One thing I’ve always excelled at is packing light.
I’ve been to the Arctic twice in the winter — using just a carry-on. A six-week trip spanning Moldova, Ukraine, Denmark, the Faroe Islands, Iceland, and Portugal — also in a carry-on.
I even went on a five-month backpacking trip through Europe and Morocco, with temperatures spanning from 115° F to 40° F — yup, all in a single carry-on bag (and personal item).
But for some reason, when I would go on a weekend trip, I would always overpack. I would find my biggest reasonable-sized bag and then fill it up to the brim, and then I’d lament how heavy my bag was… as if I didn’t pack it myself.
I decided to create a weekend trip packing list for myself so that I would stop overburdening my weak-a** shoulders with far more weight than necessary, especially when I pack at the last minute
I decided I should share it with my readers, since I know a lot of people struggle with figuring out exactly what to pack for a weekend getaway.
Best Carry-on Bag for a Weekend Away
There are all sorts of carry-on bags you could bring for a weekend trip… but not all travel bags are created equal.
A duffel bag is the classic weekender bag, but the fact that it distributes weight unevenly on one shoulder is a no-go for me, personally.
Instead, I opt for a comfortable travel backpack most of the time when I am planning a weekend trip, especially if I am driving to my destination.
That way I can use it as a travel daypack as well when I am at my destination for a day trip, hike, etc.
If I am flying, I often opt for a small roller suitcase like this underseat roller bag — that way, I don’t have to worry about finding overhead space on a packed plane, and possibly having to deal with a gate-checked bag at baggage claim!
The great thing about both of these types of bags if you are flying is that they count as a ‘personal item’ as opposed to a carry-on bag.
Weekend Packing List: Clothes (Women)
Packing cubes | I like to bring packing cubes on every trip, even when I’m just packing for a weekend away or a short trip. They keep my clothing items folded while I am rifling through my bag trying to find something that, inevitably, has made its way to the very bottom. I use these Eagle Creek packing cubes.
T-Shirts | I would bring 1-2 T-shirts for a weekend trip, short or long-sleeve depending on the weather. I like to bring black and white and liven them up with a pretty printed skirt. If it’s really hot, swap out T-shirts for tank tops.
Cardigan | A cardigan is a great layer for breezy evenings or spring or fall days. I prefer long, loose ones — preferably with pockets, like this one! It’s great for layering.
Leggings | I love leggings for underneath dresses or for sleeping in. I typically bring 1-2 pairs for a weekend away. I have these ones and love the high waist and stretch!
Printed skirt | I love a pretty printed skirt to go with a T-shirt — it’s the easiest outfit to throw together and feel put together!
Printed dress | I always like a beautiful printed dress which will pair nicely with a cardigan and leggings if it gets cold. It’s versatile but comfortable and fun!
Jeans or pants | A pair of pants or a pair of jeans — either black or blue — will serve you well on virtually any kind of weekend trip. Black is dressier, blue is more casual.
Shoes | This will vary greatly depending on your style, but I love Birkenstocks for sandals, Ilse Jacobsen for cute slip-on sneakers (I have a yellow pair of these and they are my most complimented shoe!), black Nikes for hiking/city walking shoes, and these Sorel waterproof leather Chelsea boots. You won’t need all of these for a weekend away, but mix and match 2-3 pairs.
Warm jacket or rain jacket, if needed | Depending on the weather at your destination, you might want to bring a warm jacket like a parka or a waterproof rain jacket if you are going on a winter vacation.
Beach bag, if needed | If you’re going on a beach vacation, you’ll want a separate beach bag or tote that you don’t mind getting sandy. This striped, nautical-themed beach bag is super cute!
Undergarments | I’d bring two bras and three pairs of underwear for a weekend trip.
Socks | Two to three pairs of socks is good for a weekend trip, less if you are doing a beach trip where you’ll be primarily in sandals.
Weekend Packing List: Hygiene & Toiletries
Hand sanitizer | It may be 2021, but there’s still a pandemic going on! I bring a small bottle of hand sanitizer in my purse (this orange-scented one from Whole Foods is less toxic-smelling than others)
Mask | I always wear a KN94 mask — they’re less often counterfeited than N95s and Korea, where the masks come from, have a less tolerant attitude towards fakes. Unfortunately with the Delta wave, the virus is more transmissible than ever before, so I have stopped wearing cloth masks.
Toothbrush, toothpaste, and case | Of course, you’ll need a toothbrush for a weekend away, but I also suggest an easy carrying case for your toothbrush. I’m trying to reduce my plastic footprint, so I love this set of 4 bamboo toothbrushes, which also comes with a bamboo carrying case + even charcoal dental floss. It’s all zero-waste and eco-friendly!
Deodorant | I was *finally* able to make the switch off of aluminum deodorants with this wonderful activated charcoal natural deodorant (which is also baking soda free!). I find I have to re-apply once a day, but I’m naturally a very sweaty and smelly individual, and I bet most normal people would be fine to go a whole day with it!
Make-up | Bring whatever make-up you normally wear day-to-day! I always pack a red lipstick (I’m obsessed with Glossier’s buildable red lipstick), mascara, a bit of concealer, and some lightweight tinted moisturizer.
Shampoo and conditioner | I hate using whatever toiletries are given to me by the hotel, plus it wastes plastic packaging to use those little bottles. I always bring my toiletries from home, but I put them into small silicone GoToobs which squeeze out whatever is inside easily and without drama (much better than those plastic ones that you have to bang like a drum to get even a drop of your shampoo out!)
Body wash | Bring some body wash and put it in one of your GoToobs
Face wash | I always bring a separate face wash for sensitive skin, like this La Roche-Posay cleanser.
Sunscreen | Absolutely essential for a trip of any length! After getting some faint sun spots at age 30, I’m now fastidious about everyday SPF on my face. I use this bougie Supergoop! face sunscreen because it has all sorts of great natural ingredients, like red algae which protects against blue light emitted from phones and meadowfoam seed for hydration.
Moisturizer | I love this cruelty-free, hyaluronic-acid packed moisturizer from Honest.
Lip balm with SPF | Lips need SPF too! I use this SPF 25 lip balm.
Toiletry bag | Bring everything in a quart-sized Ziploc bag for TSA if you are flying, or in a reusable toiletry bag like this hanging one!
Contacts and contact solution, if needed | If you need it, you know.
Weekend Packing List: Electronics
Cell phone and phone charger | You’ll definitely need your phone and charger for a weekend away! I also suggest bringing a car charger if you are doing a road trip or driving to your destination
Portable battery | I always bring a portable battery with me to keep all my electronics juiced up. I use a portable battery (I have this one from Anker) — it’s especially essential you are doing a city trip with lots of walking and photo-taking. It’s also great if you are flying to your destination and need to charge on the plane as not all planes have accessible charging outlets.
Kindle | If you’ll be on a plane or have time to sit down with a book on your trip, a Kindle Paperwhite loaded up with a great book or two is a must-have! The new ones are waterproof, too, which is great if you’re lounging beachside or poolside on your trip.
iPad | An iPad also works, if you prefer, and it’s great for distracting kids who need some screen time on longer trips to save your sanity. It’s also great so you can leave your laptop behind, but still be connected if you need it.
Haircare tools | I don’t personally bring any haircare tools on my trips for the weekend. I have stick-straight hair that I rarely ever blow dry unless the weather is freezing cold out and I need to dry my hair so I don’t get sick. However I know other people don’t have that luxury, so bring whatever haircare tools you use at home if that’s essential for you.
Adapters, if overseas | If you’re doing a domestic weekend trip, you won’t need a travel adapter, but if you are doing international travel, pack a universal adapter.
Weekend Packing List: Random Travel Gear
Eye mask | I hate not being able to sleep when I travel — you never know if your hotel room has good enough curtains, or if you want to sleep on the plane. I like these contoured sleep masks that don’t press down on your eyelids. I have this one, and it’s also great for headaches!
Medicine and mini first aid kit | You’ll want to bring a small medicine kit – painkillers, stomach medicine, etc. – and some first aid items such as Bandaids and hydrocolloid blister bandages if hiking or walking a lot.
Reusable water bottle | An insulated water bottle that keeps your drinking water cool is great to have while traveling. I use this one by Klean Kanteen.
Guidebooks, if using | If you are traveling somewhere that you’ve never been before, a paperback guidebook can be a great resource to throw in your day bag.
Minimalist Packing Tips
As someone who lived out of a backpack for three years and still travels lightly, here are my best travel tips for how to pack light on your next trip.
Choose a color palette.
Pick one or two neutral colors (navy, black, brown, tan) to make up the bulk of your clothing and then add a few colors that you know look good with those.
For example, I’d bring a pair of black jeans, a tan skirt, and then I’d pick a red blouse since I know that color would pair nicely with my neutrals.
Always opt for comfortable shoes.
Unless you have a specific reason to bring a pair of heels, such as you’re attending a wedding or know you’re going out clubbing, just don’t.
I’ll admit my minimalism often doesn’t extend to my shoes — I would bring as many as five pairs of shoes on my backpacking trips — but for a weekend away, packing two or a maximum of three pairs will work just fine.
I would suggest a comfortable pair of sneakers that work just as well on the city streets as on a hike AND a pair of either ankle boots or sandals (flip flops for a beach trip) that work well as walking shoes depending on the season.
Add an optional pair of dressy shoes (stylish flats or heels) if you are doing anything that needs to be fancier and a little bit elevated.
Use packing cubes.
Packing cubes serve the function of keeping everything organized, of course.
But it also helps you visualize all your clothes together and make sure the colors go well together, and it helps you not overpack as you can take clothing in and out of the cubes, rather than throwing all the clothes into the bag until you can barely close it (guilty as charged).
Quick Weekend Packing Checklist
Above is the list of items in bullet point form, so as to be an easy packing checklist for a weekend trip:
- Wallet, drivers license/ID, and credit cards
- Car and house keys
- Important documents
- Boarding pass and other travel documents
- Travel bag (backpack, weekender bag, duffel bag, or roller suitcase)
- Packing cubes
- 1-2 T-shirts
- 1 cardigan
- 1-2 pairs leggings
- 1 printed skirt
- 1 printed dress
- 1-2 pairs jeans or pants
- 2-3 pairs shoes
- Warm jacket or rain jacket (optional)
- Bathing suit and cover-up (optional)
- Beach bag or tote (optional)
- 1-2 bras
- 2-3 pairs underwear
- 2-3 pairs socks
Hygiene & Toiletries
- Hand sanitizer
- KN94 masks
- Toothbrush and carrying case
- Body wash
- Face wash
- Lip balm with SPF
- Toiletry bag
- Contacts and contact solution
Electronics & Etc.
- Cell phone
- Portable battery
- Kindle and/or iPad
- Haircare tools
- Adapters (optional)
- Eye mask
- Mini first-aid kit
- Reusable water bottle
- Guidebooks (optional)
Weekend Travel Checklist
This is a bit different in that this is a quick checklist of things to do before you leave for a weekend away!
– Organize a pet-sitter or house-sitter, if necessary
– Take out the trash
– Water any plants that need it
– Clear out the fridge of anything that needs to go
– Set up any alarm, if you have it