Want to know how to avoid overpacking for vacation? Our handy tips will help you form a minimalist packing list and tell you how to pack effectively but lightly.
Important Note: This post may contain affiliate links which means if you click through and make a purchase I will make a small commission at no extra cost to you!
But before we tell you our tips for how to avoid overpacking for vacation we will first tell you WHY you should avoid overpacking for travel.
Why you should avoid overpacking?
For me there is nothing worse than overpacking for a vacation (well maybe packing incorrectly, but they are both pretty bad). I hate carrying heavy suitcases around and even more I hate doing lots of post-vacation laundry of clothes that I never wore.
But what are the main reasons you should avoid overpacking?
Firstly, it is cheaper if you are traveling on budget airlines and even some premium ones. More and more airlines are charging you for putting bags in the hold. Therefore by traveling carry-on only and not overpacking you are likely to save yourself money on flight related costs.
But more importantly for me is that not overpacking and doing carry on only is safer for your belongings. By packing light and in a carry on bag your belongings will never leave your side. This means that is safer from theft, which is especially important if you are traveling and packing jewelry, or going to a special event with a dress code such as a wedding.
And it greatly reduces the chances of you getting your luggage lost. I have only ever had my luggage lost one but it was in Uganda when I was going gorilla trekking and on safari so it definitely taught me an important lesson about packing carry on correctly.
More Environmentally Friendly
Everyone is becoming more aware of their carbon footprint, especially when traveling. If you are flying to your destination, you can help reduce fuel burn by packing lighter. A lighter plane, means less fuel is burnt so packing light is better for the environment.
Room for Souvenirs
I don’t know about you but I love shopping for souvenirs on vacation. From clothes and shoes to pottery and artwork, I have bought all sorts on my travel. My not overpacking, you are more likely to have room to bring back souvenirs without having to pay for shipping or extra bags at the airport.
How to Avoid Overpacking for Vacation Tips
So now you know why you should avoid overpacking, here are our tips for how to avoid overpacking for vacation.
Go Carry On Only
Going carry on only, or COO as it is known in some circles basically means you are only traveling with a bag that can fit in the overhead locker. This means no hold bags.
I find knowing and having a bag which meets my airlines Carry On limits is a great way to focus the mind to packing only the essentials.
Note: all airlines have differing cabin bags allowances. Please check with your airline before buying luggage or packing to ensure that you have the right size bag and don’t get a nasty surprise at airport check in.
Click here to shop carry on luggage but be sure to cross check dimensions with your own airline.
Don’t use your full luggage allowance
But if you do decide to check a bag, my biggest tip is not to use the full allowance. I know it is tempting when you have a big bag to fill it, especially if oyu are having to pay to check a bag but don’t.
Whenever I check a bag I aim to use half my weigh allowance or less to leave room for souvenirs and prevent overpacking.
Use a packing method
One of the things I have found really helpful when trying to pack light for travel is by using a packing method. A packing method tells you exactly the number of various items to take with you and how to mix and match outfits.
I find it a great way to reconsider your wardrobe and consider how interchangeable pieces are.
Some of my favorite packing methods are:
- 3×3 aka Sudoku Packing Method – limits you to 3 items in 3 categories. Click the link for more details.
- The 54321 method – limits you to 15 items overall. Click the the link for more information.
Create a packing list
One I have picked a packing method to use, I then make a packing list and I stick to it. Without a packing list I tend to think “ooh I’ll just take” and throw something additional into the suitcase.
By sticking the packing list I don’t pack any extras, only essentials which for me is key to minimalist packing. For information on how to pack a minimalist capsule wardrobe check out this post.
Create a capsule wardrobe
Capsule wardrobes for travel are a great way to stop overpacking. A capsule wardrobe basically means that every piece you pack has to work in multiple outfits.
This means a top can be used with several pants and vice versa and means you need less items to have several different looks.
The sudoku packing method is a great way to think about capsule wardrobes.
Some examples of our capsule wardrobes are:
Pick a color palette
One of the key things to think about when creating a capsule wardrobe for travel is the color palette. This is the biggest factor for me in creating a successful travel capsule wardrobe.
Neutral tones and monochrome are great as they are easy to coordinate and use in multiple outfits.
I know a lot of people worry about their outfits looking samey or boring if they use a limited color palette for their travel capsule wardrobe. The way to get around this is by using some statement piece accessories.
I always travel with a pashmina, especially in Europe, Asia and the Middle East where there are modesty requirements in holy places (i.e. Vatican, Italian Churches, Temples, Mosques and more). It can also be used as a way to dress an outfit differently especially if you pick a bold color or accent.
Limit your shoes
Anyone who knows me will tell me that I love my shoes! However when you are trying to stop overpacking for vacations the best ways to do this is to limit the amount of shoes you bring.
Nowadays I never pack more than 3 pairs of shoes for travel. It really depends on the vacation I am taking and the time of year I am traveling but generally speaking the shoes I pack are always:
- sneakers – I either pack a pair that are good for walking such as AllBirds, but I also love a white pair of sneakers as they pair with everything and don’t look out of place anywhere. One of my favorite pairs of white sneakers is the Adidas Cloud Foam shoes.
- ankle boot or sandal – depending on whether I am traveling in Summer or Winter. I personally like to have a change of shoes from sneakers for dinner. In winter for me this is an ankle boot and in summer a sandal. This translates for both men and women too!
Then for my final pair of shoes I will consider:
- hiking boots – for outdoors and active holidays
- water shoes – for places where I know I will be snorkelling or if I know I am traveling to rocky beaches.
- Flip flops – solely for use on beaches or pools.
- Heels – only if I am going to an event or place that has a dress code that requires heels.
For more travel essentials for women check out this post.
Wear Bulky Items for Travel
Possibly the hardest time to travel light is in Winter when items are inevitably bulkier. However I recommend wearing your bulkiest items to travel in whether this be jumpers, coats, etc.
This way you will save space in your case but still have those larger items with you.
Know the weather
We always write our packing lists by month or season as there is nothing I hate more than finding a packing list that doesn’t truly consider the weather.
Always check the weather before you travel to make sure there is no cold snap or heatwave at your destination that will leave you scrambling to buy new clothes at the destination.
Consider doing laundry
One of my favourite things about traveling is getting away from housework which absolutely includes laundry. However you may want to consider doing laundry, especially on a longer trip as it will mean you can still do carry on only.
You may want to take some hand wash or detergent with you in case you need to use laundry facilities or in room sinks etc to do some extra laundry.
Only Bring Essentials
When we think about packing lists we often think about clothing items then fill our suitcases with lots of just in case items that aren’t clothes.
For instance, it is easy to go crazy with the amounts of make up or toiletries you take with you and these can soon add up and cause you to become an overpacking.
Some tips I have are to limit the amount of makeup you wear. For instance you have packed a capsule wardrobe with a certain color palette in mind so why not extend this to capsule makeup.
One of my favorite products for doing this is with the Nars Multiple product. Nars is one of my favorite cosmetic ranges no matter the situation but with the multiple you have one makeup stick that can be used beautifully on eyes, cheeks and lips which greatly reduces the amount you need to pack.
Or if you don’t like the idea of this I recommend limiting yourself to one eye shadow palette that can work for both day time and nighttime looks. Again some of my favorite eye shadow brands for travel are Nars and Charlotte Tilbury.
Also consider, do you really need to take toiletries with you or can you pick these up at your location.
Now if you are getting straight off a plane onto a cruise, then I recommend that you bring toiletries with you. The reason for this is that on cruises or even on all-inclusive vacations you will find the resort shops will have toiletries but at a much more premium cost. For these vacations I always bring travel sized toiletries with me.
And there you have it – our top tips for how to avoid overpacking for vacation! Do you have a tip we have missed? Then let us know in the comments below as we would love to hear it.