Guest Post: Smart Packing Tips for the On The Go Traveler by Marcia Mayne

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As I mentioned before, this year I will be posting blog posts that are specific to reader interests. This one is dedicated to reader Leshia. Leshia loved the video I posted on how to pack light, but wanted to see some “packing light” tips from a woman’s perspective. Marcia of Inside Journeys was kind enough to offer her tips in this guest post. I am super excited about this post too! I will be traveling to Barbados in June (I bought my ticket already! Yaaaay!), and would like to travel with only a duffle bag I can carry on and these tips will help make it happen!

Now i will let Marcia take it from here! ;0)

Smart Packing Tips for the On The Go Traveler by Marcia Mayne

How many times have you returned from your trip with clothes you never wore?

Whether you’re packing for a weekend getaway or a trip around the world, the biggest decision you have to make is what to leave behind. Seems simple enough, right?

But it rarely is as too many times we listen to the voice in our heads and pack that extra outfit, or two — just in case.

I wasn’t always a light packer. I remember lugging what seemed like all my earthly possessions from one terminal to another to board a connecting flight in Madrid, swearing with each step that I’d never travel again with more than I needed. Of course, I forgot that promise as soon as I returned home.

Change was forced on me several years ago and I found myself with one suitcase — a 19” wheeled one that I’d used previously for weekend trips. The details of how I ended up with that little suitcase are vague now but having it as my only piece of luggage forced me to learn how to pack smart, and light.

My mom used to say, “It’s best to have a few quality pieces that you love than a closet full of things you wear only because you can’t leave the house naked.” I started to think of packing the same way and over time, my mindset changed and I came up with a personal packing strategy that helped me wean myself from over packing. The system has three steps: Plan, Prune, Pack.

Plan, Prune, Pack

Plan: What I mean by plan is that you ‘walk through’ your vacation day by day and think of the activities you’ll be engaged in and what you’d like to wear. Make a list, if you need to. Then take each item from your closet and lay them on your bed. Pair pants/shorts with tops, shoes and whatever accessories you want.

Planning what clothes to pack for your vacation.

Planning what clothes to pack for your vacation.

Prune: The goal of pruning is to eliminate the non-essentials. So look at the clothes you’ve selected for each activity and select the pieces that can do double duty. For example, a beach wrap that can be worn as a skirt, sweaters that can be layered, jeans and pants that can be worn more than once, etc.

Pack: Once you decide what’s going you can begin packing. I prefer the roll method – the most efficient way of packing, in my estimation.

Rolling your clothes allows for more space in your suitcase.

Rolling your clothes allows for more space in your suitcase.

Rolling allows you to use every available inch of space in your suitcase. Roll each item and fit them in.

Suitcase packed using the rolling method.

Suitcase packed using the rolling method.

It’ll take a few tries to change your old packing habits but the more you use this system, the more it’ll become part of your packing strategy. Soon you’ll skip the plan and purge phase and go straight to pack.

Toiletries, Gadgets, Etc.

Each time I go to the drug store, I buy mini toiletries – toothpaste, mouthwash, lotions, etc., which I keep in a small bag in my suitcase.

Small toiletry bag.

Small toiletry bag.

I also keep cell phone and laptop chargers, batteries, adapter, extra memory cards, a portable radio with flashlight, small umbrella, etc., in another bag.

Gadget Travel bag.

Gadget Travel bag.

I’ve arrived too many times at my destination only to discover that I’ve forgotten something, usually my laptop charger so I never take these bags from my suitcase even after I’ve returned home.

Another tip I’ve used successfully is to make a list of personal items, like moisturizer, journal, etc., that I use during the week or two prior to my trip. Or, as I use them, I throw them into my suitcase. That way, I don’t forget them when I start to pack.

Other Packing Tips:

On a 7-day trip, take 3 pairs of pants, 5 tops and something for a night out. For a 2-week trip, take 5 pairs of pants and 7 tops. Dresses are better for travel as you’ll have fewer pieces to pack.

Stick to light clothing that’s washable, and need little or no ironing. If you need to, cruise lines, villas and safari camps offer laundry service, for a fee.

Take no more than 4 pairs of shoes – flip-flops, sandals, walking and dress shoes. Wear the walking shoes or the one that’s heaviest on the flight. Pack shoes in plastic bags, each foot in a separate one. Stay away from shoes with high heels – they might have metal, which can read like an instrument to the TSA scanners.

Wear the same outfit when you fly out and back. If you’re leaving in winter, send your coat back home with a loved one or carry a light coat.

Carry extra plastic bags for laundry. Hotels have great laundry bags but be sure to use more than one as one alone can get bulky.

If you need to, take hand towels instead of a bath towel or invest in travel towels, which are lighter and dry more quickly than regular towels.

If you take vitamins or prescription drugs, use a pill dispenser and count out the amount you’ll need for the duration of your trip.

Leave expensive jewelry or gadgets at home.

Use zip lock bags to carry makeup or items that might spill during flight.

Invest in a luggage scale. You can find one for as little as $20.

When you purchase your ticket, check your airline’s baggage requirements to make sure your carryon fits their size and weight measurements.

Using these tips, my 19” suitcase and I have been on a 2 ½ -week trip to South Africa, Zimbabwe and Lesotho, that included a 3-day safari, another 2-week trip to London and Paris, and several trips to Jamaica.

19" suitcase.

19″ suitcase.

If you’re not convinced there are benefits to traveling light, consider the cost – US$50 or more, depending on the carrier – and any other perks you might have to pass up.

Before we were leaving our safari camp, the company offered to fly us to the airport but, collectively, my friends and I had too much luggage. I can only imagine how lovely it would have been to see the animals from the air. Instead, we drove in an open jeep, exposed to the cold for nearly two hours. We could hardly feel our faces when we arrived.

On my last trip to London, my sister suggested that I take the Heathrow Express and meet her at Paddington Station. What she didn’t tell me was that we’d be taking several stairs, not elevators, plus walk narrow corridors, during rush hour, to make the connecting train. All I could think as I dragged my suitcase up and down the stairs was thank goodness my bag was light.

About the best part of traveling this way is that I’ve never had to pay for overweight — I never even worry about it. And sometimes, I don’t check my luggage so when I clear customs, I’m out the door. I don’t know about you but I hate watching that carousel go round and round hoping my bag didn’t go on its own vacation.

So, on the go traveler, are you ready to pack light?

Marcia Mayne is currently traveling and writing about Jamaica, her home country, at


  1. Hey Jen, Thanks for featuring me.
    I hope these tips will help you when you travel to Barbados later.
    Thanks again,

  2. Hey Jen,

    I’m a last minute packer to the core. Fortunately, I am pretty good at getting everything in one carry-one bag plus my purse. On a recent trip coming back from LA, I almost had to check a bag, but was able to cram everything in my bag just enough to get through security. I was even able to get a dress bag through as a carry-on without paying the extra fees. Whew, $25 savings in both incidences.


  3. Leshia says:

    I love it!! Thank you so much for the post, very helpful!

  4. […] los consejos que se suelen ofrecer en este sentido está el de hacer rollos con la ropa en lugar de doblarla. La idea que subyace en esta recomendación no es la de ahorrar espacio, sino […]

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