How to pack light is a constant struggle and I know the pain too well. After decades of traveling, long trips and short, across the state or the world, I’m still refining my travel techniques and here are the best ways I’ve found to pack light wherever I go. Disclaimer: I was given a Coresport shirt to test but no other compensation. All opinions are based on my own experience.
1. Pack light wherever you go with this one tip
Pay attention to fabrics. Gone are the days when a winter trip demanded that you pack thick woolens. Now fleece garments and microfiber pieces can be worn easily as undergarments. For cold climes, I pack light with a white or a purple long-sleeved top to layer under dresses, vests, and shirts. They roll up and tuck into small pockets of space in my luggage. Hotter climates require lightweight and breathable fabrics but I often take the white microfiber shirt for chilly hotel rooms or nights.
The Coresport advantage to pack light
I’ve been investigating wicking fibers for exercise and hot destinations. I love Coresport t-shirt that I’ve been traveling with. The fabric is moisture activated with a specific yarn to absorb perspiration which then evaporates quickly. It also reflects a ‘significant’ amount of UV light. Infused with minerals, the shirt is odor-resistant and antibacterial too. It’s a different experience, unlike cheap fabrics which can be cloying and don’t breathe. I like the way the fabric feels and the unique texture too. The shirt hangs well especially when I want to wear it over casual skirts and pants.
2. Pack light to wash and wear
Often I’ll count out the number of days I’ll be gone and pack underwear for half the days. Gross? Not! If you make sure that the fabrics are quick drying, by midway in your trip you start washing out underwear at night, then wearing it the next day. Heavy cotton fabrics won’t dry as quickly so I look for breathable laces with cotton inserts. I do the same with the microfiber, not microfleece, shirts. Make sure to squeeze out as much moisture as possible. They usually dry quickly.
Pack light travel hack:
Wash your pieces and squeeze out as much water as possible. Then, before hanging, roll them in a towel and twist as hard as possible. Most of the moisture will remain in the towel. Hang things up and they’ll be dry soon.
I was curious about washing and drying times for the Coresport shirt since it wicks sweat but found it washes out easily and using the above towel technique was dry within hours. Definitely a plus when you work out daily or are in a tropical destination.
5. Consider your destination first
Know the norms of the country or event you’ll be visiting. In Jordan, I knew that staying covered would be respectful and help me blend in. The mid-length, lightweight travel skirt I brought got quite a workout on that trip. It was in a muted color too – easy to brush dust off and I didn’t stand out like a tourist. One of my travel buddies wore flowing feminine outfits without a lot of skin showing and never received so much attention from men! Does that work for you? It certainly boosted her morale!
6. Pack light for the activities.
Think about what you’ll be doing most of on the trip and pack accordingly. I’ve carried a tailored jacket on a dive trip where 99% of the time I was in the water. It never left my suitcase and took up way too much room. Pack light pieces that won’t need ironing. I certainly wasn’t going to spend time ironing in the tropics! Did I need to bring hiking boots on a long, swift cross-country road trip? Not unless I planned to tackle multi-day, intensive trails and we didn’t have time for that.
7. Limit your shoes to 3 pairs at most
Shoes can be heavy unless you’re living in flip-flops. They take up space as well. While traveling solo across Switzerland in winter I was hardly out of my thermal boots which were carefully chosen for comfort and warmth without leaving me looking like a lumberjack (no harm intended. I managed to pack light by wearing them between locations and on urban treks. Away from the dangers of ice or snow, I wore knee-high, lightweight boots with thick, wool socks engineered for wicking and warmth. I packed the larger boot with socks tucked inside to save space. The socks also doubled as slippers in my dorm or hotel rooms. Two pairs of shoes for a two-week trip worked well for this tenderfoot.
8. Pack early
I admit to being a bit self-conscious, especially if I’m traveling solo but I’m happiest when dressing to see and not be seen. I want to be respectful and not broadcasting that I’m a tourist. Gone are the days where I forgot to pack a dress that can be accessorized with a scarf and some inexpensive, lightweight jewelry for evening activities or a pair of shoes that will work in a fine restaurant. However, with that comes the need to start planning what to wear well before I leave. I’ve also learned to resist the impulse to just grab another shirt or pair of pants at the last minute. It seldom works well with the rest of what I’ve packed. Conversely, don’t start taking things out of the case unless you have to. I’ve left key pieces behind and had to shop on the road.
I love shopping for clothes but not while I’m traveling. I’d rather be out and about exploring than rifling through racks and budget-busting on impulse. That said, going to a mall with several Brazilian girlfriends near Sao Paolo was a cultural experience and a cherished memory for this minimally-feminine boomer!
9. Three color rule
Mixing and matching is a big part of how to pack light. Choose three predominantly solid colors then add a scarf or lightweight shirt with prints to spice things up. Before you start packing, lay out everything that you want to bring. I spread things over my bed and remove hangers only after I’ve decided which are going in the suitcase. It saves time. See what works or doesn’t, don’t just assume they will and then pack them. See how many outfits you can get out of as few pieces as possible.
10. Try things on before packing
It’s heartbreaking to get on the road and discover a torn shirt with missing buttons or one that no longer fits when another item left at home would have worked better. Sometimes things that you imagine work together don’t at all. If it’s not a short weekend getaway especially, take the time to try things on.
Bonus tip: Stay true to you and don’t take any expert’s advice, me included! Knowing what you feel best wearing is half of the journey when you want to pack light. Here’s a post about that.
That’s it for now. I still make mistakes, like inheriting a soft bag and overpacking for a trip to the Bahamas. I looked great but hated schlepping that bulky thing across the islands. Most of the items never saw the light of day! I hope these tips help you to pack light wherever you go.
Thank you again to Coresport for the chance to test their innovative shirt and fabric. All opinions, as always remain my own.
I am always on the hunt for tips to pack lighter, and while I will admit to struggling during the process, I’m always so much happier to have a lighter suitcase when I arrive. I’ve found many of the high tech fabrics really retain odor after a few hikes or heavy workouts, so I will definitely give Coresport a try. Their t-shirt looks light as a feather! Also like the idea of sticking to 3 colors. That’s a tip I will use for sure!
Thanks, Alison. Wishing you light and happy travels.
I’m always looking for tips to travel light. I like the sounds of the Coresport shirt. I find many of these high tech fabrics really retain odor after a few wearings, so i’ll definitely give it a try. Although I struggle with keeping my packing to a minimum, I’m always so happy when I get to the destination with a lighter bag! The three color tip is a good one. Thanks
I admit that I’m a huge procrastinator when it comes to packing. I also like to pack light. I follow most of your tips but I always throw in a few pieces at the last moment – which I always regret later. I’d rather leave just a wee bit of room for any goodies I might bring home.
We’re on the same page with packing, Sue. Our own worst enemies sometimes!
Great advice – and that Coresport t-shirt looks comfy and long enough too. I also love your three color rule. I usually stick to navy blue and white but a third color might do the trick! 🙂
I like to keep some fun pieces in the mix – and keep them light. It makes me feel more put together too.
Great tips, Elaine! I, too, try and pack as light as possible when I travel. But I disagree with you slightly on the shopping. I love shopping for something that will remind me of the destination I have visited. And yes, I do often find that to be a cultural immersion. 🙂
The kind of shopping I was trying to convey was more purposeful – like I need to replace a pair of pants and that’s not as much a souvenir. I’m a big fan of picking up a scarf or a pair of earrings to remind me of the trip too.
Great post, Elaine! I like the 3-color rule. All neutral is too boring for me. I did purchase a down jacket this winter that squishes into a pouch and I may take that to Europe in September. Could be hot or cold mid September. I went to Paris in October and it was SO cold. All the women had trench coats — and mine was hanging in my closet at home. Learn from mistakes, right?! Pinning your post for reference!
Thank you, Sharon. Isn’t that a bummer – having the perfect coat hanging in the closet at home? I also have a squishy down coat and vests but a tailored coat is much more fun to wear – in Paris especially.
Packing light is a real magic! Limiting shoes to only 3 pairs is a really good idea, it might save me some space next time.
Shoes do take a lot of space! It all depends on the destination and kind of trip. I tend to stay pretty basic in the footwear department. Comfort and minimal fashion.
totally agree on the microfiber clothes! smartwool is another great option — my wool shirts (one warm weather, one cold weather) got a serious workout on a fifteen day trek in Nepal but they held up. the one thing on this list i can never bring myself to do is pack early. I’m always stuffing a suitcase two hours before leaving for the airport.
My Smartwool socks get a workout – warm or cold weather. If I wait to the last minute my choices are too often wrong, heavy and I end up with an overstuffed suitcase.
Useful and handy tips! I was a bad packer but have learnt packing hacks, one trip at a time. Yes washing and using them is what i prefer on a long trips also I roll and keep my clothes to save some space.
You’ve got packing down. I’m just learning to use cubes too. The compression is helping me save space.
Some great tips that I need to follow. I try not to stress and pack up what I need, so I have options 🙂 But this leads to overpacking! So I have tried to use packing cubes and limit the amount of cubes I use- it doesn’t fit- it doesn’t go!
Cubes are my next refinement. They seem to help but things definitely get more wrinkled. Thanks for more inspiration to stick with it.
Great tips! It was a total game changer when I finally stopped packing everything “I might need” and only take the essentials. Now I’m a carry-on packer and LOVE IT!
It does take practice to pack well! I’ve been traveling for decades and keep learning. Carry-on is incredible.
Love it! I’m a huge fan of packing light too. I like your 3 colour rule, definitely keeping that in mind for my next trip
Thanks, Erica. I hope it serves you well.
I will definitely be trying the towel technique for my next trip! And I also have greatly appreciated the clothing tech that allows me to withstand cold without looking like the Michelin man!
Got that about bulky winter clothes although I love sinking into a thick wool sweater I resist the urge to pack one for winter trips. Then again you can always wear it enroute!
I will definitely try that towel technique for my next trip! And I definitely appreciate new clothing tech that makes it easier for me to withstand cold without looking like the Michelin man!
Very insightful! I’m packing for a trip to Tel Aviv this weekend so this was a great help! Light breathable fabrics here I come!
Light is imperative for hot weather which I’ve become more sensitive to. You can squeeze more combinations in too!
This is a really comprehensive guide! I always struggle to pack light, admittedly I bring an outfit a day, but I’ll have to try these tips! Thanks so much 🙂
I used to bring an outfit a day as well then found often I wouldn’t wear them all. Mixing and matching, washing and wearing suits me best now.
I find that I always wear clothes that are comfortable the most during a trip- so I will bring a lot of breathable tshirts and pants/shorts, and only a few fancy outfits. The shoes also make a huge difference!!!
Shoes do make a huge difference. I’m a real tenderfoot and bring only those I know won’t leave me blistered and sore. Sounds like you’re already a packing pro.
Boy do I need this advice for our upcoming trip. Airlines have reduced luggage allowances, and my dive equipment is a must on this upcoming trip so I need to save somewhere. Hiking shoes is my dilemma, since I want to conquer a steep hike that I have not been able to do in past years (due to previous physic limitations). DO I take hiking shoes for 1 steep hike on a 2 week trip?
I did not know about Coresport; I will look into it when I need to replace my lightweight wicking tees. Half the amount of undies is my rule thumb too (or 1 weeks worth for trips greater than 2 weeks). I do roll washed items in towels and then walk on the roll – that squeezes so much out! We also take clothes pins to hang things outside when possible.
I do most of what you suggest. I need to kick the habit of grabbing an extra piece last minute though.
You are a pro traveler! I was going to suggest stepping on the rolled towel but thought that might seem unsavory – it’s a great squeezing technique! Thanks for stopping by, Wendy.
Very useful tips for packing light. Traveling with less stuff is one of the best changes I’ve made, as carting a lot of luggage around is exhausting. Totally agree with you on minimizing shoes and wearing the biggest ones in transit; they take up too much space in a suitcase. I haven’t heard of Coresport shirts so I’ll have to check them out. Happy travels!
Hi Julie, thanks for stopping by. There are several wicking t-shirts that pack and wear well. I so agree about how lugging an oversized case is exhausting. I like being fast and easy-to travel light, that is!
Ah, packing is the biggest challenge on my travels lol! I simply can’t resist packing so many things that I almost always end up carrying more than I can actually. Especially, the shoes. Love your tips on how carrying less than 3 pairs of them is ideal and how we can minimise by packing things lightly. The t-shirt looks fab and comfortable!
Welcome, Reshma. It helps that I’m not a girlie girl so packing simply is easier. I do manage to doll things up a bit with scarves and a skirt so I’m not frumpy. Going light wins out as my goal.
Deciding what to pack is the one thing I hate about traveling. These are some great tips! #theweeklypostcard
It just takes time to decide! My guy just throws a couple of shirts and t-shirts in with a pair of shorts and long pants and is on his way. We, girls, have more fun!
All great tips Elaine. I never thought of that squeezing clothes in a towel idea to aid in drying when traveling. So agree with you on the 3 color – predominantly solid color rule. Antibacterial/odor resistant clothes are the best. I used to have this thing about always having a different wardrobe every day – but who needs the stress of carrying more?! Especially when we tend to wear our favorite pieces more often. Thanks for the great tips!
I too like a different outfit but I just rotate things and put them together with little items I pick up on the way. So glad you liked the tips.
Make sure you use a Guppy Bag to wash all those non-natural fibre clothes on the road. One third of all microfibres in the oceans are from laundry. We all benefit from easy wash & quick dry fabrics on the road but we also need to think about the environment
I love the Guppy Bag design but the bag that’s available now is too large for my short term travels. If I were on the road indefinitely, that might be different. Thanks for the tip. Keeping plastics of any size out of the ocean is important.
Loved your packing tips and tricks! This is something I always struggle with every time I go travel. I always end up with a big suitcase and with extra clothes. I’m not big on washing clothes when I’m traveling but maybe is something I have to start thinking about. Thanks for the tip about fabrics.
Glad you liked the tips and I hope they help you pack light. It’s so tempting to bring more than I need on every trip. With careful planning though I’ve found that I don’t regret leaving outfits behind. If I were a lifestyle blogger that would be problematic!!
I need to improve my packing skills. During winters the bags bulge. Thanks for the tips with fleece and microfiber garments.
I need to pick a few for myself.
The best thing about microfibers is that they layer well and really do help keep you warm. My body heat fluctuates so layering has become a way of life. Hope you find some to try for yourself.
Coresport looks like a great product to try. I’m always on the look out for fast drying tops — bonus if it doesn’t feel like a material not known to nature. After x number (i.e. a LARGE number) of years of traveling, I’m a pretty good packer, but I aim for no more than 2 pairs of footwear even if that means wearing some that are annoying to doff and don at a TSA checkpoint.
I admire taking only two pairs of shoes. That would be a plus for me. Most of the time with TSA pre-check I don’t have to take shoes off and on.
The older I get the worse I get at packing! I so appreciate these tips. I’m often driving too, so I tend to overpack because I can, which leads to a much heavier suitcase. Not fun to lug around. I haven’t heard of Coresport but I’ll have to look into that as I’m trying to buy more travel-friendly clothing and I like the fact that it has UV protection. The one thing I am pretty good at packing is shoes, but that can be harder when you are going someplace cold and want options. Clothespins can be very handy as well, for undies and socks that might need washing and drying while you are traveling.
You reminded me that clothespins and a short line would be a great packing addition. Thanks!
I will start by admitting I am not a light packer. I keep reading blog posts like this hoping I will pick up a tip that I can actually commit to. Shoes are always a big problem for me. Even worse after I bought great hiking boots. My boots protect my ankles when walking on cobblestone streets. But I do need to ask if I want the extra weight to offset comfort. I loved your last point about trying things on first. Although I must admit I sometimes take older things with me in the hope that I will throw them out. Doesn’t always work.
Having a pair of boots that protect your feet and ankles would be important – so wear them in between destinations perhaps. You definitely don’t want to sprain anything on a trip. I have a friend who often leaves things behind and I admire that too.
All of these are great tips, especially choosing the right fabrics (lightweight and breathable) and to roll washed clothes in a towel to squeeze the extra moisture out…Saving these and sharing with the rest of the family!
Thanks, Alex. We travelers just keep learning from each other!
I still haven’t mastered the art of packing light, even if I find packing cubes to be the most effective way to fit everything into a cabin luggage. You are right that you need to pack right for hotter climate, and I do second that you will need breathable fabrics, but sometimes cotton will wrinkle, so I will have to look into microfiber shirts, good suggestion!
I’m just starting to use packing cubes and like the organization they bring. Cotton is a favorite fabric and linen too, for hot climates, but it’s terrible to have to iron everything. Combo fabrics can bring the best of both worlds together.
I hate luggage so these tips are great. I especially like the one about the 3 colour rule. It is not one that I have thought of iin the past, but I will definitely use it in the future. Thanks, so much!
You are so welcome, Janine. Let me know how it works for you.
All great tips. I often travel light and microfibre clothing can be a blessing. You are absolutely right about solids too. I often just mix them with colorful bottoms or vica versa but more solids means more opportunities to easily mix and match and make it look like a new outfit altogether.
Patterns are forgiving too. Sounds like you’ve got packing together, Jo.
These are some really practical tips for packing light. We generally prefer to reduce our baggage as much as possible. Travelling light is such a relief and so convenient. We too use your technique of spreading out everything before packing them as it gives a very good idea. Your tip about trying things on is so important, after all, you cannot end up with an uncomfortable pair of shoes because you have not used them for a long time and did not try them out before packing.
Thanks for the validation. Sometimes it feels like I go overboard on the planning, but if I take the time to do it right, I never regret it.
We try to pack light. Fastdry clothes are awesome. In winter we would visit wash and dry clothes once during our trip. Most hotels or hostels offer this service. #weekendwanderlust
Yes! I’ve indulged a few times and had clothes cleaned. It’s a wonderful experience to return to your room with a stack of clean clothes waiting.
Packing is really a great subject and they should give out diplomas for travel packing! I do agree colors help create the fashion moments yet still travel light. I intend to pack light and you may also consider throwing out old clothes on the way and buy new ones. @ knycx.journeying
It is fun picking up a few new shirts or things on the way but I usually resist. Something in then something out – that’s my motto.
You are rocking that Coresport shirt girl. Are you in front of MBAC looking towards Sail Bay? We miss San Diego.
We are looking to up our wash and wear game for a couple of reasons. First, our trips are getting longer and longer so logistics dictate that we find new approaches. Also, Orlando is flush with budget airlines. We can take direct flights to literally 100s of destinations for under $100 round trip, but the catch is we can’t take luggage at those rates. Wash and wear could solve this issue for us. Ed is willing to go full caveman but Jenn still wants to look cute so style absolutely matters for her.
Thanks. Yes, I’m in Mission Bay for the shot. Envy you having budget airlines at your doorstep and I know the pain of packing for a long trip. Bring some things you can leave behind?
Thanks for this lovely and practical list of tips, Elaine! Packing light is a constant goal of mine, but I carry around a lot skincare products because I’m deathly afraid of sun damage, etc. – so it’s usually my travel wardrobe that takes a hit. More often than not it’s all monochromatic and I look the same in every picture, haha. I have a bunch of moisture-wicking, quick-drying travel/hiking t-shirts too – but was really troubled to learn recently that all synthetic fibres release microplastics into waterways when washed. The plastic contamination crisis in our oceans is well-documented – e.g. I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve heard about the 2050 prediction (i.e. there’ll be more plastic than fish in the oceans by that year) – so I’ve decided to try to only buy natural fibres (preferably organic) going forward. They’re a lot more expensive and harder to find, but I figure I’ll just buy a few really well-made ones that will hopefully last me a long time!
I appreciate your concern about plastics. I’m more worried about the bigger bits that end up being eaten. Thanks too for keeping me inspired to learn more about microplastic pollution. Happy travels!
Ah, Elaine, you touched a sensitive point with your post about packing light. I don’t want to pack light when I travel. I like to dress up and change outfits. I especially love to change shoes, and they take a lot of space in the luggage. I see your point with the light fabrics. Those work great for summer, but in winter I like to take a couple of jackets and they take a lot of space too. I think your advice is great for people who don’t care much to dress up or show off their clothes. But not for me. My clothes are screaming at me when I start packing for a trip: “take me! take me! take me! I’m trying to to be fair to them, so I take as many as I can, hahaha!
I’ve had that sense that things are screaming at me to take them too! Jackets definitely take space but I’ve been traveling with a vest or two and that helps. I love dressing up but it’s just not possible on the road.
Great tips and good reminder as well 🙂 I’m still learning to pack light though have definitely improved over the years! You’re right that some of the items that we bring along on the trip – we never took them out to use! So I have learnt to leave them behind at home and that lightens my load. #TheWeeklyPostcard
Thanks, Kat. Glad that you found this helpful.
I’m a notoriously bad packer! Paying attention to fabrics is especially good advice. I have a hard time limiting my shoes and for some reason I never pack enough undies hahaha 🙂
I know that ‘thing’ about not packing enough undies. My guy has a problem with that. Luckily a few quick washes and picking up a new T-shirt helps. Guys do packing easier (and ge away with it!!)