Packing for a Trip

A move overseas a few years ago, and the nomadic lifestyle that came with it, has revolutionized my approach to packing—especially when it comes to clothes.


Clothes for the Road: Rethinking Your Travel Wardrobe

Packing for a trip can be daunting. People have all sorts of techniques for their packing. For a long time, I packed by just throwing all my “favorites” into a suitcase and calling it good. This usually meant I forgot something practical and returned home without wearing half of my clothes. Since a move overseas three years ago and the nomadic lifestyle that came with it, my packing has been revolutionized. I no longer just throw in all my favorites but pack light and strategic.

1. When packing for a trip, pack for a set number of days and plan to do laundry.

Know where you’re going, the climate, and how often you will be able to or want to do laundry. If you’re traveling for a month, pack ten days' worth of clothes and assume you can do laundry twice. In some places it is very easy and cheap to have someone do your laundry. In Thailand, it seems like there’s a little laundry shop on each corner. Even if there’s not a laundry service where you’re going, you can still wash your clothes yourself.

Pro Tip: Before you leave, fill up a travel-sized bottle with laundry detergent and bring it with you. You can wash your clothes in a hotel bathroom and hang them up in the bathroom, balcony (if available and appropriate), or over chairs to dry.

2. When packing for a trip, pack what is suitable for the culture you’re heading to.

Are you going somewhere incredibly warm but predominately Muslim? If so, it’s probably unwise to pack shorts for your trip. Do your research ahead of time, be aware of the religion and culture and make sure you’re dressing appropriately. For example, in many places, wearing tight clothing like leggings, wearing shorts, or not wearing longer tops that go past your hips can be seen as promiscuous and offensive. Dressing appropriately communicates love and respect to your host culture and doesn’t create any unnecessary barriers to friendships.

3. When packing for a trip, plan your outfits ahead of time.

Planning what to pack

I can’t tell you how helpful it is to plan out what to wear beforehand. By planning ahead you’ll find you can actually pack less and have plenty of clothing! Here are some practical tips for planning your travel wardrobe.

4. When packing for a trip, bring neutral colors.

When I travel I pack almost exclusively neutral colors—black, grey, white and beige. On top of my neutrals, I usually only pack one color like green or blue that I know will work with all of my outfits.

  • Make sure all your tops and bottoms match. When packing, make sure every top you’re bringing can be worn with every bottom you bring. This is key to creating a diversity of outfits from only a few pieces.
  • Bring enough underwear. I tend to lean toward packing lighter when packing for a trip, but underwear is the exception. I’ll always pack an extra pair or two. You never know what can happen when traveling abroad.

Sample packing list. Here’s a basic sample packing list for seven days of travel. The reality is most bottoms can be worn multiple times before washing and depending on your level of activity some tops can probably be worn more than once. With this in mind, I have at least seven outfits here to wear.

  • 2-3 pant options (leggings, joggers, linen pants, jeans)
  • 1-2 comfy dresses that can be worn with leggings
  • 1 scarf
  • 3-4 tops (I tend toward looser, more comfortable tops)
  • 2-3 shoes (sneakers, a good pair of walking sandals like Chacos or Birkenstocks, and one extra pair if you think it’s necessary)
  • 1 cardigan, light jacket, or sweater
  • 7-9 pairs of underwear

It’s so worthwhile to take the time to plan out your travel wardrobe. After you do it once you’ll be a packing pro and know exactly what to pack for a trip.

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