Logo
What to pack in your suitcase
What to pack in your suitcase

What to pack in your suitcase

I know, this sounds like a typical girly subject, but I do think it is not to be underestimated. We all want to pack as light as possible, to make the travel as comfortable as possible. Certainly on road trip-like vacations, where you stay over at a different hotel every night, dragging heavy luggage in and out of the car gets irritating real soon. And when you’re going to destinations where the weather is real different from one region to the other, you have to make sure you have something to put on in these various situations. Finally, I guess no one likes to look are wrinkled, certainly not if you want to enjoy a dinner in a less casual atmosphere, so you have to make sure you bring along clothing that can withstand tumbling around in the suitcase.

To be honest, it took me a few years before I got the hang of it. I’ve listed below the main points to consider as well as some examples of clothing that I think work best. Hope this helps anyone still struggling with this subject.

Activity clothing

When your vacation includes (a lot of) different sporty activities, you have to make sure you take along clothing that:
– Is comfortable to wear: not too tight, not too loose
– Is layered: often you start more cold, but when the activity increases or the day passes, it gets warmer and you need to be able to adapt to the changing (body) temperatures
– Is breathing: being active typically makes you sweat – in order to keep your nose as comfy as the rest of your body, avoid clothing that captures this sweat and let anyone around you know you’re there
– Is easy to wash, dries quickly and doesn’t wrinkle: as you will need these clothes more than once (remember that you want to limit the size and weight of your luggage and therefore have to pack as less as possible), they will need to be washed at some point; you want them to dry quickly and you certainly don’t want to iron the wrinkles out before being able to put them on again
– Is compact: whatever you put on first and want to remove after a while, needs to fit in your backpack

Luckily, there’s plenty of choice in outdoor clothing. Decathlon is actually our favourite store for this. It sells the typical sport brands (like Adidas, Nike, Lowa and alike) , but it also has its house brands, like Kalenji, Quechua and Domyos. These latter brands are a lot cheaper than the other brands, but are still qualitative. You find all different styles and colours, so ideal to mix it up at a reasonable price.

A tip: even if you go to destinations like Florida (the Sunshine State, right?), where you think it’s always +25°C, just bring along 1 sweater and long pants. We didn’t – again: we’re talking Florida!!! – so our first stop was an outlet store. Not the best way to start your vacation… (there was a historical cold front passing by – of course there was…)

Footwear

Aaah – another painful one. My husband is always scratching his head when he finds out the different pairs of shoes I bring along on our holidays. I on the other hand am convinced that it’s all very reasonable and – even more so – an absolute minimum. Again, there’re different settings and weather conditions to take into account and you need to be equipped for all of them. So I typically bring along the following:

– Sturdy hiking shoes: there’s numerous shapes and styles out there and it took me some time to find the right ones. In the end I chose Lowa Renegade Mid Gore-Tex. They are ideal for more strenuous walks, with uneven soil and elevation differences.
– Running shoes: as the sturdy hiking shoes are quite heavy, I like to bring along something lighter for the more city-like walks. When we first started our active vacations I just brought some regular Adidas city sporty shoes along, which was sufficient at that time. But when it felt like half of my foot sole was burnt after we walked around the lake in Stanley Park, Vancouver, I decided to get something different. I opted for Nike Zoom Pegasus 32 in a fancy purple colour, to keep it playful, girly, easy to combine and heavenly comfy
– Sporty slippers: I need these to bring along certain activities – e.g. hiking with parts of the trail under water, diving, kayaking, snorkling, etc. The way they look doesn’t matter, they have to be solid enough, again very comfortable and not too expensive because you never know what happens to them on those occasions
– More elegant slippers or closed shoes which go under a skirt or dress or more fancy shorts: after a day filled with whatever sports, it can feel great to put on something totally different, more elegant and to give your feet some air. Be aware: the type of shoe you chose should go with every dress/ skirt/ fancy short… that you bring along, because you can bring only one pair!
– No high heels: in the beginning I brought a pair of high heels as well, to wear under a certain dress or skirt, as it gave a totally different look. I never actually wore them, because you just don’t feel like putting on heels after a long active day. And no one else wears them either, so you would only look weird. So I left them at home for several years now and never regretted it…

Something to wear for dinner

I found this one difficult as well. I don’t know why (I think it has something to do with the vacations I had with my parents when I was younger), but initially I was convinced that I needed to have more formal wear to “look nice” in the evening. Again, the type of vacation and the setting / type of accommodation where you spend the night is crucial here, but on our active holidays such formal wear is just not necessary (actually it’s just not done).

I only make sure I have a less sporty short and top and an easy-to-wear dress (i.e. one that doesn’t wrinkle) which is clean and which goes with the more elegant shoes I was referring to in the section above. I also take a less sporty cardigan that goes with these, to keep it different from what I wear during the days. Works like a charm.

1 swimsuit

Why bring along several ones? I did it at first, at least 2 or 3 – different colours and shapes, just to have the choice and not wear the same one in each and every photo. But first of all, there’s always a favourite one that you like to wear and eventually you end up wearing it almost every time. In addition, it’s such a waste of space, even if it looks like nothing – I’ve learned that every piece counts and so does swim wear. I have to say that we typically don’t have to wear a swimsuit for a whole lot of activities, so that’s why one is sufficient. If you go on diving vacations or alike, of course that’s a different story.

Bandana

Something I have to cope with the last couple of years is sun burn at the top of my head, when being exposed to the sun too much. So, initially I bought a fancy cool hat (Justin Timberlake or Britney Spears type of hat – you know what I’m talking about), but it was hell to bring it along during travel. So I threw that away (my husband was thrilled as he hates hats in general) and just take along a bandana now for when I actually need it. Again, it doesn’t take any space, you can put it everywhere – also in your backpack or just in one of your pockets – and it does the trick as easily. I agree though – fashion wise it’s nothing compared to the hat I had before, but choices need to be made…

Scarf

May sound silly, but I always take a scarf along – again, one that can be combined with most clothes, in order to limit it to one. It’s actually multi-functional, so love it! I take it in my hand luggage, as I often use it on the plane as an extra blanket. In warmer environments it can replace a light sweater. And of course, in colder settings I use it just as a scarf (one of the layers I talked about). I feel it gives an extra dimension to your look in all situations and given the limited options you have on our type of holidays, I do welcome it!

Rain gear

You don’t like to think about it, but it happens anyway. Like the Florida mistake I referred to above, even if you’re going somewhere where the probability of rain is remote, just take a rain jacket along. I often also use it to keep the other clothing at their place (by pulling it over on top in the suitcase), so it’s practical as well. And of course, check the weather forecast before leaving on your day trip and put it in your backpack, if needed.

Sunglasses

An obvious one, right? But soooo important… I could not survive without my sunglasses, I kid you not