Packing Light: Less Luggage, More Style

Packing light is its own reward, and needn’t mean sacrificing style.

Is anyone more stylish than someone breezing through the airport with a streamlined tote and a small wheelie, hopping effortlessly onto a shuttle? 

Achieving that breezy style is about two things: HOW you pack and WHAT you pack.

How to Pack for Maximum Style with Minimal Stuff

The first HOW is a mental game. 

  • Resist the “what-ifs” – if you need something desperately in your destination, you’ll probably be able to buy it. 
  • Don’t pack impulse items. Something may be new, cute, a favorite, but if it can’t play a central role in your wardrobe, leave it behind. 
  • Bring clothes you feel good in and that you’re happy being photographed in. 
  • Think about all those times you said “I only wore half of this, why did I lug it around?” when you got home. 
  • Start with a good suitcase. See our article on Choosing the Right Luggage for Your Trip.
  • Packing tools help you maximize the stuff you can squeeze in: Refer to our article Must-Have Travel Packing Accessories. When all the stuff in your luggage is corralled in cubes, it’s much easier to get to the bottom of your suitcase.

Your Winning Travel-Light Strategy

You’ll be mixing and matching, so don’t pack outfits together: Instead, keep your tops together, your bottoms together, and so on. Keep small items like socks, undies and scarves separate – they’ll tuck into the corners of your suitcase and your shoes.

Plan your airplane outfit with layers, and wear your bulkiest items. Which are your largest shoes – boots, sneakers? Wear them, and pack the others.

Toiletries can take an astonishing amount of space. Streamline your routine, and consider taking a break from your favorite shampoo, conditioner, and lotion to use what the hotel provides. Bring the smallest container size you can manage.

How to fold clothes for packing is one of travel’s oldest debates. We think rolling is better than folding, which makes packing wrinkle-resistant clothes all the more important – especially with compression bags or cubes.

What to Pack for Stylish Travel with Minimal Luggage

Choose a narrow range of neutral colors. For urban destinations, black, gray and navy or brown, black and olive can be your base palette. For a beachier trip, choose khaki with blues or compatible brights. Only the supernaturally tidy should bring white.

Use scarves and accessories to vary your style. One or two pieces of statement jewelry will really pop against your neutrals. These can be fun to shop for on the road, too.

Don’t bring anything you don’t expect to wear three times. All your tops should go with all your bottoms. If you bring a dress, can you layer it with a top for another look? Prints conceal spots better, so bring a few versatile printed tops. Layering is key, both for style and weather fluctuations.

Climate dictates outerwear. One water-resistant coat and one or two in-between layers like a cardigan or pull-over are enough. Bring a pashmina-style shawl for extra warmth: you can use it as a blanket or pillow, a shawl, or a wrap-around head and neck.

For shoes, strive for two pairs, three if you really need them. Make sure they’re comfortable, broken in and neutral.

Check out our handy packing list with detailed suggestions. We’ve also got a useful list for non-clothing items, and suggestions for clothing with hidden security features

Why You Should Travel Light

Have we convinced you that there’s always space for style, even in a small suitcase? 

Traveling light is liberating. Part of the joy of traveling is having less to deal with. We leave our responsibilities and to-do lists behind. Spending a week or two when our only concern is keeping track of our passport and our stuff can really shift our perspective about our attachment to things. 

Challenge yourself to unpack your inner minimalist, and savor the high of breezing through airport or hotel with a couple of compact bags. It translates into extra mental space, allowing you to enjoy your trip more fully. Plus - there's more space in your bag for a few souvenirs!