We've received a lot of messages about people asking us for our packing for travel tips. With winter in full swing and people wanting to escape to warmer weather, we thought we'd share some of our best tips to pack smarter.
Dave and Deb's Packing for Travel Tips
You see, Dave and I have been travelling for more than a decade, but it wasn't until this past year or so that we really focused on packing smart. We used to fly away to hot destinations in the middle of the Canadian winter and spend our time on a tropical island of some kind with nothing more than some board shorts, sarongs and flip flops. You don't need a lot of organization when you are heading to the tropics. But now that we've added more city destinations into our itineraries, we find that we need to think about our wardrobe and plan more for our trips. In the past 30 days we've been to the snowy Rocky Mountains of Alberta to New York City and then onto the heat and sunshine of Australia. That's a lot of different climates and a lot of different wardrobes.
Winter And Summer Packing
We do purge a few items between trips like our winter parkas or snow boots, but for the most part, we keep a core list of clothing and travel gear with us at all times and dump items off at our car parked at the airport or for a longer term at my parents basement. Check out our travel specific packing post on How to Pack for European Travel.
1. Choose the right bag
We've tried many bags over the years and have finally settled on a system that works great for us. Once upon a time we swore by backpacks, but as time goes on, we've wanted to look more sophisticated at the airport and in hotel lobbies, so we've switched to rolling duffels. For a long time, we enjoyed our TravelPro rolling duffel, but found they were too large and toppled over whenever we put them down. We've recently switched to Eagle Creek's 28′ Road Warrior rolling duffel which is the perfect size, it stands up on its own with ease and it is made for stacking packing cubes and wardrobe envelopes. For the first time in a decade, we're organized and can find everything.
2. Mix and Match Clothing
This is something that expert travellers stress regularly, but often don't explain what they mean. Sure, you mix and match your clothes but how much do you bring with you? Well, that is completely up to you. We like to keep things light, but we don't like going the carryon only route. I like to have a choice of clothes to wear and I like to have certain pieces of gear at my fingertips. So while we keep our bags light, we do have a lot of options to choose from.
Packing for Travel – A Quick Overview of our List
I usually fly in a pair of comfortable jeans and a tank top with a lightweight blouse over top with a pair of flat ballet shoes. That way I look smart for walking around but I'm completely comfortable on a long haul flight.
When I pack, I keep things to a minimum, but I make sure that everything can be worn together.
Read: 7 of the Best Mix and Match Travel Clothing for Women
2 pairs of pants – black leggings and a pair of lightweight pants that can dress up or down.
2 pairs of shorts– for city walking
1 pair of hiking/board shorts for the beach and for hikes
1 pair of zipoff trekking pants. I am still a fan of zip off pants for hiking. I often wear them as shorts and when on a hike, I start off in the early mornings with full length pants and then transfer to shorts.
3 blouses – I can pack 3 because my lightweight travelsmith tunics are so small and light, I can put several into a sac and hardly know they are there. They can dress up a pair of shorts or I can wear them out at night with a skirt or pants.
1 skort – I've become a huge fan of the skort. I can wear it around town sightseeing during the day wearing a t-shirt or use it as a skirt at night when switching to a nicer top.
1 skirt – I like dressing up. When going out to dinner, I enjoy wearing a skirt.
Shoes – So I already told you that I wear ballet flats when traveling and they can dress up a skirt or shorts, but I also bring hiking shoes, flip flops and sometimes a wedge heel. The ballet flats and flip flops take up no space. Hiking shoes are a must for our type of adventure travel and the wedge heel is an unnecessary item, but I like the way it makes my legs look.
Dave also travels in jeans when flying and wears his dressier sneakers on the flight with a short sleeve button down shirt.
Check out: Looking Smart in Men's Travel Clothing
His packing list:
4 button down shirts – 1 long sleeve and 3 short sleeve. The long sleeve can be used for a nice dinner or cooler evenings.
He also packs 2 T-shirts
You may be saying, 6 shirts, wow! But these 6 shirts all fold neatly into a packing envelope that takes up very little space. The 3 short sleeved shirts are microfibre and lightweight and can be mixed and matched with his pants and shorts.
1 pair of jeans
1 pair of lightweight slacks
2 shorts dressier for sightseeing and cities – his TravelSmith Jimmy Buffet reversible are a huge benefit for two shorts in one
2 board shorts for the beach
Shoes – hiking shoes, dressier sneakers, flipflops
Often when traveling to Europe, you are going to need more than just flipflops and a bathing suit, so it's important to pack lightweight layers to help keep you warm.
I always carry a wrap or large silk scarf for the plane and for cool evenings out.
We both also always have a merino wool sweater for hikes, mountains, or cool outdoor days.
And we both always have an outer weather resistant jacket for rainy and windy days.
These items are good for all weather (except for cold winter conditions)
4. Keep it Light
Yes, it's obvious that you want to pack less to keep your suitcase light, but I'm talking about keeping your gear light. Our Eagle Creek rolling duffel is a fraction of the weight of our Travel Pro.
Our clothing is all lightweight, microfiber or nylon material. We keep away from heavy cottons. Even our underwear is Exofficio and very lightweight. Fibres can make all the difference between a heavy suitcase or light and carefree travel.
Know someone special who loves to travel? Check out out Favourite Gifts for Travel
5. Use the right Packing Gear
Packing cubes are all the rage since being developed a few years ago. Before they were invented, Dave and I always used large ZipLock freezer bags. So we were thrilled to find out that we can pack our clothes in reusable nylon sacks that can even be compressed for bulkier items.
We mentioned the packing envelopes above and we swear by them. Even if you have wrinkle resistant clothing, they can still look rumpled when you unpack them. The packing envelopes help to keep everything crisp, organized and your clothing takes up less space.
Toiletry bag – Dave and I used to have a bunch of different bags for our toiletries but we now keep everything in one foldable travel tote. It takes up less space and keeps everything organized.
Want more packing for travel tips? Read our post 8 Great Travel Organizers for better packing
6. Size Matters
It's important to think about the size of everything you bring. Right down to choosing your suitcase. Sure, the large suitcase looks promising because you can fit everything into it easily, but the larger the suitcase, the more useless items you will bring. Instead, choose a smart and classy smaller rolling duffel and you won't have the option to pack more than you need. It's lightweight and easy to roll and you will be happier boarding trains, planes and buses, or lugging them up stairs in places like Europe.
Leave the large shampoo bottles at home. We put shampoo, conditioner and lotions into smaller GooToobs that fit into our toiletry bag. We barely even have to break out our own shampoo as most hotels now offer nice boutique shampoos and lotions for guests to use. We just use their stuff wherever we go. Really, just think small. Now is not the time to take the big Costco bottles of headache medications or sunscreen with you, when you put everything into small bottles you'll be a happier traveller.
Packing more than just clothes? Read our Travel Photography Gear Guide
So there you have it. Our 6 Packing for Travel Tips to make your next vacation happier. Do you have a tip? We'd love to hear from you.