The Best List of What to Pack for a Weekend Trip Away

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The Best List of What to Pack for a Weekend Trip Away

One of the great things about being an empty nester is taking a quick last-minute trip or a weekend getaway.  But if you’re like me, a short last-minute trip can make me anxious when it comes to packing.  I love to be impulsive, but I also love to be organized and pack light.  Short weekend trips, girls’ getaways,  and long weekend trips require planning and organization!

Lucky for you, my type-A personality benefits you!  I have a quick list I use as a guideline. Then I can customize what I’m going to bring based on that list. 

But first, let’s talk about why to pack light and choose items carefully.  I’ve pulled out some of my best tips for this post, so buckle up, baby!

Why Pack Light

One of my goals in traveling is to pack light.  No one wants to schlep four bags in and out of hotel rooms or through the airports.  And if you’re flying, it can be a real pain to check bags, not to mention expensive.  So, we will focus on packing light as we go through our list.  Here are some reasons I like to pack light.

  • Packing light saves time on your trip – When you streamline what you bring, you have fewer decisions to make when you’re at your destination, and you need to hit the ground running.
  • Packing light is an energy saver when you return home –  Rather than returning home with a suitcase half full of dirty clothes and now formerly clean clothes carrying the smells of the dirty, you will be able to come home with a tiny bag of laundry.  Toss it right into your laundry hamper, and voila!  You’re unpacked! These tips also hold for health and beauty aids and makeup products.  Fewer items packed make fewer items to unpack.
  • Packing light saves money – Believe it or not, it’s true.  Airlines are limiting the number of bags you can check.  A carry-on suitcase that can be tucked in an overhead bin is a great alternative to paying the additional cost of checking bags. And if we want to stretch that thinking, consider this:  Gas costs more and more these days.  Cars get better mileage when loads of heavy bags do not bog them down.  In a nutshell, it pays to travel light (see what I did there?).

Hip Grandma Tip – If you doubt whether you need to bring it, you probably don’t.  Leave it at home.  My mom reminds me of this: Wherever you end up, there’s a store close by that will have what you need.  Listen to your mom, or in this case, my mom.  Moms know things and always have a pro tip!

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What to Pack for a Weekend Trip – Your Weekend Packing List Simplified!

When you find yourself getting ready for a weekend trip, whether it is last minute or planned well in advance, the time comes when the rubber meets the road, and it’s time to begin the packing process.  But there are a couple of things to do before you start throwing things in your bag.

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#1 – Check the Weather Forecast

Your first step in planning how to pack is checking the weather!  I use the WeatherBug app to know the weather conditions in advance.  Look at the 10-day forecast in the area where you’re traveling to get an idea of what you’ll want to wear.  After all, there’s no point in bringing that cute sundress if it’s 40 degrees or those rain boots if it’ll be sunny and 70!

#2 – Choose Your Suitcase, Duffel Bag or Backpack

I have several bags on hand to use when I hit the road.  My backpack works perfectly for summer weekend trips and my wheeled suitcase is a little bigger for when I need to pack heavier clothing or am taking a long trip.  Packing cubes help to keep things well-organized no matter what bag I use.  Pick up some of these great packing cubes to help keep items orderly.

Some people have a specific bag that works for them every time they travel.  Whether you’re using a small backpack, a duffel bag, or a wheeled suitcase, remember to choose your bag wisely based on how many days you’ll be traveling.  It is all too easy to throw in more than you need to fill the suitcase you’re taking.  When you feel tempted to overpack, refer to the reasons to pack light above!

Choosing the bag that will fit just what you need and not a lot of extra will help you limit how many items you can bring.

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#3 – Plan One Outfit Per Day

Once you have an idea of your trip’s weather conditions, you can start laying out your outfits.  Get an overview of what you will wear each day. Choose one outfit per day and lay them out where you can see them. You will be loading an outfit for each day into a packing cube, so it really does help to lay everything out in small piles.

I don’t know about you, but I like to pack my most comfortable and favorite outfits when I travel.  For me, travel is an ultimate act of self-care, so picking my favorite outfits is a great way to feel great and keep my trip hassle-free.  If traveling is stressful for you, then even more reason to be comfortable and feel great to help reduce your stress.

If you like to think through your list before putting it all together, then a simple alternative to physically laying everything out is to make a list naming each clothing item per day.  I will sometimes make a list in the notes on my phone as I think of things I know I’ll want to wear.

Whether you need to see your items visually or you can picture them in your head, think ahead as much as possible.  When you do this work in advance, you can also ensure that all the right pieces are cleaned, folded, and ready to pack when you load up your bag.

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Now is the time to consider how to pair up your favorites – maybe your favorite pair of jeans with your cutest top, your best sundress with those anti-chafing shorts that you love, and pair up your comfiest leggings with your favorite cozy tunic.  Now is the time to think about the details of each outfit.

Once you have your major clothing items selected for each day, go ahead and choose your favorite undies, bras, socks, and accessories for each day and pack those right into each day’s cube.

Hip Grandma Tip – You may have noticed I mentioned choosing your favorite undies.  Don’t be shy – we all have favorite undies.  You’re not alone.  Remember the importance of being comfortable and feeling great while traveling, so go ahead and treat yourself to packing the best!

A woman carrying a suitcase with scenery in the distance and a quote "Pack half the clothes and twice the money"

A note about those packing cubes

The next step is to pack each day into its packing cube!  I have a confession.  When I first saw packing cubes at my local travel store, I thought they were ridiculous and only meant for the packing overachievers.  But once I took the plunge and gave them a try, they became one of my favorite packing accessories, and here’s why.

These little cubes keep your suitcase in order.  Each day, you can pull out a single cube and have everything you need ready to roll.  This trick is convenient if you’re sharing a room with someone.  Grab a cube of clothes and your toiletries, and you’re ready for your turn in the communal bathroom space.  Having a whole outfit ready with a quick grab is super helpful when two gorgeous women need time in the bathroom getting ready.  Talk about time-saving tips!

Hip Grandma Tip – Roll your items before placing them in the packing cubes.  Rolling rather than folding things helps prevent wrinkles.

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A note about day to evening wear

Before you object to the one outfit a day rule because you’re going somewhere special, think about packing one outfit that will transition from daytime comfort to nighttime glamour.  For example, perhaps you can switch out some denim shorts for a dressier skirt or choose a convertible top that would look casual during the day and then go strapless for the evening.

Throw in a pair of strappy sandals that may not be comfy for walking all day but look great for the evening.  Remember, changing out accessories can also make a big difference in your look.  Packing a bonus scarf or other skirt is much lighter and more manageable than packing another entire outfit.

Hip Grandma Tip – If you have time in your hotel room to switch out an outfit for evening wear, choose to wear the pieces for evening wear first and then transition them into daywear the next day.  This way, you’ll feel refreshed and clean for your evening out and prevents wrinkles or sweat from being dragged into the evening.  Of course, this isn’t always possible, but it is certainly worth considering if you can make it happen!

A Few Extra Pieces to Pack

Since traveling does include more than just daily clothing, let’s talk about a few additional items that may come in handy and some tips for stretching these items into multiple uses.

  • Sweater or Light Jacket – Choose one versatile piece that works with multiple ensembles.  Choose a neutral color and something comfy and flattering.  You may need to wear this layer more than once, so choose something that coordinates with everything.  To keep your packing light, especially if you’re flying, consider wearing this layer while you travel.
  • Swimsuit & Cover – Even if you’re not heading for a beach getaway, you may find that your hotel has a swimming pool or hot tub, so consider throwing in a swimsuit.  Swimsuits are tiny and don’t take up much space.  Choose a very lightweight coverup or a pashmina that can double as a scarf to pair with your evening wear.  Double-duty for the win!
  • Pajamas – One pair of pajamas will do quite nicely for a weekend trip.  Slip them into one of your packing cubes with a small piece of a dryer sheet in your favorite fragrance, and they’ll be fresh and ready for you when you need them on night two or possibly even three.

Hip Grandma Tip – If you want to live dangerously and really practice packing light, you can forego jammies altogether and sleep in one of your shirts and a comfy pair of shorts or undies.  Up to you!

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But I Need Shoes, too!

Shoes can be a real challenge when you’re packing.  They take up a lot of space, and it often feels like you need different pairs of shoes for every outfit.  And then there’s the issue of comfort.  If you’re taking a trip away from home, chances are pretty good you’ll be doing some walking.  Comfortable shoes are a must and become more and more critical the older we get!

I try to pack one super cute, comfortable, and versatile pair of shoes that will match all my daily outfits and suit the weather where I’ll be traveling.  Of course, these are the shoes I wear for travel.

If I plan an evening out or know I’ll be attending a nice dinner, I try to pack an extra pair that travels well and dresses up my outfit.  Choose shoes that take as little space as possible: no spiked heels or giant wedges for me.  Strappy sandals or flat ballet-type slippers are excellent for travel.  Tuck this extra pair into one of your packing cubes and slide it into the bottom of your suitcase where it can remain until you need to pull them out.

Hip Grandma Tip – If you must bring some fancy-schmancy shoes with high heels or if your shoes can’t be smooshed, pack some of your smaller items inside them to help them keep their shape.  Using the extra space inside the shoes also cuts down on the amount of space you need.

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Choosing Just the Right Toiletries for Your Weekend Trip

Ah – the dreaded toiletry bag.  Gone are the days when women needed a train case to carry their essentials.  The enlightened, mature (and dare I say Hip) traveler knows that packing light is more important than packing everything!

Consider what the hotel will have on hand before throwing all your favorite products into your bag.  Most hotels now provide decent-quality shampoos, soaps, and lotions right in your room.  If using those is not an option for you, then pick up some tiny travel-sized containers to fit a couple of days worth of product.  There is no need to bring a liter of shampoo for a 2-day trip.  You can also skip the hairdryer, as most hotels now provide dryers right in the rooms.

Hip Grandma Tip – Grab a travel-sized dry shampoo and avoid shampooing and styling your hair daily while traveling.

Once you’ve eliminated what you don’t need from your list, it’s time to think about the essentials that you do need.

  • Medications – First and foremost, consider any daily medications that you’ll need and pack them first!  But rather than pack your meds in their original bottles, opt to put them out into a pill organizer like THIS ONE.

I prefer to bring seven days of my meds with me, even on a short trip that is less than seven days.  Packing extra gives me the peace of mind of knowing that if there is an unexpected delay, I will have a cushion of meds for a few days, which gives me time to either get home or, in the case of a longer delay, any necessary refills.  Covid has taught us that it pays to be prepared for the worst!  I even bring extra on longer trips.

  • Toothbrush and paste
  • Emergency First Aid Items – Motrin, a couple of Band-Aids
  • Contact lenses, saline, and glasses
  • Deodorant
  • Feminine hygiene products – Don’t forget this critical personal item!
  • Basic Skincare – My skin goes a little crazy when I am in a different location for a few days, so it’s necessary to bring my own skincare products.  That’s okay!  I keep some small travel-sized containers in my travel cosmetic bag, so I don’t have to worry about packing my full-sized products!
  • Basic Makeup – Remember – you’re on vacation here – don’t plan to spend hours in front of a mirror.  And don’t forget that it’s essential to get the proper amount of sleep, so pack sparingly and let your natural beauty shine through!

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Hip Grandma Tip – If you’re traveling with friends, coordinate important things like toothpaste, Ibuprofin, etc. so that each person brings something to share.  There is no need for two tubes of toothpaste and two bottles of hairspray or Sunscreen.  You might even find a new product that you love when you share it with a friend!

To ensure you’re not missing anything when packing toiletries, put your toiletry bag out the night before you will travel.  When you leave, get ready for your day with the items you’ve packed in your toiletry bag.  You’ll immediately know if you missed something crucial, and you can still toss it in.  The toiletry bag is usually one of the last items to make it into my suitcase.

Choose Electronics Wisely for Your Weekend Trip

Yes – we are now in the digital age, which can be an excellent thing for traveling!  You will most likely need only a couple of digital items for a short weekend trip.  Give this some deep thought – can you do everything you will need to do with your smartphone, smartwatch, and a pair of earbuds?

With your smartphone, you can listen to podcasts, take photos, map your route, research your location, post on social media, and so many other things. You can certainly pack a tablet or a laptop, but how much time will you have to use those items?

Of course, if it’s a business trip, that’s another matter and another post for another day.  Only you can decide which electronics are necessary.  One item that is certainly necessary for those who don’t have a camera on their smartphone, that is, is your camera!  Never leave home without it!

Hip Grandma Tip – If you will be sharing a room with someone who snores, know that a pair of earbuds with some soft, soothing music work great to drown out the sounds of a loud sleeper.

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Travel Comfort Items

Whether I’m traveling by car for a road trip or by airplane for a longer distance to my weekend trip, I always have a few items of importance that I like to keep close and handy to make the trip pass a bit more smoothly.  Here’s a list to get you thinking:

  • Reusable water bottle
  • A small snack or a few hard candies – Lifesavers work great
  • Book or audiobook on my phone (with earbuds)
  • Lip Balm & Hand Cream (especially when flying, which is so drying to your skin)
  • Phone charger cable
  • Wallet with cash, driver’s license, and a credit card

Planning Your Travel Outfit

On travel day, keep a small bag handy for carry-on or to keep close in the vehicle.  Include your travel comfort items and plan to wear some layers.  Wearing layers will help you reduce what goes into your travel bag and will allow you to stay comfortable as you travel.

Hip Grandma Tip – Throw a few plastic bags in your suitcase.  Frequent travelers know that these come in handy for so many reasons.  They are perfect for storing wet gear or dirty gear on a quick trip with just one small bag.  They are great to have in your carry-on bag for holding small items such as lip balm and lotion

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Wrapping It All Up

And now you know all the best secrets to pack lightly and have everything you need for your next weekend trip.  When you use these tips combined with this free weekend packing list, you’ll have one less reason to worry!

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