"Travel light, especially light of mind."
As you begin preparing for your international journey, set your intention for lightness, ease and comfort. Nothing will make a train ride or a long walk looking for a hostel or homestay more miserable than being weighed down by unnecessary luggage, especially at the beginning of your trip. Start strategizing and packing early so you will feel fully prepared, light and comfortable from the moment you arrive at the airport. By harmonizing the many preparations for your trip, you develop a flow for the remainder of your travel. It all begins the moment you pick your destination.
Regardless of whether you are traveling to Europe, Asia or the Tropics, when deciding how and what to pack, it is first important to identify the strategy for your trip. As you ask yourself the following questions, imagine yourself carrying the luggage you intend to bring and decide whether it’s appropriate:
Before Packing, Consider These Questions
- Is this a backpacking trip or will you be carrying full luggage? Ideally, how many pieces will you bring including your carry on?
- How long will you be gone? Will you be able to do laundry on the road?
- Will you be staying in one place or traveling around?
- What mode of transportation will you be relying on and are there luggage restrictions?
- Are you traveling to a destination where everyday commodities like toothpaste and batteries will be easily available?
- Are you traveling solo or can you and your travel partner pack certain items to share instead of doubling up?
Once you have an idea about your trip strategy and know what your ideal luggage situation looks like, you can start to pack.
How to Pack Your Clothing
- Determine what luggage you want to take. Lay it on the floor in your bedroom or closet and for a week or two, start tossing everything you think you want to take into it. This makes the process creative and fun and decreases the likelihood that you’ll forget something. A couple of days before your trip, start going through what you've assembled and take out items you know you won’t wear (if you haven’t worn it in the last month, you probably won’t wear it on the road either). Opt for neutral colors and eliminate things that will only be worn once or twice and can’t be combined into other outfits. Carefully examine the versatility of each item.
- When it comes to shoes, pack 2-3 pair. You’ll need at least one sturdy pair for walking and hiking and a pair of sandals that can be worn to the beach, in a community shower and to dinner with a nice dress. Pack one other versatile pair for day to day activities. Practical shoes are one of the toughest things to buy on the road making them one of the most important and strategic considerations for your trip.
- Pack lots of layers. You can often avoid bringing a heavy coat by packing versatile items for layering. Tank tops, long sleeved shirts, a hoodie, wool sweater, lightweight jacket and a middle-weight scarf will go a very long way.
- Only pack one or two pairs of jeans. Jeans are heavy and bulky and can be worn several times before being washed.
- No matter where you’re headed, pack a lightweight rain coat, a swim suit and one yoga/workout/hiking outfit. Keep in mind that yoga pants can double as leggings under dresses or long shirts for going out. Black ones are the most versatile.
How to Pack Your Toiletries
- Will you have access to hotel toiletries? If so, don’t pack them and, if you do, always use travel-size containers. There is rarely a reason to pack heavy, full size bottles. Choose a consistent line of travel-size toiletry containers (my favorites are GoToob) and plan to refill them when and where you can on the road. Consolidate whatever products you can, for instance tinted moisturizer with SPF instead of foundation and lotion, a combination shampoo/conditioner and a body wash that doubles as shaving cream.
- Before you begin packing, start to notice what you use on a daily basis and keep those items in a basket in your bathroom. When you’re ready to pack, those are the items that should come with you. Don’t go looking for other, unnecessary stuff to bring.
- Remember, if there is any chance it will spill, it WILL spill. Don’t pack things like oils or perfume, unless they are very small and can do very little damage. Plan for the worst case spillage scenario and spill proof everything by using giant Ziploc baggies and completely separating liquid items from your clothing.
How to Pack Your Carry-On
Get familiar with the strict carry-on regulations in the United States and you'll be prepared to board in other countries. Your carry-on bag should be lightweight and packed very strategically so that each item is easy to access. Make sure you have the following items in your carry-on when traveling internationally:
- In your passport wallet should be your passport, round trip itinerary documents, credit card, daily allowance of cash, hotel/airline rewards cards and vaccination record card.
- In a separate compartment or a different bag, you should carry your additional cash, a copy of your passport, additional photo ID and credit or debit card. Never keep all of your cash or important documents in the same place.
- Always be prepared with an overnight kit for long flights, unexpected delays or cancellations and instances of lost luggage. This kit should include a toothbrush, toothpaste, face wipes, lotion, tissues, prescription medication, contacts, contact case & solution, glasses, warm layer and always a change of clothes.
- Other items to keep in your carry-on include a small laptop or netbook, chargers, one book, small journal, baggie of pens & pencils, camera, valuables, healthy snacks, empty disposable bottle of water for refilling and disposing of when it becomes a nuisance or you accidentally leave it behind (pack the sustainable bottle in your pack or luggage for use on your trip).
- Pack as lightly as possible. Picture yourself on the most difficult parts of your journey and then imagine yourself carrying the luggage and weight you are planning to pack. Does it seem exhausting just thinking about it? Pack lighter.
- Wear your bulkiest shoes and clothing on the plane whenever possible. Layer up to alleviate the weight of your pack.
- Leave space in your luggage for items you wish to purchase along the way or bring a foldable, expanding bag that can be filled up with purchases and checked as an additional luggage item on your return.
- Make notes along the way of things you wish you'd brought and things you wish you'd left behind so you’ll have a better idea of what to pack for your next trip.
- Consider a list of items you could potentially jettison along the way to make room for purchases or drop some weight.
- Pack things you use often (like hair-ties and chapstick) in a place that is easy to access, like in an outside pocket of your pack or carry-on.
- Be consistent with where things get placed in your luggage so you can easily keep track of whether or not you have everything as you pack, unpack and repack along the way.
- Pack a handful of large Ziploc baggies. They can be used from anything to postcards and paper you don't want getting wet to wet clothing and replacement toiletry bags when the inevitable spillage occurs.
- Consider investing in a lightweight, travel yoga mat that can be strapped onto the side of your pack, folded or rolled at the bottom of your suitcase. I strongly recommend the Manduka eko Superlight Travel Mat.
- Save room for necessary electronics. Items I never travel without are my camera, netbook, chargers, an iPod dock, book light and my multi-country power adapter.
- If you are traveling with a friend or partner, discuss what items can be shared instead of doubling up on bulky things like computers, hairdryers, etc.
- Don't bring anything you would be devastated to lose. If you absolutely can’t leave home without it, make sure it fits in your carry-on and never leave it in the hotel room unattended.
- Think about what kinds of experiences you are looking to have and pack for those. Be sure to leave room for spontaneity!
- Check out our favorite yoga travel bag for shorter, or yoga-centric adventures.
Kristin Daemon is a yoga teacher, freelance writer and owner of Seaside Yoga, the first yoga studio in the small town of Seaside, Oregon on the rugged, Pacific Northwest coast. You can find and friend her on Facebook or check out and follow her blog, kristindaemon.com.