Six steps to packing light for a weekend getaway

One of the benefits of my full-time job's travel requirement is the option to travel to an alternate location for a weekend instead of to my home in Chicago. This was much more exciting when I first started and before I was married, but I still love to take advantage of it every now and then. It gives me a chance to stretch my light packing muscles! 

The people at reached out awhile ago for my light packing tips for a weekend getaway to the Sin City, a place I've actually never visited but have on my short list. Even though I'm not planning to go any time soon, I loved the idea of a post on how to pack light for weekend getaways in general - especially for a place you've never visited! (By the way, I should mention that this post is not sponsored; I'm just stealing the pitch...) 

Without further ado, I'll share the six steps I'd take to pack my lone carry on for a theoretical weekend in Vegas, as well as a few tricks I use to make my minimalist, multipurpose approach to packing work:

#1 Be realistic about how you'll be spending your time

I'm the last person to tell you to plan all your activities ahead of time, because I certainly don't do that myself when traveling (which drives my husband up a wall). However, it is important to have a good idea of types of things you may be doing and prepare accordingly. After all, successful packing is all about restraint and lugging things around that you won't use is the Ultimate Fail.

Before I even begin to start the packing process, I like to think objectively about who I am and how I'll be spending my time. As a nerd with a strict 10 p.m. bedtime and low tolerance for wasting money, it is unlikely that I'll be headed to nightclubs or hanging out in a casino. Fortunately, there is plenty more to do in Vegas than the stereotype may suggest (think horse back riding, Britney Spears concerts, the circus, The Jersey Boys, basically everything on this Las Vegas deals site, etc.). 

Since I am being honest, the first thing I'd want to do when I arrived would be to see Lake Mead and the Hoover Dam. What better place to begin than touring the engineering feat that arguably made life in the desert possible? Who's with me? Anyone? ...Anyone?

#2 Plan outfits around each of the activities you'll be doing

Walking in dry heat while admiring one of America's greatest innovations in irrigation and products of the Great Depression requires comfortable flats. As does power walking on the Vegas Strip.

For both of these activities, I'd pack a vintage pleated Vivienne Tam dress to be worn multiple times, and wear it with my favorite fancy flats and a wide-brim hat to protect myself from the raging sun. 

(FYI, other items in the above photo are Aquazurra Belgravia flats that I was lucky to find second-hand, a vintage silk scarf, sunglasses from eBay, a hat purchased on the street in Mexico, and a trusty leather tote.)

#3 Stick to a neutral palette with one pop of color

To keep things streamlined and make dressing easy while traveling, I generally pack all neutrals and select one color to add some spice - when picking the color, I think about the vibe of the destination. 

Bold red seems appropriate for Vegas, and also matches the sign which is great for selfie-taking. This maxi dress is old J.Crew that looks great with the same tourist hat I'd wear to the Hoover Dam. I'd wear my favorite Athleta swimsuit underneath and spend the rest of the day poolside. (This is the bikini top, and these are the shorts. Hands down the best swimsuit I've ever owned, and even doubles as a workout outfit for Bikram yoga.)

(Side note: those sandals are Rebecca Minkoff that I picked up for my honeymoon back in 2013 and are so broken in that they have a walkability score of 95% thanks to me thinking they were a great shoe choice for traipsing the countryside of Northern Thailand.)

#4 Photograph each outfit with your phone's camera

After I've planned my outfits, I lay them out on my bed with every single thing that I'd wear or carry when wearing that outfit - and I do it in sequential order. Obsessive, maybe, but a critical step for packing outfits that rely on items you'll wear multiple times. It will save you time because you'll have an easy reference for what to wear when you have to wake up early and get out of the door quickly. 

#5 Pack tools to save time and get more mileage out of your outfits

There are literally hundreds of great ideas on time-saving travel tools, but these are the ones I'd bring along for this trip:

  • A Turkish towel to use as a plane blanket, and as a poolside cover up to keep my dress clean so I can re-wear it for dinner. (Antiochia has been my long-time favorite Turkish towel supplier and I love their products.)
  • Sea salt spray when it's time to let my hair air dry post-swim (and baby powder to mask oil, add texture and freshen when needed). 
  • A shower cap to protect my air-dried hair when showering to save me the time and need to blow dry. 
  • A $0.99 drug store spray bottle to fill with hotel water and spritz on my clothes to remove wrinkles.
  • A tiny vial of tea tree oil to add to the water to keep items I re-wear fresh.
  • Deodorizing shoe liners to protect my shoes. (I typically get these.)

#6 Keep your toiletries and makeup to a minimum

On vacation, I like to drastically dial back on my routine to save time and choose multipurpose items to save additional space in my bag. Because hotel products are scented and dry out my skin, I bring


for face and body wash and supplement shampoo, eye cream, serum, etc. with Sephora free samples. (I save and re-fill the Sephora free sample containers since they are perfectly sized for a three-day dose.) 

For Vegas, I'd also pack Avene sunscreen for my face and baby sunscreen for my body. The products I'd use in higher volumes - Sebamed and sunscreen - would go in 3 oz travel containers, of course. (I love these.)

Remember that same ol' vintage black dress from the Hoover Dam tour? I'd spritz it with tea tree oil water to freshen it and re-wear it for a night out to dinner and a show, dressing it up with a bright red fringe bag and pairing it with my same fancy flats to do some post-dinner power-walking through some of the free attractions that Vegas has to offer. And I'd up my minimal makeup game with Benefit Highlighter, my favorite trick for fancier makeup.

Still with me, are you? 

I was going to keep going with these steps tailored for weekend getaways to NYC and San Francisco but have ran out of steam (it's currently 5:11 a.m. on a Monday...) so I'll save those for future posts.

In the mean time, I'd love to hear your thoughts on other tips and tricks for light packing and other nerd-approved ideas for what to do when I do get my trip to Vegas on the calendar!