Being a girl can work to your assets or against you when it comes to traveling light. Fortunately I’ve had 28 years to deal with my baggage. There are things a guy just can’t understand.
The key to packing light here as a girl is elegant minimalism. Sure you can slouch it but who wants to look like they’ve rolled out of bed every single morning with knots in their hair? Maybe my perception is skewed—for two years, my entourage was nothing but a group of Frenchies, Italians and Europeans—but eventually I started making the extra effort to look sharp even at home. There’s no quicker way to feel good about yourself than looking good.
Besides, you never know when you’re gonna meet a hot Spanish something something. And there’s nothing hotter than a girl who can pull it together and rough it at the same time.
For the most part, there’s not too much to be said here other than the key is having versatile pieces that mix, match and layer well. In fact, being a girl can be an advantage because dresses are absolutely fantastic and can be very comfortable for traveling as long as you don’t insist on taking that Ted Baker dream piece. Leave those at home unless you’ve got a special occasion. Think of them as awesome rewearable onesies that take very little space or time to clean. Plus, what girl doesn’t look great wearing them?
Scarves are also an asset for the versatility and warmth they provide and while most guys can’t get away with it without being called metro, girls have access to these great, great fashion statements.
I like my jewelry like any girl but stick to your statement jewelry. You know, your go-to, uniquely-you everyday jewelry. You are not Cleopatra.
Admittedly, I tend to get hung up on shoes. At the bare minimum, I need my flip-flops for any unsanitary places and my flats that are versatile enough for walking around during the day and going out.
The problem comes in with my Toms shoes which I love to death because they’re so comfortable. They’re always sitting there looking at me, saying “take meeee.” Also, what if I go hiking? Flats or TOMS aren’t going to work in this case: I’m going to have to bust out the bad boys, the Keds. (I actually do not own a proper pair of hiking boots but I didn’t die in the Andes, so there.)
If I was really smart and could stick to my guns, all I could do is throw my flip-flops in the bag and wear my flats onto the plane. But realistically, I draw the line at three pairs, including the ones you’re wearing.
Heels*** are a special exception because they’re so exceptionally bulky that I’ve got to asterisk it three times and redirect you all the way to the bottom of this article.
Sephora and makeup samples are your friend. I purposefully go out of my way to buy either makeup containers or travel-sized versions of a product, despite the fact that they’re usually not the greatest value. If I’m ever running low, I just use the full-sized product version to refill it up later at home. Travel-size products are worth it just for the space that you save — I even own a travel-sized Muji eye curler! It’s worth the extra cash and hassle to avoid checking in.
I have two makeup bags at home: the one that looks like the birthplace of all makeup ever created and the one that actually holds the basics I use religiously. Please do not bring all the makeup you’ve ever owned with you. The only exception I allow for is if you’re heading to a wedding where your ex will also be in attendance. Then Godspeed.
However, in all other cases, you are permitted to bring the latter. Some basic eye makeup, powder and lip makeup. That’s all you really need to look like you didn’t just come in from off the street. There is no need to look like Michelle Phan or Daenerys Targaryen every single freakin’ day.
I’m talking about hair tools here, not that hairspray you’ve got necessarily to take on the plane. Just about for the ninety-ninth and hundredth time, travel-sized hair products are your best friend. Fortunately, there’s a market for us ladies on the go.
My hairdryer and straightener are all conveniently travel-sized and while I have some quibbles about the effectiveness of my straightener from time to time, I really can’t complain when I see just how little space it takes up. Maybe it’s time to invest in a new one but a straightener on hand is better than no straightener at all.
I do have to say something about bringing hairdryers, though. Even if my hairdryer is as small it can be in order to be effective, I do consider it a pretty bulky item. In fact, I’ll often leave it at home if I can and if I know I’ve got unfettered hairdryer access at my destination. These should be lumped with heels and be brought with only special consideration.
I keep a bare minimum of five to seven pads and/or tampons in my bag at all times. Sometimes I have both because who knows if you’re going to be hitting that beach when Aunt Flo strikes? I double this amount if I’m going away for two months. For three months or more, I just stick with a week’s supply because you can buy that shit on the road.
I also like to make sure the required number of birth control pill packs I need in my bag is equivalent to the duration I’ll be gone, with an extra month thrown in for good measure. As opposed to sanitary napkins, getting the exact brand or prescription you need can actually be impossible due to a country’s medical restrictions, which I learned once or twice. After that, the trickier thing is just learning to take them at the correct time no matter your time zone.
On top of that, to be thorough, I always stick in a pack of Plan B pills because I like having all my bases covered.
Include all bulky items here. Everyone gets one special item—not multiple items—they get to bring along. In a perfect world, everything is flat and packable but has anyone tried to bring a pair of heels along for the ride? Can you imagine travel heels? Yeah, that’s what I thought.
That means you need to pick between the Kate Spade heels, Conair hairdryer, travel iron or whatever. You’ve got to pick your poison. I tend to choose my hairdryer time after time because I can’t stand the thought of going to bed with the latter. Sometimes if I’m heading to a girlfriend’s or if I know I’ll be in a hotel where a hairdryer will be present, this lets me ditch it from my load. Then I throw in a pair of heels.
The only reason I stick to the one item rule is because once you break it, it’s always easy to find another item you “need.” About the only time I throw in both is when I know I’ve got to work on the trip because you don’t fuck around when it comes to work.
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