Packing Light For A Long Trip

While planning a two-week international trip I found myself lying awake at night trying to figure out what to pack and what to leave. This always brought on anxiety as the “must haves” slowly started to pile up. I knew I didn’t want a bunch of luggage weighing me down as I traipsed from place to place yet I wanted to be stylish and have options while abroad.

This is all that accompanied me on a 16 day trip to Europe. One regulation sized carry-on and a bookbag.

While looking for advice online I read over and over the benefits of packing light. That is when I decided that I’d fit everything for my two week trip into one carry-on sized piece of luggage. Oddly enough, that made the anxiety worse. How was I supposed to fit EVERYTHING in one bag?

I had several friends express their doubt in my ability to pack so little. Of course, this gave me the desire to prove them wrong. I am very competitive so I began to the task as a challenge that I had to win.

When it was time to head to the airport I had one small carry-on piece of luggage and a backpack. I felt confident in my choices and was looking forward to traveling light for the first time.

If you’re looking to ditch those checked bag fees as well as feel the freedom of packing light the next time you fly then here are some helpful tips on how to do just that:

Make A List

I used a website that generated a list based on information that I provided. It helps you remember necessities such as medications, contact lenses, etc. Be prepared to knock things off your list several times as you realize how limited your space it.

Make two lists, one of items you absolutely need and another of things that you’d appreciate having but can live without if necessary. Pack the things you’ll need first then see how much room you have left for other items.

Practice Makes Perfect

Don’t wait until the last minute to stuff everything into your luggage. As soon as you know what you’ll be bringing begin arranging those items in your suitcase and find the technique that works for you. Some people like rolling their clothes while others lay them flat. Just try different things until you find the most effective method for you.

Think of packing like playing a game of Tetris, you’ll need to keep rearranging your pieces until you find the best way to make everything fit. This may result in shaving your list down even more so be prepared.
Remember that airlines allow you to bring one carry-on and one personal item. I decided to bring a small backpack which held my laptop, toiletries and guide book. However, I did not want to carry a backpack throughout my trip so I also packed a purse with a long strap in my carry on. I was able to wear it over my shoulder and position it in front of me while in big crowds. This prevented theft and pick-pocketing .

Pack Smart

Think about items that will make life easier while you’re on the road such as anti-wrinkle clothing, multi-purpose products and compact cosmetics.

Here are some items and ideas that I have found helpful:

Space Saver Bags – These inexpensive bags have made such a huge difference in the way I pack. All you do is lay your clothing flat inside the bag; close the zipper, leaving a small opening for air to escape, and then roll the bag until all of the air is gone. It basically vacuum seals your clothes which minimizes wrinkles as well as reduces the size of your clothing. This affords you the opportunity to pack more and helps keep things organized. I put pants in one bag, skirts in another, blouses in another, etc.

Travel-Friendly products – This is one area where most people feel like they are making the most sacrifice. You can’t bring your favorite face cream or conditioner because of the strict airline rules regarding liquids. Thank goodness offers an array of beauty products that are perfect for traveling. From anti-aging products to shaving cream this website has it all. For more basic items visit the travel section at your local drugstore.

Versatile Pieces – Think reversible skirts, neutral tops, colorful scarves, and easy to pack jewelry. Start your wardrobe off with a couple of key pieces and build around that. For instance, a jean or skirt with a simple tanks can have many different looks by changing your scarf and jewelry.

Here is what I packed for a 16 day trip:

This orange skirt was a key piece for me. I changed it up with different shirts, scarves and jewelry for a different look each time.
  • One pair of dark wash jeans
  • One mid-length skirt
  • One long skirt
  • One pair of anti-wrinkle Capri pants
  • Several tank tops
  • Several basic tees
  • Plenty of scarves in different colors and patterns
  • One long-sleeved cardigan for chilly nights (Also, some churches require your arms to be covered before entering)
  • One short-sleeved cardigan
  • Earrings, necklaces and bracelets
  • Four pair of shoes (In hindsight, I could have gotten by with only two pairs)

NOTE: When visiting abroad, modesty is always the best policy. Many churches and holy sights do not allow short shorts or skirts.

These wrinke-free capri pants were perfect for days that involved hiking as well as visits to holy sites.

More useful items:

NOTE: If possible, research the hotels you’ll be staying at ahead of time to see what’s included. My friend brought her hair dryer only to ditch it in the middle of the trip because every hotel we stayed at had one already.  Also, I had planned on buying shampoo once I arrived but never had to because every hotel offered it. I packed what I didn’t use at each hotel and had enough to last me the entire trip.

Remember that your space is just as limited coming back as it was going. If you must buy souvenirs make them small and easy to carry. My personal favorite is to just give pictures that you took during your trip as gifts.

Ditch as much as you can. Many of your travel products should be almost gone anyway so the morning of your departure weed out what you don’t need or won’t use once you’re home. Also, consider giving your guide book(s) to a fellow traveler.

Packing light made it my trip so much more enjoyable. I had more stress-free time to enjoy with my wonderful friend, Stacy.

Published by Ashley Zoerner

I'm originally from New Orleans, LA and grew up in the nearby town of Waveland, MS. I graduated from Georgia State University with a communications degree in 2010. Since then I've traveled the country and world meeting the most interesting people. My dream is to tell people's stories and share my passions with the world.

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