While packing for a recent trip to San Francisco, I encountered a dilemma. It was a four day trip. I needed to be able to pack very lightly in order for me to be able to do everything I wanted to do. I was staying with a friend in Mountainview (about an hour from the city), but we were going to the Giants game my first night in town.
Note: This post contains affiliate links. See disclosure for more information.
I was going to need to fit everything in a very small carryon bag (The Le Pliage nylon small tote bag by Longchamp) so that we didn’t have to waste time dropping off my stuff before the game. It took a little bit of planning and effort, but I was able to make it work.
Here a few things that helped me:
Limit the number of shoes: I only had two pair of shoes – the shoes I wore on the plane and flip flops. This was a big deal for me. Often, I walk long distances on vacations, so I have to have comfortable shoes, and I generally do not like wearing the same shoes two days in a row. You should wear your most bulky shoes on the plane (i.e. boots) to save room in your bag.
I wore a pair of Sperrys and they worked well as my main walking shoes. For any shoes that you are packing, you might want to place in plastic grocery bags. (I always bring extra plastic bags because they also come in handy to keep dirty clothes and wet swimsuits away from the rest of your items). I think that a key thing here is to start with the shoes and then plan outfits based on the shoes that you can take.
Chose a color scheme: I stuck with a green and pink color scheme. I knew I was going to have to wear some of the items more than once, so I packed versatile items. That way, I would have options depending on the weather. Alternatively, it can be easy to pack all black items – this way everything can be mixed and matched.
Be smart with accessories: I packed a scarf that complimented my outfit on multiple days, but that I also used to wrap up in when I was cold. Accessories can often take up more room than basic clothes when packing. When trying to pack efficiently, it is important to pack versatile items – ones that can either be worn multiple ways or with multiple outfits.
Even when I don’t have these extreme size constraints, I try to pack efficiently. I like to keep the hotel room tidy, so it is easier when I pack fewer items. You can also save on space if you roll your clothes instead of folding. I find that it is much more enjoyable to have a reasonable amount of luggage, plus you can save on checked bag fees.
If I am packing for more than a few days and not checking a bag, I have a Delsey roller carry-on bag that works well for me. It works nicely because it also can expand. On my most recent trip to California, I didn’t check it until my return flight once I had put four bottles of wine (from my excursion to Schramsburg) in it.
I have a beach bag that I often carry as a carryon or my personal item. I also take a small purse which can fit inside the beach bag. Once I get to my destination, I convert my carryon into a beach bag by taking out my magazines, travel documents, and swimsuit. My mother taught me a valuable lesson when I was little to always travel with a swimsuit in your carryon. That way even if your luggage is lost, you will still be able to enjoy the beach.
So, when picking out a beach bag, it was important to me to find one that zipped up. I also needed it to be in a color that would match not only with swimsuits, but also my travel outfits. I try not to pack too much in this bag though; it doesn’t make for the greatest travel experience when I have to lug a heavy bag through an airport. Anisa prefers to use a backpack as her carryon or personal item because it easier to carry when it is heavy.
Lastly, when I am packing, I generally write out my list and then check items off as I pack them. I usually have two or three items that I have to add right before I leave (toothbrush, hairbrush, phone charger), and having this list helps me to remember everything I need.
What strategies do you use to make your packing efficient?
- When packing, pick your color scheme and a few key pieces, then add neutrals to complete your outfits.
- Plastic grocery bags are great for keeping items like shoes, dirty clothes, or wet swimsuits separate from the rest of your stuff.
- Keep a swimsuit in your carry on so that you can enjoy the beach even if your checked luggage gets lost.
- Use a packing list to make sure you have everything you need.
Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. This means we will receive a small commission for some purchases made using links in our blog with no additional cost to you. Please be assured we would not promote any product unless we believe that our readers will also benefit. The commission does not influence the editorial content of this site.