Packing Light: When In Doubt, Leave It Out

Many travelers experience a deep insecure feeling of being unprepared while venturing abroad. Stepping out into the world with just a bag filled of limited items can be daunting and, in some cases, may even prevent travel altogether. Learning the importance of packing light can enhance a vacation experience, save money, and even protect travellers from certain dangers.

Many airlines have strict limitations for carry-on items, fees for checked baggage, and weight limits for both. Most airlines allow a standard carry-on bag (approximately 22″ x 14″ x 9″ or 56 x 35 x  23 cm) with some offering one additional personal item at no extra charge (purse, laptop, camera bag, diaper bag, etc.). Transportation services stack on additional charges for baggage handling and may even find it difficult to accommodate space for larger baggage. Avoiding unnecessary baggage costs can help travelers save money that can otherwise be used on local experiences and may even be enough to extend vacation stays.

Quickly maneuvering from site to site without the hassle of toting large baggage, wondering if you’ll fit into the next taxi or bus, is a stress most prefer to do without. Traveling light permits travelers to be more mobile and conscious of all their belongings. When travelers carry their entire luggage on their back it’s less likely to get lost, broken, or stolen. Smaller baggage can typically rest on laps while travelling by airplane, taxi, bus, or train. This practice enables travelers to hit the ground running upon arrival, avoiding the rush of others who are stuck waiting by the luggage carousel.

These limitations often seem restrictive but the importance of packing light cannot be overemphasized. Here are a few tips to packing light:

  1. Analyze with Perspective
    Start by arranging all items you think you might need on the floor. Analyze each item with a high level of scrutiny. Important questions to ask are “Will I really use this item enough to justify carrying them on my trip?” or “Will this item be an inconvenience physically–carrying it around–or mentally–worrying about its safety?”  Selecting lightweight items designed for travel can maximize storage space and allows for more items to be packed. Eliminate unnecessary items while keeping the truly essential. Approach each item with honesty and identify those that you can’t go without vs. those of convenience.
  1. Select the Right Luggage
    These days, many people own a carry-on bag as a result of the increased prices of checked luggage. The luggage industry has grown with hundreds of brand and design options for individuals with varying needs. High quality carry-on luggage can be found in many areas such as Amazon, eBags, and other discount retailers. Travelers should shop for bags meeting the following criteria: lightweight, durable, secure, and easily maneuverable.
  1. Wear Comfortable Footwear
    Research the amount of walking you’ll be experiencing on your trip. Knowing the terrain and your own fitness level will help you plan for optimal comfort. A durable pair of sandals and supportive pair of athletic shoes can be more than enough for an avid traveler. When formal attire is required, select versatile footwear that can serve multiple functions while being appropriate for formal events.
  1. Minimize Toiletries
    Repeat tip 1 when analyzing toiletries. Many people can get by with soap, shampoo, toothpaste and a toothbrush. For those travelling with additional toiletry needs, buying small bottles and transferring liquids to account for the time spent on your trip will reduce carrying any amounts of unnecessary product. Packing these items in a compact toiletry case or plastic bag will protect your other items from leakage and contamination.
  1. Layer Clothing
    Pack clothing that can be mixed and matched. Wrinkle-free clothing that can be used in multiple climates or combined to keep warm will enhance space and keep your bag weighing less than if you were to bring a heavy coat or sweater. Knowing your climate is crucial for clothing decisions. Is it wet, hot, cold, dirty, etc.? Sometimes you must decide between functionality and style by selecting adaptable items that can meet multiple needs during your trip. The benefits of these decisions will come as a comfort when experiencing varying elements and circumstances abroad. Compact laundry detergent is available and is a good for wash in sinks and bath tubs will keep you clean and comfortable.
  1. Leave Room for Souvenirs
    One of the main perks of travelling is returning with mementos. Leave some space in your carry-on for gifts and souvenirs upon return. If you find yourself low on luggage space, buying an additional bag for your return is a decision that can typically be made abroad and is more justifiable than spending money to check an empty bag.

As you continue to travel and learn more about yourself, you will pick up on tricks that help make packing light better and easier for you, along the way, keeping you grateful for a light pack and a clear mind.