Travel Light in Morocco
(Shown from top left, clockwise: Osprey Porter 46 Travel Pack, Sorel PDX wedge, FRAME denim Le High Skinny Jean, Kodiak Surrey II boots, Hermes belt, cashmere beanie purchased in Italy, Nikon d750 with added camera strap, toiletry bag from Sephora, makeup bag, panties packed tightly away in a Mikoh travel pouch, Beats noise canceling headphones, comfy collared button-downs from Rails and Bella Dahl, and several long-sleeved shirts from Lululemon and other brands. Not pictured: GoPro Fusion, 2 sweaters, 4 additional pairs of denim jeans, socks, and my multi-port charger)
So I'm off to Morocco tomorrow and I have to admit, I have had some difficulty with my current packing situation. This will be the first time I will be traveling for more than a couple of weeks, in the winter (where you have to pack and wear bulkier items), where I can only bring a backpack. So this one's going to be a tough one. Why just a backpack you ask? Well, Morocco is not the kind of place where you want to be lugging a giant rolling suitcase around unless you fly private and have a driver or a chauffeur to handle your bags. I definitely will not have those luxuries on this trip so I'm relegated to just one small backpack that I can carry around on my own. You don't want to be worrying about your bags being able to roll around on cobblestone streets, right? It's part of the charm of Morocco but one of the difficulties if you want to bring a lot of stuff.
I should note that one of the main difficulties I am encountering is that I'm going to be traveling to Italy and the UK after Morocco, so my bag needs to be filled with both warm and cold weather gear. I suppose it would probably be easier if I were just spending a week in Morocco, but my trip will span a total of 16 days and will include travel in temperatures ranging from -3 degrees Celsius (or about 26 F) and 22 degrees Celsius (or about 70 degrees Fahrenheit). So I've got my work cut out for me on this trip.
One of the common misconceptions about Morocco is that it is warm all the time. You have to keep in mind that it is the desert, so it does get cooler in the winter and often very cold at night. The forecast for the week I will be there has the temperatures ranging in the 60s and low 70s during the day and as low as 30 degrees at night. So while it will be temperate in the day, I'll need to pack warm things for nighttime. The key here is layering.
When traveling to Morocco you also have to be culturally sensitive, so that means packing appropriate clothing. While men can probably wear just about anything, women have to be more careful what to wear, or we risk receiving unwanted attention. Though you don't need to wear a head scarf, women should always have their shoulders and their knees covered. So the safest bet is to wear sleeved shirts and either jeans or long flowy skirts. Since it's winter, I am opting to wear jeans and long sleeved collared shirts, like chambrays or flannel shirts.
I've gone back and forth on what to bring and what not to bring, so I've done a lot of research about the weather and the best things to wear. I'm planning to stick to my usual rules of packing efficiently, which include the following:
1. Wear your bulkiest items.
This is one of the easiest things you can do to help lessen your load when trying to pack light. By choosing to wear your bulkiest items (coats, boots, sweaters, etc.) this frees up quite a bit of space in your bag. For example, even if you don't need to wear a coat when you leave (which I won't, since it's currently 75+ degrees in Southern California in December), you should still "wear" it on the plane so it doesn't take up unnecessary space in your suitcase. Coats are not included in the item allowance for carrying stuff on the plane, so it makes sense to just sling it over your arm if it's too hot to wear it. Then you can stow it in the overhead cabin with your luggage above you when you're on the plane.
Similarly, hats are always good to wear on the plane as well, as you can wear a big floppy felt hat and then just take it off and stow it away when you don't want to wear it, and that way you don't have to worry about ruining your hat by having to squish it into a bag and have it lose its shape.
Wearing your bulkiest pair of shoes is also a nice way to save space. Any time I plan to travel with riding boots, I always wear those on the plane because they take up the most space of any item I usually want to bring. And wearing your bulkiest pair of shoes on the plane is particularly helpful in wintertime when you might need thick, bulky weatherproof boots. You can always take them off when you go to sleep for extra comfort. I always remember to wear a comfy pair of thick socks so my feet stay warm even with my shoes off. For this trip, I will be traveling in waterproof, fleece-lined hiking boots like these (which are not only super bulky but also rather heavy) so I plan to wear them on the plane.
I also like to sling my headphones around my neck before I board the plane so that they are ready when I want them and I don't have to go digging through my bag to get them.
2. Use travel-size everything!
For this trip, since I am not planning to have to go to any Michelin starred restaurants and certainly won't be attending any business meetings, my look will be much more casual, and that means I also don't plan to wear a lot of makeup or do much with my hair. So that means I will be leaving most of my hair and makeup products at home. That means no flat iron, no brush, and no hair products other than dry shampoo. I'm planning to keep it simple with my usual travel-size versions of the makeup I absolutely have to bring (mascara, powder foundation) and the only haircare-related items I will be bringing along are a travel-sized can of dry shampoo (which is a lifesaver if you haven't traveled with this stuff before) and a hair tie. Thankfully my hair is straight enough where I really don't even need to use a brush, but I'll probably throw a small travel-sized comb in just in case.
I also will be bringing travel-size versions of the following: toothpaste, toothbrush, face wash, moisturizer, and sunscreen. See my Pack Like a Pro post for tips on getting. everything you use on a daily basis in travel-size.
3. Pack the bare minimum for clothing and plan to do laundry.
For my Morocco trip, we plan to spend a night in Marrakech and then immediately head off on a 4 day, 3 night desert trek to Erg Chigaga Luxury Desert Camp. When we get back, we will be staying one night in a simple riad and then splurging a bit with a night at Royal Mansour. Since I know a 5 star hotel will offer laundry service, I plan to wash any clothes I want to rewear (uhm... all of them) when I'm there. Having your hotel do your laundry can sometimes get pricey, but it's 100% worth it for the time and ease that it can afford you. This is basically the only way I can get away with packing a week's worth of stuff for several weeks. You just wear the stuff all over again.
4. Only bring clothing items that are neutral in color and match with everything.
This is a big one. You have to pack smart, even if it means you have to think about it a little bit ahead of time. I focused on this point quite a bit in my prior blog post, How to Pack Like a Pro, but I'll reiterate some of the points because it's an important one. The key to being able to pack light and not look like you're wearing the exact same outfit every single day is to pack separates that can be mixed and matched. By picking a color scheme of clothes, shoes and accessories that are all similar, you ensure that just about everything you bring will match, which allows you to use pieces more than once.
For example, I like to pick a color scheme based on my "black versus color" rule. What does that mean? I like to go with either a color scheme of black, white and shades of grey (with a few pops of color here and there so it's not too boring) or a more neutral color scheme of brown, tan, navy and white. When I wear black and grey, I typically bring a black handbag and silver jewelry, watches and accessories. When I go with my "color" color scheme, I bring a brown or tan handbag (in this case I will be using my tan camera bag that doubles as a crossbody bag) and gold jewelry and accessories. Since Morocco is both colorful and requires a more rugged, casual dress for the things we will be doing, I am going with a color palette of blues, tans, army greens, and browns.
5. Lay everything out that you want to bring and then edit, edit, EDIT!
Here's something I do when I can't decide what I want to bring and what I need to leave at home: I put all of my stuff out on my bed or on the floor next to my suitcase and then I look at it all in one place. This usually makes me realize that I have chosen to bring more stuff than I can fit, and it resonates with me more when I see it all in front of me rather than just having a running list in my mind or a written list on paper. Nine times out of ten, I do this and realize I've included not only too much stuff but also stuff I don't need. Did you throw in your new sweater that's a beautiful fuchsia color, but only matches with one outfit? Get rid of it. Did you include a fabulous hand-stitched pool coverup because it's so very chic? Throw it back in your closet where it belongs (you can wear a damn t-shirt and sweats to the spa--it's not Fashion Week). Think you absolutely have to wear those sky high heels? You don't. Don't bring them. You won't wear them.
Okay, so with that said, here's my list:
What I plan to wear:
Moto leggings by ALO
Thick knitted socks
What I will carry in my purse:
Colgate mini toothbrushes
What I will pack away in my backpack:
5 pairs of jeans
6 long-sleeve shirts
5 pairs of socks
Makeup bag (edited down to the essentials)
One piece bikini
Charger/converter (for Morocco, Italy & London)
Extra Sd cards (+SD card uploader)
And there you have it! As always, if you have any questions, please feel free to shoot me an email by either using my contact page or emailing me here.