Lets cuddle up and talk proper packing.
***These proper packing tips are specifically what I recommend if you are joining me on what we have come to call a “Brittney Trip”. If you are traveling with me for any reason, expect the following to be a good general rule to help you pack minimally and still successfully survive with me.
It’ll typically take someone a couple trips to be able to learn exactly what they should pack and the stuff they should have left at home. If you’re prepping for your first big trip I’m gonna tell you that you probably can leave half of the stuff that you want to bring with you at home. I have a saved general packing list on my computer, which I adjust only slightly depending on the temperature of my destination. If you plan on traveling often, start making that general packing list. Each time you go somewhere and forget something, make sure you mark it on your packing list for future trips. On the other hand of that, if you bring something that you barely even used, you can remove it. After traveling frequently, I have made my list shorter and shorter each trip.
I am a light packer.
Let me help you.
Lets dive in…
First…please don’t bring anything on wheels…
If you are gone for anywhere between 1 day and 4 weeks, you should be able to pack everything in one carry-on size backpack. Why do I insist on a backpack, you ask? Seeing as I only budget-travel (and if you also want to budget travel but need to be better at saving money read my money-saving tips post) that means I walk a lot instead of a limo picking me up and escorting me places. Have you ever walked a rolling suitcase over cobblestone through the streets of Antigua? Have you ever ran to catch a train with a rolling suitcase flailing behind you and knocking small children unconscious? It just isn’t the ideal situation. So get yourself a good backpack that will be your best friend for many countries. If you stick with a 40 L or smaller, no one will question whether or not you have to pay a carry-on fee because it basically looks like a ‘personal item’ on the majority of budget airlines. Osprey’s Farpoint 40 is my sweet delicious baybay and is perfect for most trips. Osprey also has a version that fits female bodies better called the Fairview (but those colors were too girly for me so I got the Farpoint). Other good options would be the Gregory Tribute 40 Travel Pack for women, the Gregory Tetrad 40 Travel Pack for men, and the REI Co-Op Trail 40.
If you are debating which pack to purchase, especially since this will be a pricey purchase ($75 – $150), head to your nearest REI, they have all these bags typically in stock and they have weights that you can put in the bags so you can try them on and see how they feel on your back while packed. If you plan on traveling often, the best thing you can purchase is a great bag. And just keep that in mind as you are paying for one (this is the most expensive thing you will have to buy for a trip besides the trip itself).
If you travel this way you’ll never have to check a bag. That means no waiting at baggage claim, no lost bags, quicker transfers, quicker customs…EVERYTHING. It’s great.
So…you’re gonna need help with some liquids…
SINCE YOU AREN’T CHECKING A BAG, you’ll have to keep the size of your liquids in mind. The TSA liquid rule is to keep your liquids in a quart-sized clear bag. All of your liquids, aerosols, gels, etc etc must be in containers no larger than 3.4 ounces and they all must fit in that clear, quart sized bag. To help cut back on the number of liquids consider using a shampoo bar and a conditioner bar (I use the conditioner bar also for shaving so it’s duel purpose). Ethique is the only brand that I have used so its the only one that I can suggest, but there are many other brands available (Lush has some with great reviews). Ethique even makes these great sample packs that have smaller heart-shaped bars of both shampoo and conditioner that are great for shorter trips. If you know you’ll be visiting a store in the first day or two of your trip, a good idea is to just buy your liquids at your destination and share them as a group. That way you save room in your liquid bag and you all will smell similar so the wilderness animals won’t be able to tell you apart.
*Many liquids come in a solid form! There are bars of sunscreen, powdered dry shampoos, solid lotions, just do a quick search and you’ll be surprised by how much room you’re saving in your liquids bag. You can also cut your bars in half if you’re traveling for a shorter amount of time!
You’re gonna do laundry…
So stop packing your whole closet… when I am not sure if I will have access to a laundry machine I travel with my Scrubba washing machine, small laundry soap sheets and a travel laundry drying line. These friends keep me nice and clean and I always lend out my Scrubba unless someone shit their pants and wants to wash their poop in my travel laundry machine. A lot of hostels have a washer and dryer, or you can also just wash stuff in a sink if you wanna keep it really simple. Doing laundry halfway through a trip means you only have to pack for HALF the time you’re gone.
Here are some guidelines for keeping your clothing count down:
*Obviously this is not a list for every single trip… because I travel to cold and hot places. But this list is a guideline and I adjust as necessary. Also realize that PACKING LIGHT TAKES SOME SACRIFICES. You cannot bring everything with you and you will find out that you absolutely do not need to. The biggest tip that I can give you is to plan to pack in layers (especially for colder climates). Packing in layers gives you the most diversity with the least amount of items.
- Pack about 3 – 4 bottoms. Make sure they are light fabric so they don’t take up much room. If you’re a dress person, make one of these bottoms a dress! That’s an entire outfit right there and you can dress it up for evenings out. I am a romper person, so that’s what I like to bring.
- Pack 4 – 5 tops. If you packed a dress, that also counts for one of your tops.
- Pack 1 – 2 “over-thing” (that’s literally what I write on my packing list). Depending on where my destination is, that could be something as simple as a lightweight hoodie to an alpaca sweater. In either case this item would be your go-to cozy/cold item.
- Pack something to sleep in. Typically I bring a pair of shorts and then I sleep in one of my tops that I am already packing.
- YOU DON’T NEED TO PACK A THOUSAND UNDERWEARS. I pack for half of the time I’ll be gone, and then I wash them in the shower so I actually never have dirty underwear in my bag (…after that one incident…). I also bring two bras and that’s it.
- Shoes: Bring one to two pairs. Make sure they are shoes you can walk a LOT in and that they are well worn in and don’t cause blisters. My shoe rotation is as follows (depending on the trip type): Birkenstocks, Keen hiking sandals, Danner hiking boots, Toms classics and honestly I think those are the only shoes I have traveled with. Sometimes I just pack one pair, sometimes I have packed two, but I have never brought more than two.
*Everything you pack should be a neutral color so it will all match (unless matching ain’t your thang). Theoretically with 4 bottoms and 6 tops you should be able to do around 24 different outfits if you pack things that all match.
*Your bulkiest clothing should be the stuff you wear on the plane to make sure your backpack is light.
*Think duel purpose for items! I have a casual black dress that makes a good bathing suit cover up but when I throw a necklace on and brush my hair, I look cute and fancy enough to go out at night.
Now how do you put all of this stuff together??
PACKING CUBES! This is how I make this work:
-You should purchase one compression packing cube with a dirty/clean side and ALL of your clothes should fit in this one cube. If you’re traveling to a colder area you can use two packing cubes since your clothes will be thicker.
–Smaller cube: I use a two sided Patagonia cube for my next packing cube. On one side is my underwear, bras, bathing suit and camping towel and on the other side is all of my NON-LIQUID toiletries (including meds like ibuprofen, allergy meds and pepto bismol chewable tablets).
–Electronics cube: This cube holds all of my cords, converters, extra battery packs, separate batteries for my cameras etc. This is the smallest of the cubes.
-You can also just get a nice set of travel cubes that all match but are in different sizes. There are SO many options of this on Amazon, so it can be a little overwhelming. No matter what you decide to purchase I really recommend getting one that has a clean/dirty side for your clothing cube. You also do not want one that doesn’t compress at all… you don’t need a full compression bag but you also don’t want a saggy bag.
SAGGY BAG = BAD
-Camera gear: I travel with a Sony A6000 mirrorless camera and one zoom lens. These I pack in between my softer packing cubes, and my zoom lens is readily accessible for security check points (occasionally they have you remove zoom lens to go through security separately). I also travel now with my GoPro Hero 9, which is small, easy to shoot video with, and fun to use.
-My liquids bag is kept at the top of my bag while going through airports. I don’t like being the slow person in security, so I leave anything I need to take out of my bag for checkpoints right at the top. Once I get to my destination, I make my liquids bag my shower bag and I move the rest of my liquids into my two sided packing cube with my other toiletries. There’s really no need for some big fancy toiletry organizer.
-Having a small day bag that can either fold up into itself or pack flat into your regular bag is super helpful. If you’re going out for the day or on a hike, these smaller bags are nicer to bring along with you instead of your 40 L bag.
And that’s how I do it. Do you have to follow this to a T? Hell no! This is just how I make it work after traveling often and perfecting my packing plan. If you’re traveling with me, expect to see my own personal packing list for that specific trip before we take off. This serves as a guide for you to pack light. When you’re overthinking while packing, just remember to KEEP IT SIMPLE and if you forget something, you’ll most likely be able to pick it up at a store at your destination.
Have fun packing, my friends!