The Art of the Weekender Bag: 9 Secrets to Packing Light

published Jun 10, 2016
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Now that travel season is finally here, it’s time to pull out your weekender bag and refresh your getaway gear. Last year, I was like most New Yorkers—who live in one of the world’s most fabulous cities, but who are absolutely itching to get off the grid the second it’s summer—and tried to book as many weekends away as possible. And what I’ve learned is that you can consult as many travel experts as you like, but ultimately, packing for short, two-days-or-less trips is about finding a level of minimalism that works for you. Here are the best tips I’ve picked up along the way, and check out our list of things you really don’t need to bring.

Prevent Packing Repeats

I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve packed a mini hair dryer, only to find out that my Airbnb, hotel, or a travel companion had one, too. When you’re packing as minimally as possible, it pays to ask your host beforehand or double-check your hotel’s listed amenities.

Make Not One But Two Lists

Consider all of the activities you will realistically have time to do (it’s just one weekend, after all!), and jot down the clothing and gear you’ll need for each. Add the daily essentials you can’t buy at a local store, such as prescription medicines, contact lenses, and tech chargers. Then, make a second list of things you don’t necessarily need but think it might be nice to have—travel candles and extra reading materials belong here. Use the separate lists of needs and wants to prioritize your packing: Start with the essentials, and add in extras if you have the room and energy to carry more.

Pack Realistically, Rather Than Ambitiously

Unless you’re training for a marathon or are traveling by bike, think twice before packing gym clothes on a two-day trip. Sure, packing them will encourage you to actually use them, but if you don’t, you will have wasted a lot of space in your bag. The same goes for that pair of high heels you wish you wore more often, and that curling iron you haven’t touched in months.

Pick Clothing That Coordinates

Choosing pieces that can mix and match opens up outfit possibilities and lessens the total number of items you need to bring. In general, pack fewer bottoms and a couple choices of tops that you can switch out depending upon the weather or when transitioning from daytime to nighttime activities. Dresses are the one-piece wonder of summer travel, as they pare down getting dressed to just one decision.

Go With the Roll

To prevent wrinkles and save space, I like to roll each item, or a pair of coordinating items, like a top and a skirt, before packing them in my bag. Many frequent travelers subscribe to the “bundling” method of packing (here’s the how-to, if you’re curious): Pants and shirts are wrapped around a “core,” such as a pouch of socks and underwear. While this method is undeniably space-saving and great for long trips if you plan to hang up your clothing during the stay, it doesn’t work well for shorter getaways because it forces you to unfold the entire bundle just to grab a pair of socks.

You Really Don’t Need That Many Toiletries

When you’re traveling for two days or less, bring the tiniest toiletries you can find. You can decant your regular products into small containers with tightly-sealing tops, like these from the Container Store, or you can stock up on single-use sample packets of shampoo and conditioner.

Always Pack a Bag Within Your Bag

No travel kit is complete without a small, foldable market bag, like these from Baggu. You won’t want to lug your weekender bag with you when you head to the beach or explore around town, but you can throw a water bottle, wallet, and other essentials into this lightweight reusable sack. It’s also convenient for stashing a wet swimsuit after the beach or toting souvenirs on the trip back home.

Separate Your Lingerie

Avoid the potentially embarrassing possibility of having your underwear fall out of your bag (plus, make finding a clean pair easier) by keeping lingerie in a separate pouch. I use a zip-top cosmetics pouch, but you can just as easily use a mesh wash bag, which can be thrown right into the laundry once you’re back home.

Consolidate Your Tech Devices

Avoid bringing multiple devices that serve the same purpose. Ask yourself some tough questions like: Do I really need my Kindle if I have my iPad? Check if any of your devices are compatible with the same charger to prevent duplicates.