How many people roll their eyes or audibly grumble at the thought of packing light? Is it really worth it? Sometimes it feels like a pain, but for certain trips, the pros do actually outweigh the cons.
Benefits of packing light
If you’re city hopping and staying in different accommodations every few nights, it’s easier to unpack and repack if you have fewer items.
Maneuvering through a busy airport or train station is more manageable with lighter and less luggage.
It’s cheaper not to check bags, and if you’re flying a budget airline, any bag not under your seat may have an additional fee.
No checked bags! Skip baggage claim. See sights with your small bag or store it in a locker for cheap.
Ask the Right Questions
Traveling light means thinking ahead, doing some research, and asking basic questions.
Who. Who are you responsible for packing for? Solo adult? Family? Pets?
What. What are you doing when you get there? Skiing, snorkeling, going to museums, wandering through a city?
When. When are you traveling? What will the weather be like when you arrive?
Where. Where are you going? What is the appropriate dress code in the region you’re traveling to?
Why. Why are you going? Wedding, family event, a tour bus in a city, climbing a mountain?
How. How are you traveling? Train, car, airplane, train, camel across the desert?
Once you have answered the basic questions, you've laid the groundwork for preparing to pack. Here are some general tips.
Choose appropriately sized luggage. Before grabbing a suitcase and packing, do a little research to ensure you know the size and weight limits. You don't want any pricey last-minute surprises. Pick appropriate luggage for your reason to travel - you won't be backpacking with a large rolling suitcase.
Make a packing checklist. There are many packing lists online, and you can customize them to your needs. It’s always helpful to have a roadmap to keep yourself organized.
Pick your clothes carefully. Pick items that serve more than one purpose, weigh less, and take up less space. Pick neutral colors or aim for clothes in the same color pallet. This will make creating various outfits easier.
Plan to do laundry. Are laundry facilities available anywhere along your trip? If so, plan to do a load of laundry so you don’t have to pack clothes for the entire trip. Plus, if you stick to neutrals or one-color pallet, you can throw all the clothes in the washing machine together.
Multipurpose footwear. Shoes are bulky to pack, so try to limit them to one or two pairs that will work for everything. Think about what you're doing for your trip and what shoes can work for every activity and outfit.
Narrow down electronics. Your smartphone can do most of what a computer will do. So, unless you are working on the road, you probably don't need a full-size laptop. Though with all the pictures you'll end up taking and using the maps app, you won't want to forget your portable Juicepack and cables!
How to actually pack the bag
Lay everything out before you start packing. You’ll see if anything crucial is missing, or you may even be able to remove duplicates or unnecessary things from your pile.
Roll clothes instead of folding them. Rolled clothes take up less space, and you’ll be able to see them easier in your bag without pulling them all out. And if you have them, you can use hand-roll vacuum bags that don’t actually require a vacuum.
Maximize packing space. If you haven't narrowed your shoes to one pair, you can fit socks or other small items inside the pair being packed. Don't leave any space unused.
Keep all liquids together. Whether traveling on an airplane or other method, keeping liquids and toiletries together in a leakproof bag will make it easier to get them out of your bag for security and keep any accidental spills from happening. Pack in an easily accessible spot or outside pocket for ease of airport travel.
Electronics. Pack all electronics in an easy-to-access spot to make getting through airport security simpler. Then you can quickly put your tablet and other items back in your bag as soon as you’re through security. And don’t pack more electronics than you need; you might not need that laptop!
Carry-On Closet. Stay organized and forget about unpacking at destination. Pack all your needed items neatly into the separate sections of the closet, place the closet back into the suitcase, and you’re good to go!
Don’t panic pack. Scrambling to pack last minute will cause unneeded stress and frustration. And without a doubt, you'll add extra items that you don't really need. Leave the random "what if" items at home. If I don't wear a particular pair of shoes at home, you shouldn't make them you primary shoes to travel in. If you're not 100% sure you don't need it, don't bring it. And remember, there's a good chance a store exists where you are going. If you forgot something you absolutely need, you should be able to borrow or buy it!
Packing light with children
Yes, it can be done! The same guidelines apply when packing for kids. Make a plan, get organized, and stick with it.
If your child is still in diapers or pull-ups, you know how bulky diapers and wipes are to pack. If possible, pack what’s needed for a few days and plan on buying the rest when you arrive. With a quick google search, you’ll find what local store carries diapers and what brands they are.
Snacks and food are other items that can add bulk and weight to a bag, so pack what’s needed for the travel day and plan on buying food upon arrival. Again, do a quick google search to find out what the local grocery stores are so you can have a game plan when you arrive.
Strollers, car seats, and hiking baby carriers can be checked in at the baggage drop-off or often at the gate before you board the airplane. Train travel with these bulky items is a little more cumbersome but doable. If you’re renting a car, car seats can often be added to the rental at the time of booking. Of course, be diligent and check ahead of time. Being stuck without a car seat would cause major stress.
Less is more when it comes to toys. Make souvenirs special toys along the way, and bring smaller toys with few pieces that will keep your child’s attention, for example: a few crayons, stickers and a small notebook.
So, to sum it all up:
Start with a great bag
Make a list
Don’t last-minute panic pack
Once you’ve successfully packed light a few times, it’ll start to come naturally. Keep your packing list saved for the next trip. You may even leave certain items in your bag, so they’re ready for the next trip. Besides, you’ll thank us next time you’re sprinting through a train station or airport to make a connection, and you’re not hauling your entire wardrobe with you!
Written by Andrea Jeschke