With the warming temperatures ahead, we have our eyes on summer getaways. If you’re anything like us, you live for those months where afternoons are spent outdoors and you can shed winter layers in favor of swimsuits and sunscreen.
So you’ve made your travel plans and the day is almost upon you. Now it’s time to pack that bag.
One of the biggest mistakes we’ve made in the past is to fill our suitcases to the brim for “just in case” moments. Like we really need a cocktail dress en route to the beach with our families? We’re so accustomed to thinking through all would-be emergencies that we sometimes forget to stay focused when it comes to packing. If an emergency does appear, you’re rarely without a nearby grocery or drugstore to help.
We like to keep things easy as we’re traveling, so we’ve honed the art of the minimalist carry-on, especially with an eye for sustainable choices. Read our tips and recommendations for packing for your upcoming vacation.
The Must-Have Items
There are some things you can’t do without — the basics that keep you covered and comfortable as you adventure through your trip. As you’re planning your suitcase, remind yourself what activities you’ll be doing while away. Will it be a food excursion? A chance to relax on the beach? Maybe you’ll be hiking or ziplining. Often, it’s a combination of a few different kinds of activities.
As you do a high-level survey of your suitcase, think about pairing items in a similar color palette. That way, you can be sure that whatever you bring will more or less match, and you can mix items up throughout your trip.
Pack appropriately yet reasonably for your plans. One bathing suit will be fine in most cases, unless you see yourself at the beach every day. Summersalt is a NYC-based swimwear company that uses recycled materials — and has a reasonable price point for their swimsuits. We love their bright, statement-making basics, and especially love that they make a difference in the world through their designs.
A simple sheath dress can work just as well as a cover-up as evening attire. Our pick is an Amour Vert Nele silk dress in a green coastal print. The fabric feels luxurious yet light, and the print is strikingly colorful. The Mulberry silk is created using non-toxic dyes in family-owned operations. Amour Vert values transparency and makes sure to highlight their factories and artisans prominently on their website.
Perhaps the most important part of your suitcase is the shoes you’ll wear. (We love to wear our heaviest tennis shoes or boots on the plane, then pack sandals or flats into our suitcase to maximize the limited space!) Allbirds’ Tree Runners are light and stylish, working as well with loungewear as they do with a skirt or dress. And, of course, they are comfortable enough for a road trip or hours on the plane!
As you’re packing, don’t forget your sustainable toiletries, such as your Dental Lace floss or natural deodorant, and a compelling read like William McDonough’s Cradle to Cradle about redesigning the world for sustainability. If you use vacation time for powering through your reading list like us, consider bringing e-books versus paperbacks. They take up much less space and have a smaller ecological footprint!
Lastly, add your electronics, a reusable water bottle, passports and anything that is required for travel. Keep in mind that this is everything you truly need. If you feel satisfied, stop packing now. If you want to add one or two more items, read on!
The If-You-Can-Fit-Them Items
The best part of looking in your minimalist suitcase is the realization of how much you can get away with not packing. If you do find yourself with free space, you can either transfer your items to a smaller duffel bag to make life even easier for yourself, or add a few nice “bonus” items.
You may want to have something on hand for cooler mornings or evenings. Enter the extra layer — a light sweater or scarf to toss over whatever you’re wearing. Secondhand stores like Depop often have lots of cardigans for layering, especially off-season.
It may also be fun to include a statement piece, such as an vintage-inspired sundress from Reformation. If you don’t want to include another item of clothing, consider how you can give life to your ensembles with accessories. Jewelry and belts don’t take up much room, and you can always wear a hat with you on the plane.
If you love to shop for local foods or souvenirs while you travel, bring along a foldable tote bag, which ensures that you won’t take home any excess plastic.
The Leave-at-Home Items
Everyone’s been guilty of overpacking — one of our editors sheepishly admitted to having brought three jackets for a three-day trip to Chicago. But, outerwear addictions aside, we always feel lighter when we pack minimally (even if we do tuck a few unnecessary extras in once in awhile).
We recommend you leave out anything you don’t already wear when you are at home. That means: those uncomfortable stilettos that make you cringe on sight, the bodycon dress that never fit quite right, the earrings that always get caught in your hair. The goal of a vacation is comfort, and though it’s fun to experiment, you want to focus on the experience of your trip — not worrying about a wardrobe that makes you self-conscious.
Leave the duplicates at home too. Already have a white shirt? No need for two more. One pair of sandals is plenty, and a signature lipstick will serve you better than dumping the entire contents of your makeup case in your suitcase. Our motto is quality over quantity: pick the things that you know will last you the whole trip, especially through multiple wears.