How to Pack for an Extended Vacation

Our honeymoon was 6 weeks long, visiting 11 cities in 5 countries, overlapping April (spring) and May (summer), with temperatures as low as 40 °F and as high as 90 °F. As you can imagine, it was challenging to not overpack for a trip like this!

Like mostly everyone, I always overpack on vacations and never wear half the items in my luggage. Visiting so many cities on this trip, however, my luggage needed as much open space as possible for souvenirs. So, taking all that into consideration, I started to get creative. I knew I needed to investigate a capsule wardrobe where all my pieces could mix and match together. I also investigated a space saving technique called packing cubes.

Capsule Wardrobe

A capsule wardrobe is a collection of wardrobe staples that coordinate well and are classics that never really go out of style. The best part of a capsule wardrobe is that all the pieces can mix and match. You can pack fewer items and get a lot more unique looks out of them. I also figured that I may purchase a piece or two of clothing souvenirs to add to my capsule wardrobe through our travels. This would freshen up the looks to get me through a full 6-week trip not feeling like I’m wearing the same clothing every day. Packing for a honeymoon may be a little different than packing for other vacations, because I had a lot of white to wear. During our engagement, I received many “Bride” branded clothing items. It does make it a bit easier to pack a capsule wardrobe when you limit the colors and patterns. Click here to read my blog post on capsule wardrobes.

Packing Cubes

I admit that I never understood why people use packing cubes. I thought it was something just for backpackers, not people who are using full size luggages. I had been perusing through TJ Maxx, and I ended up seeing them in the luggage section and by the front register. For $9.99, I couldn’t pass up trying them out. My Sharper Image set came with 3 zipper bags of varying sizes (small, medium, and large). Each cube has a mesh front which allowed me to quickly see what was in the bags before I even unzipped. No time spent looking through all my clothing to find the one piece I’m looking for or to realize that the one piece was in the dirty laundry bag. Also, unpacking was a breeze. A few dresses would come out and hang in the closet, but I could take the 3 cubes out of my bag and put them right into the dressers in the hotels. Being that we hopped from location to location every few days or every week, it was so nice not to have to spend time repacking. My husband (who did not want me to purchase him packing cubes) spent more time unpacking than I did. I can’t express how wonderful they are and how much I highly recommend them!

Sharper Image Travel Cubes Small Medium Large
This Sharper Image travel cube set was a great space-saver (and a life-saver!)

Luggages

We put a beautiful new hard-shell Samsonite luggage set on our Macy’s wedding registry and were fortunate enough to receive them. We had wanted 2 large roller luggages, 2 roller carry-ons, and 1 boarding bag (used as my personal bag). On the honeymoon, we brought only 1 large but all of the rest (so 5 luggages total). Hubby also used a backpack he already owned as his personal bag.

Honeymoon Travel Luggages Cruise Ship
Hubby and I shared a large-sized luggage, plus we each had a carry-on and a backpack (or sometimes the boarding bag shown further below)

Positives:

  • The set was absolutely beautiful.
  • They offered hard shell in a shade of blue that was unique enough to spot quickly on the airport conveyer belt without ribbons.
  • Having a luggage set with spinner wheels is essential. This was my first time with a spinner and it was so much easier to get around. They simply glided. Even over cobblestone streets, we didn’t have too much difficulty.
  • The boarding bag has a slip in the back that fits over the handle of the larger luggage. This allows you to save your back and not carry around a heavy bag.
  • Loved the built in TSA-approved locks.
  • The handles were comfortable to grip.
  • The luggages have a 10-year warranty!

Negatives:

  • The hard-shell set was a little heavy.
  • Halfway through our trip, one of our large luggages had broken pretty badly. We were waiting at the airport luggage pick up area, and when it came out there was a big crack from the corner to the center of the luggage (it had obviously been dropped on the corner). The airline did offer us a small credit or a new luggage of comparable size (neither of which would make up for the cost of our new luggage). We declined the offer and decided to use the luggage warranty when we got home. In the meantime, DUCT TAPE!
  • In our last week, I was pulling a different luggage out from under the bed and it cracked. This is the moment I began questioning hard-shell luggages.
  • The built-in plastic lock mechanism did pull apart and warp a bit. Locks were still usable, but I did feel over time the locks would become compromised.
  • We felt we had purchased all the wrong size luggages. Definitely NOT the fault of Samsonite, but just something we learned through our international travel. The large luggages were SOOOOO massive that half-full was meeting the max weight restrictions. The carry-on luggage was in some cases too large for the overhead plane compartments.
Cracked Hard Shell Luggage On Honeymoon
We got our luggage off the carousel looking like this after a flight

Overall, we are really satisfied with Samsonite and decided to stick with the brand. When we got home, we brought all 5 pieces (2 broken) back to Macy’s and they were just a dream to work with. Being that we purchased through our registry, they treated us with such care and understanding. They were able to look up the items through our registry (without receipts) and allow us to exchange all 5 pieces for the same Samsonite set but in black soft-shell. We downgraded to 2 medium luggages and 2 smaller international carry-ons. Unfortunately, the international carry-ons are only sold in black, so we switched the whole set over to black. Really unfortunate because I LOVED the blue color. Oh well, it’ll be ribbons for us!

Samsonite Silhouette XV Soft Shell Luggage Medium International Carry On Boarding Bag
Samsonite Silhouette XV Soft Shell Medium Luggage, International Carry-On, and Boarding Bag

So, what exactly did I pack to get me through 6 weeks?

Tops:
White t-shirt x2
White crop top
White dress shirt
Gray tank top
Blue t-shirt
Long-sleeve white shirt
Pink and gray three-quarter sleeve shirt

Bottoms:
Blue jeans
Jean shorts
Yoga pants x2

Dresses:
White lace romper
White dress
Gray dress
Black dress
Gray dress below the knees

Extras:
Silky Bride robe
White two-piece bathing suit
Blue one-piece bathing suit
Uniqlo ultra-light down seamless parka
Beige blazer
Sunglasses
Portable umbrella
Metallic belt
“Happily Ever After” beach hat

Under Garments:
Socks x6
Bras x2
Strapless bra
Sports bra
Sleepwear x11 (not shown but did fit in the small packing cube with everything else)
Thong x7
Boy shorts x4

Shoes:
Flip-flops
Espadrilles
Sneakers

Bags:
“Honeymoonin” black canvas tote
Portable backpack that folds up

Toiletries:
Basic toiletries
Makeup
Medicine

Additionally (not shown in the pictures below) I wish I would have brought the following items on the trip with us: a pair of ballet flats and a small crossbody purse.

Capsule Wardrobe Ready To Be Packed
I was able to travel internationally for 6 weeks with just this amount of clothing!

NOTE: My husband packed all our electronics in his carry-on backpack.

Clothing souvenirs I purchased along the way:

Light scarf to cover my shoulders in the temples. Scarves are my favorite accessory, and I planned this purchase. A lot of people don’t realize the temples require covered shoulders. There are usually scarf vendors outside of the temples, but often those are heavy scarves. It was summer, and I wanted something light and breathable, so I made this purchase at a street market before going to any temples.
A long colorful skirt. Anticipating the temples rules, I did pack a dress that went to my knees. However, on day 1 in Thailand we tried to get into a temple and they told me I needed to wrap my lower half in one of their skirts (for borrow) as my dress wasn’t long enough. After that, I decided to just buy one at the street market that night for $5.

Now let’s see how it packs up!

Step 1: Pick out everything you want to pack.

Step 2: Get luggages and packing cubes ready.

Samsonite Silhouette XV Medium International Carry On Boarding Bag With Sharper Image Travel Cubes

Step 3: Organize which items you want to pair together for packing cubes. I did all clothing in the large, all undergarments and bathing suits in the medium, and souvenirs I collected along the way in the small.

Step 4: Begin rolling clothing one piece at a time. Place into the packing cube in a flat, single layer.

Large Travel Cube Open With One Layer Of Clothing

Step 5: When the cube is getting full, you can zip it up half-way and then continue to make a second layer if necessary. You can fit a surprising amount in the cube, and with the compression of the zipper it takes up less space than just rolling and placing clothing into a luggage.

Large Travel Cube Open With Two Layers Of Clothing
Large Travel Cube Open With Two Layers of Clothing
Medium Travel Cube Open With Two Layers Of Undergarments
Medium Travel Cube Open With Two Layers of Undergarments

Step 6: When all items are zipped into the cubes, you are ready to pack into your luggage!

Large Travel Cube Closed With Two Layers Of Clothing
Large Trave Cube Closed With Two Layers of Clothing
Medium Travel Cube Closed With Two Layers Of Undergarments
Medium Travel Cube Closed With Two Layers of Undergarments
Makeup And Toiletries Bag For Honeymoon
Makeup and Toiletries Bag

Step 7: Your boarding bag/carry-on should include the following:

  • A change of clothes in case your luggage gets lost.
  • A bathing suit and cover-up in case you arrive to the hotel before check-in.
  • Valuables.
  • Chargers in case you are running low on phone/computer battery in the airports.
  • Medications.
  • Passport and travel documentation.
  • A jacket/scarf in case the flight is chilly.
  • Any item that is HEAVY – If your checked bag is nearing weight restrictions, you may want to consider moving a heavy pair of shoes or heavy souvenir to your carry-on. This will allow you to potentially avoid weight overage fees. NOTE: Some international airlines also weigh carry-ons. There was an airport where we had to open all 5 luggages (1 large luggage, 2 roller carry-ons, and 2 personal items) at the counter and shift around EVERYTHING until the bags were all the correct weights. The most ridiculous thing is that we didn’t get rid of anything, so in the end the plane had the same weight for us, but it was just redistributed. Absolutely INSANE, but the rules are the rules, and they probably had more to do with the baggage handlers than the plane weight.
Samsonite Silhouette XV Packed With Travel Cubes Shoes And Toiletries
This is all my clothing, shoes, and toiletries for a 6-week trip, and I still have half of a medium-sized luggage empty for souvenirs!

Things you don’t need to bring:

  • Robe – Most hotel rooms offer a robe to hang out in. I brought my cute new white “Bride” robe, but it was wasted space because I totally didn’t need it.
  • Ponchos – We brought umbrellas and ponchos and only wore the ponchos once.
  • So many toiletries – This one all depends on if you are staying at a hotel or AirBnB type of accommodation. We brought all our own (not 6 weeks’ worth, but enough to get by), but we seriously did not need to. Every hotel offers toiletries, so try to use theirs. No use wasting space and weight on something you get for free. I ended up collecting a gallon ziploc bag of products and carried them around for most of the trip with us. They did end upcoming in handy when we stayed at the AirBnB hotels closer to the end. Only items we needed to purchase along the way were a really hydrating lotion because we got sun burnt, an aloe gel again because of sun burn, a small scissor because TSA confiscated mine in my carry-on, and a tube of toothpaste (although some hotels gave toothpaste).

Things everyone forgets to pack:

  • Ziploc bags in gallon and sandwich sizes – Whether packing snacks for a day trip, keeping liquids safe from spills in your luggages, or protecting your phone from water damage, there are many uses for Ziploc bags.
  • Portable laundry soap packets – The hardest part of an extended trip with a reduced capsule wardrobe is that you will be doing some laundry. I read a bunch of blogs about this but don’t think I was prepared in the end. When researching hotels, pick hotels that offer DIY laundry facilities. We found the laundry services at our hotels to be astronomically expensive. It would have been cheaper to buy all new clothes! We assumed our Royal Caribbean cruise ship would offer laundry rooms as Carnival Cruise Line does, but they did not. BIG mistake getting onto the ship with dirty clothes because then we were forced to pay.

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