Thanks to Ryanair I have mastered the art of packing light. No matter the weather or the adventure, I can squeeze my life into a backpack and a purse, ready for takeoff. It’s a talent I’m quite proud of, developed through the years, solidified in a serious of rules. Do I break these rules every time I travel? Why, yes! But I like to think of them as guidelines for success.
Rule Number One:
Checked luggage is a sign of weakness. If it cannot fit into my two allotted cabin bags, it will not be coming with. No checked bags. (The exception to this rule is any trip longer than two weeks, like moving to a new country.)
For my recent road trip, I had to not only manage the airline requirements, but also the fact that there would be five of us stuffed into a tiny European car for long stretches of time. Excess luggage would not do. I managed to pack all of my belongings into my purple Jansport backpack. (If you want a reliable bag that’ll hold all your belongings for years to come, Jansport is your new best friend. My mom has one from her time in college; they last forever.)
Rule Number Two:
If you’re worried your bag might burst on your trip, bring an extra bag with you. Most tote bags will roll up tiny and can be used doing the trip to carry around what you need for a day or to store food in during your road trip. Just because you need to condense for the flight, doesn’t mean everything needs to be squished at your destination.
Additionally, bring along plastic grocery bags. They’re a necessity if you don’t want all of your clean clothes to smell like your dirty clothes. You can also use them to wrap dirty sneakers or wet bathing suits.
Rule Number Three:
I wear dresses just about everyday when I can, but I understand that hiking in a dress may not always be practical. For our road trip, we went from city life to chilly mountains to hot summer weather in just two weeks. So everything I brought had to be versatile.
Layers are your friend. Bring along a tee-shirt and a sweatshirt and a long sleeve shirt that if necessary can be worn all at once. Scarfs are also handy as blankets and neck warmers, and a winter jacket that can fold up nice and small is also convenient for inconsistent weather travel.
Everything can be worn more than one time, as well. Sure your Instagram feed may start to look like you’ve traveled the world all in one day, but you don’t need a separate shirt for each day of travel. Your plain black tee-shirt can be worn multiple times. Mix and match what you have, depending on the day.
Rule Number Four:
My grandmother follows the general rule that if a piece of clothing can’t survive a whirl through the washing machine, it won’t survive on her. My rule is that if a piece of clothing won’t look nice after being rolled and smushed in a backpack, I don’t need to bring it.
My dresses are all jersey or cotton or rayon (essentially, not silk or cashmere). If it holds a wrinkle, it ain’t coming with me. If you’re unsure if your clothing will survive the trip, squish up your shirt or your dress in your hands for a minute; does it smooth out after a shake or two? Pack it. If it’s still full of wrinkles or you’re beginning to wonder if Spain has overnight dry cleaning, leave it in the closet.
Rule Number Five:
With few exceptions, you will be able to do some shopping upon arrival. On our road trip, we skipped bringing along hotel sample shampoos and made a stop for shower essentials in a local grocery store. If you’re traveling with others, your hair can survive a few days of cheap shampoo split between the group. (Do be warned that sunscreen is not popular in many places. Thailand and Croatia, for example, were both lacking in sunscreen.)
You don’t need to bring along your medicine cabinet during travel. My personal opinion is that makeup isn’t necessary on vacation to begin with, but that’s just me. Deodorant, though, should absolutely be worn at all times, in all weather conditions. Please and thank you.