Over the years, I’ve gotten really, really good at packing efficiently and still maintaining my boho chic style. Whether it’s using the KonMari method, learning how to wash my clothes while traveling so I could pack even less, knowing which packing items to splurge on, or testing out the best, most stylish luggage out there, I’ve packed and repacked my suitcases more times than I can count.
This is my list of what NOT to pack – that you are really going to want to pack – for a short-term trip. Short-term to me is one to six months. Obviously, this is a short list but these are the main offenders.
Remember: take double the money and HALF the stuff you think you need. Keep these 5 things off your backpacking checklist.
What to Keep Off Your Backpacking Checklist (And What to Pack Instead)
First off, it’s heavier than you think. And second, the most obvious, you are going to want to buy jewelry. When you do, you’ll want to wear it. The old pieces you brought will sink to the bottom of your bag only to be remembered when you unpack.
Sunglasses that actually protect your eyes! You’re going to wear them every day, so they make the perfect accessory. I am obsessed with these Le Specs and the famous blue mirror Ray Bans, I have so many varieties of Le Specs and they are heavy duty so last forever.
Helen Jon Tunic, similar below
2. Tennis Shoes
Are you really going to work out? Go for a run? You can do it without tennies. There are so many ways to keep fit, and you can do a lot of them in your room barefoot. The only time this might be different is if you’re planning on doing some major hiking.
Chacos or Keens. They hold up for whitewater rafting, beach hikes, and dry hikes. I wear them in a city with jean shorts and a tank, and I don’t even feel like a loser. Wearing my Chacos in Bangkok below.
You don’t need 10 Cliff bars in case you’re lost on a road somewhere. That’s not going to happen. If you do go on a trek for multiple days while on your trip, buy snacks then, but don’t lug them around. You will end up hoarding them for “just in case” and realize before your flight home they’re expired. I know this because I brought 10 cliff bars on a three-month trip once like an idiot.
Entertainment! I am obsessed with my Kindle and have been reading non-stop since I got it. It makes airport layovers, flights, and any wait times go by so much faster. If I could do it again I would get the one with the backlight though as I got the most basic Kindle. I have already paid for my Kindle in what I would have spent on airport books I give away.
If you are in a tropical place, you do not need jeans. For some reason, every packing list online always adds jeans no matter where the destination. Occasionally, I think I need to pack jeans and I never get them out of my bag. If you are going somewhere cold then yes, take one pair and ONLY one pair (this pair actually, my absolute favorite because the high waist is so flattering). I have lugged mine to Uganda and Thailand and regretted it completely. It’s hot and no one likes sweating in jeans. If you feel the need to cover up, wear a long flowy skirt, like these:
An extra bikini. It takes up hardly any space and with lots of beach photos, it will be fun to not have to wear the same one all the time. The most classics are the L*space, which is great for water sports and the LBB (little black bikini) from Vitamin A, which designs with special material to make you look like a supermodel (basically…). I have L*Space in lime green, peach, and blue.
5. Large bath and hair products.
You can find Pantene and Herbal Essences almost anywhere. Or at least Dove. It may not be your ideal and you may spend more money by buying small ones over and over but the space you save is so worth it. If you need a special large bottle from home, then take it, but make it just the one. My first trip abroad the entire overhanging zip of my bag was bath products that were half full when I got home because I was savoring them. Don’t make my mistake! Just the shower products being smaller can prevent you from getting a second bag to carry souvenirs.
compartmentalizing helps when trying to find what you need
The little face stick from Sun Bum. This is the brand Hawaiian lifeguards support the most as it’s not bad for the reefs like others. That also means less oil, and it’s better for your own face. As a bonus, it’s affordable and smells like banana candy!
What will you do with all that extra room?
By taking these simple things out of your bag you will save so much room for the shopping you’ll want to do. The shopping you’ll say ahead of time you’re not going to do… but you will.
It does get easier, the more trips you go, the more efficient looking your backpacking checklist will look like. You’ll soon be able to add little things you “can’t live without”. For some, that’s a hair straightener, self-tanner, or a pair of heels. For others, it’s physical books or a laptop.
For more packing and backpacking checklists, check out the posts below
- If you’re backpacking through India, here’s my ultimate packing list.
- My favorite packing hacks
- Tips for packing beauty products
- Long-term packing tips for various regions
- More on buying a backpack
** REMEMBER: While you’re worried about what to pack and what not to pack, don’t forget you need travel insurance and you might just need a visa. I use World Nomads for insurance and iVisa to check which countries I need a visa for.
Are there any items you would add to this list? Let me know! Check out more on my travel resource page.
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