I regularly travel outside of the country. As a woman I used to fill the stereotypical role of packing way too much. Not checking a bag?! Nonsense! Not anymore. I am a total convert to one bag travel for women. Packing light in a carry on can actually be easy and can work for even your longest trips.
No matter where you are going, you can pack light. We recently put out a post and podcast on our Top 10 Travel Tips on the Cheap. One of those tips was to pack light- one bag only. This means you can no longer stuff and fill your bag. Not to mention empty your pockets of money on useless souvenir. Instead the focus shifts away from stuff onto your experiences.
I have also found it to be so liberating to travel out of only one bag for a few weeks. I come home and realize that I need to do another clean out. If I can live off of one bag for two weeks, then I am open to the fact that so much of what surrounds me is just stuff. Don’t assign value to crap. And whatever you do, don’t lug it around on your back during a vacation. One bag travel can work- not sure yet? Let me convince you.
Don’t assign value to crap. And whatever you do, don’t lug it around on your back during a vacation. One bag travel can work.
Below are some packing tips for those of you still attempting to convert, the ultimate one bag packing list for a woman, and a list of things I now leave behind that I used to drag along with me.
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#1. The Bag
You will need to choose the right bag. If you only get to bring one bag, make sure it works for you. It also needs to be a carry on size so that you do not have to check it at anytime. I have done one bag travel in a backpack and in a rolling carry on.
While I loved the rolling carry on for ease- due to its boxy nature it was hard to stuff under seat when I hopped on smaller planes. It also does not roll down cobble stone streets of Italy very well. And lastly, HisFI hates standing in lines to check things- you can here his story and packing list here.
Therefore, I have decided that a backpack with hip straps for comfort is the way to go for me. It will also be the perfect companion to our upcoming trip through Peru and the Amazon where boats and docks will be our main form of travel. The backpack I use now is an Osprey Pack Fairview 40.
#2. The Day Bag
While you may only carry one thing on and off the plane, you will need one smaller (very thin and durable) bag to use as your day pack. This needs to be an over the should or even smaller backpack. I have been a fan of the over the should bag because I can hold it right in front of me in crowded areas where pick pocketing may be a problem. Mine also has RFID technology built in. You find the Sherpani Cross Body Bag at REI.
Yet, HisFI has found that the thin and wide strapped backpack is a better fit for him. (Plus he can put my jacket in it if it gets warm ;)) We use the following bags as our travel companions that go inside our backpack.
The only way to get away with one bag travel successfully is to stay organized by using little bags. I have found that all those “free” zippered pouches that come with cosmetics orders are AMAZING for organizing smaller items. Especially cords, putting your chargers and headphones in small pouches or bags keeps them from tangling with everything else.
I also use one set of packing cubes that allows me to separate my clothes and stay organized. When you use a backpack- all of it will be hard to access if it was sitting loose in the bag- making the cubes essential. They also act as compactors for the puffier items like a sweater.
#4. The Value of Multi-Purpose
You have to pack items from toiletries to clothes that function. It is even better when they function for multiple purposes. For example if you can make one moisturizer work for you- like Jojoba oil- (I use for my face and hair)- that is ideal. Plus if you use an oil you need less than if you packed a creme.
Basics are another must have. Make sure your clothes match everything- avoid loud prints that only match that one pair of pants. Have solids that you can dress up or down. Amazon Jungle to a cute Cafe should (and is) doable.
I also have started to slowly move my wardrobe into multi-purpose items. One I can travel in and go to work in. Here are my favorite brands for the muti-purpose and multi-function items:
BetaBrand– Great pants and clothes designed for travel with pockets
Lucy- breathable and comfortable- also can cross between work and play. I have heard rumors that they are merging with North Face soon- so keep an eye out for that.
Athleta– pockets and multi-purpose minimal look
REI Co-Op– Outdoor specific and designed to move and last
#5 What you Wear on the Plane Matters
Layer up for that plane ride, but stay comfortable. Stretchy pants with pockets are a must. I typically will also wear my one scarf for added warmth, heaviest shoes (tennis shoes or such), a light sweater or jacket. Basically if you can take any of the bulk out of your bag and wear it- do it. Airports are temperature controlled and the plane is always freezing. If you are going to a hot place, just have a “de-robe” session once you get off the plane.
It has made it easier for me to consider the plane wear as part of my one bag- knowing I will have to use it again.
The Ultimate One Bag Packing List for Her
Each item is linked to the specific item I use for travel. In order to make this less spammy I am not going into the product detail. If you do have any questions about a specific item I linked- ask me in the comments below!
This list is created for a 2 week trip. It is also for myself- I always hike and explore- so my outfits reflect this.
- Basic Black Flats – They go with EVERYTHING and you can walk miles in them (Barefoot shoes are rad)
- Sandals (Depending on location) – Only if needed- warm weather- showers etc. Make them foldable if possible
- Basic Tennis Shoes (OR Hiking Boots) with tread- You will wear these on the plane
- 1 Merino Wool (or similar insulting) long sleeve to layer (Two if it will be colder)
- 4-7 Thin tanks to wear on their own or underneath. NOT Camis, but actual tanks (only 7 if gone for two weeks) I really like the H&M ones because they cover bra straps well and are versatile.
- 3 T-Shirts that are breathable and “quick dry” for washing
- 1 “fancy shirt” if needed
- 2 Sweaters/Cardi or some sort of lighter layer to go on top of the tanks. I love my light denim button up and light flowy cardi.
- 2 Stretchy and Breathable Pants with Pockets
- 2 Capri’s that are stretchy and light weight
- 1 pair of leggings or exercise type pants
Outerwear and Swimsuits
- 1 Zip Up Fleece with Pockets
- 1 Rain Jacket or Puffer (Weather depending) Make sure it is packable and light
- 1 Swimsuit (No matter the weather- hotels have pools)
- 1 pair of underwear for every night or be willing to wash. (Seriously- be willing to wash in the sink) ExOfficio are travel underwear that I use all the time.
- 2 Sports Bra or Non underwire bra (wear on the plane if possible- only one if a 1 week trip or shorter) I recently purchased one from True Body and love it! I also like the Wacoal bras as well for my odd size.
- 1 Underwire and more supportive bra
- 5 pair of Merino Wool Darn Tuff Socks
- Travel Hair Brush
- Hair Ties/Bobby Pins
- Razor ( or just wax before and skip it- depends on your growth rate or comfortability with au natural)
- Tweezers (I used to skip this till I had a terrible splinter- never again)
- Toothpaste and Toothbrush
- Travel size dry shampoo (A LIFE SAVER)
- Travel Size Deodorant
- Perfume sample (comes free with some orders)
- Jojoba oil
- Shampoo,conditioner and lotion in travel size
- Sunscreen and Aloe
- Menstrual Cycle needs- tampons, diva cup, etc
- Eyeliner or Eye Shadow (rarely both)
- Tinted Moisturizer and Concealer (Skip foundation)
- Bronzer or Blush (Pick one)
- One lipstick for nights out on the town
- Jewelry- one necklace and earrings- or buy one from a local artisan
- Tylenol or pain reliever
- Stool Softener
- Birth Control (unless implanted)
- Epi-Pen (if you need one)
- Any medications for the location like yellow fever, malaria etc. Check in with your doctor before visiting certain places to make sure you will be well and healthy
Al of these fit into one tiny pill box in my purse- I just know what the pills look like- but keep them organized if you do not know.
Misc. (Often Condition Dependent)
- Sun Dress or Shorts (Only if going to a beachy area-otherwise not practical)
- Bug Repellent
- Wet Wipes (LIFE SAVER)
- A few ziplock baggies
- Converter or adapters for the destination
- Curling Iron or straightener if you are going to a “fancy” event
- KT Tape
Travel Day Wear and The Items in the Front Pouch (Accessible)
I wear the following on travel day:
- Tennis shoes and socks
- Fleece or pull over
- Hair in a loose braid
- No makeup
In Front Pouch for the Travel Time:
- Compression socks (because I swell)
- Little jojoba oil (mini container- because I dry out)
- Chargers and headphones
- Extra battery stick for phone
- Phone with pre downloaded podcasts and Netflix
- Moment Lenses and Tripod
- Book or Reading Material
- Gum and Snacks
- Passport, money and general wallet items
- Purell, chapstick, and eye drops
- Neck Pillow (blow up) eye mask and ear plugs if needed
- Foldable water bottle
Things I Used to Pack and Now Leave at Home
Don’t waste your space. I used to pack literally everything I could think of and so many “just in case” items. I was lugging all of this around and never even touched it.
- Full size any thing – you really only need travel size even for two-three week trips
- Full makeup
- Hair Straightener and Curling Iron
- More than two pairs of shoes
- Full DSLR set up
- Laptop or iPad
- Full travel pillow (just get the blow up one)
- Shorts and Dresses (just not practical for how we travel MOST of the time- if it is a conference or such that is different and attire changes obviously)
- Multiples of things like sunglasses etc.
- Wear one time pieces
- Jeans or heavy denim