Even if you fancy yourself an economical packer, chances are you have at least a personal bag and a carry-on for every airline trip you take. But according to Athleta’s CMO Andréa Mallard (an apparent packing magician), all you really need is a shoulder bag.
Mallard calls her process a “surgical packing approach”—which doesn’t mean her packing list is sacrificial or preventative. The executive brings everything she needs on her at-least-monthly trips and works out wherever she goes. “Once you bring the bare minimum on a trip, you realize that it makes everything easier and less stressful,” Mallard wrote in an email, adding that Kondo-ing her carry-on helps her “breeze through security” as well as get started on her day right upon landing. “I never need to ‘drop off my suitcase’ at a hotel, and I can flow between events far more easily.”
Basically, if there is a secret to finding your Zen while traveling, Mallard’s six packing tips are likely on the right track.
Scroll to see this expert’s guide to efficient packing.
1. Pack things that are versatile (and comfortable)
“If I’m traveling for three days or less, I bring a single pair of pants (which I wear the whole time). Since I need something that travels well (i.e., comfortable in a cramped airplane seat, won’t wrinkle, ultra-soft, can be dressed up or down), my default is the Athleta Sculptek Skinny Jean Grey Wash. It moves and feels like a yoga pant, but it’s absolutely still premium denim.
I work out mostly in Aura Sonar Capris and my sports bra, especially in dark-lit classes where no one can really see me.”
2. Pick your workouts strategically
“I always work out when I travel, but since running shoes take up bulk, I’ll simply book myself a class at a studio where footwear is provided (like Peloton) or unnecessary (like yoga). If it starts getting too pricey to book studio classes, I’ll often look for the latest/greatest options near my hotel and sign up for a free intro class.
Or, if that’s not an option, I simply walk and walk and walk. My go-to travel favorite shoe is the ultra-light, ultra-thin Vivo Barefoot running shoes.”
3. Be smart about your fabric selection
“I searched for years for the perfect sports bra that was comfortable enough to wear it all day yet supportive enough for a workout. Even more important—and stay with me here—one that I can sweat in without needing to launder it. My answer: The Renewal Bra. Here’s why: First, it’s lower cut, ultra-soft, and seamless, so it looks nice even under a thin T-shirt. Second, it’s made with unstinkable, wicking, and quick-drying fabric. That means if I sweat in it, I’d just rinse it under the tap in my hotel room at night, hang it up to dry and wear it the next day. Which I have done countless times. Once I did it for seven days straight. Don’t judge—it literally does. not. smell.
I travel with two tops. One is more casual for the airplane and walking around, etc. Then I’ll bring one slightly dressier one for meetings or going out to dinner. In both cases, though, I look for thinner, wrinkle-resistant materials.”
4. Consider your environment
“Most hotels have room-based thermometers, so I never bring big, thick jammies since I know the room temp can be adjusted (and typically hotel duvets are pretty heavy). You cannot do better than Gap Body for ultra-thin, silky-soft sleepwear. At the risk of sounding like a crazy person, I bring a sleep dress (so it’s just one piece instead of two), and then I roll it up at the bottom of my tote bag to serve as a “bumper” for my iPad so I don’t need to bring a laptop sleeve.”
5. Figure out your toiletry essentials
“To get through airport security with the absolute minimum, I’ve whittled my ultra-tiny see-through toiletry bag to the absolute bare essentials. Beyond a couple of pretty hairbands on my wrist, I pack: a single sample tube of Vintner’s Daughter skin oil to moisturize my skin and give it a glow, Lavanila Mini Sport Deodorant, a hairbrush, either a lipstick or a mascara (never both), and travel toothbrush and toothpaste.
That’s it. For real. Everything else (soap, shampoo, mouth wash, body lotion, etc.) is almost always waiting for me in the hotel shower.”
6. Minimize the bulky tech items
“I leave the laptop at home and travel with an iPad Pro with keyboard hidden in the cover and my phone. I bought a mini-travel charger for both, but otherwise leave my phone on low-power mode when I’m out and about to maximize battery charge so I don’t need to charge during the day.”