As my blog's name suggests, I am not one to lug heavy suitcases around during my travels.
Who has time to pack their entire wardrobe for every trip and risk paying insanely expensive checked bag fees, airlines losing your luggage, or breaking my hip trying to drag that thing around? Not me.
For example, I recently did a 3-week romp around Italy completely out of one backpack. Looking at my Instagram photos below, do I look like I compromised fashion for convenience?
Nope. And now you don't have to either, because I will share with you the mystical arts of packing light, packing efficiently, and packing cubes.
Only bring what you really, really need. Traveling light means leaving everything possible at home!
Well, how do you know what you'll actually need and what will end up dead weight in your bag? Here are some things to consider.
Table of Contents
- Questions to ask while you're packing for a trip:
- Are you actually going to wear it?
- Is the clothing item weather appropriate?
- Is that piece of clothes one of your favorites?
- Is the piece heavy or bulky?
- Is it valuable/expensive? If you lose it will your life be over if you lose it?
- Is this worth taking up space that souvenirs could be in?
- If it's clothing, is it a bright/unique pattern? Will it match the other clothes you're bringing?
- Could you buy it there?
- If none of that seems to help: make a packing list
- Maximize your space with packing cubes.
- Find the best luggage for your trip. Embrace the carry-on life!
Questions to ask while you're packing for a trip:
Are you actually going to wear it?
You may want to pack that one extra item that you aren't sure you're going to wear but just in case the occasion arises you could… but don't. More likely than not you end up not using it and lugging around dead weight in your bag.
Is the clothing item weather appropriate?
If the weather predicts your weekend will be warm and sunny, leave that raincoat. No “just in cases!”
Is that piece of clothes one of your favorites?
If this is the hoodie you bring on every single trip, sure, pack it. But if you realize you haven't worn this in the past 6 months, what are the real chances you'll wear it on your trip? May want to leave it at home.
Is the piece heavy or bulky?
No point in taking up a lot of space or is going to have you struggling your entire trip. You may want to leave it behind, or actually wear it on the plane to save space in your bag.
Is it valuable/expensive? If you lose it will your life be over if you lose it?
If the answer is yes, you're better off leaving at home.
Is this worth taking up space that souvenirs could be in?
Weigh your options: more souvenirs, or those bulky clothes?
If it's clothing, is it a bright/unique pattern? Will it match the other clothes you're bringing?
No judgments on style or preference, but just know that 1) If you can only wear it once, it's a waste of a piece, and 2.) If it's too unique it will be obvious that you're wearing it in any photos you take.
Could you buy it there?
I think a pair of cheap $4 Target flip-flops can be left at home, especially if you're already tight on space.
Small items like shampoo and conditioner, sunscreen, flip-flops, and cheap hats can be bought at your location to save space, and potentially save you a hassle going through airport security.
If none of that seems to help: make a packing list
Your packing list should be the bare essentials that you'll need on your trip, starting with:
- two tops
- two bottoms
- two pairs of underwear.
With that, you could wash and rewear those items in an emergency no matter where you go. If you go this route, stick to your packing list.
Maximize your space with packing cubes.
Once you know what you're going to pack, you might as well save as much space as possible by packing your clothes as tightly as possible, to maximize space.
The best way to do that is definitely packing cubes.
I use these cubes on every trip whether it's a weekend getaway or a month-long backpacking adventure. Not only do they save space, but they help me stay organized, separate my dirties and clean, and help me find what I'm looking for efficiently and without having to unpack and repack every time I need something.
These packing cubes absolutely saved my life in Italy! Being able to pull them individually out of my super-packed backpack and grab a shirt or a pair of socks without an explosion of clothes was a blessing.
Need help packing more efficiently? Download our PDF flow chart that will walk you through every packing session and tell you “go” or “no” to each item!
Find the best luggage for your trip. Embrace the carry-on life!
Another tip for packing light is making sure that the vessel that is carrying your things is ideal depending on your trip. On my Italy trip, I used my dad's old military backpack, almost identical to the one pictured except mine was camouflage print.
I would advise taking one like the one I've put here because depending on the place you're visiting, camouflage can be very attention-drawing, or even illegal! Better to keep a low, yet functional profile.
A backpack was the best decision I made when preparing for my trip because Italy requires an immense amount of walking, walking on cobblestone, loading onto trains, and climbing hills for spectacular views.
My three friends who brought rolling suitcases were less than amused after just the second day (sorry girls, LOL.)The mystical art of packing light, packing efficiently, and packing cubes. Click To Tweet
For my 3 weeks in Italy, I packed 6 shirts, 5 pairs of pants, two pairs of shoes, 8 pairs of underwear, 6 pairs of socks, three dresses, and a GoPro into my backpack.
Rolling suitcases like the Polaris Hardside Metallic Spinner are probably better if you'll be staying in only a few different accommodations, or if you plan to have a home base and want to be able to unpack and have constant access to your clothes, as suitcases have easier access than a backpack.
However, the Tortuga Ovepacker Backpack is an awesome exception—I use mine whenever I travel carryon it's easy to carry, but the 35L pack has a 360 zip to fully open and efficiently pack.
Are you a chronic over-packer? Did this give you some actionable tips to cure your affliction? Let us know in the comments, and drop any other light packing tips you have.
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