Tips on How to Pack Light

Whether you’re going on a weekend trip a few hours from home or across the world for three weeks, there are a lot of good reasons to pack light when you travel. There are a few easy things you can do to make sure your bag is an asset and not a burden on your vacation. Though I prefer packing no more than carry-on limits will allow, sometimes that is simply not possible, but either way you should keep these simple tips in mind.

  1. Pack for the weather you expect. Many people over-pack because they take clothes for every possible weather scenario. But if you’re going to Texas in August, you probably won’t need that winter coat “just in case it gets chilly in the evenings.” Check the weather a few days before your trip and plan accordingly.
  2. Pack for the correct number of days. This is possibly the most common packing mistake. You go on a five-day vacation, but you pack enough clothes to last you three weeks. Don’t waste your time packing, unpacking, and hauling an entire closet full of things you’re not going to wear. Plan one or two outfits a day, assuming you even change to go to dinner or to go out in the evening. Mix and match tops and bottoms. You don’t need one pair of jeans for every single day. You can re-wear jeans at least once. If you are going somewhere cold, you don’t need a different coat for every occasion. Take one or two versatile pieces that will go with everything else and save yourself the hassle.
  3. Fold on the way there. Roll on the way back.  One of the most well-known space-saving tips is to roll your clothes instead of fold them. While this is certainly an effective way to save space in a bag, I tend to only use that method when I’m packing to go back home, because as you’ve probably experienced, your neatly packed clothes tend to become messier and bulkier as your trip progresses. Between that and anything you may have bought on your trip, your neatly packed bag will be bursting at the seams by the end of your trip. So I roll up clothes that I’ve already worn in order to make the bag easier to handle on the way back home. A nice byproduct of this is that you automatically know what is dirty and what is not when you go into your bag.
  4. Put your socks inside your shoes. You should treat shoes the same way you treat clothes; take only those you know you’ll wear and leave the rest at home. Filling up with a lot of pairs is an easy way to waste space in luggage. Shoes are the kind of thing that are going to take up the same amount of room in your bag no matter what. But they’re also hollow. Make the most of your space by stuffing them with smaller items like socks or belts.
  5. Wear your bulkier items. It’s a lot easier to wear your leather jacket and snow boots than it is to carry them on your back. When you travel, wear the bulky things. Leave your smaller shoes in your bag and wear the heaviest ones that take up the most space. Don’t waste space by cramming a huge overcoat into your bag. If you’re going somewhere cold, chances are that will always be on you and not in your bag. So save that space for other things that fit nowhere else.
  6. Leave unnecessary electronics at home. Sure, we all have a phone that’s practically attached to our hands. But think twice about all the things the other gadgets you’re taking and whether you really need them. For example, unless you’re going on a business trip, taking a laptop on any trip is extremely inconvenient. Chances are you’re going to use it a total of zero times and if you did have a situation where you needed to use a computer, you could probably use the one in the hotel lobby for free. Taking a tablet if you already have a smart phone is also unwise, because you’re just carrying two things that have essentially the same function. It might be more comfortable to read on your iPad or Kindle, but iBooks works on your iPhone, too. Taking something like that just increases the chances that you’ll lose or break it in transit.
  7. Keep your medicine cabinet in your medicine cabinet. Of course, you should take important medications with you, especially the ones that are prescribed to you. But you probably don’t need an old tube of Preparation H or Dramamine if you’re going to Wisconsin. Don’t overdo it. Pharmacies exist in (almost all) other places in the world, too. If you take something every day like a supplement, ration out the ones you’ll need for your trip and put them in ziplock bag. This will take up a lot less space than a giant bottle of Vitamin C.

As always, happy travels!