How To Pack Light, Even With A Baby
I'm a notoriously light packer. I'm proud of having gone on 2-week trips with just carry-on luggage. It might be because I'm a minimalist, my closet is pretty small and I lived out of a suitcase for nearly two years so I'm used to doing a lot with a little. Also, stuff gives me a headache. Which can be hard with a baby – there's so much stuff! But I've been pretty good about only getting my baby the essentials. And I try to pack that way.
Packing light is good for you and the earth. The more a plane weighs, the more carbon emissions it produces. Every pound counts! I'm going to offer my tips for anyone to pack light, with special tips for parents.
1. Assess your actual patterns
So, did you actually use everything you packed on your last trip? Did you under-pack? My guess is no because most people do not under-pack.
Asses what your pattens are while on holiday. Do you like to wear different outfits every day, a few times a day? Or to you tend to be like most people – who in everyday life, and on vacation, repeat their favorite items? Be honest with yourself, so you can pack in a way that you feel comfortable with, while still minimally. One of my favorite traveling memes goes:
Me getting dressed: *puts on the same black yoga pants for the 8th day in a row*
Me packing for a vacation: I don't have room for this third ballgown I may need to check another bag.
Is this ^ you? 😂 If so, I'm here to help.
2. Plan your outfits to your activities
So if you're a fashionista for whom wearing different outfits on vacation is part of the fun, minimalism may sound like the wrong move. But you can still do it, all you need to do is plan out your outfits so you're not packing extra. Lay them out on your bed – each outfit + shoes + accessories – and know on which day you'll wear which outfit. Only pack for the actual days you're vacationing. I throw in 1-2 extra outfits for evenings. Because lately I like to match or contrast my clothes to the settings, I really plan out what I'm bringing.
I learned to do this so I wouldn't have to lug around a big suitcase when traveling for work. There were times when I would be traveling to multiple countries with vastly different weather. I would calendar the days, locations and temperatures (because I was a video producer, it was part of my planning). I would then lay out my clothes and look at the schedule, assigning outfits to the days. That way nothing extra would slip through. And no matter where I'm going, I tend to only bring 3 pairs of shoes (one of which I wear on the plane).
When traveling for work I would repeat outfits every few days so I packed even less. If you're packing for functionality over appearance, it's pretty easy to bring 3 pairs of pants, 2 pairs of shoes and 5 tops to alternate for a two week trip. When you think about what you do at home, it's pretty likely that's how you treat your closet. When traveling for pleasure, these days I like something different each day (I repeat more at night), usually to complement the location. If you haven't noticed, I also like to color match or contrast with my daughter.
I pack for Safia the same way I pack for myself: I bring only the number of outfits for the number of days on vacation. But with her I also do the same for nights (meaning I pack her 1 outfit per day, 1 onesie per night). That's because babies are messier than we are. More than that has never been necessary. In fact, the only time I used everything I packed for her was our trip to Mexico, because she was having a particularly explosive poop moment in her life. That passed.
During our recent trip to Hawaii I ended up repeating some of her outfits because she spent most of her time in a swimsuit or diaper, so her clothes stayed pretty clean. So the location matters too. If hot and beachy – pack less for you and the baby!
And laundry access matters as well. I'm going to pack less for Egypt because we'll be staying at Usef's mother's home and can do laundry. So I can pack half as much.
Here's the clothing I packed for Hawaii, a 5-day trip with day/night activities:
✔️5 outfits (day)
✔️2 outfits (night)
✔️2 sandals (I wore sneakers on the plane)
✔️1 pair pajamas
✔️5 pairs of underwear
Here's the clothing I packed for Safia for the same trip:
✔️5 outfits (day)
✔️5 onesies (night)
✔️1 knit sweater
✔️1 knit jumper
3. Pack once, then unpack
So this is my trick for people who struggle with packing light, or who think doing what I explained above is too much. (Though it's really not, some fashion bloggers even photograph their outfits so they not only pack minimally but know exactly what they're wearing so there's no time wasted once on location. I haven't gone that far yet).
Pack, and then go through what you've packed and take out things that you can do without.
It may sound like a waste of time but when you actually look at what you're stuffing in there – really look at it – you'll be surprised how many things you can admit are unnecessary. And over time you'll stop overpacking because you'll become more discerning in general.
For parents, this is a helpful tactic. We tend to pack everything and anything because who wants to have regrets when your baby is in need? But here's the reality: You can buy most anything you're lugging around wherever you're going. There are babies anywhere you're visiting and shops with products for them (for the most part, excluding camping, remote locations, uninhabited areas).
Here's what I've bought while traveling rather than packing it:
✔️Extra baby food
✔️Dishwashing soap (for bottles)
✔️Toothbrush we used as a bottle brush
Here's the non-clothing baby items I pack*
✔️Bottles (I pack 3)
✔️Baby food (enough for the plane)
✔️Diapers (enough for the plane + 1-2 days)
✔️Toys (a few for the plane)
*Most of this can fit in a diaper bag
4. Get a smaller suitcase
This is my number one tip – the less room you have, the less you'll pack! I got into the practice of packing light to avoid baggage fees and waiting for my luggage. Then it became almost a competition with myself, how many days or weeks could I go with just a carry-on? Almost like a badge of honor if I could do several weeks that light. It becomes your norm.
Nowadays we travel with 1-2 suitcases for long trips – a carry-on size for Safia and a regular size shared between Usef and I. But I still find that we have extra room to purchase things where we're going.
I hope this is helpful! I'll share specifically what I packed for two weeks in Egypt in a future blog. 💫