Next Tuesday, Tate and I are traveling together for ten days. We’re heading over to Turkey to gather the rest of our household goods we left there and to spend time with our friends.

If you haven’t yet gathered, I travel a LOT. Not always gleefully, but for the most part, I do enjoy it. It helps that over the years, I’ve learned to do it fairly well.

The key is to pack well. Packing too much can burden your trip and cloud your mind, leaving you to deal more with the stuff than with enjoying your experience. It’s pretty hard to pack too little, but it has happened to me before. When that happens, I spend too many brain cells thinking about that one thing I wish I had.

I pack the same when I’m traveling for a week or longer, no matter how long I’m gone or where I’m going. Here are my core essentials.

Tank tops

Simple solid-colored tanks are versatile, lightweight, and pack tightly, so I bring 4-6 of them. I typically wear two at a time and can interchange all of them.


I bring 2-3 cardigans that will match all my tanks and are a variety of weights so that they serve different purposes. Cardigans can instantly dress up a tank top and skirt and are great for those days where the weather fluctuates.


One pair, in a dark rinse. Jewelry can make them dressier, or you can throw on a tank and go. I typically wear my jeans on the plane, so I don’t have to pack them—makes the suitcase even lighter.


Simple a-line skirts look good on almost any body type and are easy to pack as well. I take about 3 cotton skirts, also of various weights.

Lightweight sweater

Whether I’m traveling to the South or the Pacific Northwest, I toss in a thin sweater. You need a sweater in the mornings and evenings year-round in some climates, and in the south, some buildings crank up the A/C in the height of summer.

Short-sleeved tees

I normally grab my tanks, but every now and then I want a t-shirt. I go with 2-3 solid-colored, well-fitting t-shirts that match my skirts. If it’s fall, I may exchange one of these for a long-sleeved tee.

Dressier blouse or tunic

I prefer jersey material so I can wad it up in the suitcase and go without an iron (I almost never iron anymore). This shirt should go with my jeans and be good for evenings out. Leggings are also good with tunics if it’s long enough.

Lightweight jacket

Unless it’s the dead of summer in a hot location, I also pack a structured, lightweight jacket. Or if it’s the dead of winter somewhere cold, in which I exchange the jacket for a coat.

Nice flats and sandals

I usually only bring 3 pairs of shoes—a pair of comfortable flats, a pair of nicer-looking sandals, and a pair of flip-flops or Chacos. If it’s cold, I exchange the sandals for slip-ons or boots. They can each be worn with all the clothes in my bag, depending on where I’m going. Key: They must be comfortable. Must. And I wear the heaviest pair on the plane, so I don’t have to pack them.

Basic accessories

Overseas, you can usually spot the Americans: their hair is in a wad, they may or may not be wearing pajama pants or a tracksuit, and they’re wearing running shoes no matter what the outfit. We don’t dress up when we travel, in other words.

Most other cultures do, almost all the time. I’d rather not stand out, and I kinda like to look nice. I keep them simple, small, and durable. My essential accessories are:

  • a lightweight scarf (it really does make everything dressier)
  • a pair of studs and a pair of dangle earrings
  • a few necklaces
  • a bracelet
  • sunglasses
  • a hair accessory, like a headband or clip
  • one, durable-yet-not-utilitarian-looking purse/bag

Jammies and undergarments

A simple t-shirt and pajama pants for sleeping and the obvious underwear are about it. I also include bike shorts for under skirts, especially in high humidity environments, if you get my drift.

This is my core. In colder environments, I also pack the obvious outer gear and exchange a tank top and tee for another sweater. In hot climates, I also pack my swimsuit and a summer hat.

Packing lightly can be done when everything coordinates, and when garments are well-made. This is my personal philosophy for clothing all the time, anyway, so honestly, I pretty much pack what I wear daily.

Finally, I toss in some laundry soap and a clothesline, because I’d rather do laundry once or twice than lug around a cumbersome suitcase. I also want to make room for purchases made on the trip.

This is what I’m packing this weekend, and it’ll all fit in a small suitcase. That way, Tate and I can navigate customs and foreign airports without ill-behaved, heavy luggage.