How to not over-pack luggage when traveling for both work and fun

Text & photos © Estrella Azul

THIS SUMMER I was traveling from Romania to London for work, and I had some fun on the side staying at my friend’s place over the weekend.

I had so much fun I want to talk about my trip—but first start by sharing some tips and suggestions for that stressful time right before a trip when you’re running around the house trying to figure out what you might be forgetting.

The view from up above

The view from up above

As you may recall from my travel tips article when I visited Paris, I like being prepared. This means packing for a trip is right up my alley.

Men have it so easy when they travel. I mean, what do they pack? Pants, shirts, underwear, deodorant and maybe an extra pair of shoes.

Women on the other hand will pack all sort of hair products, clothes, shoes, handbags. . . . Packing for a trip can be daunting, and if you’re a notorious over-packer like my mother (sorry, Mom!) you’ll want to take your whole closet with you.

This is where my mild OCD tendencies come in very handy!

Adding a kitten is completely optional.

Adding a kitten is completely optional.

Carry-on in my lexicon equals everything I can’t afford to lose or have delayed.

Here’s the rundown of what I’ve packed:

  • wallet with money, ID, passport and all travel + accommodation information
  • phone, tablet, laptop, camera, headphones
  • cords + chargers + batteries + outlet adapters + mouse
  • tissues, gum, lip balm, hand sanitizer, hair ties and bobby pins, earplugs
  • glasses/contacts/sunglasses
  • notebook, pens, a book or two
  • some medicine for emergencies
  • sweater or over-sized scarf
My carry-on backpack, ready for travel.

My carry-on backpack, ready for travel.

If you have a sturdy structured laptop backpack, I advise you take that as your carry-on. You’ll be able to fit everything into it without things getting squished during the flight, and it’ll be easier to carry as it frees up your hands. I suggest adding a tiny padlock or two onto the zippers for an extra measure of safety.

All of this will fit into a laptop bag. If you’re used to carrying one around all the time, then it’s probably easiest to use that as your carry-on. Personally, I consider them a strain on my back and shoulders, but back in March it was the only thing available to me so I made it work. I also added a tiny padlock to the laptop compartment just to keep my mind at ease.

When packing your checked luggage, always check the weather of the palce you’re traveling to, or talk to friends who live there and pack clothes accordingly.

For me, checked luggage doesn’t equal the entire closet. It should be easy to transport by myself. Below is what I took with me for 8 days worth of travel:

  • hair and face care products, minimal makeup
  • one T-shirt/tank top/shirt/camisole for each day of travel, plus two extras
  • two pairs of pants, one pair of workout tights
  • one bra, one pair of underwear/socks for each day of travel, plus one extra
  • PJs, slippers
  • one pair of shoes/sandals
  • Summer jacket
  • handbag/backpack to have during sight seeing
  • umbrella

Try to keep everything you pack to the bare essentials. It’s sooo much easier to be able to carry your own luggage, easily lift it up the stairs and not have to worry about it.

My make up and hair accessory essentials.

My make up and hair accessory essentials.

I’d advise you to not pack a ton of makeup and toiletries you won’t even end up using. Essentials is the key.

I packed one small palette of nude colors that go with any outfit, an eyeliner, compact powder and a tiny bottle of perfume. For face and body-care I added toothpaste, toothbrush, deodorant, makeup wipes, face cream and feminine hygiene products. Hair-care was dry shampoo, hair-doughnut, hair ties, bobby pins, hair stick and my hair brush.

Only take shampoo and shower gel if your hair and skin can’t handle changing your usual products. Hotels usually provide these and they’re good enough for a couple of days. For all your liquids, make sure to pour them into smaller containers of up to 100 milliliters, as this will surely fit within any airline’s restrictions and instantly allow your suitcase to weigh less.

Pre-plan outfits before you leave.

Pre-plan outfits before you leave.

Pre-plan outfits and try to pack light-weight items. If they’re wrinkle-free, try rolling clothes up instead of folding them: they will take up less space. (This is especially true for jeans, underwear, workout clothes, bathing suits and socks.) If the clothes you select will wrinkle, fold them evenly, and for shirt-type items alternate the direction of the collar. Remember you will have an iron in your hotel room, or can ask for one in case you don’t.

Use packing folders if you have any, to keep folded clothes the same size, and better organized.

Don’t fall into the temptation of taking items you haven’t worn in a long time! Trust me on this one, you’ll be even more self-conscious about your body when getting acquainted with clients and spending most of your work hours in meetings. Not to mention you’ll want to look your best in travel photos.

If you’re like me and wear pants most of the time, don’t take a ton with you. Two pairs are more than enough (or two skirts, or one of each). Throw in a pair of workout pants. You never know when plans might get canceled and you end up hanging around in the hotel for the afternoon. It’ll be much comfier putting those on than spending the afternoon in your PJs or in work/sight-seeing clothes.

Try and mainly pack light-weight clothes.

Try and mainly pack light-weight clothes.

Unless you absolutely need a fancy pair of shoes for an event you’ll be attending, pack only one pair of shoes, or two at the maximum. Make sure they’re comfortable! Choose black or neutral colors which will go with any outfit. Keep it simple.

For accessories, choose items you can utilize for more than one look. I actually only took one necklace with a pendant that goes with all of my outfits, two rings which I wear all the time anyway, and two pairs of earrings. I’ve lost earrings before and still feel sorry for them, so when traveling I always choose earrings with a clasp, studs, or my pair with extra-long ear wires. This way I know I won’t lose them while walking around.

In case you’re not wearing all your accessories on the plane as well, place them in a small garment bag so they won’t end up running loose in your luggage.

Being comfortable is of key importance while traveling.

Wear comfy clothes during your flight, and also comfy shoes. Remember to wear socks, as you’ll have to take your shoes off when passing through security and the floors are just icky no matter how you look at it.

Hydrate your skin beforehand, and apply minimal makeup if at all. Airplane air is really dry, so keeping things minimal will help you look great during your trip. If you have a longer flight, add face moisturizing wipes to your carry-on so you can freshen up mid-flight.

If you have long hair like I do, put it up in a half-up half-down, a ponytail, or in a bun so it’ll be out of your face. If you like leaving your hair as is, make sure to place a hair tie on your wrist or add one into your carry on so you can easily pull your hair up if need be.

And now, sit back and enjoy your flight. Happy travels!


Estrella in the Greek Amphitheatre ruins,
Taormina, Sicily

Estrella Azul is a young emerging writer, passionate about reading, floral art and photography, with an artistic personality and a soulful outlook on life. She is a Hungarian girl living and writing from Cluj-Napoca, Romania, the capital of historical region Transylvania. Estrella is our European correspondent, she currently serves as the photo editor here at Milliver’s Travels, and she dreams of embarking on a round-the-world trip. To read more of her creative writing, her thoughts and daily happenings, visit Life’s a stage – WebBlog©. Read more of her stories on Milliver’s Travels by visiting Estrella’s story index.



  1. Pingback: How to pack light for travel | Life's a stage - WebBlog

  2. I agree with everything you mentioned in your article, especially the tip about packing minimal jewelry. For the last two trips, I’ve only brought one pair of earrings and one bracelet with me.

    I wish I didn’t have to take so many personal care items but I have an autoimmune disorder so I need to take body wash, soap, and face soap that has the most minimal of chemicals and fake fragrances. It does make my bag especially heavy with all those products!

    The only thing I would add is to check, double-check, and re-check the weather. I was in San Francisco last week and it was freezing with a capital F! My Southern California blood couldn’t handle the 57 degree days with the intense wind which probably brought the temperature down to 54. With that kind of weather, we usually wear parkas. Yes, we are wimps here in San Diego but admit it freely. On previous trips in July to San Francisco, it has been hot so one must be very prepared (and I wasn’t so I froze in my one lightweight sweat jacket).

    Great article. Thank you for sharing your trip tips!

    • Glad you liked the article and my ideas, Catherine!

      Sorry to hear you need to take all those specific personal care items which weigh down your luggage. But of course, that is just something you need to do. I bet you’re at least used to it.

      And yes, I mentioned checking the weather, and it’s most awesome if one also has friends there who can attest to the accuracy of the weather channel.
      Sorry to hear it was so cold during your San Francisco trip. Hope it still gave you plenty of photo ops! 😉

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