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Saturday, December 30, 2023

2024 Travel Resolutions

Can you believe it's already 2 days to the new year? Crazy! Everything feels like it went by so fast. I both don't remember what was this year and last, and also feel like I did a ton of stuff this year (which I did). This December has been a whirlwind of activity, while we tried to get to a lot of the special holiday markets, pop-ups, and other activities we usually miss. It's been awesome.

A look back at 2023 and what's to come in travel for me in 2024, including my resolutions for the New Year.

We did 5 holiday markets, a few pop-ups, checked out the winter ice rink they set up downtown that will run through January (we didn't skate), stopped to enjoy the indoor snow at the mall, got our photo taken with TWO Santas, we drove through a big light display, saw this year's gingerbread castle at a local hotel, set-up, attended, and took down Yule Ball, and supported a ton of local artists during this. The month isn't over yet. We had a friend in town and visited two dining spots that we rarely get to, and today we're headed to Peacock Lane, Portland's Christmas street. 

Gingerbread Castle at the Benson Hotel

So, let's get on to 2024 then: On the first, we'll be meeting Krampus. A little late, but that's okay. He'll be at a home museum of an artist I really enjoy, where we'll be taking a tour. On the seventh, we'll be doing brunch and having our annual White Elephant with friends. 

As for the rest of the year, a lot of it is kind of up in the air, which is odd for us. We had planned to go to The Big Island next month, but the stars did not align and there didn't appear to be any good flight deals at all this year like last year. Other factors also came into play. It's okay though, we will get there eventually. 

In March, the Travel Goods Show is returning to Vegas. I don't know what happened to Chicago, but it doesn't appear on their website anywhere. I won't complain, because Las Vegas is much easier and cheaper for me to get to. I'll hit that up, see some family and friends, eat a bunch of delicious food, and, hopefully, come home with a bunch of great stuff to tell you about.

In July, LeakyCon is coming back to Portland, so the first weekend we'll be there. Later that month, we're heading to Sacramento for a short week to do some sightseeing and go to a family reunion. This'll be the first time we've actually spent any significant time in the city. 

We just decided that we'll be hitting up Nashville in September. It'll be the first time I've been back in decades, so it's basically like my first time visiting. It seems like it'll still be summer weather, which is different than where we usually travel at the same time. 

We might try to get back to British Columbia sometime in there, but that'll be something we decide later. 

We're going to try to get back to Destination Date Nights if we can. We tried to bring back Destination Potlucks, but they weren't that popular, so we'll get back to doing them alone. 

As always, I'm hoping to do some new things, eat new foods, meet new people, and just generally enjoy life, whether that's at home or on my travels. Those are my resolutions for 2024 and beyond, because they bring me the most joy and they are important for me to accomplish. 

Do you have resolutions for the coming year? Whether or not they're travel-related, tell me in the comments. 

Wednesday, December 27, 2023

Planning Your 2024 National Parks Visits

A lot of people love to visit National Parks when they travel, and I know some people who specifically travel for National Parks. If you're one or both of these types of people, then I've got free admission days, the best parks for winter, and more.

A lot of people love to visit National Parks when they travel. If that's you, here are all the things you need to know to plan your trip with the NPS.

I'll readily admit that I'm not an outdoorsy person. I don't like hiking or enjoy wandering around in the woods, even for a cool view from the top. I like outdoors when I'm in the city and sightseeing and can pop into a coffee shop or café and use an indoor bathroom. I appreciate that others are different, so I've pulled together some things for you:

Free* National Parks Days for 2024:

  • January 15: Martin Luther King Jr. Day
  • April 20: First day of National Park Week
  • June 19: Juneteenth National Independence Day
  • August 4: Anniversary of the Great American Outdoors Act
  • September 23: National Public Lands Day
  • November 11: Veterans Day
*Fee-free days include entrance, commercial tour, and transportation entrance fees. Reservations, camping, tours, concessions and fees collected by third parties are not included.

Not sure what National Park you should go to? Matador has curated a list for you based on what kind of traveler you are. For instance, as an animal lover, I should head to the Everglades. Unfortunately, I'm not traveling to Florida until they become more friendly for all travelers, but I have seen some great wildlife while I have visited in the past.

Looking to get away soon? There are parks that are at their best during the winter, so visiting one of those can give you a magical cold weather escape. Pack warm layers and a fully charged camera for the stunning views. 

Do you love hiking? If so and you're hoping to get in some good trails this year, then you'll want to check out these 3 trails that have been newly added to the National Park system. They have been added to the scenic trails already on the list that cover thousands of miles. So, if you're just a person who likes to see the scenery from the car as you're driving through, or you like hiking long distances, or a combination of both, check out the Ice Age, New England, and North Country Trails.

National Parks aren't all hiking and paddle boarding and rock climbing. Some have really unusual activities, like a roller rink. These are things I would travel to National Parks for. If you would, too, here are 10 unusual things to do/see in parks.

I travel for food, and if you do, too, Food Network has pulled together some of the best restaurants in/near National Parks that you must eat at. If you don't want to spend your whole trip eating food you brought in a cooler from home, this is a must-read list. 

There are a lot of parks that are just always super popular. While you may still want to visit them at some point, this year maybe you'd rather visit ones that are a little under the radar. Here are 11 alternative parks to check out instead.

If you have a lot of time on your hands and want to spend 25 days traveling, Amtrak has a train journey that takes you on 4 different trains and 12 National Parks. It includes tours and free time, so you can explore each park as much as you'd like. A shorter journey will take you on a 14-day trip to 5 different parks

As much as I love the train, I'm not sure I'd want to spend weeks on one. If you agree, then maybe try one of these National Parks train rides instead, where you'll only go tens of miles instead of hundreds and range from 2 hours to 2 days. 

Also, did you know a train could be a National Park? Through the Trails & Rails program with the National Park Service and Amtrak, those scenic rail journeys are actually putting you on a moving National Park with a park ranger who will give you a guided tour of your trip. Pretty cool, right?

Some National Parks have "attractions" that are so popular, you can't just get in to see them. You have to enter a lottery to win the chance to see them in person. Know before you go with this list of these places that require a special tour.

Traveling with your pup? Lots of National Parks are dog-friendly. Here are the top 10:

1. Arcadia National Park (Maine)
2. Shenandoah National Park (Virginia)
3. Yosemite National Park (California)
4. Cuyahoga Valley National Park (Ohio)
5. Zion National Park (Utah)
6. Crater Lake National Park (Oregon)
7. Olympic National Park (Washington)
8. Hot Springs National Park (Arkansas)
9. Congaree National Park (South Carolina)
10. Mojave National Preserve (California)

The United States isn't the only place that has National Parks. They can be found worldwide. If you're taking a trip outside the country, here are the top 20 National Parks and the best time of year to visit each one.

If you will be traveling to the parks, then make sure you are a conscientious traveler who enjoys and respects the land you're visiting. Here are 5 things not to do in the parks, which seem like common sense, but people still do them, so clearly not. Here are also 10 rules you must follow if you're there to view the wildlife.

I hope this helps you get outside and do all the outdoorsy stuff you love to do. Let me know in the comments what your favorite National Park so far has been or which you hope to get to at some point...

Saturday, December 23, 2023

Happy Holidays!

I know it's only the 23rd, but I'm taking some time for myself and family over the holidays. I hope you all have your gifts taken care of, or you had a great Hanukkah, or you just have a wonderful weekend if you don't celebrate. 

I'll be back after Christmas to bring you more travel tips, but for now, here are some quick, last-minute tips for traveling at this time.

I'll be back after Christmas to bring you more travel tips, but for now, here are some quick, last-minute tips for traveling at this time:

  • Wear a mask on the plane and probably in the airport. It's crowded out there and half the people I know are sick with something. Being sick while traveling is the absolute worst. Wash your hands frequently and bring hand sanitizer, too.
  • Get to the airport early: 3 hours early, if you can. You don't want to get bumped because you got stuck in traffic or the security line is 3 miles long or any number of other things.
  • Pack snacks! 
  • If you're checking a bag (which I do not recommend, especially during this time of year), make sure any meds you need are in your carry-on.
  • Don't wrap your gifts if they're in your carry-on.
  • Pack your patience! This is the busiest time to fly and it's not going to be pretty. There will be delays. There will be cancellations and rebookings. They might be your flights. Be prepared. Everyone's doing their best and it's not the flight crew or the desk attendant's fault. Please don't take it out on them.
  • Did your mom make enough food for 3 households and is now trying to make you bring leftovers home? Here's how you can take them on the plane.

While you're waiting at the airport for 17 hours, get a jump start on your next big trip and learn a new language with Babbel. It's easy and fun and you can buy a lifetime subscription, so you can be fluent in all the languages you want for all the trips you plan to take. Take 60% off now until January 15th.

If you're driving, please be safe. With over 115 million people expected to travel, and almost 90% by car, it's going to be crazy out there. For more driving tips, AAA has you covered.

I hope the end of this year is a welcome sight to those of you who had a hard year, and I hope 2024 is much more gentle on everyone. (If you must spend this time with problematic or unkind family, here are some ways to help you power through.) If you want to see more of my last-minute holiday activities, you can follow me on Instagram

Disclaimer: this post contains affiliate links. Should you make a purchase through them, I may be financially compensated. This is free to you and helps me continue to run this blog, so thanks in advance.

Wednesday, December 20, 2023

My Magical December

December is my birth month and we've been doing a lot of magical things during that time. As you know by now, I'm a huge Potterhead. I follow the many Harry Potter events that travel. Years ago we went up to Seattle to see the Harry Potter Exhibition, because that was a close as it was coming to us in Portland. Last year, Yule Ball fell on my birthday. This year, I was lucky enough to have a birthday where I didn't have to work an event.

December is my birth month and we've been doing a lot of magical things during that time.  Here's what my last month has looked like.
Yule Ball Butterbeers!

Here's how magical my last month has been:

Harry Potter: Magic At Play

When I saw the Magic At Play coming to Seattle, I told Eric that's what I wanted for my birthday and he got us in the second day of the exhibit. For those of you not in the know, Magic At Play brings all the cool parts of Harry Potter to life through interactive sets and games. You enter through Privet Drive, which has a structure much like they have at a fast food play area. It's probably meant specifically for children, but that didn't stop us. We crawled in through the Dursley's fireplace, zig zagged up and across and down a fun slide. It's probably the most fun anyone ever had at Number 4. 

Inside, you visit Platform 9 3/4, "ride" the boat across the Black Lake to Hogwarts, enter the Great Hall, get sorted, learn spells, do potions, become a moving portrait, play Quidditch, ride a broom, cast a Patronus, visit The Burrow, walk through the Forbidden Forest, and enter the Triwizard maze. There are a lot of photo ops and it's pretty quick, since it's geared toward little people (yet there were a ton of adults there). We spent a little less than 2 hours walking through and then browsing their gift shop and then we went to get lunch and drove the 3 hours home. It was a great day.

Sweet Honeydukes Birthday

Since I come up with a new theme for every Harry Potter birthday party in July, and it takes me a good chunk of time to decorate the house, I transition it all through Halloween and Christmas. My birthday falls inside that time, so I give it a magical twist. This year we did a Honeydukes party, where I asked people to dress as something sweet. One came as a Pepper Imp, one a Chocolate Frog, another was Dots. It was a fun theme and we did a candy bracket, where I picked 16 of the best-selling candies in America and had people fill out a bracket to decide who they picked for #1, then I had people vote until we had a final winner. Spoiler: Reeses peanut butter cups are never going to lose. The person who had the most correct on their own bracket won a prize.

And what's a party without food and treats? Because it was a Honeydukes theme, I had to serve sweets, but I also did mini chicken and leek pies, veggie pies, toad in a hole, and onion tarts. Desserts consisted of Chocolate Frogs, Ice Mice, gingerbread cakes with peppermint icing, cranberry chocolate Christmas cakes, and mince pies, plus an assortment of other goodies, like candy canes, Hershey kisses, marshmallow gummies, shortbread stars, blue raspberry gumballs. As always, we had people guess how many Bertie Botts jelly beans were in a container, and the winner of that got to choose a mystery prize or the container. 

I dressed the tree in "gingerbread" holly leaves, cookies, macarons, peppermints, and topped it with a giant Bertie Botts Every Flavour Bean box with cascading beans coming out of it, which I made myself with foam clay, then painted, and attached to wire lights, so they would look like they were coming out of the open box. Lockhart's "office" had cotton candy garland, and I also did a garland with Honeydukes candy boxes, and another with generic candy twists. 

Yule Ball

December isn't over until Yule Ball has popped off. This is the biggest fundraiser of PDXpelliarmus (the Portland chapter of Fandom Forward) and is always a ton of fun and a ton of work. We raise money for charity through ticket sales and raffle sales. This year, we completely ran out of tickets, because people were spending $40-80 to have a chance to win some amazing prizes, but also help our chosen charity, Friendly House, which helps support the elderly LGBTQ+ community in Portland. 

I helped set up in the morning, then went home, changed and then we both went back to run the raffle table while the feast was happening, dance a lot, made some new friends, took a lot of pictures, hung around to help tear everything down and pack it up, and then we hung out and had wine and cheese to decompress and talk about our feelings, which were almost entirely positive. So glad it's over, but also can't wait for next year.

Bonus: Sippin' On Sixth with Santa

Not Harry Potter magical, but Christmas magical. On my actual birthday, we had brunch at a Christmas pop-up called Sippin' Santa. It's a tiki pop-up restaurant that happens across the country where you can indulge in holiday-themed tiki drinks and even meet Santa. The food was fine, the drinks were great, the vibe was perfect, and we got our picture taken with tiki Santa and Mrs. Claus. I also went home with the most perfect Santa tiki mug. If you're looking to indulge in some tiki vibes during the coldest and rainiest/snowiest, part of the year, check out if there's one near you next year. They have special events throughout the month, like Ugly Sweater Party. I loved it.

I hope your December is also magical. What magical things have you been filling your life with right now?

Saturday, December 16, 2023

10 of My Favorite Travel Items

Now that everyone is traveling again, now's the time to stock your travel bag or help others stock theirs. I travel mostly the same way every time I go anywhere, no matter where I go. I have perfected my packing list and having a packing plan that works for me and makes life so much easier. Part of my plan is taking the same things every trip, because it's familiar and it works. Here are the things I'm always packing, wherever I go.

Perfect your packing list, or help those on your holiday list, with these 10 helpful travel items.

Ziploc bags

You  never know when you'll need to separate something from something else, but also when you want to take a bag of cookies with you or keep your wet bathing suit from getting your rental car seats soggy or have an emergency diaper situation. I bring a handful of zipper bags with me anywhere I go. I've used them for snacks, for dirty clothes, for leftovers and for receipts and brochures. They are multipurpose and take up almost no room in your bag. 

I have started replacing single-use bags with silicone Stasher bags. They are heavy-duty and can be used for everything, plus they're freezer-, boil-, oven-, and dishwasher-safe. They're great for keeping liquids in, since a spill inside your bag would be nearly impossible with them.

Back-up bag

Usually when you go on a trip, you buy stuff. That means you may not have room to pack it on your way home. Well, I try not to overpack my carry-on, but it's still just a carry-on. Because of that, I bring along a back-up bag to use for all my overage. I have this one and this one and they are both awesome. Just depends on how much you are willing to spend, but also how much you're restricting yourself on souvenirs when you travel. Sometimes I know I will be buying gifts, so I bring a bigger bag than normal.

Mesh pop-up hamper (laundry detergent)

Whether or not I'm on a long trip, I don't like living out of my suitcase and I don't like mixing my clean and dirty clothes. I have a great pop-up hamper that also works as a laundry bag that I put in the corner of my room to throw all my dirties. Then, before I go home, I can schlep it to the laundry room (or just drag it to the washing machine). I always have a small bag of dry detergent and a stash of quarters, so I'm ready for whatever the situation calls for. I have this one, which has really sturdy handles and four pockets, so you can even take along a book or game to pass the time. It's served me well for at least a decade so far.

Reusable grocery bag

I am a grocery shopper. I don't go out for every meal if I can help it. I generally show up at my destination and take a trip to the store on the first day to shop for breakfast foods, because that's the easiest meal to make and the least exciting to me to eat out. If you want to skip the back-up bag above, you can definitely use your grocery bag to bring back items from you trip. You can also use it as a laundry bag if you don't have that much. I've used it for both of these things before, since they usually have sturdy handles and nice flat bottoms. 

I have bags similar to these, and they're great, because they pack down very small, so you can keep them in your pocket or bag and then use them to carry any purchases your have, or your coat (like we've used them for when the weather is finicky). 

Packable rain jacket

One time I didn't pack my rain jacket and it was a mistake. I've since learned that I should never leave it at home, even if I'm going to Vegas or Orlando. In fact, when it rains in places where it rarely rains, it often pours harder than you're used to, which sucks hard. I know lots of people like to bring umbrellas, but I don't, because a rain jacket is multipurpose. It doesn't take up as much room as an umbrella, but you can pack it down into your day bag and also use it if you happen to get chilly. You never know when a cold snap will present itself, even when it comes in the form of really insistent air conditioning. This is also why I always bring a scarf or wrap with me on the plane.


The sun can really wreak havoc on your eyes. Even when it's not super sunny, you need protection from its rays. While you probably don't forget the sunscreen, make sure you don't leave your sunglasses at home, because you don't want to have to pay 3 times as much as usual by purchasing them at your destination, or looking squinty in all your pics.


Do you get hangry? I know I do! I always have snacks in my bag, because sometimes things don't go as planned and you aren't always in a place where you can get into a restaurant to sate your hunger. Toss a couple of granola bars or a piece of fruit or a bag of trail mix into your bag, just in case. You'll be happy if you have need it and sad if you do and didn't pack it. I also suggest a reusable water bottle, which I also count as a snack. We use this one.

Compression socks

Walking is hard on your feet, not to mention your ankles and legs. Most of us walk a lot more on vacation than we do at home, which can make our ankles swell and really hurt us at the end of each day. I pack a really good pair of compression socks in my bag that I can either wear under pants during the day or put on the second I get back to the room. I've been known to sleep in them when I've had sad, swollen ankles, and they help immensely. I swear by these Zensah socks.


I don't always bring my laptop, and when I do, I only use it in my room. I always bring along my iPad Mini though, because I can read on it, take notes, listen to music and podcasts, play games and even check and answer emails. It's perfect for finding directions for your sightseeing before you leave the hotel and great for watching Netflix when there's nothing good on TV and you need to just unwind.

Back-up battery

Nothing sucks worse than when your phone battery dies as you're trying to call the hotel or get an Uber or take a picture of something awesome. You need a back-up battery. I have this one that will recharge my phone 2 1/2 times before it needs to be recharged. We actually have two, and we each carry one. This way Eric can play games on his phone all day and I can take all the pics I want and text with my mom. Because I can use any cord with this one, I can also use it to charge my camera or share with someone else to charge both our devices at once.

There you have it. The 10 things I don't go on vacation without. I keep a lot of these things in my carry-on all the time, so my bag is halfway packed with all the things I know I'll always need. 

What do you never leave home without on your trips?

Disclaimer: this post contains affiliate links and I will be compensated monetarily should you make any purchases through these links. I thank you in advance if you do.

Wednesday, December 13, 2023

Winter Activities to Escape the Cold

Winter is right around the corner and some places have gotten colder already, which can make doing activities outside not that fun. We've been trying out a lot of things over the last couple of months to stay warm, but also have a good time. 

Here are some things you might like when you travel this time of year or to just do at home when it's cold or rainy or snowing out.

Here are some things you might like when you travel this time of year or to just do at home when it's cold or rainy or snowing out and you just want to be warm, but also out of the house/hotel:

Go to all the winter markets 

I hit up a bunch of markets lately, because I'm still looking for some gifts and like fun foods and seeing unique handmade stuff of all variety. Here are some we've done:

ScanFair - They bring the magic of a European Christmas market to us here. Any vendor who makes and/or sells Scandinavian goods in Oregon and Washington come to help folks with their holiday shopping lists and decorate their home.

Market for the Strange - a cool alternative market where you can get your picture taken with The Grinch and/or Krampus and find gifts for the goths or other unusual people in your life. 

Portland Night Market - Once a month, a ton of local artists descend on a big warehouse in town and sell their amazing wares: homemade jewelry, jams, clothing, art, and more. Plus you'll find a bunch of food vendors outside to fuel your shopping venture.

Oddities and Curiosities Expo - a traveling expo for those that like things a bit darker, like skulls, bones, taxidermy, ghosts, monsters, and more. We go every year and find all new local artist to follow.

Geek the Halls - a fun market full of fandom gifts, from engraved cutting boards to purses to table lamps. I've bought so much from this market over the years for gifts.

Wytch Daye - Yet another alternative market, for the witchy friends you have on your list. 

Nights at the museum

We have a science museum that hosts an After Dark event once a month. They often serve alcohol and are for adults. You can enjoy the museum exhibits, eat food, browse vendors, and even see the special exhibits without all the usual crowds (I totally go for that). 

Interactive Art Attractions/Exhibits

I love when I can enjoy art in a completely different way. We just got a new venue in Portland, called Hopscotch. The only other one is in Austin, but it lets you explore art through murals, light installations, lasers and more. 

Last year we spent several hours at the Van Gogh traveling exhibit. I really hope they do this with other artists, because it makes things so much more interesting and also more accessible to people who can't travel to see much of these art pieces.

If you live in a place where there is a Meow Wolf destination, that can be half a day. 

We also have a local artist, Mike Bennett, that does fun walk-through exhibits with a storyline. He started doing large exhibits in his front yard during the pandemic and finally moved into a permanent space that changes throughout the year. Me meet up with friends and do breakfast beforehand, so it's a pretty good outing.

Holiday Pop-Ups

This time of year sees a lot of pop-ups - bars, shops, restaurants, you name it - and it's a chance to get out and experience something different in a space you may already visit frequently. I used my birthday as an opportunity to check out Sippin' On Sixth, which is a tiki pop-up through the end of the year that has tiki drinks, brunch, lunch, dinner, and specialty events. We hit up brunch, when they were doing a Tiki Santa meet. The restaurant was decked out in luau stuffs, but with a Santa theme, and I went home with a fantastic Santa tiki mug. 

Drive-thru holiday lights

The pandemic really brought back seeing things from your car, so check out what's local to you. Our zoo has drive-thru nights now, there are neighborhoods that shut down the streets except for cars admiring their lights, there are raceways that have holiday light events. Bring some cocoa or coffee, crank up the holiday tunes and heater, and enjoy the lights from inside your cozy space. For us it's Portland International Speedway, Zoo Lights at Oregon Zoo, Peacock Lane (above), and Lightopia  

See a show

There are always tons of shows happening around the holidays, so now's the time to get to one or two, whether they're Broadway, off-off-off Broadway, a local band, a ballet, or even a comedy show. You can't beat having a night on the town, even if it's really cheap and really close to your house.

If you're visiting family over the holidays, these can all give you a break from being cooped up inside together, do some bonding activities, or to get away from them altogether for a little bit. 

What are your favorite indoor activities to do when it's cold outside, either at home or on vacation?

Wednesday, December 6, 2023

Where to Go for Holiday Cheer

Traveling during the holidays is tradition for a lot of people. We tend to stay close to home during November and December, but we are lucky to have our family in town. People often plan to travel for the holidays all year long, for different reasons and occasions. Looking for holiday cheer? Here are the states with the most and least. 

Looking for holiday cheer? Here are the states with the most and least.
infographic credit
Last year, New Hampshire ranked #1 for the second year in a row as most spirited, and Wisconsin moved from #16 to #2. For some reason, Oregon ranked 49th, only beating out Alabama and DC. Oddly, we have so many holiday markets and events, so I have no idea why we rank so low, but I guess what matters is how you feel on your own. Maybe we don't Google enough holiday stuff or stream enough Christmas music or tweet about the season. 

Whatever the case, I'm glad that more people have been influenced to spend more time with family because of the pandemic. Family can be important, if you enjoy them, and can do wonders for your mental health and happiness. If yours don't, I hope you have a friend group that is family for you and have celebrations surrounded by the ones you love.

Or maybe you just want to travel to a state that's more Christmassy. In that case, here are 20 cities for you to check out. And here are 30 more for taking a spirited winter getaway

Do you agree with your state's ranking? Where will you be spending your holiday season?

Saturday, December 2, 2023

6 Packing Light Tips for Winter Trips

Packing even for a beach trip in just a carry-on can be a little tricky if you aren’t used to packing light. Carry-on travel has become more and more popular as baggage fees have become the norm among most airlines. 

Carry-on packing can be difficult at first, but with some practice you can become a pro and save baggage fees. Here's how:

Not only does packing light save money, but it also saves time, because travelers don’t have to stand around the baggage carousel waiting for their luggage to (hopefully) make it off the plane. Having minimal baggage can save your back, too. Not sure where to start when planning your winter travel bag? Here are some tips to keep your carry-on light, but still have a large wardrobe.

fall travel tops

Mix and Match

When you carry fewer items, you need all your clothing to work together. Throw out the idea of packing a whole outfit for each day and instead look to mix and match everything you bring. Pick a color palette and stick with it, or make sure either all your tops or all your bottoms are a neutral color. If all your tops go with all your bottoms, you’ll find your choices are more than expected.

Scale Down

The only one who will know that you’ve worn the same clothing separates more than once on vacation is you (and your travel companions). It’s unlikely you will see the same people more than once on a trip, and if you do, they probably won’t notice that your outfit is similar to what they saw you in before. The magic numbers for what to bring: Five tops and three bottoms. These, coupled with the outfit you’ve traveled in, net you over three weeks of unique outfit combinations.

Layer, Layer, Layer

Just because it’s cold today, doesn’t mean it will be tomorrow. Plan for days that can vary in temperature by packing layers. You might have an unseasonably warm day in the middle of winter or an unexpected cold snap in fall. Be prepared. Pack a few sweaters, a scarf and a mix of tanks and tees. When it’s warmer out, you can opt for a t-shirt. When it’s really cold, you can add two or more layers together to keep chill out. If you’ve brought a dress, toss a pair of tights into your bag to protect your legs. Don’t forget your favorite jacket, which you should leave out of your carry-on to save space for other necessities. It can double as a pillow on the plane or can be stashed under the seat in front of you.

Choose Two

Shoes are the biggest challenge of everyone’s travel bag, it seems. A pair of flip flops is a staple to any carry-on, as they take up little room and are perfect for quick jaunts to the lobby or to the hotel pool. Other than those, two pair of shoes is all you need. When your destination is projected to be cool, a pair of comfortable boots and another pair of walking shoes are going to be your best bet. Don’t bring anything you haven’t worn before or that you can’t walk in for long periods of time comfortably.

Wear your walking shoes on the plane and leave your dress up shoes at home. You’re not going to want to wear high heels after a day of sightseeing. If you really want to wear a pair of nice shoes out, look for a fun pair of ballet flats or wedge booties that will go with other outfits as well.


If you feel that what you’ve brought is kind of drab and not really exciting for a night out, then accessories will elevate those plain Jane items. A scarf, a belt and some statement jewelry can pack small and make a big impact. Jazz up your little black dress or a simple tank with a funky necklace. Even if you’re specifically planning to go to an upscale restaurant or clubbing, you probably won’t feel like leaving your fancier clothes at home was a bad idea. If you aren’t going to wear something two or more times, it is just taking up valuable real estate in your carry-on.

Do Laundry

There’s no way around it. If you pack light and you’re gone for more than a week, you’re going to have to do laundry. Schedule some downtime (which you should do anyway) to clean your clothes. It doesn’t sound fun, but you can take the time to hit the pool, watch a show or catch a nap. Just need to freshen up a piece? Spray some vodka on it. It deodorizes, and since it doesn’t have its own smell, you won’t reek of booze.

Carry-on packing can be difficult at first, but with some practice you can become a pro and save baggage fees. With fewer bags to deal with, you’ll feel freer as you waltz off the plane and get right onto your vacation while everyone else is still waiting for their suitcases. 
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