How to Pack for Every Destination, in One Bag, Every Time

how to packHow many of you out there consider yourself to be a savvy packer? Able to whittle away that pile of things you want to bring, and narrow it down to the things you need to bring?

Okay, so you don’t need a pair of jeans in every color imaginable for a one-week trip to Europe (first of all, because denim is heavy, and will certainly put you over your weight limit). But it would be really nice to have some options, if only for the reason of making sure every photo you take on every day of your holiday isn’t in the same outfit.

Last week I compared the costs and benefits of flying economy, business class, and first class, but I left out one important factor: baggage allowances. Of course, when you’re paying the premium price for the upper tier seats, you have the added perk of being able to stuff your suitcase(s) even more, for no extra fee (other than the increased ticket price… think about that). But, unless you have an entourage to meet and greet you upon arrival, you’re still going to have to carry said bag(s). And I can assure you, I distinctly remember every single time I have lugged those bursting bundles on European public transport with a marked sense of distaste.

Don’t let that happen to you.

I’ve written before about how to pack for long-term travel, which focuses on trips that last several months or more. In the “real world,” as in the I-work-full-time-and-have-limited-vacation-days kind, taking off for such extended periods isn’t always possible. But once you learn how to nail the cheapest international travel deals, which is getting easier and easier, you might find yourself wanting to pop over somewhere more often.

So, packing…

No one wants to look like a totally obvious tourist when they travel. So here are my tips on how to pack for every destination, in one bag, every time.

1. Research Trendsetters

Take a look at the fashions of the destinations that interest you most. Find Instagram accounts from the region, and look at what they’re wearing in the photos. Chances are you have something in your closet that can pick up on some of those trends. Then once you arrive, you’ll happily don those one or two items and feel like you’re not so foreign.

2. Look at Material

We all have that favorite item of clothing that looks fabulous on, but doesn’t look so fabulous when it’s been neatly folded (or crammed) into a bag. You’ll arrive, it’ll be wrinkled, and you won’t wear it anyways. Because honestly, who ever irons on vacation? Unless it’s for a special event, leave the delicate materials at home in favor of those that are more sturdy and versatile.

3. Pay Attention to Weight

And I’m not talking about the number on the scale… some clothing items are just bulkier than others. If you need to pack for winter, wear your most suitcase unfriendly items. If you’ve chosen a beach destination, what you’ll need to pack is much lighter by default. As mentioned before, denim is heavy. Cotton is light. Linen is light, but wrinkles.

4. Be Realistic

We’re all tempted to pack that one piece of clothing that’s been in our closet for ages, but we’ve never worn. Like we were saving it for a special occasion, and this just might be it. But really, if you haven’t worn in all that time, are you really going to want to reach for it while traveling? When you’re already outside your normal routine, and you’ll be most tempted to want something comfortable and familiar? Probably not. Leave it in that dark closet corner, and break it in later.

These are my top criteria for deciding what to bring, and what to leave behind. I’m no fashionista, but that’s okay. For me, avoiding ripping my arms out of the socket and not paying for extra baggage fees is worth re-wearing a thing or two I packed.

Besides, I challenge you to next time you travel, take stock of what you put in the bottom of your suitcase. I bet many of those items will be in the exact same spot by the time you get back.

If not, then I congratulate you. You are truly a Tetris-level expert at the art of packing. And your arms are probably thanking you.


*This post is brought to you in partnership with Flights.com. All opinions and thoughts stated are completely my own in order to provide the most honest and beneficial information possible.

{Photo by Hernán Piñera}