Recently I went on vacation. (That’s not a #humblebrag. It’s a straight-up brag.) I’ve mentioned it here before—instead of getting engaged and getting a ring and having a party, my partner and I got a little tipsy one night and booked a flight to Costa Rica. Best. Decision. Ever.
But, we also decided that we were going to only take carry-on luggage because who needs the hassle of waiting for luggage on vacation? Not us. No sir. So for my vacation of seven days and eight nights, covering both ground in a city centre and the beachy coast, I brought only a carry-on piece of luggage and a giant purse. And not only did I have everything I needed, I felt way better about the stuff I did bring.
Here are my tips for packing light on a week-long vacation:
This only really works for a tropical vacation
I’m not going to lie, if I were headed somewhere colder, this wouldn’t have worked. But the perks of spending most of your vacation in a bathing suit means that you can be extra light on the real clothing you bring—provided that they are versatile. Which brings me to point number 2…
Pick versatile pieces to bring
A cotton button-down men’s shirt was worn loose and unbuttoned over a tank top and cut-offs one day and doubled as a shirt for a nicer dinner when knotted at the waist with a midi skirt. A long-line bathing suit top doubled as a crop top for some exploring. A light oversized square scarf doubled as a beach cover-up. The stuff you bring should be things that you could potentially wear more than once—and in a different way.
Don’t double up
I really wanted to bring all my summer dresses. Partially because I like them all, but partially because I thought they would read particularly well in on-the-beach photographs. In the end I only brought two—and I’m so glad I did. Don’t kid yourself—you will probably spend most of your time in a bathing suit or cut-offs. You really only need “nice” clothing for dinner if you’re going on a beach vacation, so keep your options simple.
The struggle is real when it comes to beauty products
As most people know, there are liquid limits. And my beauty routine definitely takes up more space than I care to admit. The solution was to keep any sample size items I might have received leading up to the vacation and bringing those (this is when buying sample-sized products and gift sets around the holidays comes in handy). Or re-purposing those bottles with my go-to products. Also—you don’t need a million different coloured lipsticks or eye shadows. Pick a couple and go with them. Decide on a signature vacation beauty look and stick to it for the week. The only thing that this didn’t cover was the amount of sunscreen and bug spray we used—we ended up picking up some once we got to our destination.
Choose your shoes wisely
Arguably what’s going to take the most space in your luggage is your shoes. I don’t wear heels, so already I was ahead of the game (flats are lighter and take up less space). Again, pick shoes that are comfortable, that you’ll wear more than once and recognize you’ll spend a lot of time in beach shoes. I packed four pairs of shoes plus the hiking boots that I wore on the plane—which is a lot. But I’m glad I made space for them.
Wear the heaviest/biggest items on the plane
I heavily layered for my travel outfit. I wore the only pair of pants I brought (my favourite boyfriend jeans), wore a long sleeve shirt under a hoodie under a light jacket and topped it all off with a light scarf. I also wore my hiking boots. I wore all of these things throughout my vacation (not together of course), but they didn’t take up any real estate in my luggage. Score.
So what exactly did I bring? Here’s my list of wardrobe essentials (and only the essentials) for my beachy vacation.
- underwear (enough for the time away)
- bras (one sports bra, one real bra, one bralette)
- swimsuits (I brought three—and I lived in them)
- one pair of jeans (that I wore on the plane)
- two pairs of shorts (one denim, one slightly nicer)
- one midi skirt
- two dresses (one casual, one dressy)
- two tank tops
- three t-shirts
- one long-sleeve shirt
- one cotton button down
- one light jacket (that I wore on the plane)
- one light rain jacket (that rolls up into basically nothing)
- one romper
- beach shoes
- lace up sandals
- hiking boots (that I wore on the plane)