Have you ever unpacked from a vacation, only to realize that the shirt you thought you’d definitely wear or the emergency first aid kit you thought you’d need never even came out of your luggage? Packing light for an all-inclusive resort can be a real challenge for many people. We’ve collected these packing tips and tricks that will have you packing your carry-on luggage and traveling light in no time!
Packing Light Tips and Tricks
We recently backpacked, yes, with an actual backpack, through Europe for a little over 3 months. Our backpacks ranged in weight from 17-20 lbs, depending on what we wore or packed each time we moved to our next destination. There were many times on our trip where we were grateful to have packed light, usually during the times we had several stairs to climb or when we ran to catch our next train. Living out of a backpack for this long taught us many valuable tips and tricks for packing light.
Packing Light; Luggage
When packing light for an all-inclusive resort, or any vacation for that matter, it’s important to start with small luggage. If you choose carry-on size luggage, it will immediately cut down on how much you can pack with you. Bring a smaller backpack to fit inside of your carry-on. Drawstring backpacks work great, allowing you to have a smaller, daytime backpack while you’re on vacation, and leaving you room for souvenirs on the way home. Be sure to check with your airline for their rules and conditions for carry-on sizes. Some flights restrict the amount, size, or weight of carry-on bags.
Once you’ve picked out your carry-on luggage, you’ll want to get yourself some packing cubes. Minimalists, and those who prefer to pack light for vacations, swear by them! Packing cubes help keep your clothes, shoes, toiletries, and miscellaneous items organized inside of your luggage. You’ll never have to dig down into a deep, dark backpack looking for that one sock or the belt you swear you packed but haven’t been able to find in days.
As a flying tip, we suggest wearing your heaviest, bulkiest clothes on your flights. This will alleviate some of the weight in your bag. Personally, we like to wear layers of clothes when flying. Wearing layers allows travelers to be prepared for those AC blasts of freezing air, or shed a few articles of clothing if the temperature starts to heat up. We also recommend wearing your heaviest pair of shoes, typically your pair of hiking boots or athletic shoes. This will save you a ton of space in your carry-on.
Avoid being barked at by TSA, and have your liquids prepared in a Zip-lock bag before going through security. Not only does this ensure that all of your liquids are together, it will also get you through security a little bit faster. Remember to empty your water bottle of any liquids before going through security. Most airports have drinking fountains scattered throughout their terminals. It’s best to top off your water bottle before take-off.
One last piece of advice when it comes to packing light and flying is about your jewelry. Many minimalist travelers recommend that you wear your jewelry when you fly. You’ll get a few major benefits from doing this. First, you’ll fly confident, knowing that none of your jewelry can be stolen from your bag while in flight, since they’ll be on you. Second, you’ll avoid losing an earring or bracelet somewhere in your backpack only to have to unpack every last item to find it later. Last, you will end up saving even the smallest amount of room in your luggage. Every little bit counts when packing light!
Packing Light; Toiletries and Medication
Explore the possibility of sharing a toiletry bag with your traveling companion(s). You’ll be getting ready for the day and brushing your teeth in the same bathroom when you’re on vacation. Why not share one toiletry bag so that you can both pack light? Putting your toiletries in the same bag can save you valuable luggage space. When possible, share bags and/or products with your traveling companion. No need to bring two electrical adapters if you can get by with sharing one. Ask yourself, and your traveling buddy, which items on your packing list can be shared on your trip. We share this toiletry bag from Amazon, and we love that it’s the perfect size for us to share and has so many additional pockets for our personal items.
Save space and pack light by buying toiletry items once you arrive. This may require you to do some additional shopping, but it gives you a great excuse to dive in to a local market while you’re there! Buying toiletries while abroad also allows you to have peace of mind when traveling, knowing that you don’t have any liquids spilling or leaking in your bag during a flight. Your all-inclusive resort, and most hotels, provide the bathroom amenities for their guests so you don’t have to pack them. Our packing list rule of thumb is that if the item can be found at the destination, leave it at home.
If you have a favorite soap, shampoo, conditioner, or even lotion that you can’t seem to leave home without, try bringing it in solid bar form. By packing solid bar soaps over liquid bottles, you leave a lighter footprint while traveling. Bar soaps and shampoos are also known to last up to 3x longer than their liquid counterparts. You’ll end up getting a lot more bang for your buck! I personally love to pack LUSH bar shampoos when I travel. One bar lasted me the entire 3 months I was abroad in Europe, and I never once had to worry about whether or not there would be soap at our next accommodation.
If you do decide to buy before you fly, buy travel size toiletries. They are smaller, lighter, and typically carry-on size safe (3.0 fluid oz or less). If you’re vacationing for an extended period of time, we recommend buying travel size toiletries along the trip. Their convenient size will still allow you to travel and pack light. You can also toss the items or leave them behind when you’re done with them or ready to return home.
To help you stick to a light packing list for all-inclusive resorts, only pack prescription medications. Leave the rest at home! Ask about your resort’s first-aid kit upon checking in. Emergency hangover pills, cold medicine, vitamins, and even motion sickness pills can usually be found in your resort’s gift shop available for purchase. There are doctors and pharmacies where you’re going, in case a real emergency occurs. If you’re curious about travel medical insurance, you can always read more to find out if it’s something you wish to travel with.
Ladies, this one’s for you; reusable menstrual cups! Not only are they much better for the environment, they’re also better for a woman’s body. Forget about having to buy, let alone find, your favorite period products when traveling in a foreign country. Reusable menstrual cups can save you room, time, and money when traveling abroad with your “monthly visitor”.
Packing Light; Clothing
Clothes can often take up the most space when packing light for an all-inclusive resort. Packing light for a vacation may require you to do more laundry while traveling, but this will mean packing less clothes. In addition to your packing list essentials, bring a Zip-lock bag of laundry detergent, preferably the powdered kind. You can also stick a few fabric softener sheets in between your clothes to keep your outfits smelling fresh, while also having these on hand for laundry day! You can leave your entire wardrobe at home, and pack a few versatile favorites.
Packing light expert Alex Jimenez, Founder and Editor of Travel Fashion Girl, gives great advice when she says, “When choosing your clothing for a trip, take a look at each item’s fabric and consider the following factors: quality, thickness, weight, wrinkles, transparency, and texture. Your ideal travel clothing is durable, takes up minimal space and weight, is wrinkle-free and opaque, and matches with the rest of your clothing in style and fit.” Another great tip when it comes to clothing is to avoid cotton in your materials. Look for wool or other synthetics that will wash and dry quickly. We’ve done our fair share of doing laundry in a sink, and nothing weighs you down more than packing wet clothes with you.
Before packing for an all-inclusive resort, or any vacation where you’re aiming to pack light, lay out all of the clothes you’re considering bringing. Hold up each item and ask yourself these 5 questions. Aim for your clothing to be a “yes” for at least 3 out of these 5 questions. If it doesn’t meet at least three, it should probably be left behind.
- Is it comfortable for touring around, but can be dressed up for an evening out?
- Is it appropriate for cool or warm weather (ideally the weather I’ll be experiencing on my trip)
- Does it show stains?
- Does it fold/roll up small?
- Does it coordinate well with almost everything else I’m bringing?
When it comes to what you’ll wear on vacation, our best advice is to make multiple uses out of a single item. For example, you can incorporate your swimsuit into everyday attire. Guys’ swim trunks can double as a pair of shorts. A swimsuit cover for women can double as a sundress during the day or an outfit later in the evening. A bathing suit sarong can be used for extra privacy, a nursing cover, skirt, head wrap, scarf, beach towel, picnic blanket, and so on! Some light packers even use their bikini tops and bottoms as undergarments to be easily washed and rinsed later.
You can also stretch your socks! Unless you have severe foot sweat or feet odor, you can probably make one pair of socks last for at least a couple of days’ wear and tear. We bought socks during our 3+ months backpacking when we needed new pairs. Remember, buy what you can when you’re there instead of packing it all with you ahead of time! Chances are your all-inclusive resort is taking you to a tropical climate, so you’ll be sporting sandals or flip-flops when you’re not barefoot on the beach. Those are two very light shoes to pack!
At a Quick Glance
- 6-7 shirts/tank tops (layers)
- 7 pairs of underwear, although some minimalists recommend packing 3 (one to wear, one to wash, one to dry)
- 1 pair of pants (jeans or slacks depending on your all-inclusive dress code)
- 2 pairs of shorts (1 if you plan on wearing your swimsuit as a pair)
- 3 pairs of socks
- 1 sweatshirt or sweater
- 1 swimsuit
- 1 hat (a favorite, since you’ll be wearing it more than you might expect)
Miscellaneous Packing Light Tips and Tricks
We know that there are endless tips and tricks to packing light for an all-inclusive resort. Remember that your food, drink, and entertainment will be provided once you arrive. In addition, you’ll also find that most resorts include soaps, shampoos, and lotions, and have other toiletry essentials available upon request. If your packing list essential can be found at your location, it’s best not to include it. Here are a few more tricks for packing light:
- Rent gear instead of packing it; do you really have to pack that snorkel and mask, or can you rent one at the beach?
- Bring an inflatable travel pillow for flights; deflating it when you’re done will save a lot of room!
- Pack a Number padlock key so you don’t have to worry about losing a key or keeping it on you when you’re out and about. Your room should provide a safe, but many travelers feel a sense of extra security bringing their own lock from home for their valuables.
- Download, download, download; consider switching to e-books and loading your phone with music and shows to save tons of room and keep things light. If you can avoid working while on vacation, leave the laptop at home.
- Leave the “What If” items behind. Instead of wondering “what if I had packed lighter” or “what if I wasn’t lugging all of this extra stuff around”, ease your burden by packing for the best-case scenario instead of worst-case scenarios. Leave the extras at home!
It’s ironic that a post about packing light would be so long, but there are numerous tips and tricks to share! We know we haven’t covered them all, and some may work better for you than others. We’d love to hear about your own packing lists for light traveling and essential items that you’ve brought on vacations. Leave a comment below to include anything we may have missed. Happy packing!