After that, I bought a medium-size suitcase that was a little bigger than the carry-on size and smaller than your average check-in luggage. This has guaranteed I do not overpack, and it is much easier to stay under the airlines’ weight limit. Leaving an open space in your suitcase is also a great way you can bring back a souvenir from your vacation.
Now that you have booked the ticket for your next trip, it is time to pack your bags! This does not need to be a dreaded task before the real fun begins. Just remember, we often need so much less than we realize to be happy.
Do you have tips for packing lighter?