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Even if you’re an ace with packing a suitcase efficiently, or a master at travelling with one lightweight bag, you still might be wasting time and space in that lightweight suitcase of yours by packing too much of the wrong things or leaving the right things at home. After all, the idea of the perfect travel bag isn’t to cram your entire wardrobe into a touring tote, it’s to stow away your most versatile and essential items, so that you can look like a perfectly put-together you no matter what you do in your home away from home.
My life lately has enveloped it’s own fair share of travel and especially with staying in many cities for ten days or more, I’ve found that I really am most comfortable and at ease when I have a few items with me that make my space away feel more like home. On top of all of the necessary essentials, and a three outfit wardrobe that has to accompany me for work, I want to fit in fashion plus whatever amenities make my hotel room seem (and smell) like less of a hotel, or asylum.
This post isn’t so much about how to pack “light” although we’ll hit that a little (and I’m going to be tested on my packing light skills this summer on our cross-country road trip as a family of five!), but for now it’s more about packing well. I think a decent mixture of the two, both packing well and packing light, can be accomplished.
First Let’s Talk Fashion
Select a limited color pallet and go for neutrals. Even if you don’t wear the same outfit twice, if you bring items in a range of neutrals and all of your pieces can mix and match, you’ll have a far larger selection of options! Thus my travel wardrobe of mainly blacks and grays, with a few colors thrown in.
Stick to only packing items you wear when you’re at home. If you don’t feel comfortable wearing something in a familiar environment, what makes you think you’ll be comfortable wearing it somewhere else? When you pack neutral separates that you already know you’ll love to wear, your options open up tremendously.
Layer, layer, layer. Now that I’ve lived in Florida for some time, I don’t have a lot of sweaters in my closet… and yet I still end up in places like Chicago, Philadelphia and Pittsburgh during the coldest months of the year. Here, layering is key. I’ll usually wear my bulkiest shoes (boots) a great sweater and also have a blanket scarf with me on my flight so I can use it to snuggle into my seat, and then I don’t have to pack those bulkier items into my suitcase. Save that precious room in your suitcase to take wardrobe staples where you can add or subtract pieces to the equation for those times you need it, like layering collared shirts, crew neck sweaters and jackets, or adding tights to a skirt or shorts.
Bring a Little of Home
Cozy it up. When you spend a lot of time living in a hotel, any way you can make it warmer and more comforting helps. I like to bring a small travel candle, or grab one from the nearest convenience store upon arrival… the reason I always keep a matchbook stashed in my toiletry bag.
Resealable plastic bags, bring them. These take up virtually no space or weight and yet are somehow worth their weight in gold. I use them for everything from stashing snacks in my purse, to keeping items sorted and organized to avoiding the insane headache and sticky mess of a situation when air pressure busts a bottle of shampoo open. I usually keep a clean stash in my suitcase, and then for my liquid toiletries, I travel with them double bagged (not talking from experience here or anything, but trust me on this one).
Let’s Talk Beauty
I find that a little lipstick goes a long way. No matter what season or weather I’m in, a great lipstick, especially when wearing a bright ruby red, smashing fuschia or deep berry, allows me to keep the rest of my makeup low key. Meaning I can still feel polished (and pretty) without packing my entire makeup collection. Mascara is always a must for me and accompanies a statement lip perfectly. Otherwise, find items that can play double duty, like a tinted moisturizer and concealer instead of moisturizer, sunscreen, foundation, etc, or a blush stick that can be used on the eyes as well.
Now, the nails. A great manicure makes me feel put together and in style no matter how “put together” I really am. If you can spring for a shellac manicure before a trip, your nails will last. I don’t do this continually because I don’t feel that it’s the healthiest for our nails, but occasionally I can deal with it for beauty sake :). You can also pack a great neutral color, as chips won’t show up quite as noticeably as they do on a dark or intense color. Essie always has an amazing collection of colors and classic soft shades like Ballet Slippers and Tying the Knotie are among my faves.
Scaly skin is gross… bring a good lotion. I’m totally okay with packing a travel shampoo (or even using hotel shampoo and soap most times), but I’ve never been able to use hotel lotion without still getting dry, scaly skin. Now I always bring my own! I recently found Aveeno® Sheer Hydration Lotion and was delighted to know I could care for my skin after a harsh day of travel (those airplanes are so dehydrating!) or night out in a new town. All of those cold cities I visited this past winter really tried hard to dry out my skin, and having a lotion that is tough enough to battle the flakes and yet absorbs in seconds without leaving a greasy feel is just what I needed. Not having to wait to get dressed and out the door is perfect for this busy mom and a busy lifestyle.
I even tried the tissue test… applying Aveeno® Sheer Hydration Lotion and then pressing a tissue onto my skin, which came off free and clear. Then I tried again with another lotion that I’ve used in the past for really dry skin as well, and the tissue stuck to my skin afterwards. The results totally speak for themselves.
The Little Extras That Make Your Life Easier
An umbrella is definitely a necessity, no matter where you are going. Find a small and compact version to stash in your suitcase and leave it there even when you’re home. Ironically, I’m in NYC while typing this, and had used my travel umbrella at home and now it’s not with me because it didn’t make it’s way back to my suitcase. Guess what happened today? It rained. A lot. So make sure to keep one packed (or call the hotel you’ll be in ahead of time to see if they have umbrellas you can borrow if the need arises).
Relaxation essentials… aka, my oils are always with me. I’m an oiler and bringing along a few essential oils is important as it’s the natural way I battle sleepless nights, energize me in the morning, ease headaches and more. A few of my favorites and I’m good to go, plus it makes my room smell like a spa!
Electronics are in. If you’re anything like me, my office goes on the road with me… meaning my carry on is packed full of electronics. Currently I’ve got my laptop, iPad, phone, external hard drive and DSLR camera with me, and they all made the trek in my carry on as I’m not confident that would stay safe in a checked bag. Usually, I only travel with the first three… but no matter what, don’t forget those headphones! I’ve done this too many times, and now I keep a set in my purse at all times.
Need a few winks, bring an eye mask. I always bring an eye mask with me since I never know what hotels will be like, and there have been times there are bright lights outside and window shades that don’t close all the way. On those trips, the eye mask has been my lifesaver. Or after a long week of work and a 4am call time to make it to the airport, well said mask has come in handy for a sleepy flight. It’s easy to find an eye mask + ear plug set to travel with.
Get caffeinated. Well, this one isn’t really a necessity, but if you do have a special blend or morning protein shake tradition, you don’t have to ditch it at the airport. Use those reusable and resealable plastic baggies we mentioned and bring some with you. Of course, a pitstop at the airport Starbucks is usually on my list as well.
What about you? When you travel, what is one maybe unnecessary necessity to make your trip more comfortable? I’d love to hear what you don’t like to leave home without.
PS. If you’ve been reading for the last little while, then you might remember our family beach trip and sunburn fiasco from outdated sunscreen! I have long used and loved (since the boys were born) Aveeno® Baby Continuous Protection® Lotion Sunscreen With Broad Spectrum SPF 55, and that unfortunate day of the burn I was out of my trusted sunscreen and used an expired back up… which clearly didn’t work! So now, our beach bag is already stocked and loaded with our sunscreen of choice for a healthier and happier summer.
Many of the photos in this post were taken on my iPhone and originally posted on Instagram… are you on Instagram as well? Come find me!