Traveling Smart, Not Heavy

Meta Description: Learn how to save space and pack light when traveling. What essentials do you need and tips to travel light to help you enjoy the most of your vacation?

8 Packing Tips to Travel Light for World Travel

Traveling light is a skill that can significantly enhance your travel experience. By packing efficiently and thoughtfully, you can avoid the stress and inconvenience of lugging around heavy bags.

Before you start packing, make a detailed travel packing list of essentials you'll need for your trip, categorizing items like clothing, toiletries, electronics and documents. This list will serve as a guideline and help prevent over-packing.

Other than this obvious tip, there are plenty of other ways to help you travel light.

1. Choose the Right Luggage

Start by selecting a versatile, lightweight suitcase or backpack. Choose one with multiple compartments, as it provides better organization options. Make sure it meets airline carry-on size restrictions to save you time and money on checked baggage fees.

The type of luggage you use is preference, but I’ve always found a hard-shell suitcase the best, as long as each wheel has a double wheel. While slightly heavier, your items are better protected, and you’re able to organize your items better.

2. Choose Versatile Clothing

Select clothing items that can be mixed and matched to create various outfits, reducing the number of items you need to pack. When I came back from a three-month trip abroad, I wanted to know all the clothes I had in my closet. I downloaded the app, ‘Stylebook,’ and photographed each item of clothing, shoes and accessories I owned. Once I had everything in the app — it took a while — I then made outfits from those clothes.

Every time I browse Pinterest or see a cute outfit on social media, I check if I have something similar and add the outfit to the app. I was also able to check which items of clothing I didn’t wear often, or at all, so I could then easily figure out what I wanted to keep or donate. This also helped with buying clothes. I’m able to buy according to outfits rather than individual pieces, as I can check if I already have something similar or if what I’m buying looks good with other pieces.

For traveling, the app is fantastic as you can create a capsule wardrobe for travel and packing lists, where you choose all the outfits you want to wear while away, and it drags over the corresponding items so you can see exactly, and ONLY, what you need to bring.

3. Minimize Toiletries

Invest in travel-sized toiletries or consider transferring your favorite products into smaller containers. Solid toiletries, like shampoo bars, can also save space and help you avoid liquid restrictions.

Many destinations offer basic toiletries, so only pack what you can't easily acquire at your destination. Bring only the essentials, and when in doubt, leave it out. If you’ve forgotten something, you can pick up branded soap, Colgate toothpaste, Gillette razors and nearly everything you need while overseas.

Take just enough toiletries to get by rather than enough for the duration of your vacation, and if you run out, you then have a good reason to browse a different county’s department or grocery store — one of the things I love most about traveling.

4. Use Packing Cubes or Compression Bags

Packing cubes or compression bags are great tools for maximizing space and staying organized when traveling. They help condense your clothing and make it easier to locate specific items without rummaging through your entire bag.

Keep in mind, that compression bags or vacuum seal bags can add an extra several hundred grams to your luggage. They’re great for instances where you need to bring more items, like if you are moving abroad.

Rolling your clothes instead of folding them can save a significant amount of space and help prevent wrinkles.

With these packing solutions, try to fill your bag only about two-thirds full to allow space for souvenirs. Or, bring along an empty, lightweight bag to serve as a carry-on for your return flight, then check your main bag.

5. Consider the Weather and Activities

Make sure to check the weather forecast for your destination. Is it a sunny tropical paradise or a chilly mountain retreat? For warmer climates, think of breathable fabrics and sun protection, while colder regions require layers and insulation.

Then, assess your itinerary and think about what you'll be doing each day. Are there hiking trails to conquer, beaches to lounge on or a mix of both? Each activity has its own set of essentials.

6. Consider Laundry Options

If you're planning an extended stay, whether it be a week or more, it might be a good idea to plan for laundry stops along the way. Many accommodations, from hotels to vacation rentals, offer laundry facilities or can direct you to nearby laundromats. This way, you can re-wear clothes and pack fewer items overall.

Consider packing a small supply of detergent suitable for handwashing or use in a laundromat; just choose a compact, travel-sized container to conserve space.

7. Pack for a Week, Regardless of Trip Length

Whether you're journeying for three weeks or three months, maintain the same packing approach. Avoid preparing for the worst-case scenario. Instead, focus on the best-case scenario and rely on the option to purchase any necessities along the way. Think in terms of what you can manage without rather than what might come in handy during your travels.

8. Wear Bulky Items

When possible, wear your heaviest or bulkiest items (like shoes or jackets) while traveling to save space in your luggage. Bulky items, like winter coats (see if you can wear layers instead) or hiking boots, tend to be the most challenging to pack into your suitcase. By wearing them during transit, you free up space in your suitcase or carry-on backpack, allowing for more strategic packing of smaller, more flexible items.

Also, by wearing these heavier pieces, you’re able to keep warm, especially since airports and planes are often cold, and you can just take them off if you get too hot.

Remember, the key to successful light packing is thoughtful planning and a willingness to prioritize what you truly need, but it’s also about personal preference. As a final thought, remember this: when traveling, you often meet two types of tourists; those who packed light and those who wish they did.