Skip to Content

My secret to packing light

My secret to packing light

After a few years of travelling I’ve finally realised that you can pack light AND pack stylishly.

The first thing I have to remind myself is that no one looks stylish when they’re hot, sweaty and stressed from heaving heavy luggage. It’s all about breezing through the airport, not being weighed down and having a capsule wardrobe that is simple and stylish.

I’m travelling to the USA for three weeks (whoop, 3 weeks in the U. S of A, Baby!) and packing light for this trip has been tough.

I begin in super stylish Miami and I’ll also be among the glitz and glamour of Las Vegas.

But then I’ll also be doing lots of walking and I’ll be camping for 10 nights. I’ve got loads of different temperatures and activities to take into account too.

It sounds almost impossible to pack light! We’ll be moving from place to place on a daily basis so packing a tonne of stuff would be impractical and annoying so I’ve been forced to pack as light as possible.

So how do you pack light for a three-week trip where you need to be glamorous AND practical AND pack for different temperatures? Oh, and pack a sleeping bag and basic camping gear. I mentioned I’m camping for 10 whole nights right!?

Here’s my secret to packing light…

How to pack light

Keep your trousers/pants/shorts to a minimum.

I pack one pair of black skinny jeans and a pair of denim cut-offs and that’s it for the bottom half.

Yes, that’s it.

1x jeans

1x shorts

Nothing else for day-time clothing.

I know it’s pretty gross. Please don’t judge.

If I can get away with it, I don’t even wash the shorts or jeans. Yep, that’s right. I just sponge them off if I drop some food on them. I may need to pay a couple of dollars to get them washed half way through my trip but it saves me the hassle of carrying the extra pairs.

I’m a fan of Leigh jeans from Topshop. From afar they look like jeans but they’re actually super soft cotton so they’re as comfortable and flexible as leggings.

I make my own cuts off when my favourite jeans eventually become so battered that I can’t be seen out in public in them.

The cut-offs I’m taking with me to the USA actually came from the super stylish Jai from Savoir There. I inherited them when she moved to Canada but she’s much taller than me so I chopped the legs off and now they’re perfect. Thanks Jai!

ASOS is great for small, cheap tops that will fold up really small and they’re almost disposable if they get wrecked. Look out for ASOS promo codes like these here and you can get up to 50% off.

One of my favourite things about being a girl when it comes to packing is that our tops fold up so small. I’m not saying go out and buy skimpy belly tops but when I compare the size of my t-shirts to my boyfriends, mine fold-up pretty small. If I wear these black trousers on the plane then all of these tops would easily fit in my hand luggage.

I keep my tops plain mostly so they don’t look dated in years to come. This may be my one and only chance to visit the Grand Canyon so I want those photos blown up and plastered over my living room walls. I don’t want to look back on those photos in 2-3 years and cringe at my fashion disasters.

Having plain tops also means that nothing clashes and you can mix and match outfits.


How to pack light

To stop my outfits being boring I then add a heap of accessories. These accessories are small and lightweight and fit into all the nooks and crannies of my suitcase so don’t take up any extra space.

I also like shopping for accessories while I’m travelling so I love to explore local markets and pick up souvenirs.

Shoes and keeping warm

Add a cashmere cardi and a slouchy beany for cool evenings and airconditioned vehicles and you’re good to go. I always wear these on the plane to save space in my luggage.

How to pack light

I only ever wear Haviana flip flops or comfy running shoes during the day. They’re both light and durable and, most importantly, easy to pack. I never bother with walking shoes because they’re not worth the extra weight and bulk. If you don’t have any problems with your back/feet/legs then trainers are always fine. I hiked up Mount Kinabalu (the highest mountain in Malaysia) in trainers and I’m still not sure why people insist on wearing hiking boots for simple walks?

Dressing up

how to pack light

There will only be a handful of opportunities to dress up on my trip so I’m definitely going to be taking them.

I’m a firm believer that every woman should travel with at least one black maxi dress. No matter what your age or size, a long black, cotton dress will always look good and be appropriate for pretty much any occasion.

I’ll also be taking two bright and pretty dresses and two skirts that can be worn with the plain tops mentioned above.

I know these items are taking up a lot of space in my bag but it’s worth it. There’s nothing worse than feeling like a grubby backpacker on a night out.

Pack like a pro

Packing cubesI’m using stuff sacs for the first time during this trip and they’re amazing. Why haven’t I used these before!? I have these three pod sacs from Millets plus a 7L stuff sac. I’m using the smallest for underwear, one for tops, one for dresses and one for power chords and gadgets. They’re really handy to ensure you don’t over-pack because you physically can’t get any more in them. They also save space in your bag and keep everything neat and organised.


Travel wash bag

This may not be the prettiest wash bag in the world but it’s perfect for keeping your toiletries, medication, accessories and make-up neat and organised. It folds up into a compact cube and has a leakproof compartment to avoid any spillages. This is great for saving space and the small compartments mean you can’t overpack.

Some people like to pack 2-in-1 products to save space but I’m not a fan because they’re never as good. I prefer to put my favourite products into tiny pots and use them sparingly while I’m away. I never use half as much shampoo/moisturiser/make-up as I think I do, especially if you use good quality products.

Simple packing list

  • 1 x shorts
  • 10 x tops
  • 2 x dresses for evenings
  • 1 x comfortable shoes
  • 1 x flip flops
  • Underwear
  • Toiletries

Wear on the plane

  • Dark jeans
  • Hat, scarf and sunnies
  • Jacket
  • Warm top
  • ‘Going out shoes’

My packing list for Trek America has become a little more complicated because I wanted to take some nice camping gear. I’ll be sharing my camping packing essentials soon!

Do you have any other tips for packing light for a long trip?

Courtney Atkinson

Tuesday 19th of April 2016

Finally a *real* packing challenge! And congrats on your big win! I'm also doing 3 and a bit weeks in the USA: stylish (but practical) NYC, smart business conference and glitz (and heat!) in Vegas, rain in Vancouver & Seattle, outdoor adventure in Oregon, and who-knows-what in San Francisco. I actually don't even know where to begin, but it has to fit into a carry-on! Anything you took that you could have done without, and anything you wished you'd taken? Do they really get dressed up in Vegas?Any extra tips beyond the general "packing light" stuff? Thanks!


Wednesday 20th of April 2016

If you've visiting casinos, bars and night clubs in Vegas then yes, it's very dressy. But you can visit vegas without doing all the clubs and casinos - there's loads to do in the day time when you won't need to be dressy. Just remember that there are shops everywhere in case you feel like you're missing something -it's a good excuse to treat yourself to something new. You can also do your laundry everywhere so just pack 3-4 outfits you love and keep washing them!

How to be an organised traveller

Sunday 14th of June 2015

[…] out my secret to packing light if you’re an […]


Sunday 12th of April 2015

Wow i'm impressed????????. I am definitely an overpacker. Every time I travel, even though I am only going on to be away one weekend my suitcase is almost exploding???? i have to get some black leggings though????

Thanks for the tips, they'll come in handy????


Friday 13th of March 2015

I'm impressed you only bring one pair of pants! I don't have a problem with re-wearing, but I'd nervous to not have a backup pair in case something happens. I'll try it on my next trip!

Maria Dalva

Tuesday 13th of January 2015

I found your blog today and I read many posts! I loved many of the tips! Nice to know that you use havaianas flip flops - I'm brazilian :) Congrats on your pregnancy!