When I headed to Victoria this weekend with nothing but my 23L daypack (which, 15 years later, is both still going strong and available at MEC for just $29) I was feeling pretty pleased with my ability to pack light. Picking up my boyfriend — who had spent the past two weeks on Maui — at the airport the next morning, I was forced to, um, check, my minimalist packer superiority complex at the baggage counter.
The boy had managed travel two weeks with roughly the same amount of stuff that I had brought for two days. He knows how to impress me.
So instead of writing up another destination guide this week, I thought I’d venture into the wild and wonderful world of packing. It’ll save you money when you fly, and free up your hands and sanity when you’re on the ground. The prospect of not having both your espadrilles and your gladiator sandals on your next beach holiday might be scary at first, but trust me, just… trust me.
It’s in the bag
The maximum carry-on size most airlines allow is 22″ x 14″ x 9″ — which, even if you’re not flying, is a good size to aim for. It’s enough space for a two-day Gulf Island getaway or a six-month African safari (something I know from experience).
I’m going to veer from my budget travel focus here, but I think everyone should invest in one solid piece of carry-on luggage. While flight attendant suitcases on wheels are popular, there are better options for budget travellers who spend a lot of time pounding pavement and taking transit.
If you’re going to Cuba, you don’t need your peacoat. Oh, you have a 4-hour layover in Toronto? Yeah, the answer’s still no. Research the weather at your destination and pack accordingly.
Make a packing list of everything you think you’ll need and then cut it in half. Repeat if necessary.
Roll almost everything, and stuff your socks, undies and scarves into shoes.
Bring an extra cloth bag that collapses down to almost nothing for the things you’ll no doubt pick up along the way that could prove problematic when you’re trying to pack up your main bag and head home.
If you travel a lot, consider putting together a permanent toiletries kit with your mini shampoo and toothpaste. Depending on how upscale your accommodation is, you might be able to get by bringing nothing but a toothbrush.
My two don’t-leave-home-withouts? Leggings and a pashmina. I know, I know, leggings are not pants, but when it comes to travel, they’re a girl’s best friend. Lightweight, compact and versatile, they do triple duty under dresses, as an extra layer and as pyjamas. So, so comfortable.
Ditto for pashminas and scarves. They dress up an outfit, can be used as a blanket on planes, and as a cover-up for going to the beach.
Pick a colour scheme and stick with it. Choose items that can be switched up to different effects. Unless I’m travelling for over a week, I don’t pack more than one pair of pants and one dress or skirt. Go neutral, then pair different t-shirts, tops and tunics with your bottoms.
Two pairs of shoes, no more. Ever. You choose: heels and flats, walking shoes and flip flops, boots and Tom’s. Shoes are heavy, shoes are bulky, shoes are something you can definitely have too much of. Pare down your pairs.