I’ve shared many holiday packing lists over the years, and the question I’m always asked is how to pack light for a long vacation.
It’s easy to pack light for a 2-3 day vacation, but what if you’re on a 2-3 week vacation? Or maybe 2-3 months? With so much stuff, how on earth do you manage it?
We want to reassure you that it is absolutely possible to pack light for a long vacation.
Now that I’ve discovered the joy of packing light, I’ll never travel with a large suitcase again. That’s really terrible. Big, heavy suitcases are expensive to travel, unwieldy, everything takes time, there are restrictions, you can’t climb stairs, you can’t easily take the bus, you’re overwhelmed with too much luggage . You just have more life admins around the holidays.
Packing light is simple and liberating, and once you’re converted, you’ll never go back i promise!
So here are my tips for traveling light on your long vacation. Even if you have 3-4 weeks worth of luggage, that’s okay!
- Do your laundry while you’re here – try Laundryheap, the Uber for laundry
The simplest and most effective way to lighten your load for a long vacation is to simply wear less clothing. I know, I’m a genius.
However, this is easier said than done since on a multi-week trip you will need clean underwear at least every day.
My first tip is to try staying in an apartment with a washing machine, but if that’s not possible then look at Laundryheap. It’s a new service, so it’s not available everywhere yet, but it’s likely to grow in the future.
Laundryheap is similar to Uber, but specifically for laundry, offering on-demand laundry services. The user schedules a laundry pickup and the laundry is washed and returned to him within 24 hours.
This can be a great solution to avoid very expensive hotel laundry fees. I think it’s a great concept and I’m really excited to see how this company grows!
- Create a simple capsule wardrobe
If you’re worried about wearing the same clothes for weeks on end, we recommend creating a simple capsule wardrobe with pieces that all go together. If you start with a neutral color palette like denim, white, and black, you’ll find that everything goes together easily. It also gives you a stylish look with a simple, classic twist.
If you want to learn more about capsule wardrobes, minimalism, and simplifying your life, we recommend visiting Jessica Rose William’s website. She has an e-book about capsule wardrobes. This is a great place to start!
If you’re having trouble getting the hang of a capsule wardrobe, you can find plenty of inspiration by visiting Pinterest or Instagram and searching for things like “capsule wardrobe” and “minimal style.
- Purchase toiletries upon arrival
If you’re traveling for a few weeks, you’ll likely end up using up an entire bottle of shampoo and sunscreen during your trip, so buy them as soon as you arrive.
If you’re backpacking or moving from place to place often, consider solid toiletries because they take up less space and are generally easier and less likely to get messy. At Lush, we carry a wide selection of complete toiletries.
The only things that don’t work for me 100% are bar toothpaste and bar sunscreen.
- Remember that your destination has everything you need
One of the main reasons most of us overpack on holiday is because we sneak in too many items “just in case.” I probably won’t ever need these, but I pack them in my case just in case.
If you find it difficult to leave all your belongings at home “just in case”, remember that your destination has everything you need and can be purchased upon arrival.
You won’t be the first tourist to visit this place, and if there were people living there, you’d probably sell everything anyway. It’s highly unlikely that you’ll ever need a Swiss Army knife, a spare pair of shoelaces, or any kind of medicine ever created. You probably don’t need an extra jumper, extra shoes or extra handbag.
Leave everything at home and rest assured that if you really need it, you can buy it right then and there. I don’t think I’ll ever feel the need to buy it anyway!
And while this is a controversial tip, it’s highly unlikely that you’ll need a huge medical bag. I usually just take paracetamol and nothing else as you can buy it on arrival.
- Keep it simple with a coat and shoes
Coats and shoes are usually the bulkiest items in your luggage, so keep it simple and only bring one coat or jacket and one or two pairs of shoes. That way, he can wear his coat and thick shoes on the plane, and he only needs to pack one small pair of shoes in his luggage.
If you spend a lot of time outdoors, look for a coat with a fleece jacket on the inside and a removable waterproof jacket on the outside. This is an easy and practical way to apply two coats!
When it comes to shoes, I like to bring a pair of comfortable and stylish trainers that I can wear for walking, hiking, running, shopping, and other daily activities. Something like On’s trainers are gorgeous, and if he doesn’t run, something like Veja’s is simple and stylish. And it’s a great flat sandal that you can wear during the day, but also dress up at night. That way, all you have to pack in your luggage are sandals.
- Pack lightweight fabrics and wear bulky items on board
Look for lightweight and thin items in your wardrobe. This includes lightweight underwear. Skimpy laces don’t take up much space!
For me, that means cotton t-shirts, silk skirts, sheer dresses and leggings.
You can save a lot of space by replacing these clothes:
- Swap jogging bottoms for leggings
- Swap your jeans for a skirt (and tights if it’s cold)
- Swap your thick wool jumper for a lighter sweater or cashmere
- Swap all your winter layers for one warm coat
- Swap your granny panties for thongs
- Swap your flannel pajamas for a light nightgown
And on the plane, I always wear jeans, thick boots, a thick jumper, and a big coat!
A lightweight midi skirt like this one folds up into a tiny thing!
- Use compressible packing cubes
Once you have all your clothing sorted, we highly recommend using compressible packing cubes. Travel Hack Packing Cube is amazing. Currently out of stock, but expected to be restocked in June.
Once filled, it has an extra zipper so you can squeeze all your clothes together, removing air and saving a lot of space.
Remember to roll your clothes instead of folding them, as they may end up a little wrinkled.
- Create a list of non-clothing items
If you’re packing light for a long vacation, you’ve already come to terms with the fact that you can’t bring a lot of clothes with you, and you probably already have a simple and stylish capsule wardrobe.
However, what many people find difficult is packing and minimizing all the other small items.
Everything else I take is:
- basic cosmetics
- Comb (not a hairbrush)
- hair iron
- plug adapter
- Makeup Remover
- apple charging cable
- small crossbody handbag
- get a good cell phone
i have an iPhone 13, which I love, and its camera is so good that I don’t need to bring a bulky DSLR camera with me.
I love having a good cell phone with long battery life so I don’t have to carry around paperbacks, magazines, games, documents, etc. You can also use it to watch movies, listen to music, and listen to podcasts and audiobooks.
- Don’t bring a laundry bag
Ah, this is controversial, but it’s a great way to lighten your load. A wash bag can take up extra space, but you don’t really need it.
If you have transferred the toiletries you need into small bottles, simply shove these small bottles and tubes into the space in your bag. (Make sure you get a quality bottle to avoid spills!)
Even better, don’t take any liquids and buy them on arrival or when using your hotel toiletries.
That way, you can just tuck things like combs and toothbrushes between other items.
If you are traveling with only carry-on baggage, you will need to put your liquids in a small clear bag to pass through security.
Holiday packing FAQs
Is it possible to pack light for a long trip with just hand luggage?
absolutely! If you’re going on a long trip, you’ll be fine with just your hand luggage, but you’ll definitely need to wash it while you’re out and about.
Personally, I’ve never had much success washing clothes in a hotel sink or drying them in a hotel room. My clothes are never clean and often have a damp smell!
I recommend checking out Laundryheap or using your laundry while you’re out and about.
The second tip if you only want to use hand luggage is to bring the largest bag allowed. Many times you will be allowed a larger bag than you think, so get the biggest luggage bag you can and fill it to the brim!
Check out some great options at Cabin Max. Their bags are designed to be as big as possible without being too big, so you can fit as much as possible into them!
Should you pack a first aid kid?
In my honest opinion, most people don’t need a first aid kit, especially if they’re trying to pack light.
If you have a minor injury, you won’t need anything, but if you have a major injury, you will need to see a medical professional.
If you’re the type of person who suffers from headaches and pain, you might want to take paracetamol and ibuprofen, but I wouldn’t take anything else.
Do I need to take waterproof bags?
No, it’s not.
Why do you have something wet and don’t let it dry before stuffing it in your bag?
You’re unlikely to pack your jumper wet in your bag, right?
Be sure to plan ahead. Don’t go swimming right before leaving the hotel. My swimsuit gets wet.
You might need a dry bag for watersports, but realistically, most phones are waterproof anyway, so something that gets wet and can’t be dried isn’t really a problem, right?
How do you protect your valuables when you travel?
if you are going on a long trip, you may have more valuables than if you are on a short trip. Perhaps you have a laptop, iPad, or camera?
My first advice is to try to keep your valuables to a minimum. The more you have, the more you have to lose. If you only have to worry about your phone, you’re less likely to take it off-site.
The valuables I carry with me when I travel are my cell phone, passport, and credit cards.
Here’s what I do to protect my valuables:
- I only bring two credit/debit cards (I use my Starling card for travel and have a regular Amex card as a backup). I don’t carry a bulky wallet and just keep his two cards in the inside pocket of my handbag. – along with my passport.
- I use a small crossbody handbag for everyday use
- I always put my phone back in my bag when I’m not using it
- When I travel with my iPad, I keep it in my backpack’s laptop pocket. This is on the back of the bag, so no one can access it while you’re carrying the bag.
Should I take a water bottle?
yes. I always travel with a water bottle. I drink a lot of water and I really resent paying for water and wasting single-use plastic bottles.
Water bottles have the following effects:
- recommend drinking more water
- Makes you feel healthier and more energized
- save money
- Reduce plastic waste and protect the environment
If you’re traveling somewhere where you shouldn’t drink tap water (which is actually surprisingly rare), you’ll probably be able to bottle water from a larger bottle.
How many pairs of underwear should you take?
You can see the dilemma here. Although I’m trying to lighten my load, I need clean underwear every day and don’t want to wash my knickers in the sink every night.
My advice is to wear skimpy underwear. I know it’s easier for women than for men!
But 20 skimpy little thongs will take up very little space in your bag. Probably about the same space as 5 pairs of thick belly warmer pants. Aim for something with high exposure!
How do you pack light when you’re going somewhere with cold weather?
If you’re traveling somewhere cold and want to pack light, there are four things you need:
- SuperDry warm, snug coat (SuperDry has some great options!)
- Fleece tights that can be worn under pants
- thermal top
- cozy boots
As long as you have these four (which you’ll probably be wearing on the plane), everything else is essentially the same. As long as your base layer is warm, it doesn’t matter what you wear on top.
How do you pack light and look good?
This is just my personal opinion, but I always think people look beautiful when they’re happy and comfortable.
I think a girl who wears simple Levi’s jeans, cute sandals, and a white t-shirt looks just as good as a girl who wears fancy clothes. If not, even better! i love simple style
I think a relaxed, casual, and easy-going atmosphere suits you very well.
No need to wear multiple outfits for each activity. Wear something that looks and feels good. And I’ll wear it again!
Check out tags like #MinimalistFashion on Instagram for inspiration.
Where can I find a packing list to pack light?
In your head!
Only you can create the perfect packing list to lighten your load.
Packing lists are very personal, so it’s always a good idea to create your own list.
It may be helpful to split your packing list by headers like this:
- Bath amenities
- everyday wear
- night clothes
- active clothing
- underwear and nightwear
- hair and makeup