This blog post was updated February 4, 2021.
This summer has been one of my busiest travel seasons for one simple reason: weekend trips. As I mentioned in an earlier post, I was invited to seven out-of-state weddings this summer. Between those events and trips to visit loved ones around the country, I’ll be spending more of my summer weekends out of town than at home.
I’m so excited for all of the fast-paced travel the next few months will hold — and if anything, all of these busy weekends will be a valuable crash-course in the art of packing.
Develop a packing strategy.
After lots of trial and error, I have found the key to manageable weekend luggage is a solid strategy. These days, I ask myself the following questions before grabbing my duffel bag:
Exactly how long willI be gone?
How will I get to my destination?
Will there be any restrictions on the luggage I bring? (Keep in mind that many airlines limit the number of bags per passenger, as well as the size and weight of each item)
How much walking will I do?
Will I be going to any special events when I arrive?
Will I have access to a washing machine if I need one?
Next, I create a packing checklist so I can check off items as I go. Even if I’m only packing for a day-trip, having a physical list prevents me from overlooking anything obvious. My list will vary slightly depending on my destination, but it tends
to contain the following essentials:
- 3 shirts — For weekend trips, it’s best to prioritize comfort over style. That’s not to say that you can’t be sharply dressed — but it helps to choose shirts that don’t wrinkle easily, won’t get snagged or
torn, and are suited for your destination’s climate.
- 1 durable jacket or button-down — If you’re looking for a practical layering piece, consider packing something made from a sturdy fabric like canvas, denim, or chambray. Not only are these textiles perfect for a variety of climates, but
their heavier weights allow them to add structure to an otherwise casual outfit.
- 1 sweater or cardigan — A soft piece of knitwear can help you elevate an outfit for a formal occasion, or stay cozy when you’re hanging out in your hotel. For the most versatility, pack a sweater with a neutral color and a tighter knit.
- 1 pair of dark-wash blue jeans — I cannot say enough about the value of a good pair of jeans, especially as a travel staple. Jeans can be dressed up or down to suit a variety of occasions, and they can be worn several times between washes.
- 1 pair of casual shorts/neutral skirt — For quick weekend trips, I don’t usually pack more than one pair of shorts or a skirt. Between that, my jeans, and a casual dress, I am perfectly equipped for a few days of travel.
- 1 pair of “nice-ish” shoes — My definition of “nice-ish” shoes is a pair of pointy-toed ballet flats, but your preferences may differ. Strive for a pair of stylish-but-comfortable shoes that can withstand plenty of walking,
but that you wouldn’t be embarrassed to wear if you’re sitting down to eat at an upscale restaurant.
- 1 pair of comfortable shoes — When choosing comfortable footwear, make sure your choice of shoes suits your most adventurous weekend activity. If you’re at the beach, your go-to comfortable shoes might be sandals. If you’re hiking,
they’ll probably be a pair of boots. If you’re visiting an urban area, they could be a pair of stylish sneakers. No matter what kind of shoes they are, they’ll be your go-to footwear for the weekend. Make sure they’re up
to the task!
- 1 versatile dress — I like to pack a high-quality cotton dress for most of my trips. A versatile dress can come in handy for a special event, or for just meeting up for drinks with friends. If you’re not a dress-wearer, a long sleeve button-down
shirt can serve a similar purpose — just make sure that it won’t need to be ironed before you wear it.
- 1 set of comfortable clothes that can double as pjs — Rather than packing a dedicated set of pajamas, I like to bring cotton athletic shorts and a t-shirt. They take up less space than a pajama set, and they can double as back-up clothes in
- 4 pairs of socks and underwear — A good rule of thumb is to always bring more socks and underwear than you think you’ll need.
- Wallet — Unfortunately, this essential item gets forgotten more often than any of us likes to admit. Make sure your wallet contains only your most necessary cards and your ID.
- Electronics — In addition to traveling with your phone, ask yourself if you’d benefit from having a laptop, tablet, or e-reader. Then make sure to pack chargers accordingly.
- Small purse with a strap — While most men can carry their wallet and phone in their pockets, women’s clothing tends to limit that capability. If your pockets can’t accommodate your essentials, a small purse makes it easy to keep
track of your belongings without weighing you down.
- Toiletries — Everyone has their non-negotiable toiletries. For me, those are my toothbrush and toothpaste, a hairbrush, floss, deodorant, contact lenses, hair-ties, and a few basic makeup supplies.
- Travel umbrella — Make sure to check the weather forecast before you go — if there’s even the slightest chance of rain, a travel umbrella can be a life-saver. It’s inexpensive, compact, and perfect for staying dry when you’re
on the go.
- Medicine and basic first aid supplies — At the very least, make sure you always have a bottle of ibuprofen and a few Band-Aids on hand. If you take any daily medications, make sure to bring a generous supply of those for the weekend.
- Snacks — Is any packing list complete without snacks? While I have my personal favorites, here are a few ideas from Travel + Leisure and, if you’re feeling especially gourmet, Food Network.
About the Author
Grace Lower has a love for all things writing and travel. When she's not exploring new places, Grace enjoys teaching English as a Second Language, making terrible puns, and running incredibly long distances at incredibly slow speeds.