The French philosopher and writer Antoine de Saint-Exupery once said: “he who would travels happily must travel light”. It is one of my favorite travel quotes. But if you are a woman like me, you probably can hardly wait for an opportunity to take your clothes and shoes on a vacation. They get very bored in your closet when you are away. Besides, you don’t get to wear them enough anyway. Think about it, you could look so “chic” in Paris… even though nobody knows you there.
Sadly, after a lifetime of traveling I still agonize over the issue of packing. No matter how few garments I try to take on a journey, I still end up with too much luggage. So do what the doctor says not what the doctor does! In time, due to the luggage limitations imposed by the airlines, I learned to pack a little lighter. What does that mean? From two big suitcases I moved down to one. If I travel for less than two weeks, I can even survive with a carry-on – a big improvement, considering my uncontrollable desire to dress up!
Truth be told, the inconvenience of traveling with lots of luggage exceeds the satisfaction of being able to change your outfits often. Besides, more luggage means more baggage fees, more heavy lifting, more things to worry about if your bags get lost. Even if you like to dress up, when you travel you can get by with much fewer garments than you think. But traveling light doesn’t mean being underdressed. So here are a few tips for packing light:
• Dual-purpose cloths Avoid packing separate outfits that can only be worn in very limited circumstances. If you are traveling to a city, the little black dress will work for any occasion. A pair of nice fitted jeans will work both during the day with a tee-shirt for a casual look, or at night with a blazer and a blouse for a more sophisticated look. Flip-flops can be worn both at the beach and in your hotel room, as sleepers. Pack at least one outfit that will cover your knees and shoulders. Some places (like churches, or temples) require a suitable attire for admission.
• Layer Take at least two-three layers of cloths that you can take off or put on as the temperature changes. Try to be color-coordinated so that your garments will be interchangeable.
• Comfortable shoes Shoes are the single most space consuming item in your luggage, so try to limit the space they take. No point in caring those high heels that will make you walk bare-foot half an hour later. Instead get a nice pair of sneakers. There are lots of trendy shoes out there that are both stylish and comfortable. But keep in mind, the secret of comfortable shoes is in the cushion, not in the height of the hill. When traveling stay away from thin soles. They will kill your feet and ruin your trip.
• Umbrella and scarves Unless I travel to a tropical island, I always carry a folding umbrella with me, or if I go hiking in the mountains I take a light, hooded rain coat instead. Scarves are also an item that I always pack. They can add a lot to your attire and may come in very handy if it gets windy, or if it’s too sunny.
• Purse/handbag Like shoes, handbags take a lot of space in your luggage and therefore it makes no sense to carry more than one. Choose a light, easy to carry bag, preferably a cross-body or a light back-pack style bag that is hard to snatch or to open. Pick-pockets can spot tourists from a distance, so don’t become a victim.
• Expensive jewelry I know you want to show off your 18K gold bracelet that your grandmother gave you for your birthday, but you don’t need that kind of attention. No matter how much you try to blend in, you’ll still be spotted as a tourist, so keep in mind that all eye are on you (but not in a good way!) Resist the temptation to bring your expensive jewelry with you on a trip. Instead I take some nice costume jewelry that adds a lot to any outfit.
• Emergency medication We all have ills and ailments or may need some emergency medication at times, so don’t get caught unprepared. This is especially important if you travel to another country where you don’t the language or the names of the medication. I always take anti-diarrhea and some pain medication, NyQuil, DayQuil (for cold or flu symptoms) and possibly some antibiotics. They came in very handy on several occasions.
• Essential items It is very important to keep your valuable and essential belongings in your carry-on bag, so DON’T check essential items. Your medication, electronics, money, toiletries, a change of cloths and a change of underwear should always be with you. If your checked bag gets lost you’ll be glad you took this precaution.
• Undercover money belt. Invest a few bucks in one of those cloths pouches that you wear around your waist and under your shirt. You can use it while on the plane or when you are out and about in a big city. Keep enough money handy so that you don’t have to strip off your cloths when you have to pay for something.