Packing light: Tropical Vacation Edition


A real testament to minimalist living is when you're forced to pack right before leaving for a week of vacation and right after a grueling exam. I actually used the list below as my packing list and took the clothing/packing photos the day before I was scheduled to leave but never got around to posting them because I had decided that I only wanted to splay out on the beach in my full bloppy-bodied glory sans a laptop or any kind of technology (it lasted for about two minutes before I felt the need to connect to the online world :P)

Our trip to Anguilla had been long overdue, and full-confession: this is actually our real honeymoon since we got married two years ago. If you're thinking about your next tropical vacation, this small island comes highly recommended; Anguilla is by far the most friendly and the most beautiful, and has some of the most exclusively luxurious beaches I've ever been to (and that includes Asia, Hawaii, Central and South America and many other parts of the Caribbean). If I were to ever move back to a location with tropical climate (holy shit, ants!!), I would pick Anguilla in a heartbeat.

Our 5 day trip was spent eating delicious albeit expensive seafood, drinking heavily-spiked rum punches and laying around on Shoal Bay whilst being treated like royalty by our the wonderful Robin and her crew at Las Esquinas - a boutique bed and breakfast that comes highly recommended on TripAdvisor. We were kind of lucky in that we left Anguilla right before the Christmas rush so we had entire strips of beaches mostly to ourselves and we were able to enjoy some of the nicer restaurants with last minute reservations. I had the most magnificent Coconut Cheesecake at Blanchard's Beach Shack which I am going to for a New Year's party and if you ever find yourself needing a recommendation for where to eat in Anguilla, please do yourself a favor and try the Chef's Tasting Menu at Veya.

 (Las Esquinas at sundown. Photo by AssembledHazardly)

Anyway, back to packing tips. I love traveling light and even on two week trips, I usually just lug around my 19" Briggs & Riley Commuter (fits in ALL window-side overhead bins including international flights) and a personal bag (fits under the seat in front of me). Depending on my destination, I sometimes use a backpack as a personal item or on this trip where things were slightly more upscale, I used a nice leather tote. I find that as long as you pack clothing that are easy to wash and dry and some laundry detergent, it's extremely easy to pack lightly. I never allow myself to carry more than two pairs of shoes (not including ones that I wear on the plane) and while a lot of people pooh-pooh at the idea of synthetic fibers, traveling with viscose-jersey and modal is a god-send. I'm a huge fan of Eileen Fisher clothing for all my travels and stockpile Gap modal panties whenever possible - modal, tencel or viscose are moisture wicking, washable, quick-drying, lightweight and if packed correctly, wrinkle free. The only time I don't wear synthetic fibers is on the plane when I try to mostly wear cotton and wool since synthetic fibers is highly flammable and can melt onto your skin in case of emergency, yikes!

I also use a lot of packing cubes and hoard a bunch of cotton drawstring bags that I use for shoe storage, underwear and to keep my clothes wrinkle free. Dirty clothes go into a waterproof diaper bag to keep out funky smells. I have to just state for the record that the Briggs & Riley is not the most lightweight suitcase but it rolls over cobblestone like nobody's business and takes a severe beating from all the crazy chucking around that airlines do while offering an unconditional lifetime warranty. I've also discovered through experience that a nice black dress and a pair of dressy shoes is imperative. I ended up using my Eileen Fisher shift dress paired with the Marni jeweled sandals for all three nights that we dined at fancier restaurants. I found that even with my very low-key jewelry, the shoes and clutch completely jazzed up the outfit. I brought along my trusty Isabel Marant scarf that I used all through the airport/airplane as a wrap and as a cover up on the beach.

To make plane travel easier, I always, always, always have a sleep mask with me, a pair of earplugs and in-ear headphones (noise canceling ones e.g. Bose give me a headache and are extremely uncomfortable for sleeping) and a travel therapy spray of some sort. On our five-hour journey home from D.C. to San Francisco, we sat adjacent to a screaming baby who literally screeched for three-quarters of the flight and some high NRR earplugs made everything slightly more bearable (those poor, unfortunate parents). In terms of skincare/cosmetics, I've grown quite fond of the Grown Alchemist Travel Set (body and skincare all in one) and find myself chucking that in a transparent case with some samples of scrubs and cleansers and calling it a day. I know some frequent travelers think it's dumb to travel with shampoo and soap, but a word of advice, if you're at all picky about your hair and you're staying at any place other than a chain hotel, bring your own shampoo so you don't have to pay a tourist's price for dinky bottles of Pantene at gift shops. 

I've listed my top ten items for traveling as well as my actual packing list below; I'm of a fan of multi-use items and one of the perks of having a blog is using a post as a to-do list and to keep you honest. For most of my trip, my only regret was not bringing an extra shirt or my Rennes dress. There's nothing like having to live out of a suitcase to make one realize it's entirely possible to survive with 10 items of clothing for a season. I find myself constantly surprised by how much I have no need or want for most of the things I own when I travel. I often come home after a vacation to the realization that I have so much crap that I really need to change my lifestyle - and that in itself is entirely fulfilling experience. If you have any other tips for packing minimally, please share!

Assembled Hazardly's Top 10 Must-Haves for Traveling
1. Lightweight black shift dress
2. Dressy shoes
3. Good walking shoes
3. Klorane Dry Shampoo
4. Tom Ford Concealer Pen
5. BB Cream with SPF
6. iPhone
7. Lightweight Shawl
8. Earphones
9. Olivine Atelier Beauty + Love Facial Mist
10. In Fiore Veloutee 

Black jersey dress  (Eileen Fisher)
Beach tunic (J. Crew)
Swimsuit (Araks)
Sandals (Ancient Greek)
Dressy sandals (Marni)
Linen tee (J. Crew)
Beach pants (J. Crew) 
Short-sleeve Tee (Organic John Patrick)
Shorts (The Gap which I cut and hemmed)
Sleep shorts
Sleep tee
Underwear (I love the modal ones from The Gap and I brought five) 
Wireless bras (three)
Sun hat
Beach tote
Fouta towel 

Travel outfit
J. Crew Sweatpants
APC x Nike Sneakers
Gap Essential Long-sleeve Tee
Organic John Patrick Cardigan
Isabel Marant Ghazo Scarf
Travel hair straightener
Oribe Fine Hair Spray
Klorane Dry Shampoo
Ziploc bags

Think Baby! Sunscreen SPF 50+
Aloe Vera After Sun Care
Bug spray
Delicate wash detergent in travel packs
Waterproof bag
Thera Tears dry eye drops
Contacts solution and case
Sulwhasoo Overnight Revitalizing Mask
Sulwhasoo Ginseng Moisturizer 
Grown Alchemist Travel Set
RMS Eye Polish in Magnetic
Kjaer Weis Cream Blush
Guerlain BB Cream
Soleil Toujours SPF 45++
Face scrub and mask
Skyn Iceland Eye Mask
Caudalie Hand Cream
Ilia Lip Conditioner
In Fiore Veloutee
Olivine Atelier Beauty Mist
La Bella Figura Travel Therapy
Tom Ford Concealer Pen
Anastasia Brow Pencil
Personal Items Bag
iPad mini
Paperback book
Battery Pack
Noise-cancelling headphones
Blanche silk eye mask
Pinch Provisions Minimergency Kit (added a folding scissors)
Travel Documents
Change of underwear/tee shirt
Energy bar
Nail File
Small Camera

And as a year end sidenote, thank you so much to everyone who has been following this blog through all my pessimistic rants and indecipherable gibberish, through all my ridiculous opinions and inane observations, and through my recent slew of affiliate links. Thank you and I hope you have the loveliest of holidays and a wonderful new year.


  1. Thank you for the thorough post and all the tips- I'm going on a two month trip tomorrow and your tips will help me pack!

    Sideline: I loved your post on J Crew quality. I used to love them in the US, and I find the pieces every now and then in secondhand shops (they have just opened here in Paris), but the linen t-shirts now crumble after applying the slightest pressure. I used to wear them years at a time :(

    1. I hope you have a wonderful trip! I wrote a response earlier but not sure why it didn't show up. The linen tee that I have from J.Crew is from their "Collection" edition, so it holds up slightly better than the linen from the regular line which usually just stretches out so much that it feels like I'm wearing an inflatable tent.

  2. Omg... that pool looks unreal, although I am equally jealous of those Marni sandals.

    Congrats on the belated honeymoon :)

  3. Sounds like you had a dreamy honeymoon - I can't imagine packing just before leaving for a trip, it would just be too stressful. I tend to plan about 6 months out (yeah.. I know...) just because I refine it as I get closer to the trip.

    Also, cannot believe you have those Marni sandals!!!! I was actually looking at them on Shopstyle as I was hoping to snag a pair of their sandals on sale but looks like I'm going to have to hold out until next season. At any rate, they are absolutely gorgeous! xx

    1. Very occasionally I'm lucky I have tiny feet, I managed to snag one of the last pairs on for 60% off. I'm pretty sure you'll find another lovely pair next season, Marni makes the best shoes consistently.

  4. How were you able to carry your luggage on with all those liquids & creams? Sample sizes? Please share your tips; I always feel deprived of my favorite products when I travel with only 1 quart sized bag.

    1. Hi Felicity, I use the large TPU clear case from Muji and most of my items are definitely sample size - I much prefer packets to bottles. I also use the smaller Nalgene screw top bottles from The Container Store for things like the Aloe Vera sun care or liquids I don't really need much of. If the item is something balm-like or an individually packaged mask (like an eye mask pack etc), I just put them in a separate bag that goes into my suitcase instead -- I've never had a problem. I'll try to take a picture of what my carry-on toiletries bag looks like and append it to this thread. You can see an example of the sizes I use if you look at the third picture on this page -- I just swapped them out into the larger Muji pouch so I could add the hairsprays and sunblock.

      ETA: I also like jars for traveling vs bottles since they stack up better and decant whenever I can.

  5. Yup, this looks pretty much like my packing list. Shoes are the trickiest part, I try not to bring more than two pairs.

    How's the bathing suit? I admit the last one I bought was at Target. I certainly got my 30 bucks worth, but it would be nice to look slightly less dumpy on future vacations!

    1. Hi Erica, sorry for the late reply but I love my Araks suit! It was a bit of a hassle ordering it from their own website, but it worked out with a 30% Black Friday deal + 10% off the fact they shipped it out THREE weeks after I ordered it. Not sure if that made the bathing suit extra special, but the swim bottoms actually were like a Jedi mind-trick on my ample arse, so in the end, it was worth the hassle.

  6. Happy 2015! I can feel your contentment and exhilaration - the trip sounds like it was such a respite and luxury. Your beach vacation wardrobe is very chic - i was eyeing the same J Crew tunic but I never go for any beach holidays where I am required to look that nice - I save all my bagged-out and fraying t-shirts and tanks for my beach holidays. I do like J Crew for beach things (cute sun shirts, rash guards, shorts, swimmers) - when they go on sale the price is reasonable for the quality.

    Actually by the end of every vacation I'm always a little relieved to give the stuff I brought a rest. I think it's mainly because clothes are never as feel as fresh when I handwash them on the go (unless they had time to properly air dry and I am able to iron them). Plus I quite like having choices.

    This post has gotten me dreaming of my 2015 vacations!

    1. Happy New Year to you, Lin! That J.Crew tunic shrunk drastically in the wash and actually looks much better on me now :-P I've become an Anguilla advocate just because it's such a special place that I feel will fall to the trap of tourism in the next few years -- how about that Iceland trip we've been talking about?

  7. When I started getting into minimalism wardrobe, I started packing differently and more light. It is so much more carefree when you can either use a smaller suitcase, or you dont have to dabble with not enough space and even have space left for some souvenirs! So, I love tips on travelling light. Your suitcase looks very small and neat indeed.
    However, I mostly wanted to comment to say that the beach scenery on the photo looks absolutely lovely! Makes me slightly jealous.... and fills me with the urgent wish to go on holiday somewhere warm (even though nothing s planned yet).

    1. Norah, have you been to Cancun? I know it's so generic and crazy but I absolutely adored Playa Mujeres and if you're looking for somewhere quick, easy and convenient to get to, go to Cancun! I packed a small tote and handbag for that four day trip and had the best time in my life. Much more accessible than Anguilla and so much more fun than Hawaii (IMO, and we stayed at a luxury all-inclusive!)

    2. Actually, I am from the other side of the pond... So, unfortunately, all these lovely exotic places are not ideal for me for a short weekend trip.

  8. Slowly working through my blog list after what can only be described as Crapmas 2014 - great post and thank you so much for the Anguilla tip! I've been going on and on about Hawaii for my future honeymoon, but I will trust your expertise on this one and make a mental note. And no, I'm not even engaged, I'm just that kind of person. I don't give two craps about weddings, but gosh darn it I'm going to have a fantastic honeymoon one day.

    1. Maja, definitely go to Anguilla. I've been to Hawaii (even the nicer islands) and nothing compares to Anguilla especially if you're into the whole quite luxury schtick -- not so much if you're a party girl. That said, you can go even if you're not on getting married! I'm sending my mom there next year because all ladies need some beach time to themselves :-)

    2. I went to Kauaii with my family when I was 6, so I have always been eager to go back as a grown-up. Anguilla looks like a dream though! And I'm definitely no party girl :)

  9. What a great list — perfect timing too for some upcoming beachy travel. Out of curiosity, where is your packable hat from? I love my giant straw sun hat but hate figuring out how to stuff it in my luggage without destroying it.

    1. Hi Jenn, I bought mine in Tibet in 2011! However, the hat in the image above is from REI (which is now sold out) -- so you may have some luck there. Sorry I can't be of more help.

  10. I was loving your list until I hit the travel outfit. I'm a big believer in dressing up a bit on the airplane. I think the dress code slide has caused some of the bad passenger behavior we see now. I know it sounds stupid, but people are on better behavior and treat others better when dressed better than they are when they hang out on their couch on Sundays. I would probably scratch the sweat pants and wear a maxi skirt. Just as comfortable (if not more) but they look a lot more put together for the ride.

  11. That's a good packing list/pretty close to what my ideal light packing list would look like for a tropical vacation. My last big trip was to the south of France, Italy, and the Greek islands and though I brought a lot more then 12 or so pieces of clothing, I ended up reaching for the same items over and over again and belatedly realized that I could have gotten away with packing much less clothing. (I didn't even have that much stuff - just a US carry on sized bag, a backpack, and a tote bag!)

  12. Bringing Advil with you is really important. Going to the new country you are not going to be familiar with their medicines. It is really good idea to bring yours with you. Best regards!

  13. I am planning a private tours of San Francisco and I was bit cofused about the things to pack and how to pack. I loved your blog and I am sure this will help me alot in my packing. Thank you so much!


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