How to Pack When You're Broke and Extra AF

In your friend group, are you the ExtraTM Friend? Are you a champagne-on-a-beer-budget, sequins-from-the-thrift-store type of Out There? Me too! (I’m also the MomTM Friend sometimes. We all wear many hats.) This doesn’t mean you’re high-maintenance; if you’re like me, a 10+ mile walk through an old European city doesn’t faze you but you want to look good doing it. You’re ballin’ on a budget and the thought of schlepping through the Alhambra in a fleece and windbreaker just doesn’t do it for you. Ain’t no shame in this game! There is absolutely no reason why you shouldn’t get to dress cute AND stick to your carry-on weight limit. Read on for tips.

1. Figure out the weather in your destination.

This one is obvious, but if you’re trying to maximize your travel ‘fits, you want to be familiar with the climate. If you’re going somewhere warm, congratulations! Thinner summer shirts and dresses/shorts take up less room and weight, so you can probably pack in quite a few options. If you’re going somewhere a bit colder, you’ll need to prioritize some layers so you don’t freeze. This is also especially important for shoes. The weather will likely be conducive to your chunky studded black biker boots OR the 90s throwback jelly sandals, but not both. Go seasonally-appropriately hard. We wanna look good for the ‘gram but not at the risk of ruining the trip, mkay?

One of my warmest sweaters is also studded with silver rings, keeping me OTT and toasty.
2. Rethink “practical.”

Sometimes when traveling with friends/family members, you might get some judgement from them for your packing choices because THEY think your clothes look “impractical.” Don’t listen to them! You’ve been dressing like this for years–you know what your clothes are capable of! Okay, MOM, at first glance you may not approve of my bright red high-waisted flared pants, but you know what? They dry out super fast when I wash them, they’re stretchy and comfortable for long bus rides, and you can miss me with that negativity. I’m going to stand out for the reasons I want to, not because my jeans-and-activewear-jacket combo screams “tourist.”

Same goes for my black wool felt coat. Yes it’s probably not QUITE as warm as your average puffy turquoise monstrosity but it IS fairly waterproof and I can fit layers under it! See? Style AND practicality. Think about what you really need in your destination (for weather, activities, cultural expectations of modesty, etc.) and pick out some of your cuter pieces that will do the job.

I could bring a proper raincoat but my faux leather jacket does the trick when it starts sprinkling.
3. Cut down on your weight.

Once again, seems obvious, but always necessary. If you’re broke and fabulous, you don’t want to shell out for an overweight bag fee on your budget airline flight. That’s money you could use for tapas! Trim down as much as you can, then look at your bag and pick out your heaviest items. Then, plan to wear as many of them as you can on the plane. This is how I ended up wearing my overalls layered under a chunky white sweater with exaggerated bell sleeves under the aforementioned black wool coat with a scarf, hat and knee-high boots. Was I too warm on the plane? Absolutely, but once onboard I was able to strip off those layers and laugh in the face of the airline that thought it could limit my wardrobe. Not this time, Easyet.

Since I don't have a photo of that plane outfit, here is one of me wearing super lightweight silky joggers that pack down to practically nothing! Fantastic.
4. Accessories and makeup are your friends.

Part of the reason I’m so extra about packing (and dressing for daily life!) is that the idea of a normal wardrobe is BORING! Style is fun, and fun is probably one of the reasons why you decided to travel in the first place. But with limited bag space comes limited outfit variety, right? WRONG. What you lack in clothes options you can make up with: makeup! A bright lip or a smokey eye or a little glitter can completely change the tone of an outfit, and a lipstick won’t take up as much space as a whole other shirt. These might take up more of your precious TSA-approved quart bag of liquids, but you can remedy that by picking up some solid shampoo and conditioner bars like these to free up some space. (They’ll also last you a lot longer than the liquid kind, so that’s even more money for tapas. Yay!)

Accessories have a similar power. Some big-ass earrings will take your outfit from earnest-museum-goer to dancing-and-drinks in a flash, and won’t weigh THAT much, tbh. Sunglasses are necessary for sunny locales, and can be as over the top as you want while still getting the job done. Pair that cool hat you wore on the plane with a bunch of rings and be cool and urban. Layer some cool patterned tights under your little black dress or throw a scarf over literally anything. Find a few of your standout faves, and pack them in those weird empty spaces that end up in your suitcase, like the insides of shoes.

looks for days

And there you have it. Fellow Extra Travelers rejoice! It’s possible to be YOU wherever you happen to be in the world. Now go forth and snap some pics at your fabulous destinations, knowing that you look nearly as fabulous as that castle behind you.

Got any other good packing tips for me? Let me know in the comments!

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