traveling lightly

one of my primary tenants in life is the value of traveling lightly. i haven’t always felt this way though. it wasn’t until a multi-month european sojourn (it was for school, don’t be too jealous–ok, maybe a little jealousy is warranted, as i spent about six months milling around museums in tuscany and getting paid for it.). the bottom line is, i came to the revelation of traveling lightly as i attempted to haul three gigantic peacock colored suitcases, all on unwieldy rollers over close to a mile of cobblestone. in high heels. and did i mention the contents of the three bags stacked together outweighed me by almost exactly 35 pounds? fun times.

since this unfortunate encounter, i’ve held fast to a strict one carry-on + large purse policy. it doesn’t matter if it’s a weekend away or a month or more. one bag and that’s all. edit, edit and edit again. and let’s be honest, this also means i come close to having a panic attack whilst packing. while it does make packing more challenging, it’s also a good opportunity to be creative with your wardrobe and incorporate more small accents like scarves and jewelry. i’m also now part of the comfortable (but hopefully still chic) shoe club, which also happens to take up far less precious space than a bevy of heels.

traveling for special occasions or formal events does make this far more challenging, but happily still doable. especially if you have an accommodating significant other that’s willing to give up a tad bit of space in his bag. (here’s looking at you brad). however, i’m happy to report that while i do feel (more than) a bit stressed while packing and trying to figure out how to make enough outfits, by the time i’m actually off on an adventure i feel well prepared and not in the least weighed down by my luggage. it’s a wonderful thing.

i’m so fanatical about this subject (almost aggressively so–i feel like i should apologize to my close friends & family) that i put together ten of my favorite pieces of packing advice–essential for traveling lightly:

  1.  buy an outlandishly expensive carry-on bag. something you will feel absolutely awful about if you don’t use. this should not only be beautiful, but highly functional. look for at least a few pockets or buy some leather pouches (i’m partial to baggu) to contain loose ends and small items.
  2. always travel with some sort of oversized scarf. it’s a perennially chic option, can be used as a blanket in an pinch and can help vary your basic wardrobe items.
  3. set a color palette and stick to it. this is essential and usually requires a great deal of discipline. it also the only way i know to pack lightly and still look put together.
  4. base your outfits around your shoe selections. shoes are generally bulky and you can only bring about 3 pairs maximum in a carry on. choose wisely.
  5. always always always travel with a foldable flat tote tucked into the bottom of your carry on. you will likely buy something while you’re away and shipping is not always a feasible option. it’s nice to know that if you fall in love with an amazing piece of pottery, you’ll have a way to transport it back with you that’s not too inconvenient. (longchamp has some lovely options that fit the bill–and they last forever).
  6. two words: cashmere slippers (luxe version & a more affordable option here). yes, they are a bit of a luxury item, but they literally take up the tiniest amount of space and make a long flight or a far-flung hotel room so much more enjoyable. worth every penny.
  7. choose multi-tasking beauty products. you don’t need five different hair products and two makeup bags stuffed to the brim. it helps to buy a travel approved clear plastic bag so you can move smoothly through security and not deal with loads of liquids, gels and all the other products you probably don’t really need.
  8. package your clothes as outfits. depending on how much time i have before a trip and how neurotic i’m feeling, i sometimes make index cards outlining the various outfit options so i can easily decide what to wear, as i certainly don’t want to waste much time on this while traveling. sometimes taking photos of outfits beforehand helps as well. one rule you must follow: try everything on together. it’s shocking how much works on the hanger but doesn’t work in real life. do not assume anything.
  9. only bring items that you love. traveling is not the time to experiment with outfits that you’re unsure of or that make you feel even mildly uncomfortable.
  10. bring at least one lounge outfit for around the house or the hotel room. i usually try to get out of this requirement to make room for more “real” clothes, but always find myself eager to slip into some yoga pants after a full day of meetings or sightseeing.

any favorite tips for traveling lightly? share them with me–i’d love to hear them!