Have you ever promised yourself to bring less luggage on your next trip? Saying I’ll travel light this time, and actually doing so, are two entirely different things. Maneuvering two heavy suitcases, my camera equipment and backpack through Tokyo station after a long eleven hour flight, wasn’t pleasant. Especially since I wasn’t familiar with the station. I found out only after arriving there, that this station consists of a multi-level underground city. I really wished I had taken less stuff with me. I vouched right there and then, tired and angry at myself in the middle of Tokyo station, to write a “note to self” telling me to pack less and travel light, and leaving it in my suitcase for next time.
More and more North American airlines charge for checked-in luggage. I almost always travel with carry on bags only. You’re usually allowed one larger item, and a personal bag as well. Since I got rid of my DSLR, that saves one large camera bag filled with accessories. Between my roller bag and a backpack I can fit almost everything I need for up to a week or so. No need to pay for checked baggage, or wait for your bag upon arrival. The saved time is why I never hand over my bag even if they ask for it upon boarding the plane. Here’s my eight world-tested tips on traveling light.
Make a list of what to bring
Coordinate tops and bottoms so you can mix and match to create different looks. Fashion tip: stick with solids & versatile basics. Leave home any clothes that do not match other items.
Roll ‘em up
The best way to fit all your clothes is by rolling pants & shirts. First fold each item in half. Then roll ’em up. The real pros buy vacuum roller bags which reduce a lot of the space your clothes take up (but not the weight!). Make sure you buy the ones that don’t need a vacuum cleaner as you likely won’t have one available for the flight back home. These are the ones I use.
Bring shoes that you can wear during day and night time. I bring at least two pairs so I can alternate when my feet get tired after a long day of roaming the streets of some foreign city.
After you check for space, throw out most of what you were initially thinking of bringing. Be ruthless. With most of your attire, stay in the same color scheme – in case you have to layer up for warmth.
Put underwear on the bottom
Don’t want your socks and underwear to become the side show at the security screening? Pack those smaller items first so they’re at the bottom of your suitcase. When security wants you to open the bag, the bigger items on top are less likely to fall out all over the place. You could even put all small items like socks and underwear in a small plastic bag. It squeezes everything together more, saving valuable space.
Lose the excess
Leave the heavy travel guide at home. You won’t need it. Bring pictures on your phone of the important pages you might need. For example I usually take a picture of self-guided walking tours I find in Lonely Planet. Most hotels and resorts provide you with complimentary toiletries, irons, and hair-dryers. No need to carry around any of those.
Leave restricted items at home
Do yourself and anyone else in the security line a favour: leave restricted items at home. If it looks like a weapon or could be used as one, leave it. Might sound like common sense, but trust me it isn’t. Think twice before bringing scissors, razors, nail-clippers, lighters and any other sharp items. For personal use these items are sometimes allowed. I’d rather avoid them altogether as individual (worldwide!) airports may have different rules.
What’s your best packing tip for traveling light? Please share in the comments below!
In my Freedom Project Travel book you’ll find an entire section on how I plan and organize my travel – including but not limited to reducing waste and packing luggage. Treat yourself to a copy today – they’re available worldwide on Amazon and directly through travel.freedomprojectbook.com. Thanks for your support – and please travel safe!
Bonus Tip: Don’t Go On New Trips With Old Luggage
There’s nothing worse than failing luggage while you’re on a trip. I’ve experienced everything from broken roller wheels to “collapsible” handles that wouldn’t collapse anymore. Not ideal. Don’t be like me and replace your luggage in time. Here’s some special deals through eBags (affiliate link – I receive a small commission if you buy through them). Thanks!