8 Ways To Be Better At Packing

by Naomi Nishihara

Vacation is fun, but travel is stressful, especially if you’re an over-packer. Dragging (and maybe dropping) a heavy suitcase down the stairs of your apartment building or house is hard work, but so is lifting it into a car or lugging it around an airport. I'd argue that learning how to pack lightly is a challenge most of us have not yet conquered. It's OK, I'm here to help.

It's a scenario I often face, whether I'm traveling home for the holidays or on a spring break vacation with friends. First, I'll decide to pack lightly, but then, when I sit down to think about everything I need, items just seem to pile up. The last time I traveled, I started with only the essentials — pants, shoes, shirts, socks, underwear, and bras. But then I remembered to pack toiletries. And then I thought there was a good chance I would want workout clothes, which also meant running shoes. And while I was thinking about shoes, there was a chance I'd want to wear heels at some point too.

Quickly, my suitcase filled up. When I was done, I had packed everything that I might want, which was much more than I would really need.

So naturally, I started over. And this time, I really kept it to the bare minimum.

Here are eight tips that helped me pack lightly. I promise, if I can do it, so can you.

1. Pick A Small Bag

The suitcase you pick will have a big impact on what you end up bringing. Even if you don’t plan to, you’re likely to fill your bag to the top. The solution? Opt for a small bag. It’ll be lighter and easier to maneuver, and will encourage you to pack less.

2. Only Pack Two Pairs Of Pants & Shoes

If you have a pair of jeans and a pair of black pants, you’re set. No one will notice, or care, that you’re re-wearing pants, and you’ll save tons of space in your bag. You’ll wear them over and over again though, so pick pairs that don’t stretch out too much. The same goes for shoes. If you have boots, heels, and running shoes, you’re covered for pretty much any activity. Variety isn’t that important for such a short amount of time.

3. Stick To One Color Palette

You can only bring so many things, so ideally, you should be able to mix and match them as much as possible. To make this easier, stick to neutral colors.

4. Plan To Do Your Laundry, Wherever You’re Going

Even if your break is five weeks long, don’t bring more than seven days worth of clothes. Wherever you go, whether it’s home or on vacation, you’ll be able to find a washing machine somewhere. And the trouble of doing your laundry is better than the trouble of carrying tons of clothes around.

5. Wear Your Bulkiest Shoes & Coat For The Actual Travel

Even if you aren’t going somewhere cold, you’re going to have some bulky things, and the best way to bring these with you is to wear them, instead of packing them.

6. Only Bring Toiletries That You Can’t Get At Your Destination

Pack your makeup and your contact solution, but there’s no need to pack heavy bottles of shampoo and conditioner. You can pick that stuff up when you get to your destination. If you must bring your own stuff, head to the drugstore and get travel-sized bottles. This way, you can at least pack smaller amounts. Another tip? If you're a member of any of those beauty boxes or shop at Sephora, request shampoo, conditioner, and face wash samples. Those things will come in handy!

7. Roll Your Clothes & Put Things Inside Your Shoes

Even if you’re not bringing toiletries and you’ve only packed two pairs of pants, you might still have to squeeze to get everything inside. If this happens, try rolling your clothes instead of folding and stacking them. This will pack them more tightly together. If you still need space, make use of the insides of your shoes. For example, you can put your socks and underwear in plastic bags, and stick them inside.

8. Consider It An Adventure

The point of packing light is making travel simpler. Vacations can be stressful, so we should go easy on ourselves where we can. Ultimately, you may not even wear half of what you end up packing. And if you pack too lightly and forget some things, you’ll be okay. If you’re staying somewhere with a roof over your head, you’re not exactly roughing it. So consider it an easy adventure.

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Image: Ro_buk/Flickr