Packing light. Easier said than done, right? If you’ve ever lived to regret the day that you over-packed, then you’ll understand the importance and difficulty of packing light. In my earlier post on the Advantages of Packing Light, I tell the story of 11 times I seriously regretted packing too much luggage. I’ve always had a hard time packing light and used to be a chronic over-packer. The good news is, that believe it or not, packing and light do not have to be an oxymoron. It just takes a little practice and dedication. In this article, you’ll find 11 packing light tips to help you become a lighter, and better, packer.
Why is Packing Light Important?
Packing light is important because it can save you time and money. It can also save you from a lot of unneeded stress. Vacations are supposed to be fun not stressful! Not only is it a pain to drag around a heavy suitcase but airlines charge for overweight suitcases making over-packing costly. Besides, you don’t want to be that annoying person on the plane wrestling with their over-sized carry-on, trying to cram it into the overhead and holding up everyone else.
One major reason people tend to over-pack is because they are trying to be ready for any and all possible situations that might arise. You can’t prepare for every situation and you shouldn’t try to. Below you will find a very scientific looking graph about this phenomena of over-packing.
The last trip I took was a six-week trip around Australia and New Zealand. I did it with nothing more than a small carry on, by far less luggage than any other traveler I met. In one hostel I stayed at in NZ, one fellow traveler insisted on giving me some of her clothing. She couldn’t imagine that I could manage with so few belongings. I did manage, and despite having minimal luggage I still had a great trip. After all, having a great trip does not depend on how much crap you’ve managed to stuff into your suitcase.
Packing Light Tips
Below are some tips I’ve learned, after years of travelling and over-packing, that have helped me and that can help you to pack light and travel smart.
1. Things are replaceable
This first tip goes back to the point that you shouldn’t – can can’t – try to pack for any and every possible situation. Except for the few necessities (such as medicine or your passport), most things are replaceable, nd it’s not the end of the world if you forget to pack them. If you forget to bring something or end up needing something you didn’t pack, chances are that you’ll be able to buy or rent a replacement while travelling.
2. Plan Ahead, Pack Ahead
By planning ahead, you will cut future stress and the chances of packing extra unnecessary things. Avoid being stuck in a last-minute panic, wondering if you’ve remembered everything. If you are packing at the last moment, then chances are high that you will forget important stuff and bring a lot of unnecessary extras.
3. Making a list and check it twice
In order to make sure that the irreplaceable necessities are not forgotten, make a list before your trip. What are the things that you really need and that are not easily replaceable? Once you’ve packed these things, everything else you pack are just extras. Don’t forget, ‘I want’ is not the same as ‘I need’.
4. Know what’s in your suitcase
If you just throw everything into your suitcase then it’s easy to forget what you have already put in and what you’ve forgotten to put in. Lay out everything you are planning on packing so you can see what you have. This way you won’t end up surprised on your trip to discover that you’ve packed two pairs of underwear and 10 bras (not enough underwear and way too many bras).
5. Pre-plan your outfits
I used to pack in a way that I would just see stuff in my closet and think oh this is nice and that is nice. I would throw one thing after the other into my suitcase without actually planning out any outfits. If you randomly throw things in your suitcase, you risk bringing a lot of extra stuff. So sit down, figure out how many days you will be travelling and then plan your outfits accordingly.
6. When in doubt throw it out
Not sure if you need something? Then chances are you don’t. If you don’t need it then don’t bring it.
7. Pack sober
Seriously, I have heard stories of people packing while drunk and ending up with an awful lot of random and useless stuff in their suitcase. No matching socks, an old high school trophy, and only two pairs of underwear for a three-week vacation. Don’t be one of these people. It’s hard enough packing smart when sober!
8. Wash as you go
Chances are, unless you are travelling to some very remote area, you will have access to a washing machine. This means that you don’t need a new outfit for every day. Have enough clothing to last you seven days without washing. Mix and match pieces to create new looks.
9. Choose versatile clothing
Pick a couple of your favorite pieces that you can layer for warmth or wear alone on warm days. Choose clothing that is versatile and that you can mix and match. Don’t bring that pair of shoes that only goes with one outfit.
10. Avoid big and bulky
Maximize the space you have by focusing on choosing things that take up a small percentage of space and weight. Instead of bringing a heavy computer, why not bring a smaller and lighter tablet? Instead of bringing heavy and bulky books try a Kindle.
11. Bring travel size bottles
Big bottles of shampoo, conditioner, soap, and so on can add a lot of weight to your suitcase. Travel with smaller bottles. To avoid paying a lot for travel sized products at the store, you can buy small plastic bottles for a couple of dollars which you can re-use and fill-up home.
Your Packing Light Tips
Do you have any other favourite packing light tips? Let me know in the comment!