Updated: Jul 5
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Short vacations offer you a quick escape from reality without forcing you to cough over the big bucks. 3-5 day vacations are becoming more and more popular, especially with the rising popularity of 3-day music festivals. I personally like 3-5 days for domestic trips but for international trips, I like to aim for at least 8 days. Although, if the international destination is close enough, I'll try to fit everything into 3-5 days (as we did in Costa Rica).
When I do take one of these 3-5 day getaways, I try to only take a carry-on. In order to fit everything into such a small bag, I plan my outfits out ahead of time and only bring what I need.
Here's an example packing checklist for a short trip:
Know what you're wearing before you choose what underwear to bring. If you'll be wearing workout clothes for something active, you'll want to bring a sports bra. If you're wearing a strapless top, you'll want to bring a strapless bra. I recommend laying out your outfits and then choosing underwear for each one - that way you're not stuck on vacation with only sports bras and crop tops.
If you'll be going to a hot or humid destination, don't forget swimsuits!
Do not forget socks.
I REPEAT - do not forget socks!!
2. "Transportation Clothes"
Transportation Clothes are the cute, comfy outfits you wear in the car on road trips, or on the plane, or on the train. They're typically basic with a pop of color and simple jewelry added. Think "Cozy Chic". For me personally, that looks like a solid color tank top or v-neck with leggings or Harem pants, gold jewelry, slides or closed-toe shoes (depending on weather), and a sweater. I always recommend wearing layers for your Transportation Clothes because then if it gets too warm, you can take the sweater off and if it gets too cold, you can put it back on! You'll want this flexibility when you're going in and out of air-conditioned areas.
3. Dinner Outfit(s)
How many dinner outfits you bring will depend on how long you'll be there. For a regular weekend getaway (Friday-Sunday night), I usually only bring one because I know the only night we'll be likely to go to a fancy dinner is Saturday. I always make sure to pack my nice clothes early to make sure everything fits.
4. Active Outfit(s)
When I took my first road trip to Atlanta, I had no idea that the College Football Hall of Fame was there. Granted, I could've found said information with a single Google search, but that's not the point.
The point is I hadn't planned on doing anything athletic or active. But when I arrived, I found the College Football Hall of Fame. We peeked inside to see what it was like and they had a section where you could run football drills. People of all shapes and sizes were doing it and it looked like exactly the amusement I needed. I almost did it ... but I only had "fancy" clothes like skirts, dresses, etc.
Even if you don't plan on doing anything active, bring an outfit you can sweat in - just in case. Don't forget tennis shoes!
5. Exploring Outfit(s)
These outfits are what you'll be in while you explore the destination. What these consist of really depends on the weather, the activities planned, the people going with you, etc. For example: If you're going to Colorado with a group of people who love hiking and plan to spend a lot of time in National Parks, your "exploring outfits" are going to look like activewear. If you're going to Italy with a group of people who like art museums and yachting, you're probably not going to show up in activewear.
Whatever your outfit looks like, remember that you only need what you need. You don't need 7 tops and 7 bottoms for a weekend. Get an idea of what kind of activities you'll be doing while you're there before you go so you can be prepared.
If you're only going for a weekend, you can get by with 1 or 2 pairs of PJs (depending on how many days you stay). Remember, we're trying to pack the least we can. If you can't stomach the thought of wearing PJs two days in a row, no worries. Most hotels have laundry rooms with quarter machines that you can use if you need to wash your clothes.
You'll want to know what you're planning to do and wear ahead of time so you can take the appropriate makeup and hair products. Here is a list of toiletries to pack:
Skincare routine items (face wash, moisturizer, toner, exfoliator, pimple extractor, etc.)
Daily hair products (I have gray-blonde hair so I bring my own purple shampoo and conditioner, oils, masks, bobby pins, hair ties, brush, straightener, blow dryer, curling iron, headbands, headwraps, etc.)
Razor, tweezers, nail clippers, other grooming items
Toothbrush, toothpaste, floss
Makeup and makeup wipes
Hand Sanitizer Spray
Here are two examples of hand sanitizer spray!
Camera accessories; including charger
Underwater protectors for electronics
Extra phone charger (if you don't have one, get one.)
Sneakers; sandals; slippers; high heels; loafers; Birkenstocks; slides; whatever shoes you like. If I'm taking a trip Friday-Sunday, I'll usually have a pair of shoes for the car (slides), a pair of shoes for dinner Saturday (high heels), and a cute pair of sandals. But if you end up bringing extra shoes - I get it.
10. Anything for work or school
If you need to bring files for work or textbooks for school, make sure you do! For me, this usually means bringing my computer, a few files, and some notebooks + pens. It all usually fits in my backpack, which I use as my "purse" when I fly. I don't recommend putting these items in your checked bag because if it gets lost, you may not be able to get them back. If you keep them in your purse/backpack, it will be with you from departure to arrival.
About the Author:
I'm Anna Mills - a travel agent, blogger, and author of the book "100 Ways to Make Travel More Affordable". I have been a guest on the Trip Sister's Podcast and TripScout's Roadtrip Expert Panel. You may have seen me in Texas Lifestyle Magazine, Opploans.com, or as a Rising Star for Travel Market Report.