Whether you’re taking a trip around the world, a second honeymoon or a weekend getaway, there’s no better feeling than getting out of the car or off the airplane with the smallest amount of luggage possible. It’s simply convenient.
If you’re used to stuffing suitcase after suitcase with clothes, shoes, toiletries, and diversions for the kids, you probably know how stressful it can be.
It’s time to reduce your stress by learning the art of packing less.
These travel tips can help you learn how to pack light and keep it simple on your next trip, no matter your destination.
1. Buy a smaller bag. We’ve all got the mega-suitcase in the back of our closets that sits there collecting dust all year. You might bring it out if you win the lottery and take a cruise around Hawaii, but for shorter trips, you can alleviate the psychological undercurrent to pack a giant suitcase to the gills by investing in a smaller bag. Find something that you can carry easily with a shoulder strap, and that fits comfortably on an airplane with you or in the back seat of your car. If your only bag for air travel is a carry-on, you eliminate the need to visit the luggage terminal or risk your luggage getting lost. A smaller bag also helps you weigh what’s really important for this particular trip against things that aren’t so necessary.
2. Invest in a collapsible bag. In addition to buying a smaller bag, you can also purchase a collapsible backpack or tote for when you’re out on day trips or excursions. No need to bring a big bulky bag to take to the beach or on a hike. You can easily bring one that folds up to be the size of a pop tart.
3. Evaluate each item before you pack it. If you want to learn how to pack light, you should play the “What If?” game. Before you place each item in your bag, ask yourself what it’s purpose on the trip is. If your answer involves the phrase, “What if…”, then that item doesn’t need to come along. For example, if you’re off to Disney World in August and have a sweater waiting in the queue, play the game. When you answer, “What if an unprecedented cold front passes through Orlando, even though the forecast says highs in the upper nineties,” you’ll know it’s time to put the sweater back in the drawer.
4. Don’t pack all of your toiletries. Any grocery store or mega-retailer is going to have the same products you use at home. Even if it means a few extra dollars to buy them at the hotel gift shop, you’re still opening up ample room in your suitcase or bag to take other items that are essentials from home.
5. Don’t bring beach towels. Yes, your kids might be heartbroken when they find out that they won’t be sporting their Moana and BB-8 towels at the beach this summer, but towels are bulky and take forever to dry. Any hotel even remotely close to the beach will have an endless supply of towels for your kids to get sand and saltwater all over.
6. Use air-compression bags to shrink wrap your clothes. This process needs to be seen to be believed. It’s simple is one of our favorite travel hacks. Put your clothes flat in the shrink-wrap bags, which have tiny holes in them to make the process work. Using your hands, you can start folding the bags over and over to push all the air out of them, compacting the space inside. The result is a bag perfectly fits your clothing, keeping them straight and freeing up lots of space. Our favorite ones are Eagle Creek Compression Sacs. We have tested them around the world and they have held up beyond our expectations and now they’re a staple on every trip.
7. Put other items in your shoes. If your trip necessitates more than the kicks presently on your feet, use the open end of your footwear as a resource. Things like socks, underwear, jewelry, your car keys, and fit perfectly and won’t have you scrambling for them later.
8. Pack items that have more than one function. A sarong is a great example. It can be a headscarf, a shawl, a tablecloth, a cover-up at the beach, etc. The same goes for the shoes you pack. Your sneakers can carry you through the day whether you’re hiking, fishing or shopping. They are also up to the task of eating out unless you’re going to a particularly fancy eatery. Try to pack all similar colored clothes so that one shoe will work for all of your outfits.
9. Put laundry detergent in a plastic bag and wash your clothes at the hotel. Three outfits become six if you have the means to wash your clothes. You can even wash them in the bathroom sink (we tested this ourselves and it worked fine). If the hotel dryers are occupied by similarly-motivated travelers, hanging your wet laundry on your balcony or its furnishings can also work in a pinch.
10. Don’t pack work stuff unless it’s a work trip. Taking your work on a vacation or a family trip means not only are you not traveling light physically, but you’re also not traveling light mentally either. Taking work with you puts up a barrier between you and the rest of your family as well as between you and your ability to relax and enjoy. There are plenty of professions (such as freelancer writer) that don’t have paid vacations that operate outside this notion, but even they can diminish their time spent working with some careful planning. So shut down the laptop, shut off the work phone, and feel the weight come off you as you on your next vacation.
11. Wear your heaviest clothing on the plane. If you plan on bringing jeans and a long sleeve shirt or jacket, wear these items on the plane. It can get cold during travel anyways and it saves you space in your suitcase.