5 Tips to Pack the Perfect Weekend Bag
During my year living abroad in Europe, I became queen of the long weekend trip. I loved the feeling of jumping on a train or plane Friday morning and alighting the same afternoon for an adventure. A long weekend is, I think, the perfect amount of time to explore a city for the first time—long enough to get a feel for the cultural vibe, but short enough to avoid being worn out or breaking the bank. The only question is: how to pack to make the most of your trip? No worries! Whether you are traveling to the next country over or just the next county, I've got your back with my 5 best packing tips for a fabulous long weekend.
1. Opt for a Backpack
You may be used to packing a whole suitcase for long vacations, but, for a weekend trip, nothing beats a backpack! (My favorites are the kind that convert from handbag to shoulder bag to backpack and back again—so great.) Some hotels or hostels offer you a place to drop off your luggage as soon as you enter a city, but that might mean delaying meeting up with friends or wasting precious time that could be spent exploring. I just love the freedom and mobility of a backpack. It gives you a seamless start to your adventure and makes you feel less like a tourist. And—trust me on this one—lugging a roller suitcase up hills and over cobblestone streets is a serious drag (pun totally intended :).
2. Lay Everything Out and Stack Outfits
Before I start to pack, I like to clear off my bed and lay out absolutely every single thing that I plan to take. This makes it easy to quickly identify redundant pieces and instead opt for items that do double duty. (For instance, one versatile jacket can work as a nice top for going to church on Sunday and a blanket for the plane.) I also like to organize my outfits in stacks for each day of the trip and fold them together in bundles for easy packing and retrieval. If I’m going to be wearing something more than one day (hello jeans!) then I fold it into the bundle for the earliest day I’m planning to use it. Laying everything out makes it super easy to verify what I'm bringing without having to dig through the whole bag, and I can also check that my clothes will actually coordinate when I arrive (not that I've ever had issues with packing things that don't match... I have :).
3. Double-Check the Essentials, Rethink the Rest
It's all too easy for me to forget the important things I usually use right before I leave: phone charger, toothbrush, make-up bag, etc. Write down a list of things you've forgotten in the past and make a point to see them safely in your bag right before you walk out the door. For everything that is not absolutely essential—just leave it out! Maybe that extra book or pair of shoes doesn’t seem like it will make a huge difference, but after a few hours of walking around airports or train stations, you will regret packing anything that adds extra weight. Trust me! At the beginning of my time in Europe, I packed a book, camera, journal, and ipad for every trip. By the end, that whole list was replaced by just my phone and one small notebook. A final note—what's the one thing I would say actually is worth the extra weight? A water bottle! If I forget to pack one, I always regret it and end up buying one on the trip.
4. Make it Travel Size
I have a clear plastic zipper-bag with small, refillable containers of all the toiletries I need. I always pack it on the very top of my backpack so I can pull it out quickly and breeze through airport security. Even if I'm not flying, it's nice to have those things within easy reach when I open my bag. For travel toiletries, anything you can find in a solid, rather than liquid, version will be lighter and less likely to leak. I'm currently obsessed with LUSH's solid shampoo and conditioner bars and also their nifty toothpaste tablets. For things like face lotion that I still need in liquid form, I use a plastic contact lens case that I can refill before each trip.
5. Take a Moment
If you remember nothing else from this post, this is my favorite travel-packing practice: right before I'm ready to leave, I like to have a quiet moment away from the stress of packing and last-minute planning to consider why I am going on this trip and what I'm hoping to accomplish on it. I take some time to feel grateful for the opportunity to explore a new corner of the world, and I think about what this trip will mean for me now and for my future life. Any space you can make for stillness or prayer before you embark will leave you feeling more calm and renewed. Even one minute often helps alleviate my fears and/or stress, and I can begin my adventure with a lighter heart as well as a lighter bag :)
What are your favorite travel tips? I would love to hear them in the comments! (Especially if you have any experience going on trips with babies—give me ALL the advice!) And don't forget to sign up for my email list to get these free luggage tags to make your weekend backpack a little more beautiful :)