The Bare Necessities of Travel

(article from Megan’s Travel column: Weekly Wanders on Life2PointOh)

As a twenty-something girl traveling, it’s tempting to want a suitcase like the one Mary Poppins has, where an entire wardrobe can easily fit inside. I remember visiting New York City my senior year of college and literally packing four outfits per day. Do you know how many outfits I ended up wearing that weekend? Three.

Even though I wasn’t planning on actually changing my clothes multiple times throughout the day, I still wanted options. After our first full-day walking around New York, we started realizing that few women actually dressed like Carrie from Sex & the City. Plus, lugging a massive suitcase up my cousin’s third floor walk up was not a pretty picture.

Similarly, when traveling it’s better to just pack what you really need and leave the extra room in your suitcase for emergency items. Back during my semester studying abroad in London, my flatmates and I decided on Italy for our spring break destination. Our first stop was Venice. Luckily I had only packed a small suitcase but my friend had packed as if she was spending the next month in Italy. To make matters worse, we didn’t figure out that there was such a thing as a water taxi, so we went up and down many canals in search of our hostel, suitcases banging the ground behind us.

So here is my packing philosophy:

Minimal Clothes and Major Accessories: Bring the bare essentials. What I like to do is pack clothes that I can easily dress up or down. Neutral colors are the best because they go with pretty much anything. Accessories take up much less space in your luggage and since I’m a sucker for anything trendy or vintage, I’d rather pack a few scarves, hats and necklaces than stuff ten more shirts in my suitcase. You’d be surprised how much an accessory can change your entire look. Plus, laundry exists everywhere.

Smartphone: To be honest, I barely use my phone when I travel but I do take full advantage of Wi-Fi. Despite paying for an international phone plan during my trips to South America, Egypt and even Europe, I hardly ever got a signal and it was a complete waste of money. There’s also a sense of freedom you get from not being able to talk or text. It forces you to live the present moment more fully. Wi-Fi is essential however. If you are lost, having a map that doesn’t scream tourist is always a plus. Smartphones also take high-resolution photos; perfect for tweeting or retouching.

Natural Glow – Less is More: It’s hard to resist the urge to pack all your make-up when traveling, but the odds that you are actually going to stick to your daily regiment is unlikely. Sure, you want to look your best, but the rest of the world actually prefers a more natural complexion. Nobody in Europe tans and few people cake on the make-up. I’ve also noticed that when I travel, I’m genuinely happier and that reflects in my appearance. If you have a positive mind-set and laid-back attitude, you’ll be surprised how much better you look without even trying. Tinted moisturizer, a little mascara or eyeliner and lip balm is all a girl needs.

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  1. Erica Kuschel September 9, 2011  3:59 am Reply

    If I could, I would have packed completely differently for our trip. Bug plus on the accessories.

  2. Cheryl Howard November 4, 2011  8:16 pm Reply

    Great post! Something I'll keep in mind for next trip. I always over pack.

  3. Megan Eileen McDonough November 20, 2011  2:45 pm Reply

    Thanks all! I've learned the hard way not to over-pack. It was hard at first but now I feel like it's the only way to travel :)

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  5. JSS February 1, 2012  4:55 pm Reply

    Great post Meg. I'm an over-packer, so this are good tips to travel by.
    Have you written a post on what shoes to take when traveling? My husband and I did a Eurotrip last year (, and I was quite displeased with my shoe selections. I thought maybe you would have some sage advice!
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    • Megan February 1, 2012  5:53 pm Reply

      Glad you liked the post! For Europe (of course depending on the season) I always pack a pair of flats because they are stylish, comfortable and don't take up a lot of room. I also recommend brining a pair of heeled boots (again only if they are comfortable) in case you feel like dressing up to go to the theatre or something :)
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      • JSS February 1, 2012  5:58 pm Reply

        Thanks for the response - I especially agree with your flats recommendation! Any specific brand that you've found most comfortable? After a full day of walking, it seems like everything rubs the wrong way! If you've found something worth buying for a long trip, please dish! :)
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        • Megan February 2, 2012  9:29 am Reply

          hmmm I'm a vintage shopper or a bargain/consignment type of girl so I can't really think of a brand. I will say though, that shoes are one thing that you should spend money on...especially if it's a shoe you will be walking/traveling in for a long period of time. After a few days, quality matters and you want a shoe that will withstand all weather conditions. Cheers!
          Megan recently posted..Inner Peace in Unlikely PlacesMy Profile

  6. Anne July 19, 2012  10:33 pm Reply

    We usually travel in the summer season, so we take shorts and tops, shirts and blouses made with cotton, they are easy to wash and dry and I also take something nice to wear when we go out, like a black skirt and a nice silk blouse and high heels only one pair is enough, my husband takes a nice pair of pants and bussines shirt and casual shoes and like that we feel dress when we have to go out. Two pairs of swimming wear and plenty of sandals, face moisturizer and lipsticks nail polisher and I'm always all right.

    • Megan Eileen McDonough July 20, 2012  10:28 am Reply

      That's a really great list Anne! Traveling in summer is perfect because it saves you room in your suitcase for a few extra things you would have otherwise left behind.
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  7. Annie@GreenGlobalTravel October 9, 2013  6:53 am Reply

    The whole paragraph about Natural Glow - Less is More is so true, especially the happiness reflecting :-) well written!


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