Working & Living Abroad

How to Pack Light and Still Rock Your Summer Vacay

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With Memorial Day behind us, I’m considering this the unofficial start to summer! It’s time to skip out of work early on Fridays and head out for a long weekend vacation – or if you’re really lucky, a trip to a new country.

While I personally can’t wait to hit the beach, the thought of lugging multiple bags through crowded airports or getting charged for overweight checked luggage (or even worse – said paid check bag then getting lost) is already putting a damper on my pina colada cabana lifestyle. I mean, doesn’t that just sound like the horrible start to a fabulous destination vacay!

So this summer, I’m committing to only traveling with a carry-on! Ladies, we need to lighten our loads and focus on our tan and making everyone Instagram jealous. Who’s with me?

So let’s get things rolling! Here are my top recommendations on what to pack:

Separates and coordinating layers

Everyone has a signature color that most likely makes up 80% of your wardrobe, so stick to what you know! Pack tops and bottoms that can be mixed and matched for multiple outfit options and fall within the same color scheme. Choose pieces of clothing that can be dressed up or down like these J.Crew linen pants that come in multiple colors.

Multiuse accessories

The rule for versatile clothing also applies to accessories! A compact tote can instantly become a dirty laundry bag, a roomy purse or an extra carry-on for souvenirs on the return trip. A lightweight sarong or pashmina can serve as a blanket on cold flights, a picnic tablecloth or outdoor changing room cover. Possibilities are endless!

Laundry detergent

No matter where you are headed, sticking to a week’s worth of clothing will ensure that your bag remains manageable and doesn’t start causing back problems. I make sure that I pack a travel size Tide packet if I’m going to need to do laundry while I’m away.

And while you’re packing all the good things I mentioned above, steer clear of these extra weight traps that will only bring you down:

Overstuffed bags

While this might seem like a no-brainer, most people will cramp their bag to max capacity, so cut it off from the begin. Make sure to do your research for the best travel pack and factor in where you are going. Headed to Europe? Purchase a backpack so you aren’t dragging a roller bag over the cobblestone roads.

Large toiletries

Unless you are heading to rural Africa, you can easily buy any shampoo, conditioner, body wash, etc. you need once you’ve reached your destination. Or utilize the bottles provided by your hotel. Here are 10 hotel chains with the best bath and body products, so you can plan your itinerary accordingly.

Too many shoes

Okay ladies, I love a good high heel too, but when you pack three pairs, you need to rein it in. Don’t stop reading when I say this, but only pack two shoes – comfy sneakers and flats – and one pair of sandals that take barely any room in your bag. Travel shoes like these ones are comfy and stylish – plus your feet will thank you!

Still need help keeping your bag as light as possible? Here are my go-to packing tips:

Be practical

No one really needs three outfit changes a day! And while vacation is a great time to show off new purchases, if you haven’t worn something at home before, chances are that you won’t wear it on vacation either. Opt instead for those signature clothing options that I mentioned above.

Bundle up

Wear the heaviest things you’re packing like hiking boots or a wool jacket in transit, so you don’t take up precious space in your carry-on bag or backpack. Even if you’re heading to a tropical destination (jealous!), a light cardigan can ward off any after hours chills.

Simplify the beauty routine

Pare down your makeup bag to just the essentials that you need to get you through the day – maybe that purple eye shadow palette can stay home along with your hairdryer. Most places will have one on hand already. Just don’t skimp on your face products. Traveling can be taxing on your skin so make sure you moisturize well before and after a flight.

Leave the tech behind

Ditch the laptop at the office and head off on your next adventure with minimal cords. They call it unplugging for a reason! Download any apps and eBooks on your smartphone beforehand. You can find some of the best travel apps here.

Use packing cubes

You should already know the golden rule of rolling your clothes; it takes up less space and minimizes wrinkling. But take your packing game up a notch with packing cubes, which help keep you more organized and allow you to easily find things. How fun are these packing cubes!

Avoid checked bags

Not only does it cost a ridiculous amount of money to check your bag – money that could be spent on excursions and nice dinners out – but just think about your bag getting lost or manhandled by baggage handlers. No thanks!

Don’t get surprised

But don’t test your fate by bringing too large of a carry-on. Double check the measurement guidelines for the airline you’re flying to make sure your bag is within the size constraints. Most budget airlines will charge you an arm and a leg if you pay for a checked bag at the airport.

Pack for TSA

So you have a perfectly pack bag with everything just right, when TSA flags you down in the security link to look through it. Facepalm. The most common issue is full-sized toiletries and beverages, so double check before heading out of the house.

Choose your destination wisely

If you’re still having trouble packing lightly, consider your destination! Warmer places like tropical islands require swimsuits, flowy dresses and sandals – which take practically no room in your suitcase.

What are your favorite tricks to packing lightly? I’d love to hear them, so leave a comment below!

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I’m a full-time digital marketer and newly minted business mentor helping other entrepreneurs build the businesses and lives of their dreams. I left my 9-5 job 5 years ago in corporate America. When I set out on my digital nomad journey, I had no idea that I would turn countless cafes into my office spaces, hire a fully remote team and ultimately settle down abroad in Mexico City.  

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