When we decided on the itinerary for our upcoming one-month trip, we realized right away that checking a bag on each of our planned flights would be a big hassle and an even bigger expense. I’ve been packing incrementally lighter for several years, but the idea of carry on only travel for a month is still intimidating.
I’ve always loved to pack for trips. Part of this is the excitement I get from thinking of all of the places I will go and trying to imagine being there and planning the things I will need. The challenge for this trip is that we will be visiting very different climates during the Southern hemisphere’s fall season. Easter Island will be hot, while Torres del Paine in Chile’s Patagonia region may get closer to freezing with high-wind and rain storms. So we need an all-season wardrobe that will keep us warm and dry, but won’t be a burden to haul around when we don’t need them.
Tips for Packing Light
Here are some general tips for packing light:
- Small backpack. I carry a Kelty Women’s Redwing 40 liter and my husband, Kevin, has a Kelty Redwing 44. We both like these bags a lot! It has a large main compartment that zips open completely, roomy side pockets and compression straps on the sides to shrink the load a little more.
- Quick-dry clothing. I pack mostly synthetic fabrics that are quick drying so you I can wash them in sinks if necessary.
- Layer! I get cold easily so I bring lightweight clothes that to take off or put on as needed.
- A lightweight laptop (if you need one at all). I’ve never internationally with a laptop. I’ve always been able to get by using internet cafes, computers at the hotel or hostel, and more recently my smart phone. But with the increasing availability of wifi, the need to back up the photos on our camera, and (last, but not least!) this blog, I thought it was time to try. After doing lots of research, I decided on the Samsung 300U, and I’m quite happy with it so far. It is a bit more powerful than a netbook, but thin, lightweight and fairly affordable. It is surprisingly quick, even when processing photos using Adobe Lightroom.
- Learn from past mistakes. One lesson I’ve learned is not to skimp on facial care products. Travel does awful things to my oh-so-sensitive skin. When I’ve tried to skip a step in my normal routine to cut the number of products I bring, I’ve come home broken out and regret it. Bring things that are important to you, just — in this case — decant them into smaller bottles.
And again, this is a bit more than half of what my husband and I are taking together. I have all of our personal care, first aid and most of our electronics, but he will have our DSLR camera and accessories (NOTE: Here is our associated Men’s Packing List for Carry On Only Travel).
Women’s Carry On Only Packing List (All-Season)
- Grey, quick-dry hiking pants — I have this pair that buttons up into capris
- Charcoal grey quick-dry shorts. The style I have by the company Kuhl has been discontinued, but it kind of looks like this.
- Black skirt
- Black yoga pants
- Lightweight hoodie
- Long-sleeve thermal top
- Long-sleeve athletic top
- Black, quick-dry button up shirt
- 3 sleeveless tops
- 3 t-shirts
- 3 pairs of quick-dry travel underwear
- 4 pairs of quick-dry socks (include one or more pairs suitable for hiking)
- Sports bra
- Thermal bottom
- Wind-resistant fleece jacket–I have this one that I bought at Costco
- Rain jacket/outer shell–I have this one from REI
- Hiking sneakers–I have a pair like this
- Teva or Chaco sandals
- Flip-flops. This sturdy (and cute!) pair is comfortable for walking.
- Hats (a cold-weather beanie and a sun/rain hat)
- Wind-blocking gloves–I have these ones
- Pack towel
- Travel clothesline (When I’m at home, I use it in the laundry room to dry items that can’t go in the dryer)
- Money belt
- Change purse
- Both of our passports
- One credit card (Chase Sapphire Preferred, no international transaction fees)
- One debit card (Charles Schwab online checking–refunds all ATM fees, even international!)
- Health insurance card
- A handful of Moo MiniCards with our contact info (click here for a 10% discount!)
- Folder to organize printed travel documents
- Assorted ziplock bags
- Toilet paper (for camping on Easter Island–I removed the cardboard roll so it could be compressed)
- Emergency whistle (per this post)
- Waterproof pack cover
- Lightweight nylon daypack (folds into its own pocket when I’m not using it)
- Packing cubes (I have this set of three in medium. I love the bright colors!)
- A good travel guidebook like those published by Lonely Planet. Personally, I prefer print guidebooks, but if you use a Kindle or tablet you might like their e-book versions (HINT: If you are only visiting one city or region and don’t want to carry the entire, heavy book, you can buy individual chapters of any of their book at Lonely Planet’s store. You can then use them on your tablet, e-reader, or print out a copy (and not feel bad throwing it awaywhen you move on).
- Lightweight computer (with power cord and mini-mouse)
- iPhone (with charger)
Point and shoot camera–UPDATE 8/2015: Since I upgraded to the iPhone 5, I’ve been using my phone as a compact camera and I no longer carry a separate point and shoot. I always travel with a DSLR camera, which is included on my husband’s packing list.
- Steripen (UV water sterilizer) and a clear, wide-mouth water plastic bottle (Clear, per the Steripen directions, and wide-mouth so the device will fit into it)
- Eyeglasses and case
- Contact lenses, contact case, and a spare set
- Contact lens solution
- Lip balm with SPF
- Travel-size shampoo
- Travel-size conditioner
- Travel-size liquid castile soap (for body, laundry, and dishes)
- Toothbrush, toothpaste, and dental floss
- Retainer and case
- Tampons or Mooncup
- Comb or brush
- Headband and a few hair elastics
- Clear TSA compliant toiletry case
- Daily face lotion with sunblock
- Cetaphil lotion (face/body)
- Face wash
- Oil-based cleanser (to remove sunscreen)
- Acne treatment
- Travel-size translucent powder
- Tinted lip gloss
- A few pairs of earrings
- A few brightly colored bracelets
- Pepto-bismol tablets
- OTC anti-diarrheal pills
- RX antibiotic (in case of more serious diarrhea)
- Motion sickness medication or Sea-Bands (or both, if you are like me and am prone to motion sickness!)
- Packets of powdered ginger tea
- DEET mosquito repellent
- Silicone ear plugs (like these ones or the kids size if, like me, you have small ears. Silicone ear plugs are much more effective than the foam ones but they are nearly impossible to find outside of the U.S., so I always bring a whole box! They are life-savers when you wind up in a noisy hotel room or you need to sleep on a long bus ride)
- Small packets of muscle rub
- Antiseptic wet wipes
- Hand sanitizer
- Burt’s Bees Res-Q ointment or Neosporin
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What are your favorite tips for packing light?
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