How to Pack Smart and Light for a Trip

Triple Berry Muffins

A lot of my trips involve traveling to a place with a washing machine (thankfully), and that undoubtedly makes a big impact on how many items I pack. But for the times I’m traveling to a hotel, I try to pack smart and light!

Here are 10 things I do when I’m packing for a trip:

One. Pack by outfit, not item. It helps me to lay the outfits out on the floor, and if there are multiple tops to pair with a single bottom (like denim, for example) then I will lay those items together.

Two. Pick neutral shoes. In the summer I pack sneakers, one pair of sandals that will match everything, and one casual sandal for leisure. In the winter, I pack sneakers, one pair of booties, and a casual shoe.

Three. Wear the jewelry you want to have with you on the trip, and choose items that work with every outfit you are packing. For me, a chunky pair of gold hoops works for just about everything! I wear a lot of Miranda Frye Jewelry and brought that along on a recent trip! Use code Smallthings10 for 10% off and free shipping!

Four. Pack as few as possible of things you can hand wash and line dry. When it comes to workout clothes, a lot of mine require gentle washing and hanging to dry. I like to pack one to two outfits and plan to wash and hang them to dry wherever we are. You can either purchase travel detergent to use in a hotel room sink or pack a few of those detergent pods and just cut the tip of it off… but use sparingly!

Five. Choose as many dual-ended or multipurpose cosmetics as you can to cut down on bulk. I love my Wander Beauty On-The-Glow Blush and Illuminator Stick!

Six. Buy travel sizes of your favorite products ahead of time so you’re prepped for your trip when it’s time to pack.

Seven*. Pack a “going home” outfit and keep it in a travel cube or somewhere separate from the rest of your items. *This isn’t as important if you have washer/dryer access!

Eight. Keep irreplaceable items on you if possible. If there are any items, like medicine, contact lenses, prescriptions, etc., that cannot easily be replaced, try to keep those in your carry-on or bag so they don’t risk getting lost if your bag gets lost or delayed.

Nine. Add your socks into the bag last because it’s easy to squeeze them into corners and spaces between the clothes. I love my Cold Hann socks.

Ten. If you have access to a washer/dryer, remove one outfit that you’re on the fence about. It’s rare for me to wear every single thing I pack on a trip, so I can usually remove an outfit that I won’t miss, saving space for the return home.

These are the things I always think through when packing. A few other travel essentials that I always include are my lighted mirror, my Kindle, and a few portable batteries to charge my things!


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Michele says · 07.09.22

I’m VERY about that traveling light life! However, We will be going to Disney with our 5 and 7 year olds in a month, and this is the first time they’ve done a major travel aside from an overnight (I wanted to wait until we were safely out of the diaper/pull up season of life for major travel). How do you travel light with your children? Do you follow the same mentality?

Megan says · 07.09.22

Great tips Kate! I travel frequently for work and would like to add my best tip. I buy sample sizes of all my regular makeup and hair products (not a huge variety, literally one option for each product). For hair products like shampoo/conditioner that don’t come in sample size, I use small refillable silicone containers. I keep all these products in two small packing cubes (one for makeup/skincare, one for hair and shower products like razor and body wash). These two packing cubes stay in my suitcase, along with a travel size hair dryer and straightener, plus an extra brush and comb. This process has helped me cut back on how much toiletries I pack, but more importantly has simplified the process. It’s so much easier getting ready the morning I leave because I don’t have to pack toiletries as I use them! I can pack clothes the night before and have my suitcase by the door ready to go the next morning. Also when I get home I can get a shower and do hair/makeup without having to unpack! (So much easier when I get home late and have to be at work early the next day!) It requires a little planning and extra money up front but the time saved is so worth it!

[email protected] says · 07.11.22

This is a great post – thank you, Kate! I’m traveling this week and have been working on traveling lighter. The tip about laying out outfits is super helpful. I often pack items I never wear. I recently started using Cadence travel containers and I love them. They’re very compact, don’t leak, and can hold almost any product. Thanks for all the tips!