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(Tips for Packing Light) Pack it up, Pack it in

. . . Let me begin.

Four months.  One checked suitcase.  One carry-on.  Three Seasons.  Lots of vocal naysayers.
One determined traveler.

I don’t need to be told I can do something, but it definitely irks me when I’m told I can’t.  When working on my Master’s, I set a ridiculous deadline for myself (in hindsight) but, wouldn’t you know, I did it!  I was the first to finish in my cohort and, it turned out, one of the fastest to ever complete the program.  With NO revisions to my thesis after defense!  My supervisor later told me she hadn’t thought it would be possible, but hadn’t wanted to deflate me by telling me.  But she never felt the need to be my cheerleader, either.  She just pushed me along, never wasting time sugar coating things.  She understood me.

Everyone keeps telling me to splurge on the $100 (each way) second checked suitcase fee, because I won’t be able to fit what I need into one.  But a second suitcase, aside from being highway robbery, also means major hassle getting to and from the airport in teeny little European cars.  Plus, I already stress about losing my suitcase, misreading the allowed dimensions, having something stolen from it by security staff (it happened!).  I don’t need to double that stress!  So I am determined to keep it to one checked suitcase.

I’ve been searching for some packing tips to help me pack the most suitable wardrobe to carry me from the lingering summer weather to winter.

I found great wardrobe advice (neutral, versatile and layered) from Travelista.  Then I spotted a slightly funkier version, with a splash of colour thrown in, by a Pair and a Spare (I shall be skipping the stilettos & hot pink bikini though!):

Although it was a summer vacation, Julie from Peanut Butter Fingers shared some photos from a trip to demonstrate how light layering changed the look of basic pieces to create more outfits.  I think it’d be easier if I only needed to pack summery pieces, but I still love her tips and the neutral palette of her wardrobe.

The Best Packing Advice:

The advice is pretty consistent: neutrals + light layers + tiny splash of colour + accessories to change the look seems to be the most common theme.  Although, I’d caution that too many accessories can add weight to an already stuffed bag.  A few scarves, in different weights, will add some colour to my limited wardrobe but will be more practical in changing seasons than heavy necklaces.

I make my own packing lists when I travel, but I found a nifty print + check template that has been helpful for reminding me to add things to my own list of non-clothing items.

Once I figure out what exactly to pack, the question remains: how to pack?  I’m a folder – a maximize-space-by-layering-folder.  But there is an intense rolling vs. folding debate on travel websites.  One flight attendant advocates rolling and showed photos of the dramatic difference between rolling and folding for getting everything to fit.  Are you a roller or folder?  So many say rolling works.  She did get all this into that little carry on . . .

Some friends have recommended packing cubes (I’d pick teal, naturally!).  I can see them being especially satisfying for packing an orderly suitcase, but I’m not sure if they save space.  But these traveling envelopes are great.  I use freebie make up cases from Lancome and Clinique to stash power cables, makeup, jewellery – I like keeping all of the little bits contained and organized, especially because the last time my suitcase was searched, they made a mess of everything and I lost some smaller items in the shuffle.  I’m going to invest in a super lightweight suitcase – as big as I can get – so I’m not wasting weight.

A luggage strap is a must (ORB makes pretty, eye-catching ones that will help me easily spot my bag) and so is a small luggage scale, to make sure my bag isn’t too heavy on the return trip.  I need these like a hole in the head, but I am very tempted by this mint passport cover and matching luggage tagsSo cute.

Wish me luck!  And please share your own packing tips.



  1. ournextgreatadventure
    August 17, 2012 / 1:12 pm

    I'm normally a folder (as in everything folded carefully with a flip fold so it's the same size) but for my recent business trip (10 days, 1 roll aboard) I rolled my dresses and t-shirts – mainly the stuff that didn't wrinkle too easily. I was definitely to fit a few more outfits that way!

    • Tanya from Dans le Townhouse
      August 17, 2012 / 1:35 pm

      Interesting! Everyone who rolls seems to be a convert . . . I might have to give it whirl. I actually travel a lot but have never tried to roll my things. Too worried about wrinkles, I think.

    • Tanya from Dans le Townhouse
      August 17, 2012 / 1:34 pm

      Oh no, I apologize for inadvertently getting that song stuck in your head!

  2. Ashley
    August 17, 2012 / 1:36 pm

    When I go home for Christmas I'm a folder (or, more truthfully, a throw it in there in the least organized fashion possible becuase I'm packing the morning before I leave). But when I come back to Ontario after the holidays, I'm a roller!

    August 17, 2012 / 1:36 pm

    You can do it! I did it when I spent a year in France. My tip for people is to pick a neutral (blue or black really) and make sure everything goes with that. And remember all different shoes! Leather goes with everything. I'd recommend making sure included in your outfit is at least one outfit for much colder weather than you're expecting and one or two options for hotter weather. I once spent August in the south of France and had only really packed clothes for the hot weather I was expecting. It rained all month and I very rarely felt comfortable in my clothes.There's loads of tips in the comments of this article:

    • Tanya from Dans le Townhouse
      August 17, 2012 / 1:56 pm

      Knowing you packed for a whole year makes four months seem much more achievable. Excellent tip to pack a few outfits for extremely hot/cold weather. So often I've had nothing for that one random, weird weather day! And thanks for the link!

  4. Tiffany @ {Living Savvy}
    August 17, 2012 / 1:41 pm

    Great tips… and now that you say it, the song is in my head! That is ok… it will be great motivation for my work out later! Good luck with the packing!!

  5. Nicole
    August 17, 2012 / 1:59 pm

    In all honesty, I am a terrible packer. I either bring too much or not enough. I just don't travel enough to figure it out. You would think counting the days would help, but alas. I do fold, however, and have no checked a bag in ages. I always like Maggie Mason's packing light series ( She showcases what she wore and talks about it. Good luck with packing!

    • Tanya from Dans le Townhouse
      August 18, 2012 / 3:11 pm

      Thanks for the link! I love her photos – she's seems to down to earth and hilarious!!

  6. Vintage Market Place
    August 17, 2012 / 4:00 pm

    I learned years ago working for a Japanese company, the roll!It was a vintage clothing company and even to pack up orders the roll was preferred to get more in the boxes for shipping.My co-workers had to travel back and forth to Japan every few months and had to use only one case. It was definitely proven the way to go.I always use the roll now.Try packing both ways and you will see you will get way more in your case.Plus utilize your shoes to roll the lighter an little things into and stuff things in boots if your boots don't fold.You will do it, go get'em.Amy

    • Tanya from Dans le Townhouse
      August 18, 2012 / 3:11 pm

      Wow! It definitely sounds like you've had a ton of experience in the packing department!! Thanks for the tip!P.S. I'm jealous of your former coworker's extensive travel to Japan!!

  7. How2home
    August 17, 2012 / 4:09 pm

    Loving these packing tips! I remember when I was packing for my Asia during Jan-March, it was the hardest thing to do ever. We went to 3 different counties and all 3 counties had different climate; ranging from wet/muggy winter in Hong Kong to EXTREME coldness in China and BLAZING hot temperature in Thailand. To solve my problem, I brought a few of the basics (clothes/denims) and accessories and the rest I bought it during my stay in Asia. Show us more pics of what you will be packing!

    • Tanya from Dans le Townhouse
      August 18, 2012 / 3:12 pm

      WOW! That is tricky! But sounds like an amazing trip. I promise to share a full inventory of what I end up packing and plan to post a weekly review of what the heck I managed to wear!

  8. Carol@TheDesignPages
    August 17, 2012 / 4:57 pm

    I have no packing advice to offer but I will say that I am exactly the same when someone tells me I can't do something. Not jut that it makes me want to do it all the more but it irks me to hear people feel so free to offer such negativity without even thinking about it. Okay, enough of that. I wish you all the best in packing and I say if you discover you need something but forgot to pack it, go buy it. Bon voyage! When's the big day?

    • Tanya from Dans le Townhouse
      August 18, 2012 / 3:13 pm

      I definitely would have expected you to be a "go get 'em" kind of person! You come across and super positive and capable of anything. I leave Sept. 1st!!

  9. Dharma
    August 17, 2012 / 5:59 pm

    You go girl! No really….you go. I am in awe. Roll on with your bad self, seriously you can hang, steam in a shower or ion when you get there, no? Cheers to you sassy lady.

    • Tanya from Dans le Townhouse
      August 18, 2012 / 3:13 pm

      Haha! You leave the best comments 😉

  10. Dana@Mid2Mod
    August 17, 2012 / 7:18 pm

    Like you, when someone tells me I can't do something, that almost guarantees that I WILL. I have no doubt that you'll get everything you need in one suitcase.

  11. Michelle @ Sweetsuite10
    August 17, 2012 / 8:08 pm

    I will admit I go both ways 😉 Sometimes I fold, sometimes I roll. Rolling does allow you to fit som much more in though.Two tips from someone who pretty much only travels with carry on even for week-long trips (claiming baggage takes too long – especilaly at Pearson) Consider what you will be wearing on the plane – and count those clothes as part of your outfit pieces. I generally wear my running shoes as they are the bulkiest to pack. If you're bringing a sweatshirt or jacket wear it on the plane – then there's no near to pack it, and transatlantic flight are always cool so you can wear them inflight to keep warm.Also, if you're packing shoes stuff your socks and undies in the shoes – it's space that's wasted otherwise 🙂

    • Tanya from Dans le Townhouse
      August 18, 2012 / 3:14 pm

      Great tips! I just crammed a toque and other stuff to fit into my boots as per your suggestion!

  12. emilie
    August 18, 2012 / 6:49 pm

    Packing is one of my favourite pastimes (I do it so often, it really is a pastime!). I think you've got it right- pack versatile clothes.This trip sounds like such a wonderful opportunity, enjoy!

  13. Anonymous
    August 18, 2012 / 6:58 pm

    I just want to caution you regarding the weight of your carry-on; make sure you know the limit your airline has set(unfortunately it isn't a standard weight) because if you go over you will be paying that extra $100. I'm an inter-fold packer.The longest time frame for which I packed was 9 months, and since I wasn't going to the ends of the world, one bag was enough.Silk underjohns were my secret weapon.Oh, and lightweight wool outerwear; got me through spring,fall and winter.

    • Tanya from Dans le Townhouse
      August 20, 2012 / 6:04 pm

      Good tip! I definitely need to weigh my carry-on. I'd hate to pay the money for a teeny little bag!!

  14. Whitney @ Drab to Fab Design
    August 20, 2012 / 2:32 pm

    Bravo to you on finishing your Master degree so soon! You should be so proud; that is a ton of work! I'm a roller; it helps to keep all my clothes from getting wrinkly as well!

  15. m @ random musings
    August 20, 2012 / 4:32 pm

    I'm definitely a roller. One thing that I noticed is that if I bring clothes that rely on my natural body type for structure, they tend to take up less room to start. Those canvas shoes in the photo above work really well because the top part conform to available space readily. Shoes with thick leather uppers wouldn't be as forgiving.

    • m @ random musings
      August 20, 2012 / 4:37 pm

      you might also be able to buy some stuff when you get to the destination, especially as the seasons change. I used to exchange clothes with my cousins when overseas (make sure this is socially acceptable) – we were both happy to get foreign styles out of the bargain!

    • Tanya from Dans le Townhouse
      August 20, 2012 / 6:03 pm

      Such fabulous ideas! A clothing swap sound so fun!!

  16. mary
    August 20, 2012 / 9:36 pm

    My best tip for packing one bag for a long trip is: packing cubes.I was resistant to them for the longest while, but I ordered a set off of amazon and I am a die-hard convert now. Just search 'packing cube' on amazon and read some reviews. I recommend the e-bags small and mediums, I have the slims also and they're not my favorites, large are good but if you have one bag to pack I would skip them, too.It's amazing how much stuff you can get in those things. I swear you can fit twice as much in the same space.

    • Tanya from Dans le Townhouse
      August 21, 2012 / 2:11 am

      Those packing cubes look so nifty!! I don't think I'd get them in time from ordering online, but I might have to try them for the next time I travel. Thanks so much for the tip!

  17. Shannon
    August 22, 2012 / 12:18 am

    Bring a pair of jeans and a credit card! (I WISH!!!)

  18. Thea A.
    April 24, 2015 / 9:20 pm

    Thanks for the tips! I'm bookmarking this so I don't forget!

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