the art of packing for a mini-break

I recently went on a sojourn to Toronto lasting five days. Before deciding what to pack, I had to consider two things: what I’d be doing and the weather.

The main purpose of my trip was to attend the Toronto International Film Festival. I like to dress-up for the movie premieres, so I had to have a balance of casual outfits, along with more formal items.

As for the weather, well, I did my best given the ever-changing forecast.

This is how I packed.

the “suitcase” and the purse - the art of packing for a mini-break

I packed my belongings in a Timbuk2 Wingman Duffel Bag in the small size. (I think this size may have been discontinued.) This bag has multiple compartments and can be worn as a backpack.

Even with all those compartments, I somehow still felt the need to repack my items into smaller bags. I brought a wet bag for my dirty laundry, a shoe bag and a packing cube for all my other clothing items. - the art of packing for a mini-break
I chose to bring my Longchamp Le Pliage as my main purse. Based on my activities, I knew that I’d be away from home each day for many hours. I needed a bag that would hold my water bottle, snacks, cardigan and other items.

The added bonus of this bag is that it folds up when not in use. This came in handy on my final day when I wanted to walk around and didn’t want to be carrying both my backpack and a purse.

the clothes and the shoes - the art of packing for a mini-break

I wore a simple t-shirt and jeans on my transit day to Toronto. This was a low-key day and I didn’t have any major plans. The next day I wore the same jeans with a blouse to have lunch with a friend and to stroll around. I also wore this outfit on my last day for the trip back home. - the art of packing for a mini-break

I mostly wear dresses, so I packed a more casual summer dress, along with my purple party dress. I wore my party dress on the day that I attended movie premieres.

Honestly, I could’ve gotten away with just bringing one of these dresses as I only ended up wearing each one once. I think dresses can easily be worn multiple times before washing is required. - the art of packing for a mini-break

I’m a big believer in packing at most two pairs of shoes, plus either flip flops or slippers. My real preference is to only bring one pair of shoes and wear them the whole time. But as I knew it was likely going to rain, I couldn’t rely solely on my Toms.

I actually wore my Toms with my party dress. I know – a fashion faux pas. But after wearing my other shoes the previous day, I knew that I wouldn’t be comfortable wearing them for more than 12 hours the next day. I’ll probably donate these soon as they haven’t turned out to be a very good buy for me.

the accessories and the extras - the art of packing for a mini-break

The weather was going to be chilly some days, so I needed to bring either my trench coat or my cardigan. I chose my cardigan, though on at least one of the days, a trench coat would’ve been more appropriate. I also brought a scarf. It came in handy to liven up my outfits and as a blanket in the theatre when I got cold. - the art of packing for a mini-break

I’m not a big jewelry wearer. I wear my silver ring every day, and occasionally a bracelet. I have a gold cocktail ring that I like to wear for special events. Film fest is a special event in my eyes, so I brought it along.

I also packed my sunglasses, a mini umbrella, my reusable water bottle, snack container and enviro bag.

the make-up and the toiletries - the art of packing for a mini-break

I needed make-up that would last the whole day. I’m not really someone who reapplies once I leave the house. I debated bringing mascara, but decided against it because I knew I’d rub my eyes at some point and be stuck looking like a raccoon. I recently purchased eyeliner again after a while of not wearing it. I think I’m over eyeliner. It irritates my eyes too much. But I love, love, love 100% Pure’s Lip & Cheek Tint! Who doesn’t like a two-in-one product?!

For most of my time in Toronto, I was staying at a friend’s place that I hadn’t stayed at before. So I brought along my own towel, toothpaste and shampoo as I didn’t want to make any assumptions. Plus, I like using my own brands.

I repackaged my tea tree oil into a smaller vial, as well as my moisturizer and toothpaste into a contact lense case – no leakage! I also use a Preserve kid-sized toothbrush when traveling since they’re smaller and easier to pack. I’m working on replacing my deodorant with a crystal or a homemade variety, so that won’t take up quite as much space the next time around.

Aside: The shampoo bar I’m currently using is from Lush. I know it has sodium lauryl sulfate in it. If you have any suggestions on a non-toxic shampoo bar that works well, please let me know. I’m also transitioning most of my beauty products and toiletries to less toxic varieties. It’s a work in progress at the moment.

the unmentionables and the forgotten

These are the items that I either never intended or forgot to photograph:

  • Undergarments (two bras, four pairs of underwear)
  • Nightgown
  • Black leggings (I had to wear these with my casual dress because it was cold. It kind of wrecked my look, but at least I was warm!)
  • iPhone (can also be used for reading ebooks / listening to music), charger and earphones
  • Wallet, keys and tissues
  • Eyeglasses (so that I could actually see the movies and for spotting celebrities)
  • Tweezers
  • Dental picks (one of my environmental sins, but they’ve improved my dental health)
  • A travel-sized version of Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soap in baby mild (I can’t believe I forgot to include it in my toiletries photo – big fail!)

the end of the road - the art of packing for a mini-break

And here’s me on my last day sporting my backpack. I’m happy I brought it instead of my carry-on suitcase with wheels. I decided to walk from my friend’s place to the bus station that was almost 7 km (4.35 miles) away!

There’s no way I would’ve been able to do that dragging a suitcase along or if I hadn’t (mostly) mastered the art of traveling light.

Dream travel wardrobe: I’d like to work towards a variation of this minimalista packing list for my future sojourns . . . but perhaps without the convertible travel pants.

23 thoughts on “the art of packing for a mini-break

  1. Sara

    I think your own packing list seems quite reasonable and comfortable. :) At least to me, since my own travel (packing) habits tend to change in time. Nowadays I’ve again become more ‘conservative’ and pack more, but it’s bound to change, so next time I may take less. My husband and I both love London (UK) and most likely will travel there again next year. I usually travel with my large backpack instead of a suitcase, since I find it easier to lug around.

    I live in Finland and have a favorite natural shampoo bar that I buy here (they don’t appear to ship abroad), but I’ve come across these US websites – with intl. shipping – that seem to carry only natural products, and no SLS in them as far as I could see: and . Also I think I’ve seen shampoo bars on Etsy.

  2. needforless

    Carry-on only is definitely the way to go.

    I found this out when traveling with a friend from Tallahassee, FL to Seattle, WA for the Seattle International Film Festival (where we met and conversed with Edward Norton for no less than 5 minutes–DREAM COME TRUE).

    We both decided beforehand to travel light, and it was the best decision we ever made. This was before the minimalist light in my brain came on, and the concept has grabbed me ever since. Your bag looks a lot like mine did for that trip.

    Thanks for sharing! I love to see how other people pack light. :)

  3. A

    Love this post, as I’m a huge fan of packing light! I also love the colors of the clothes you selected. I travel in a similarly small bag, and it’s a delight to slide it easily under the seats on planes.

    I wish the deodorant stones worked for me – they don’t, so I have to haul a bottle of Nivea roll-on wherever I travel. It’s the only effective thing that doesn’t irritate my skin!

    As for shampoo bars, I’ve had awesome luck with the JR Liggett Bar Shampoo:
    I have short hair, and it cleans well and gives it nice body. I can use it on other sensitive areas of my body, which means I was able to give up my Dr Bronner’s Baby Mild liquid (and the accompanying plastic!). When the bar gets down to a little sliver, I just merge it on to a fresh bar, and there’s no waste.

    Finally, when it comes to “convertible” travel pants, I just pack or wear one pair that looks good rolled up.

  4. Maria

    I know of many people who use baking soda and vineagar to wash their hair, but that hasn’t worked well for me so far. I also tried castile soap with and without a vineagar rinse, but that didn’t work so great either. I think it really varies from person to person. Now I mostly use Aubrey Organics shampoo and conditioner (chamomile luxurious), and I’m happy with that, even though I would ideally like to find something even simpler (like maybe chamomile tea or just a natural shampoo). I first ordered another type from Aubrey Organics that didn’t work well for me, but the one I use now works great. I don’t use any other products other than the shampoo and conditioner, I have a bob type hair cut, medium thick I would say (I think each individual hair is sort of thin, but there are quite a lot of them), sort of wavy, medium-dark-ish blond. I order from, and I think for many of the products you can order a small bottle to see if it’s a good fit. Good luck! If you find a natural simple alternative that works well, it would be great to hear about it. :) And it’s totally a process to switch to natural products!

  5. Elyse

    Nice! I am currently obsessed with packing light. I hauled one huge backpack and two hand luggage items – a roomy handbag and a teeny tiny kiddy suitcase – around Europe for two months – for me and a two year old, but it wasn’t quite light enough. Not NEARLY light enough.

  6. living lagom Post author

    Thanks for the shampoo bar recommendations! I try not to order items from the US (I’m in Canada) since I never end up knowing what the real cost will be because of the duties and taxes. I ran into that problem with the Timbuk2 bag above. I kept getting more and more charges after the fact.

    I definitely prefer the backpack to the suitcase for shorter trips or where I’ll be moving around a lot.

  7. living lagom Post author

    I’ve been experimenting for a while and have tried a bunch of different things. I never gave the baking soda/acv much of a chance, but I just wasn’t into it.

    If I do find something that works really well, I’ll write up a post. It could be a while…

  8. living lagom Post author

    Hey Nick! I’ll also be writing about the movies I saw in my September update challenge. And you did get the inside scoop my having special family access to my FB! ;)

  9. living lagom Post author

    Oh, and very cool about chatting it up with Ed Norton! I actually had a mini chat with Jared Leto this time around. Together, we could arrange a Fight Club reunion. ;)

  10. living lagom Post author

    Thanks A! I’ve seen that soap bar in Toronto, I’m not sure if I’d be able to find it in my area. My Lush bar will last a while, so I will consider testing it out once it’s done.

    I’ve found that deodorant is one of the hardest things to go natural on! I tried the crystal in the summer, but it wasn’t up to snuff. I’m going to try again now that it’s cooler.

    Oh, and thanks for suggesting to just roll-up your pants! I do that with my jeans, but they only roll-up so high because they’re skinny jeans.

  11. Eleanor Howe

    I second Liggett’s Shampoo bars! They work very, very well for my mid-back length thick, curly hair as well. The first couple of weeks it felt odd, but then my natural scalp oils regulated themselves and it works like a dream – I don’t need a separate conditioner, which is a huuge deal for me. It’s also a good body soap (most of our guests have used it as such), but you *must* let it dry between uses it becomes a slimy mess. They are a pretty local product for me (I live in Massachusetts and it’s made in New Hampshire), but as A said, they are sold through Amazon.

  12. rebekkastarfish

    Is that the “Squeaky Green” shampoo bar by Lush? I just recently discovered their products, and while they might be far from perfect I really like that particular shampoo. It’s really hard to find shampoo bars in shops in Germany, and if I order them on the internet they’ll come in lots of packaging again (so nothing won when compared to liquid shampoo).
    At the moment I’m on vacation in France and brought way, way too many clothes … long way to go to travelling light! I like your choice of items – and your backpack-suitcase, as it looks pretty comfortable and more helpful for staying organized than the usual trekking backpacks!

  13. living lagom Post author

    It is Squeaky Green! I do like the way it performs, but my preference is to have a product without SLS. I’m not a big online shopper either, so I’ll wait until I go back to Toronto to get the Liggett’s version suggested.

    And my backpack-suitcase is comfortable for short treks. It opens and acts like a suitcase, but you can wear it on your back.

    Hope you’re having fun in France!

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