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How to Travel Around The World With A Single Suitcase 

how to pack light

Four years ago I hated my life: my boyfriend, my band,and my apartment sucked. Los Angeles, once the sun-shiny mecca of my dreams had turned bleak and gray--an unrelenting June gloom. When my dad unexpectedly died, it was the straw that broke this girl’s back; I sold everything I owned, packed a single bag and bought a one-way ticket to Paris.

Since then, I’ve lived in Paris, Spain, Italy, Croatia, Thailand, Edinburgh and an island off the Hebrides called Eigg. When I returned to the U.S., I moved around between New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Austin and most recently Portland, Oregon.

Today, my life is better than I could ever have dreamed and also, I’ve become a really great packer.

Whether you’re taking off for one weekend away or one year, herewith some tips for getting the most out of your vacay suitcase:

Love your hair

Before heading out on the road, spend a few days getting to know your natural hair so you can ditch those heavy, space-hogging instruments of torture. I’m looking at you hair dryer, flat iron, curling iron…

Speaking of hair, hair ties are one of the traveler’s great tools, pulling double-duty as rubber bands, mini bungee cords and are also good for tying food up in a tree when you’re camping and don’t want to wake up to a family of bears eating your GORP.

Bring lots.

Bags Inside of Bags Inside of Bags

While rolling suitcases make sense if you’re staying in a resort or hotel, they are not your friend if, for instance, you’re getting more rustic in a country like Thailand or Croatia or even Spain where ancient steps, potholes,and sandy beaches reign. Grab yourself a duffel bag with wheels.

Speaking of bags—think of your luggage like a kachina doll—bags inside of bags inside of bags. Packing cubes are a great way of keeping your stuff organized which is KEY on the road, especially when you’re moving around a lot.

Also, large Ziplocks. I am a serious no-plastic girl, but when you’re traveling, Ziplocks will save your life. Toiletries leak no matter what you do. Put them in a Ziplock. You can throw your wet bathing suit in a Ziplock and head straight to the club from the cabana. Throw your leftovers from dinner into your Ziplock for that long-ass bus ride ahead of you in the morning. I could go on and on but we have other things to cover.

Substance + Style

I’ve heard people advise defaulting to comfort over style when traveling, but I don’t ascribe to that for a second. When you do, you end spending your vacation or trip or whatever you’re on feeling, well, un-pretty. A good rule of thumb is to stick to black and white for easier mixing and matching. Rock concert t-shirts are great conversation starters,especially for solo travelers. Bring one dress you love that can be glammed up with heels and dressed down with boots. Speaking of heels, pack a pair tall enough for special nights up but not so high you look like you’re doing the walk of shame at lunch.

Extra Extra

Put these in your bag:

Band-aids (a variety pack of sizes), anti-bacterial ointment, ibuprofen, Neosporin (doubles as lip moisturizer) earplugs, lavender oil for bug bites, a SteriPEN water purifier for countries where you can’t drink the water and there is no bottled water available.

Bring liquid soap—so many places (Airbnbs, motels, etc.) stock shampoos and mouthwash but very frequently and inexplicably forget soap.

Tape. Seriously one of those tiny rolls of duct tape comes in handy every time I hit the road. I can’t count the ways here, but trust me. Tape.

A light-weight, fast-drying towel can be used on the beach, in the bath and as a blanket when you miss the train and you can’t find a hotel so you scope out a nice, plot of land on which to fall fast asleep.



  1. A white noise app

  2. The Map my Run app if you run

  3. And, lots of books to your Kindle.

These tips should help get your summer adventures off to a solid start, or at the very least, remind you of some of those easily forgettable items to pack.