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How to Pack Light for International Travel

Packing light can save you money on baggage fees and headaches from packing and unpacking. It’s pretty easy to do as long as you can travel with a minimum pair of shoes. And ladies, it doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice looking stylish. I’ll be talking about packing light and fashionable in this post. So read on for my tips and tricks on how to pack light for international travel.

women holding cellphone with backpack on

Maybe traveling light isn’t your thing, I get it, I like outfit options too, but it’s easier to do than you think. I recently got back from a 2-month trip around Southeast Asia and ended it in South Korea (there was a bit of a weather difference and I’ll talk about that later on) and I did it all with a 45-liter backpack (that wasn’t even full) and a small backpack as my personal item.

The Perks of Packing Light

Packing this light meant that I didn’t have to check in luggage and pay extra fees. I was also able to have my bags with me (if I wanted to) when I was traveling by bus or shuttle, and it made hopping on and off boats and ferries a breeze. It also made it easier to make decisions on what to wear because I mostly wore whatever was clean. Plus most my items were interchangeable.

One of my favorite things about light packing is that my back or shoulders didn’t hurt when I carried my backpack around. I was also able to easily find everything I needed because everything had its own packing cube, bag or compartment.

Packing Light List

Below is a full list of everything I traveled with. I, of course, picked up a few things along the way, restocked on toiletry items and unfortunately had to part with a couple items that just were no longer wearable, which will happen on longer trips.

Clothing

1 light to medium-weight jacket  (I took a denim jacket)
1 flannel
8 tops
1 quick-dry workout top
1 pair of jean shorts
1 pair of comfy shorts that I can wear outside but can also be worn as pajamas
1 pair of workout/athletic shorts
1 pair of leggings
1 dress
2 maxi skirts
4 pairs of socks
1 sports bra
4 regular bras (I wear bralettes because they are easier to wash and dry)
7 undies
1 swimsuit (1-piece)
3 bikini tops
2 bikini bottoms (one bottom was able to be worn with all three tops)

Of course, depending on the weather I’ll have to swap shorts for pants and add layers and proper outerwear but this was for hot weather mostly and six days in mildly cold weather. The yoga pants, flannel and denim jacket were worn many times in those six days. Having a pair of neutral colored yoga pants is great to use as a layer.  

I keep all my clothing, shoes and small electronics and chargers in packing cubes. They keep all my items organized and help me save on space because everything becomes compact in them. I absolutely love these:


I purchased the 6-piece set, which is also available with this same link. Just click the photo.

This post contains affiliate links. If you click my link, I make a small percentage (at no extra cost to you). This helps me keep the travel blog running.

Toiletries (I separate my liquids from my “dry” toiletries):

Liquids:
shampoo
conditioner
hair conditioning masque
face cleanser
moisturizer
sunscreen
toothpaste
lotion
hair product(s)
toothbrush
razor

This is the TSA-compliant toiletry bag I use. It fits all my liquids.

Dry:
a bar of soap
deodorant
nail file
cotton swabs
hair ties and pins
nail clippers
tweezers
small sewing kit
fashion tape (double sided tape that sticks to skin and clothing to prevent clothing malfunctions and such)
some lady products
loofa

Separating liquids from dry toiletry items helps keep me organized and also makes it easier when going through airport security. All my liquids are in a TSA-compliant clear bag (as shown above). I also keep my razor and toothbrush in the liquids bag because it’s just easier for me to have those items together.

Shoes:

Flip flops
Leather sandals (for nicer occasions)
Sneakers (for hikes or if I’ll be walking around a lot that day)

First aid kit:

a few band-aids
alcohol wipes
motion sickness prevention pills
headache pills and anything else that you may need
possibly something for diarrhea (you may need it if you’re traveling somewhere new, just saying!)

Make-up:

3 lipsticks (I use a set of Smashbox mini lipsticks and their insta-matte lipstick transformer)
lip balm
mineral powder/face powder (I use Covergirl professional loose powder)
blush and/or bronzer (I use Physicians Formula for bronzer and blush)
blush brush (I wish I knew where mine is from because it’s tiny but works so well, sorry!)
highlighter (Glow Highlighter Wheel by Etude House)
mascara (Ultra Mascara | Curling by Nature Republic)
liquid eyeliner (Wet n Wild Megaliner)
eyebrow kit (Wet n Wild Ultimate Browkit)

I go with the minimum and try to get smaller size items. I also usually take 3 different shades of lipstick so I can do different looks. I realize that not everyone will need make-up or the amounts will vary but wanted to show you want I pack to give you an idea. If I’m going to be in the city more and doing less adventurous activities then I might add in a small eyeshadow palette. 

Jewelry:

some rings that I would typically wear every day
a bracelet or two and earrings
and maybe a necklace

Again, this will vary depending on the location but I typically don’t travel with too much jewelry because most the time I’ll just pick up things where I’m traveling.

Other accessories:

sarong (comes in handy with beach locations and at the pool)
hat (either a sun hat or a baseball cap depending on the majority of my activities) 

Electronics:

laptop
charger for laptop
phone
2 USBs
charging block
power bank
DSLR camera
camera charger
GoPro
GoPro USB charger
GoPro accessories (usually just a selfie stick and a tiny tripod)
universal adapter 

Other:

small purse that fits in my small backpack
passport and passport holder that also doubles as my travel wallet
anti-bacterial wipes (because germs are everywhere!)
2 TSA combination locks for my big backpack and my small backpack
sunglasses

How to Pack Light and Stylish

If you’re wondering how to pack light as a woman with minimal clothing, it’s all about what you’re packing. Most my clothing was able to work with many other pieces which allowed me to have different looks. My black maxi skirt was able to be worn with just about every top and the same with my denim shorts. Most my tops were solids colors and all the neutral colored tops could be work with just about any bottom I had. 

You also don’t have to skim on your jewelry, I just wouldn’t recommend packing many bulky items if your goal is to pack light. I typically wear the same pieces and maybe will switch out a bracelet every now and then.

And just to give you an idea, below are photos of just some the different looks I was able to do with the clothing I had.

Packing Light Tips

Some of my packing light tips are to weigh your backpack before you’re off on your trip. Walk around with it and adjust if needed. Also, check the airlines you are flying with to see what the weight and size regulations are.

Also, you don’t need to pack for the number of days you’ll be traveling you just need to pack for enough days to get you through laundry day. I do laundry every 7-10 days when I’m on longer trips. So I pack enough clothing for that. I may hand wash a couple items in between or wear bikini bottoms if I run out of clean underwear (sorry for the TMI).

If I need anything, I buy it. I don’t pack enough soap for two months. But if you’re sensitive to those types of things or brand loyal then of course pack those things if needed.

Enjoy Your Trip!

I hope this helps answer the questions of how to pack light for a trip. It’s all about being strategic with the clothing options and knowing that you don’t need to pack everything. You can always buy what you forgot, lost or absolutely need. If you pack clothing that has a similar color palette then it’s easier to mix and match.

Don’t forget to watch the how to pack light video where I show you exactly how and what I pack! I even have a plenty of room left in my 45-liter backpack. You’ll no longer be wondering how to pack light for a trip and be a pro with your lightweight pack!

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