I was so naïve the first time I traveled to Europe. I was sixteen at the time and had saved every penny I earned for an entire year to pay for a summer study-abroad program in France. Overall, I fared pretty well. I was able to navigate the Métro, order food, and hold broken conversations with the locals. The one failure? My suitcase. I had crammed that sucker to the hilt – tons of clothes and shoes and makeup that I never even touched during my stay. Not only was it a waste of space, it was a royal pain in the ass to lug from one location to the other.
Thankfully, I’ve become a little savvier over the years and my bag has become considerably lighter. I’ve learned that a lighter load leads to less stress overall. Here are my top five tips to pack like a pro on your next trip abroad.
Try to avoid bulky jackets, thick sweaters, and other items that take up a lot of volume in your bag. Instead, try to choose clothing that can easily be layered for warmth and paired with other items. Long sleeve cotton shirts, t-shirts, leggings, and thin sweaters are my go-to items when traveling abroad. Keep in mind you don’t need a dozen tops and bottoms in your bag. Stick to a few shirts and two bottoms as things can be laundered. For the ultimate versatility, you may want to invest in travel scarves for light coverage. My all-time favorite trick is to pack different colored scarves. That way, you can wear a particular shirt several times but throw a new scarf around it and voilà, you have a new outfit.
Packing too much footwear is perhaps the biggest mistake that travelers make. I get it! I love to have options – whether it’s cute strappy sandals, sleek boots, or cool sneakers that pair perfectly with your favorite pair of jeans. However, all that extra bulk in your baggage will weigh you down in more ways than one. Instead, opt for two pairs of shoes – one for walking and one that can be worn on evenings out. If you’re heading to a sandy destination, be sure to include a pair of flip flops.
It’s tempting to bring your laptop, tablet, e-reader, and headphones when you’re traveling as these have become ingrained in our everyday lives. These items not only take up a chunk of room – often in your carry-on – but they also pose a risk for being stolen. Although it’s just my humble opinion, the only required gadget when traveling is a cell. Think of how versatile it is! Most newer models of smart phones have incredible cameras for you to capture those memorable moments while abroad. Also, your smart phone can take the place of e-readers or bulky books.
I know this is easier said than done. I love it when my hair is freshly styled, but curling irons, flat irons, and hair dryers can take up a massive amount of room in your bag. Instead, try to opt for heat-free styles for your tresses. Braiding, buns, ponytails, plopping, wrapping, or even donning a scarf or hat are all great alternatives. Also consider using space-saving and eco-friendly products such as shampoo and conditioner bars. If you do need to pack liquids, opt for reusable travel containers instead of full-size bottles.
Although jewelry doesn’t take up a ton of space in bags, I’m a firm believer in just leaving it at home. Instead, pack versatile items that can worn with every outfit. Bonus points if you take items that you’re not afraid of losing. Not only will be this be fewer things for you to keep track of, but it will eliminate the chance of losing pieces of jewelry that are expensive or hold sentimental value.
These steps may take a bit of practice, but I promise packing lighter does get easier. Being deliberate and conscientious about what goes into your luggage will save you a ton of stress and allow you to focus on the incredible places you’re visiting. Remember: it’s not the clothing, shoes, and gadgets that are important – it’s the experiences you’ll have and memories you’ll make while you’re abroad.