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(Last Updated On: February 3, 2021)

I guest wrote this blog post for a Latin American travel company last year, and now it is actually relevant since I’ll be traveling to Costa Rica next month! I guess I better take my own advice and be a minimalist!

I don’t know about you, but for me there is always a deep internal struggle when I begin packing for a trip. No one wants to be the person that packed the most, but you don’t want to be caught wearing the same outfit in every photo either. Here are some tips to help you minimize what you pack; whether you are going for a weekend or 3 months. Read all the way to the bottom for a complete packing checklist!

1. Neutral Colors and Patterns

This feels like a Levi’s advertisement, but a classic white t-shirt and jeans can get you far. I have learned to bring solid, neutral t-shirts (white, gray, tan) that can be worn in different ways with different accessories. Packing a versatile jacket that will go with everything you bring is also key. **Bonus points for wrinkle-free material**

2. Functionality VS Style

I believe if you put in enough time and research, you can find any product that is functional and stylish. I’m not saying cargo pants are making a comeback. Finding a pair of shoes that are comfortable and durable enough to hike around in, but that you can also wear to dinner is something magical. I recommend checking out outdoor companies for fashionable, but trendy shoes. Another trick I enjoy is finding swim suits that can be worn as body suits later that night. Just throw a skirt or shorts on top and voilà! Instead of a dress, considering bringing a playsuit or romper that you can still explore in when you are not wearing it in the nightlife scene.

3. Layers, Layers, Layers

Temperatures can vary in South America. Unless you planned a beach vacay where nothing will move you off that sand, you’ll want to bring a variety of clothing. Going back to tip number 1, if you pack layers that are neutral colors, you don’t have to worry as much about the items looking okay together. A scarf is a good way to add warmth without compromising a lot of space in your bag. Down “puffy” jackets are another go-to for any adventure, especially if you are gaining some altitude where temperatures may drop. This kind of jacket can compress into a very small space. Also- consider packing a light hat and thicker socks to increase warmth instead of multiple jackets.

4. Wear Your Bulky Items on the Plane

If I know I’ll be doing a lot of hiking and cannot live without the excellent ankle support of my hiking boots, I wear them on the plane. These are by far my bulkiest item. This tip usually works out well for me, as I’m usually freezing on any plane. I like to bring a couple layers to cozy up in anyway.

5. Liquid Limitations

Liquids can be problematic when traveling with a carry-on. You have to fit sunscreen, possibly bug spray, shampoo, toiletries in a small quartz size bag. Sometimes impossible. A hack I learned on my trip to Cuba was to purchase solids instead. At Lush you can buy bar shampoos. Opt for bar soap instead of body wash. You can also buy dry laundry detergent sheets to do laundry in your hotel/hostel sink (another way to get away with bringing less clothing). There are sunscreen solid sticks that are available as well. Most everyday liquids you need for a trip can be purchased in a solid form.

6. Get Organized

If you are bringing a backpack as your main luggage vessel, it can be tricky to get that one thing you need that has ended up at the bottom of your bag. I like to put my clothes in dry bags or packing cubes to compress the air out. If you have a small packing cube to separate shirts, pants and undergarments it will save you a lot of time and energy later. Say I want to change my shirt for dinner, I can quickly browse for my red packing cube that has my shirts in it and pull that out of my bag. I also like to organize toiletries into ziplock bags. The bags often come in handy later if I need a clear bag to get into a museum or a semi-waterproof sack for things on a canoe/rafting adventure.

7. Do Your Research & Make a List

Writing down exactly what you need allows you to see where you may be packing in excess. It is also helpful to do your research on items that you need depending on the type of travel you are doing. In Thailand – I did my research to know I needed a Sarong to cover my shoulders and be allowed into temples. It is helpful to work with a Tour Agency that connects you with locals. Many agency’s will offer consultations and provide valuable insight. They can provide what the internet cannot regarding cultural expectations and necessities to pack.

Check out my Packing List!

Let me know your travel hacks!!

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