How to Pack Light for a Long Trip

I’m packing for the trip of a lifetime. Three weeks in Paris. (I know!) You are so going to want to follow me on Instagram, if you aren’t already. (Ooh la la.) I’ve spent the last few weeks strategizing how to pack for three weeks with only one carry-on bag.

How to Pack Light for a Long Trip

Why would I do such a thing and leave all my creature comforts at home?

  • I’m thrifty.
  • I’m going in the summer, so I shouldn’t need much.
  • I have access to a washer/dryer while I’m there.
  • My friend advised me to take very little so I can shop locally. Yes!
  • I dragged luggage through Europe before and vowed never again to pack more than I can personally carry.

This has been a really good way to think critically about my everyday wardrobe and even pare it down a bit. What I landed on was a combination of good packing strategies and a formula so I won’t cheat.

Packing Light for a Long Trip with the 5-4-3-2-1 Formula

I used to pack an outfit for each day plus 2 additional outfits. But this 5-4-3-2-1 formula has me choosing items from each category, and everything should work together:

  • 5 tops (everything layers, including sweaters)
  • 4 bottoms (pants, leggings, skirts or shorts)
  • 3 dresses (they just seem more European somehow, and accounts for dressy events)
  • 2 pair of shoes
  • 1 swim suit + 1 cover-up (If I were braver, I’d just make do with a scarf.)

I’ll also take underwear, PJ’s, and a small cosmetics bag, which has to conform to the TSA 3-1-1 rule.

In reality, I’ll be wearing a skirt, shirt and sweater on the flight, so all that is really going in my suitcase is 3-3-3-2-1.

We’re not talking about a “pack all black so everything mixes together” combo. Nope, I am the “I Love Color” gal, so almost nothing in my travel wardrobe is black, in fact.

Maybe I’ll regret it, but I’m also planning on taking my fouta to use as a blanket on the plane, a beach towel, and a picnic spread. A girl’s gotta have a little comfort.

This video on how to pack light, presented by a woman tour guide is an hour long, but really great. A woman’s perspective is very important since packing light guides from guys just don’t cover women’s issues.

Everything in my bag is lightweight, from shoes to dresses. A few of my favorites didn’t make the cut because of their weight.

I finally added packing cubes, which I always thought would add extra weight. But I got Packing Cubes similar to these at IKEA, and I admit they do allow for more organized and compact packing. Whatever weight they add is worth it for the space they save.

After watching the video, I decided my luxury item is going to be my third pair of shoes. While I love packing light, my bad feet are calling the shots here.

My new method has worked on recent business trips, and I was able to get there and back with just my purse and my carry-on luggage, which has lightened my load. After all, I’m going to Europe, not the Amazon. Whatever I end up needing, I can buy while I’m there.

As if I need an excuse to shop.

The one big concession I did make was downsizing from my beloved Sony dSLR to a new Sony Mirrorless Digital Camera . It packs all the features of my larger camera, but at about 1/3 the size, it actually fits in my purse and wirelessly connects to my iPad, which is why you are going to want to follow me on Instagram for this trip. That’s where I’ll show off my wardrobe and the sights.

DarlaDeMorrow on Instagram

That’s it. I hope you have a chance to pack for a fabulous trip, whether it’s an extended trip of a lifetime or just a little getaway. Let me know if any of these packing light tips helped you.


This Post Has 8 Comments

  1. Pammy Pam

    great tips and i think packing the extra shoes is a necessity. you just never know. Bon voyage!

    1. Darla

      Glad you liked the tips. I’d like to think I could always buy extra shoes, but I don’t want to HAVE to do that. Ya know? I love traveling in summer, so the extra pair of shoes is just another pair of sandals, and not boots.

  2. Sue

    Have a great time!

    1. Darla

      I’ll take that as an order. Or permission. Either way, I plan on it! Thanks, Sue.

  3. Jacquelyn

    My 13 year old daughter just did this during her 3 week adventures in Europe. Hers was one of the smaller bags, which made navigation much easier for her. I jokingly told her I packed more for 5 days in Florida than she did for 3 weeks in Europe, and my room had a washer/dryer. Keep on inspiring us.

    1. Darla

      I can’t believe she’s thirteen! But I can totally believe that she’s smarter than I was at that age, and packed light!

  4. Anne M

    Bon Voyage, Darla!

    I’d love to know more about what you packed and how you fit it all in your carry on. No matter how hard I try to pack light, I don’t do as well as I would like. Sometimes I use packing cubes. I have some that also compress items (two zippers on the cubes – second one compresses). This definitely helps when I need to pack fleece.

    Can’t wait to hear about your trip when you get back (unless I get adventurous and try Instagram).

  5. Grace Butler

    This is awesome! So excited for you! Is it business or personal? Where are you going?

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