The Packing Games


By Julia Elizabeth

Like many young, American and somewhat-adventurous students, I decided to join the revolution and study abroad for a semester in Dublin, Ireland. Part of the fun is spontaneously traveling throughout Europe for half the price and double the experience. However, cheap prices mean low storage space, a.k.a. one bag. Whether you are traveling for a weekend or a month, most airlines will only allow one carry-on bag—that’s it. Try fitting every outfit for every occasion and weather condition into one measly backpack… it’s nearly impossible. But don’t worry; after all of the squeezing, yelling, struggling and looking at a shirt saying, “Do I really need this?” you will conquer the Packing Games.

Be prepared, some airlines will check your bag size and weight, so try to avoid being “that girl” in the airport taking stuff out and putting it on so it will fit. Packing the essentials is key. Here are some ways to do this:

First, look up the weather.

Have an idea of what kind of clothes you are going to need in whichever city you chose. Ask around about what other people wore and try and bring pieces that won’t make you stand out like an American tourist. If you are staying with friends, try to borrow their clothes, especially if you plan to go out. That way, it’s one less thing to worry about packing and that extra room might be enough to allow you to buy something and successfully get it back to your home country.

Second, plan out your outfits.

I know, I know, we like having choices and options whenever we go somewhere. That is not going to fly (like the pun?) for a weekend getaway with one backpack available. Honestly, you have to re-wear things. I am not saying to re-wear entire outfits, but definitely re-wear pants. Let’s face it, we all do it anyways, so now is when it is actually acceptable. For a weekend, bring two pairs of pants and four different shirts so you have a shirt for each day, plus an extra “just in case.” For a week, bring four pairs of pants and nine shirts for two “just in case” items. Bring stuff you know you are going to wear and that you love. If you bring something you have only worn once and don’t know why, then you probably hate it and it is just going to take up space. Leave it behind. Good luck, and may the odds be ever in your favor.

 Let the packing games begin!

The best way to go about this is by taking everything you think you might want, do want or somewhat want and putting in on your bed. Then go through it. Choose what you definitely want and what you really just don’t need. You have to pack, re-pack and re-pack again to sift through what is a necessity and what is “just in case.” You will not have room for the “just in case” pieces, so don’t bring them, and most likely you won’t even need them.


The trick is to fold everything, not so it’s in a little ball, but so that it’s flat and neat. More clothes will fit this way, trust me, I’ve tried it all. Put any shoes you might need at the bottom and work from there. However, try not to bring shoes and just work with the ones you wear on the plane. It’s much easier and will take a lot of weight off your back.


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After the clothes are successfully packed, add the toiletries. Makeup bag, hair tools, hair products, toothbrush and toothpaste, deodorant, perfume, medicines, etc. This is where it gets tricky. Strategically place any hair tools on the sides of the backpack to fill that awkward, empty space. Next, throw your makeup back on top and put everything else in a plastic bag, so it’s contained in one area and will take up less room.

Zipping it up. 

Now comes the real challenge, zipping the bag. We all have our little tricks and maneuvers that will help us in this desperate time of need so I am not going to list all the ways you can go about this. However, I have personally found that putting it up against a flat surface, pushing on the front of the bag with one hand and zipping with the other is the most efficient way. But hey, that’s just me.

Packing is not a skill, but an art. A good packer is strategic and knows what to bring and how it will all fit together. Mastering this art takes practice and patience, but hopefully these tips help you be more prepared for your next journey. So leave behind the 9-inch stilettos and that extra pound of makeup you probably do not need and pack the essentials because you can always buy more and honestly, nobody will complain about that. Remember: Excess room beforehand means more shopping.

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About Julia

julia elizabethI am a 21-year-old adventurer who recently shipped of to Dublin to work in public relations and “study” marketing. I love immersing myself in the culture and trying new things whether it’s taking a cooking class in Spain or white-water-rafting in the rivers of Ireland. Fun fact: I have two black belts in karate and love having the power to trick people into thinking I’m scarier then I actually am. I drink a Sex-on-the-Beach daily and am loving the Irish pub life. I am very driven and plan to go to law school after college… lucky me. I have an unhealthy obsession with Luke Bryan and he will forever by my favorite artist. Dublin has made me more aware of my fashion and I am becoming obsessed with creative ways to add style to a simple outfit. Overall, I am an outgoing and motivated person who loves new friends, new people and new ways to express myself. Check out my blog for all my abroad adventures at

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What are your packing tips? Tweet us @litdarling

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