Up until recently, I used to treat going away like some kind of fashion show. Going to Berlin? Ok, I need a new jacket, new boots and a new bag. Going to Great Wall of China? What the f*** am I going to wear, I’m going to have to look at these photos for the rest of my life!! Going to Kenya? Better go on ASOS and order FOUR new bikinis for ONE week in Mombasa. (Yes, really.) These days I still do spend a bit of time worrying about what to pack. But not to that extent! When I did my big trip around Malaysia, India and Sri Lanka, I decided to streamline what I was taking into just one piece of hand luggage. 7 weeks into one tiny back pack! How would I ever manage that? I mean, I brought over 40kgs of luggage (that I considered to be basic essentials) to Korea- how was I going to manage this! Actually, it was much easier than it sounded! I want to share my best advice for packing light with you guys so that the next time you travel you can do so without being weighed down. If I can do it, so can you!
- Where are you going? OK, so you already know what the weather’s going to be like where you’re going. The next most important thing to think about is the culture of that country. Are you going to India, The Middle East or Africa? Then, your denim hot pants and crop top that you wore around the Thai Islands isn’t going to cut it! If you’re going to be traveling mainly around conservative countries, I’d definitely pack 1 maxi/midi skirt, one pair of lightweight trousers and a scarf or pashmina. Just passing through somewhere? Then take a sarong that you can throw over your shorts and a cap sleeve t-shirt- no one will ever know that you’re not really a modest little angel!
- Pack for 5 Days. Whether you’re traveling for 3 weeks or 6 months, you only really need to pack enough clothes for 5 days. Just pack some washing powder (not liquid, as that will take up too much space in your liquid allowance) and wash your clothes as you go along. Some hostels might have facilities for you to do it yourself. If not, then at the very least you’ll have a sink in your hotel room. Just remember that in humid places your clothes will take much longer to dry. For 5 days, the basics that you really need are:
- 2 bottoms (could be skirts, shorts or long trousers)
- 5 tops (or 4 tops + 1 sundress)
- A dress for going out
- 2 bras (sports bras take up less room and dry more easily than padded bras)
- 5 pants (US Readers- that’s “panties” for you guys!)
- 1 pair of pyjamas
- 1 pair of flip flops
- 1 pair of trainers
- 1 pair of socks for cold buses
Anything more is just more weight on your shoulders and space in your bag that could be used for souvenirs! Also, the more clothes you have, the more difficult it is to plan what to wear every day and the less time you get to spend exploring, which I guess is what you decided to go traveling for in the first place!
- Shoes-The one thing that is really going to add extra weight to your backpack is shoes. Trust me- you are going to find yourself kicking about in the same flip flops every day. If you are backpacking for a long time you do not need heels! Yes, even wedges. I like to bring a pair of plain black flip flops- not the most glamorous choice ever but I know they won’t clash with what I’m wearing and they’re not too noticeable if I wear them out at night. I doubt anyone will be looking at your feet anyway. My favourites are Havianas. Look into what kind of activities you might like to do before you go- do you need hiking boots? Chances are you can pick them up cheap when you get there but if you have a pair you like and have broken in then bring them along for sure! I tend to just bring trainers and wear them in the airport to save space in my bag.
- A Black Dress/Playsuit-Ok, I know that we are trying to streamline here, but just one wee black dress won’t take up too much space! And it’s nice to have in your bag for getting dressed up into/ feeling like a clean, civilised part of society again! I think that black is the perfect colour as you won’t get sick of it. If you bring a dress with a statement print, you’re limited to what you can do with accessories and you’re probably going to feel like you can’t wear it too many times. Yeah, maybe black isn’t the most summery colour, but it always looks good with a tan! And if you’re anything like me, chances are you’ll be spending a lot of time at markets haggling over loads of jewellery that you’ll never look at again when you get back home- pop on your black dress and make that the focus of your outfit.
- Yoga Pants– I find yoga pants to be so versatile when I’m traveling. Of course they’re great to have in your bag in case you come across any yoga studios on the road or want to do some other workout. But they’re also great for wearing to the airport, on long bus journeys and just lounging around in general. If you get ones that go below your knee then they can double up as something to wear visiting temples. I really like the range at Forever 21 – they have really cute colours and, of course, they’re reasonable in price which is always good!
- Coconut Oil- This is my favourite all round product when I’m traveling! Everyone raves about the health benefits of adding coconut oil to your diet, I didn’t realise all the other things I could do with it. When I’m traveling I take a small bottle and use it as an after sun, eye make-up remover (I was really surprised to discover this) and a hair treatment. Definitely a must have in my toiletries bag!
- Lush- I love Lush! I can’t walk past it without going in for a wee sniff at everything! If you’re just taking hand luggage you’re restricted on what liquids you can take on board. Lush’s solid shampoos and conditioners are a god send for saving liquid space and they last for ages.
- Make Up- So you’re trying to fit everything into 20×20 cm bag- the first thing to ditch is your primer, your highlighter and your extra 5 lipglosses. Keep it simple! If you’re in hot climates it’s not good for your skin to wear so much make up anyway. For me, I pack a BB Cream with a high SPF, bronzer, mascara, eyeliner and lipbalm. Work out what your basic is, and go with it. Don’t take more than you need, but don’t take less than you feel comfortable with either. It might be difficult for you to get things that suit your skin tone when you’re away so make sure you strike the right balance.
- Invest in a Good Sun Cream- If you are like me, and suffer from breakouts then there’s one liquid you should pack before you go- it’s a high factor sun cream that suits your skin type. It should be easy to get a big bottle for your body (and face if you’re lucky enough not to have sensitive skin) when you land, and probably for less than you would pay at home. But a bottle of oil free factor 50 might be more difficult to find. Do your research, look at reviews and buy a good one before you leave. For those of you in Korea, I recommend The Face Shop’s “Sebum Control” range if you have oily skin.
- Spot Cream- This is another one for those of you who suffer from breakouts. If you’re trying to save space, chances are you can’t fit all your skincare products in your toiletry bag. One thing not to leave at home is your spot cream. Your skin is probably going to go mental in the new climate so you’re going to need it! I find salicylic acid to be really quick and effective but it can cause photosensitivity so make sure you are wearing a high SPF if you decide to use it. For something more gentle and natural, try tea tree oil.
- SD Card- Rather than carry around your kindle, Ipod and phone, why not get a large memory card for your phone. I recently got a 64GB memory card for my phone which is perfect for storing all my books and music on, meaning I only need to take my phone away with me! It’s also perfect for backing up pictures on the go!
- Ditch the Hairdryer- If you’re going somewhere hot, you’re really don’t need your hairdryer! But what if your hair goes mental in the humidity? This year I got a procedure done in Korea called “Magic Straight” and it was indeed magic! Magic Straight is basically chemical straightening. It lasts 6 months and my hair was poker straight every day without even blow drying it- even when it was humid. Few places offer this outside of Korea but other similar options are a keratin blow dry or a loose perm if you prefer a wavy look. Definitely worth 5 hours in the hairdresser’s chair for 6 months of good hair days!
And of course, don’t forget your passport and camera!
I hope these tips can encourage some of you to minimise your luggage! I definitely don’t think I could have coped with a huge backpack in the Indian heat and I really think I enjoyed my trip more because of my small bag. Obviously, you make some sacrifices but it really is eye opening to see how much you can live without! Next time you go away, leave your wedges, huge make up bag and million extra playsuits at home! See how it works out for you.
Do you try to pack light when you travel? What are your tips? Leave me a comment in the box below.
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