Beginning last summer till now, I have taken a total of 15 flights. By the end of this summer I will have taken 17. I know what you’re thinking, how have I flown this much in that span of time when I’m a student? Well, between a trip to Asia and coming to visit North Carolina from college, you rack up the air miles. Perhaps to someone who travels a lot for a job, this isn’t too impressive, but for me it certainly feels like a lot. Don’t get me wrong, I have loved planes since I was a toddler and, later on when I began to actually travel, I grew to love airports too. However, traveling is still tiring. As I prep to briefly visit North Carolina before fall semester starts, I wanted to share some of the packing wisdom I’ve learned over the years. Keep in mind, some of the advice may need tweaking depending on the kind of trip and its duration. (Pro-tip: See the end of this article for a packing play list sure to keep your spirits up while you’re doing the chore.)
Me on the last day of my internship (ready to go home and finish packing)
My first step to more efficient and less stressful travel is to eliminate anything that is dead weight. The first time I flew to Europe in high school, I had the least heavy suitcase of anyone on my trip (I was with a delegation of over 20 students). Each time I travel, whether it is to live in New York City for 3 months or to the beach for the week, I try to be honest with myself about what I will wear. Do I really need 5 pairs of shorts? Or should I just pack the 2 I wear all the time? And now that I’m entering the world of formal dress at work, which dresses am I actually comfortable in? And which make me want to crawl back into my bed in the morning when I look at them? By asking yourself these questions and answering honestly, you can save yourself from some of that overpacking we’ve all been guilty of.
Another tip for eliminating clothing you’re no longer using is especially applicable for the end of your trip. If you’ve gone somewhere and shopped, you may be into trouble as far as luggage weight on your way home unless you’ve planned ahead. I find that at the end of a trip, I try to look for items that got little to no wear. I probably shouldn’t have packed them and no longer seem to enjoy wearing them. Now is a great time to donate those clothes to make room for your new purchases. If you’re travelling within the US (especially in larger cities), my suggestion is to just drop the clothes off at the closest H&M. Each location should have a donation bin and H&M will make sure your clothes are upcycled or otherwise put to use. A great deal for you and the environment. Once in Japan, I gave away some of the clothes I no longer wanted to a friend I had made. This is also an option! Try to be as eco-friendly as you can be while lightening your suitcase. But if it is something that can simply not be worn anymore (think significant rips or stains) feel free to immediately dispose of it.
After eliminating any dead weight, how you choose to organize your suitcase itself matters a lot. I’ve tried a few tactics but these two are my best. One, ROLL your clothes. Do not fold like you may’ve been taught, roll them. Two, do not just roll one garment in on itself; if it is particularly large, you can save even more space by rolling up smaller pieces of clothing inside. For example, with my work dresses, I lay two t-shirts on top of the dress before I start to roll it up, fold in the sleeves, fold it once down the middle, then begin to roll. What results is a suitcase that looks something like:
On a note unrelated to clothing, hair products used to add a lot of weight to my suitcase. Hair dryers (even ones designed for travel), straighteners, or curling wands can take up so much space and can be awkward to fit in with your other items. I figured out early on that it was better both for my suitcase and my hair’s health to tame my hair without using heated tools, at the very least while on trips. My hair’s texture is wavy and prone to being frizzy. I’ve found the best way to combat this is to use quality conditioner and, when needed, a hair oil that I rub in while my hair is wet to help me detangle and keep my hair’s shine. The oil I’m currently using is only .85 oz, so I can even pack it in my carry on. You only need to use a tiny bit to make a big difference so the bottle lasts longer than you would think. If I brush my hair thoroughly after I’ve rubbed the oil onto my wet hair it dries as though I did straighten it. Whatever kind of hair you have, I would encourage you to embrace it when you’re travelling and ditch the heavy styling equipment.
Moving on, another one of my top tips is to have a small zip pouch that is organized with everything you’ll need to get through check-in, security, and flight. What I am talking about here is anything you’ll need to find quickly or small stuff that would get lost easily (bobby pins and hair-ties, ahem). For a long time I was always the girl stuck digging through my purse for my license or for my card to pay for luggage. Not anymore. I’m a big fan of the brand Madewell. They have my favorite jeans, but they also do quality leather bags and pouches. I found the current pouch I use at Madewell a year or two ago:
It was worth its extra cost. I’ve put it through a lot, but the pouch shows little wear and the zipper functions perfectly. It’s the right size so that it fits a lot but I still have plenty of space in my carry on for books, my laptop, etc. Here are some other pouches from madewell in new designs: a cute option with pom-poms or a more artistic, simple option. If you want something similar and also aesthetic, but less costly I would go for this bag from Sephora. It may not last as long as the others, but, especially if you’re a makeup person, this bag will be good because it would be easy to clean in case any product leaked.
Now I want to discuss what besides what’s been mentioned I pack in my carry on pouch.These items range in use from saving me space to helping me survive flights (especially the longer ones) without feeling tired and sluggish.
The most crucial thing to my trips in my pouch is my cardholder. I had been carrying a much more bulky coach wallet, which although it has positive aspects, I actually couldn’t fit it in my cross body bag. Card holders help you save space while packing your carry on but can also really help you in day-to-day life when you don’t want to carry too much. The card holder I have is a two-tone one from fossil with an adorable robot design:
Next up is cleansing wipes. Everyone knows that airplane air can get a bit stale and can impact your skin on a long haul. Recently I’ve fallen in love with these wipes from Sephora. There are a lot of other drugstore versions of these kinds of wipes as well that I’ve tried. However, none of the others really relax me. The scent of the coconut water Sephora wipes feels makes them feel like the most refreshing way to clean my face on the go. The smell is not overpowering, but it is notable. I get migraines and can be sensitive to smell but these have not bothered me. In addition to smell, the wipes are effective at taking off makeup. So if you want to take yours of and re-do prior to unboarding, these can be your go to. They’re so easy to travel with because they can be slipped into any bag readily.
My skin has been dry since I was a teenager. Frankly, I don’t have great skin, but it has been improving as I pay more attention to skincare and what I can do to improve the situation. So, for me, another must have is a travel size moisturizer. Currently, I’m using the Kate Somerville goat milk moisturizing creme. If I want to get off a plane looking presentable I apply this and it helps give my skin a healthy glow even if I’m not feeling well at the time.
Lastly, every girl already knows she should bring a hair-tie. However, I discovered a the brand named Invisibobble that has changed the game for me. My hair is fine with waves and it kinks very easily if pulled back with your common hair-tie. This is obviously agitating on a flight when I might want to get my hair out of my way. Invisibobble ‘hair rings’ do not mess up my hair and do the trick for getting my hair out of the way. I do not think the hair rings would work for everyone, especially people with curly hair who are more likely to get tangled up in the telephone cable design of the rings. But, for those of you with wavy or straight hair, this play on traditional hair ties are a better alternative. They come in a plethora of color options to match your hair. I was impressed they had one that suits my auburn hair well.
Hope this helps anyone traveling soon! If you’re like me and moving about at this time of year, here is the promised playlist mentioned to keep you excited for your trip or move. Heads up, it is not entirely in English because what better way to get excited about travel than to listen international music? Honestly, it could double as a party play list too so use it as you will. Make sure to like this article if you enjoyed! I will be headed back to Georgetown next so watch out for more content.