Packing all the right things can be hard. When I travel I want to be comfortable, prepared for any type of weather, look good… and pack as little as possible. It took me dozens and dozens of trips to realize this is not just a pipe dream.
There truly is a finite amount of stuff you need to get by in almost any situation and I think I figured out what it is. The longer packing list for a variety of trips (long haul, beach, work) is down below. But first, here are my tips for the “ultimate” travel wardrobe.
The ultimate travel wardrobe
Light weight sneakers. For me, the Nike Flyknit is ideal for walking, hiking and even running. For cold or wet climates I go with leather sneakers. If there’s any chance they might get wet, I bring an extra pair.
Evening shoes: one pair of flats or heels. I only bring heels if I want to be very dressy, otherwise they just weigh me down. I can’t go on an evening stroll on heels, so I feel like I’m limiting myself by wearing them. Instead, I bring some Rothy’s type of flat.
Lightweight jeans. Good for almost any weather, go with everything. Jeans might not be high-fashion, but people won’t even notice them in a restaurant or bar; at night, I wear them with a dressy top and statement jewelry. Black yoga pants can do the same trick. Only for super hot climates I go with breezy cotton or linen pants instead.
Something fun you normally don’t wear. We all have it: a paisley skirt, overalls, culottes… being away from home is the perfect time to wear something new and interesting! And if you end up hating it, or ripping or staining it, simply ‘forget’ the item in your hotel room at the end of your stay.
Dressy tops: one for each night. You don’t want to wear the same thing in all your photos, after all. It’s okay to wear the same scarf, cardigan or jacket over it—just take it off for photos!
Layers: anything light weight with long sleeves that easily fits in your bag or ties around your waist. I prefer a cotton-blend turtleneck that folds down to the size of a tennisball.
Knee-long dress. What’s easier than throwing on a dress in the morning! I normally wear minidresses but for modesty purposes I go longer when I travel. I don’t want to draw too much attention, some countries are conservative, and many churches and temples require you to cover up.
Accessories. A great way to dress from day to night is by slapping on some statement jewelry, a mini purse, and a bit of makeup.
Medium-size backpack. You don’t want it to cover your whole back because you get sweaty, and you don’t want to carry a lot of weight around. But it should be able to fit insect repellent, sun screen, a guide book, small water bottle, a (rain) jacket, and the souvenir you’ll be buying. I have a nostalgic love for Kipling.
Mini purse, or a fanny pack. Something you can wear all day that fits your wallet, passport and phone so you have easy access to them and pickpockets don’t. This is also ideal at the airport. My husband feels the same way and wears a one-shoulder mini backpack (in black leather).
An (oversized) cotton shirt: to protects against sun and insects. White or patterned goes with everything. But a bright color can be fun too and is easier to turn into a cool outfit, especially with matching accessories.
Cardigan and/or (rain) jacket: to keep you warm and dry. If there is any chance of rain I go with the latter. There are super light rain jackets (Muji, for example) you’ll never regret bringing.
Hat. If you’re going to be out in the sun for hours, you need to apply sun screen every hour and/or wear a hat, or your face will regret it. Wear something that doesn’t blow off your head easily (make sure to take off this hat for photos…)
Complete packing list:
For long haul flights:
(Noise canceling) headphones
Warm sweater or jacket
Swimwear and coverup
Water shoes, flip flops
Beach toys or games
Goggles, snorkeling gear
Mat, towel or blanket
Plastic bags (for trash, wet gear, sea shells)
Notebook and pens
Treats to share with the office
Dress shoes, belts, ties
Underwear, bras (maybe strapless)
Scarf, gloves, winter hat
Sun screen, moisturizer
Toothbrush, toothpaste, floss, tooth picks
Nail polish, nail polish remover
Foundation, make-up, make-up remover
Shampoo and conditioner (mini)
Curling iron, travel hairdryer
Medicine: paracetamol, anti-histamine, Pepto, band-aids, motion sickness pills
Nail clippers, scissors
Cell phone and charger
Cash and change for giving tips
Extra bags (backpack/tote/purse)
Playing cards, dice
Snacks (chips, nuts, gum)