Are you a serial overpacker? Minimise your luggage and maximise your mobility with these essential packing tips.
Clothes: Don't forget this one thing
When you get around to packing your underwear, make sure you don't forget a sports bra. It's good for plane rides, low-cut tops, impromptu hikes and yoga sessions, bumpy bus rides and as a stand-in swimsuit. It's basically the Swiss Army knife of women's undergarments. Bonus points if its got one of those little pockets for keys, cash or anything else you'd rather keep close to your chest.
Think about the climate and culture you're visiting, and what activities you plan to do there. (Remember, religious sites usually require you to cover your shoulders and knees). Then go through your closet and pick out favourite, layerable items that can mix and match with each other. Consider how things feel as well as how they look; ideally every item will be comfortable, well-fitting and rewearable. This is not the time to be aspirational. Don't pack that cute pineapple-print blouse you never wear at home in the hopes that you'll dress differently in a different environment. If anything, the opposite is true; when I'm travelling I usually find myself wearing my five favourite things on permanent rotation. Once you've made your selection, lay it all out on the bed and see where you can edit down. It might help to think about it this way: the less you take, the more you can buy once you're there.
See also: 11 mistakes first-time travellers make
Accessories: What would Nancy Sinatra do?
When considering which shoes to pack, ask yourself this question: Would Nancy Sinatra sing about them? If those boots aren't made for walking then leave them at home; your suitcase should only contain shoes that you can comfortably wear for long periods of time. You don't need a lot: one pair of sneakers or runners, and one or two pairs of seasonally-appropriate shoes like sandals or boots. This is the most important clothing item to get right, so select your footwear first and then build the rest of your wardrobe around it.
When it comes to other accessories like jewellery, scarves and hats, it's unlikely you'll need more than one of whatever it is. So choose the most versatile one that goes with multiple outfits. The same goes for handbags—you only need one, just make sure it's large enough to hold whatever you'll need with you during the day, like a guidebook and a water bottle. That way you keep your hands free to take selfies/ hail taxis/ hold babies when random people want to take photos of you with their children (if you've ever been to India you know what I'm talking about).
Cosmetics: It's a vacation, not a first date
I'll admit that I am often guilty of packing too many toiletries. I've actually had the thought "but what if I get sick of my nail polish half way through the trip?". Rather than be prepared for any scenario, a better approach is to pack minimally and buy stuff there (or get a manicure) if you need it. Ninety five percent of the time you'll find that you can manage without. I've discovered I can go for months with just a face wash, a face-and-body moisturiser, lip balm, sunscreen and deodorant, plus toilet paper and hand sanitiser depending on where I am. To save space and weight, decant whatever you can into travel-sized containers. Resist the urge to fill them to the top, though. Trying to get product back into the bottle is like trying to eat chips at the cinema without making avalanche noises.
Lastly, streamline your beauty routine as much as possible. What are the essential items that you need to feel presentable? You don't need to be red carpet-ready - it's a vacation, not a first date - but what's going to make you feel like you've dressed up for the night? For me it's red lipstick, for someone else it might be a hair straightener or a dab of (travel sized) perfume. Just don't waste too much time and energy being overly concerned with your appearance. Unlike that foreign pop earworm that's playing in every shop, restaurant and car you get into, no one is going to remember how you looked when you found that really cool bar or accidentally took the train going in the wrong direction. Not even you.