Thursday, February 27, 2014

Woman Wanderer: Tips for Packing Light

Guess what. I'm starting a new exciting kind of mini series on this blog called Woman Wanderer. It will be filled with tips & tricks for women traveling solo- a place to share ideas and experience. I'm not saying I'm an expert on this stuff, but I am happy to share the things I've learned so far on my adventures with others who might be just starting out. We're going to begin at the beginning: Packing for the trip.

The inspiration for all of this came from my new friend Valerie over at Nuance and Bubbles, who is a lovely lifestyle blogger from Puerto Rico!
We were brainstorming about how to tackle the daunting task of packing small for different sorts of trips and we decided to team up and share with you guys our own advice for how to get ready for your personal adventure.

Head on over to her blog to find wonderful tips & tricks on how to pack for a conference or speaking engagement!

Over here, I'm talkin' about long-term back-packing. Imagine this- packing for a trip in which you don't know exactly where you will be going and you don't know how long you're going for, but you know for sure you could be doing anything and everything from working professionally, to hiking through snowy mountains, swimming, partying, and potentially meeting people you want to impress.

Oh and did I mention all you have is one backpack and one over-sized purse?

Welcome to my crash course in how to become to an awesome minimalist packer.

10 Packing Tips for a Woman & Her Backpack

1. First things first- clothes. DO NOT go buy all new things. Pack things that you've had for a while and are super comfortable, because if you go buy a new sweater and then suddenly realize it gets a little itchy in the sleeves... oops. There goes precious sweater space in your backpack that could have been used for something more comfy. Trust me, every nook and cranny, every shirt, every sock, will make a difference. After lugging that thing around long enough, you'll feel like you can tell the difference between packing 4 or 6 pairs of socks. 

2. Choose mostly dark colored clothes- blacks, blues, dark greens, etc.  Make sure every single piece you bring can be mixed with every other piece. I have this weird thing against wearing dark blue shirts when I'm wearing blue jeans, so I didn't pack any dark blue shirts because that would rule out my jeans. Ya know?  Oh and the other secret about dark clothes? (you can wash them less)

3. Bring mostly basics and then a few key pieces that can convert basics into an outfit. I had this super simple black pencil skirt and if I wore it with my flannel shirt and boots, I was ready for a casual day of sight-seeing, but with my little black blazer, nice flats and a swishy shirt, I was ready to go out to dinner & drinks. Also keep in mind, jewelry can dress up anything. Choose carefully. That was a difficult one for me with my earrings obsession.

4. Three pairs of shoes. Maximum. I know this is hard. But here's what you need: 
-a great pair of boots that are broken in, comfy and you can wear with anything 
-tennis shoes/walking shoes that you wouldn't be embarrassed to wear on the streets of Paris (you know, not too mom-ish)
-lightweight flats. 
You wear the bulky boots whenever you're in transit and pack the rest. Easy.

5. I feel like it maybe goes without saying, but never forget the concept of light layers. I only brought one jacket- a nice, fairly lightweight leather one- that I could wear with anything and was a bit on the larger side, so I could put multiple sweaters underneath if needed. That and a couple scarves (bought in countries I visited) were my lifesavers for colder weather.

6. Invest in a super sturdy big purse. I bought a nice bag in London that was a liiittle on the more expensive side, but guess what. I bought that bag a year and a half ago, carried it across countries with my laptop, DSLR camera, and occasionally stuffed an extra layer in there too, when I was going from Sicily to Milan in the Spring, and it continues to be my constant companion to this day. A good purse is your best friend.

7. Things you should bring more of than you think you'll need
-Underwear. Most backpacking guides say bring like 5 pairs, but I would double that. Doing laundry in hostels is a pain.
-Tampons & related female products. I had to go into about four different markets in Tangier, trying to explain tampons while turning bright red before I found anyone that even knew what I was talking about. Stock up, ladies.

8. Things you don't need:
-A towel. Most hostels provide them and they take up way too much space.
-Excessive make-up. Bring the bare minimum and get used to going natural- just enough to look nice in all those photos you'll be taking.
-Hair dryer (please just don't)
-Expensive sunglasses. They will break or you will lose them. Go for that 5 euro rack.

9. Things you definitely need:
-Lotion with sunscreen
-A little notebook & extra pens. Always carry them with you, no matter what.
-A camera you enjoy taking pictures with. Your phone pics won't be satisfying years later when you're flipping back through the memories.
-A little foldable umbrella or light-weight rain jacket.

10. Finally, do not be afraid to let go of things. You are going to want to buy new clothes, shoes, whatever, in the amazing places you visit, so be willing to leave behind some of the old. I did this trick with books too (because I'm a huge bookworm and kindles just don't do it for me). Bring one book. Read it. Leave it as a donation under a pillow in your hostel, find a discount book store wherever you are and pick up another one. I can't tell you how many little presents I've left behind in hostels- a shirt in Brussels, a couple books in Paris, an extra pair of sunglasses in Madrid. You gotta learn to how to let go. Go with the flow. Because the stuff in your backpack is just stuff. You are your own home on the road.

And there you have it. Keep in mind, all of this advice stems from personal experience, so you can take it with a grain of salt. If you have any other advice or tricks for how to pack for a back-packing adventure, please share and add your wisdom to the list! 


  1. Love this new Woman Wanderer series idea! My favorite tip for others: assume everything you bring might be lost or destroyed, and that's part of the thrill. Stuff is just stuff. Travel is learning to let more ways than one.

    1. Janessa, you are so right. It is kind of thrilling, thinking that everything can be in flux and let go of. Beautiful advice. Thank you!

  2. Great tips! I have rule of two for shoes. No more than 2 pairs of shoes. I have rule of three for clothes, too. No more than 3 per kind. Your tips are really good. I am going to share them with my sister. Thank you for posting them. Best regards!