I often travel during shoulder season to avoid crowds but with it comes the difficulty of packing because you need to be prepared for all types of weather. Remember it isn’t just the location but also the altitude you’ll be traveling that you need to prepare for.
So how do you pack for multiple climates in just a carry on bag?
- travel in the right direction
- layer clothing
- take clothes that do double duty
- wear a good pair of jeans
- pack old clothes
Read my tips below and you’ll soon be traveling with nothing more than a day bag and a carry on bag for all your trips regardless of duration.
Travel in the right direction
The worst thing you can do is travel from a cold to warm to cold destination (or vice versa). That means your bag will be the heaviest right from the start. If you start in a cold destination, try to do all your traveling in similar climates before going elsewhere. That way you can adjust your bag accordingly. If you’re going from a wintery snowy destination like Sweden and moving on to Thailand, you’re not going to need that heavy jacket. Mail it back, throw it away, trade it in, or donate it.
I think it goes without saying that layering is the key. You want layers so you can add or strip off layers as needed. Have a nice mix of long and short sleeved shirts that you can layer and try to stick with thin layers. It’s easy to add thin layers but you can’t really do much if they’re thick layers. There’s only so much you can do with a turtleneck.
I try to stick with wrinkle free clothing to minimize the maintenance and I absolutely love dri-fit/microfiber shirts. No one wants to wear clothes that look like they were stuffed in a shoe. It’s also much easier to wash and hang dry. The dri-fit shirts are amazing in that they provide layers, are easy to wash, and dry in a couple hours just hanging in a closet or bathroom. It’ll dry much faster if it’s hanging outside. Love the dri-fit/microfiber shirts. Absolutely LOVE.
For a jacket, I usually just take a light raincoat with me that doubles as a windbreaker. That keeps me warm enough in most cases and if I’m still cold, I can add a long sleeve shirt underneath. A raincoat that packs up to the size of an iPad is ideal for me since it just slips into the outer pocket of my suitcase where I can grab it easily if I’m on the plane. If I’m going to a place that has consistent weather, then I might take a thicker coat or none at all depending.
Take clothes that can do double duty
I know this isn’t a look you’ll see during Paris fashion week, but those pants that have the zip off bottoms at the knee are great. I wear them all the time since I can wear shorts when needed and if the weather turns sour, I can zip the bottoms back on. They’re really great for humid locations where the hot sticky weather can turn into a downpour in an instant.
Also, if you’re the type who enjoys swimming at the hotel pool or will be in a climate where you might be in the water, these shorts can double as swimwear. I typically will take a pair of boardshorts with me since I like wearing them just as a casual pair of shorts but I’m also from SoCal so it may not be a “look” you’re comfortable with. Either way, no one is going to notice your shorts.
I would also recommend having one long sleeve button down shirt. This is typically the shirt I’ll wear on planes. I love being able to roll up my sleeves as well as unbutton or button the shirt accordingly. It’s also nice if you’re in a situation where you need to dress up a little. Maybe you want to go to mass on Sunday, visit a museum, a club, or get invited to an impromptu dinner party. You’re set. It’s also nice to wear if you’re on a hike early when it’s a little cold but gets progressively warmer. Oh, and if you’re in an area with mosquitoes, you’ll be desperate for some long sleeve shirts.
Unless I’m going to an extremely warm or humid destination, I’m packing my jeans. I think they’re the best thing to wear especially when you have that perfectly worn in pair of jeans that just feels uber comfortable. The great thing about jeans is that they basically don’t need to be washed at all. Seriously, when was the last time you washed your jeans? Unless if you’re rolling around in a landfill or sewer, you jeans should be pretty good to go.
Jeans not only feel great but also look great. They’re perfect for hiking, everyday walking, and you can wear them to a club just fine. Also, if you want to visit temples in Southeast Asia, a lot of times you’ll have to wear long pants out of respect. Jeans easily fit the bill. It’s rare that I travel without my jeans and that’s only when the weather doesn’t warrant it and I know it’ll just be dead weight.
Pack old clothes to donate or throw away
If you can, try to pack clothing that you intend to give or throw away. That way, you can wear it and discard it as you go. If you need more clothes, you can just buy something there and have a special souvenir you can wear vs. some useless item you bought at the airport to get rid of the remaining bills in your wallet.
Also, since you’re going to discard them away anyways, you can do whatever you need to make them work for your situation. Have a long sleeve shirt that you won’t need going forward? Cut the sleeves off and make it a shirt. No need for that button down collared shirt? Just cut the collar off and make it a casual button down.
Look, this isn’t about winning a beauty contest but about maximizing usage while minimizing the items in your bag. You might think this is stupid but I guarantee after a long trip, you won’t want to be carrying anything more than you have to.
Know that you’ll be doing laundry
I don’t think people enjoy doing laundry but you’ll have to come to terms with the fact that you’ll be doing laundry. Just make peace with it. I just hand wash my clothes in the sink with a bar of soap and hang them to dry. If you really wanted to, you could visit a laundromat but I don’t travel with enough clothes to warrant that. You could also tip the housekeeping staff a little extra ask if they’re willing to throw your clothes into the wash along with whatever towels they have.
I’m a big advocate of traveling light. Especially as a solo traveler It makes me more mobile and after a long travel day, the last thing I enjoy is lugging a heavy suitcase around. Having little not only keeps the weight low but it also allows me to go crazy with gifts if I choose to bring back items for people since I have the space. If your bag is full from the start, where are you going to put any gifts or souvenirs you purchase?
If you feel like you need all those shoes, shirts, underwear, etc. bring it. But then try to do laundry in the sink as well and see how often you end up wearing all the different articles of clothing you brought. My guess is you won’t get through half of them.
In all my years of travel, I can honestly say I have never thought “I wish I brought MORE items in my luggage.”