Packing for travel can be tricky, especially for women trying to pack light, but putting a little extra effort into is SO worth it. Less to lug around and less stress trying to decide what to wear. I bring one carry-on backpack only for every trip. Here’s a peak into what’s in my backpack, and hopefully this travel packing list will help you carry a lighter load. Looking for all of our photography gear? Check out this post.
Packing Essentials for Travel
E-Bags packing cubes — Packing cubes are perfect for the organized soul, but also help to compress your clothes so you can fit a little more. While they come in multiple sizes, I use a set of 3 slim cubes when I pack: one for tops, one for bottoms, one for dresses, coverups, undies/bras, a sweater and any other miscellaneous items. I honestly don’t know how I lived without them.
Small mesh bags – I love my packing cubes, but sometimes you need something even smaller for items. I have 2 of these multi-size sets. I use one larger bag for socks and underwear (that I then stuff into my third cube), and another larger bag for most of my dry toiletries (toothbrush, dry shampoo, razor, soap, baby wipes, tweezers, floss, band-aids, Ibuprofen, nail clippers, extra hair ties). I use the smaller ones to hold some of my electrical cables for chargers.
Outlander packable daypack — For longer trips we bring a small, foldable day pack. We have only had to use it a few times, but it packs up so small that we still bring it along in case.
Eagle Creek padded Cube for electronics — We use this to store all of our photography gear and accessories. The cube is sturdier than regular cubes and has a small amount of padding, and a couple dividers. We still pack this in the middle of one of our bags, as it is not really all that protective.
Teva sandals — I’m gonna put this out there – these things are not exactly cute. At all. But, they are so comfortable! And versatile – I use them for light hiking or anytime I will be spending a decent amount of time on my feet. They’re my go-to.
M. Gemi Flats – I LOVE these shoes! They are so cute and comfortable, perfect for walking around in Europe or somewhere you need to be a little more dressy (get $40 off your first pair with this link).
Birkenstock sandals – These things will last decades, and even though they are casual, they are still my go to every day shoe.
The key to packing clothes is that it can’t be a one off item. Bottoms and tops must have multiple matches. This means the combinations are endless and you don’t look like you’re wearing the same thing for your whole vacation.
A second criteria for pack-able clothing should be that it’s lightweight and dries easily. Merino wool is fantastic (although expensive) magic fabric. It somehow keeps you cool in the heat and warm in the cold and doesn’t wrinkle. It also doesn’t hold odors, so after you’ve spent a hot, sweaty day in Thailand you don’t smell like it. We often wash clothes in the sink and hang them to dry overnight. When you’re moving around every few days, it’s vital that your clothes are dry the next day.
Shorts – I bring 3-4 pair – one pair of jean shorts (no, they don’t dry quickly and goes against all of my other advice, but they’re cute and comfy), one pair of gym shorts, and one cute pair of shorts (like these pullover linen blend ones). I’ll bring 2 cute pair if we are going somewhere warm, and switch to a pair of pants if it might be colder or if headed to a conservative area (such as Southeast Asia).
Pants – I love a linen blend pant for traveling to warmer countries (like this one) because they are so light and breathable. For Europe, I just wear my regular skinny jeans (black and regular color jeans).
Skirts/dresses – I bring a simple black skirt with me on every trip. It can be casual with a loose tee and my birks, or dressy with a blouse and my M. Gemi Flats. Also, I use this amazing anti-chafe balm, since I’m a normal sized gal and my thighs definitely touch.
Merino Wool Sweater – this is my go-to sweater, and I’m practically obsessed with merino wool. It doesn’t wrinkle, doesn’t retain smells and it dries relatively quickly. Win, win, win. It’s flowy and perfect for airports.
ExOfficio Tank – I love this tank, it dries quickly and the absolute best part is that it’s actually cute. We are not restricted to only wearing safari clothes for travel anymore!
Tees – I wear a decent amount of slim-fit tees for women when I travel. I love the ones at Everlane, and am excited to try out their linen line as well (referral link here). They are super simple and go with everything. I typically bring 4, but could probably get by with less.
We tend to visit hot countries, and spend a lot of time outdoors and without air conditioning. Trust me, the worst thing in the world might be putting on a sticky wet bra from the day before. It is well worth it to invest in a few travel-friendly bras and underwear.
Ex-officio travel bra – It’s not going to win any sexy awards, and the straps are huge so you can’t wear it with every top. But it is the most comfortable bra that I own and it dries super quickly.
Merino wool sports bra – This one has been on my wish list for a long time. Great support (although it does smush the girls a little), and is awesome for working out or being active. Like the others, it dries quickly!
Merino Wool Underwear – I really don’t know what I did before these. I used only 1 pair of underpants on our most recent trip to Mexico for over two weeks. You read that right, one pair. I had more, but these were my favorite. I washed them every night in the shower, and they were dry the next morning. Swoon!
I bring one bathing suit, a super cute, comfortable bathing suit from Patagonia that you can be active and move around in. Unfortunately, it’s no longer available, but feel free to check out the current selection.
La Tortuga V2 bag — This small, compact backpack has made it through a trip to Thailand, Indonesia, the US and Mexico, and still looks as new as the day I got it. It’s size keeps me from over-packing, and love that it’s front-loading and unzips all the way like a suitcase. Compression straps and plenty of pockets make this bag perfect! It’s been sold out for quite some time, and a newer, even smaller version is on pre-order (so. damn. tempting!).
Coconut oil – this is a great item for almost everything. It has antibacterial properties, is very nourishing to your skin and can be used as a light sunblock. I use it as a makeup remover and lotion.
Castile soap – another multi-purpose toiletry in my arsenal is liquid castile soap. I use it as toothpaste, soap and laundry detergent.
Other items in my bags are all of my photography gear, a mask and snorkel for diving and snorkeling. You’ll be surprised at how much you can fit in a small amount of space!
I travel light. I think the most important thing is to be in a good mood and enjoy life, wherever you are. – Diane von Furstenberg
What’s on your travel packing list?
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