How to Pack Light: Simple Travel Packing Tips

It is the end of another enjoyable vacation, of which the only part I don’t really enjoy is re-packing my suitcase to travel back home.  As I empty the hotel wardrobe packing each item into my luggage, I note how many shirts, shoes and accessories I haven’t even worn.  Oh, how I wish I had packed lighter.

But before I took off for my trip I was so excited and got carried away.  You know the feeling.  You have this vision of all the things you are going to do whilst you are away.  You want different outfits with the right accessories for each new restaurant you try, you need special equipment for your planned adventure activities and let’s not forget all that grooming that is required before you head out for the day.  How on earth are you going to pack all this into one suitcase let alone keep it light?  This whole packing light thing seems a bit of a lark.

Well, I’m here to tell you, you can pack less in your travel packing with just a few tips and tricks.  But I’m not going to promise you the world.  I’m not going to promise you that you can fit two weeks of luggage into hand carry – yes it is possible just not practical.  What I am going to teach you is how you can easily pack less and travel lighter.

In this Article about How to Pack Lighter You Will Learn:

* Why you need to pack light
* Choosing the right size luggage
* Assessing your type of trip
* Consider your length of time away
* Choosing the right items to pack for your trip
* What to include in a travel wardrobe
* Packing toiletries
* Making the most of what is already supplied
Packing light tips to pack less for travel

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Why You Need to Pack Less for a Trip

Before we get into the tips on packing light you may be wondering why you even need to pack less?  Basically, it is all about meeting the guidelines of the airline or cruise company you have decided to travel with.

Cruise lines often have larger luggage allowances but remember if you have to fly to your departure port then you need to abide by the airline guidelines.

If you are travelling on a full-service carrier with luggage included in your fare then generally you are allowed one piece of checked-in luggage weighing no more than 20kg/44lb.  If you re travelling on a low-cost carrier then you need to buy your luggage allowance in addition to your fare.  The more you want to take the more you pay.

Therefore keeping your travel luggage as light as possible reduces your travel costs.

7 Packing Light Tips

Each trip you take will be different.  What you need to pack for one trip you may not need for the next.  You may not be away for as long than you were for the last.  Your style of travel may completely differ from one trip to the next.

So as you travel on each trip you will need to reassess to find different ways on how you are going to keep your travel packing light.

Here are seven ways you can find to reduce your packing.

The Size of The Luggage

Basically, the bigger your suitcase the more you will put into it.  Many years ago I gleefully bought a really huge suitcase thinking now I can take all sorts of clothing.  Well, you know what?  I never wore all that clothing, plus the luggage was so big that when it was full it weighed more than the Occupational Health and Safety standard of 32 kg.  This meant that I would then have to repack my luggage before I could check in and possible pay excess luggage fees. Let me tell you it’s no fun sitting on the floor at the airport repacking your luggage.

So to start you on your way with packing light choose a smaller piece of luggage.

TOP TRIP TIP:  To help even further with packing light for travel choose a lightweight piece of luggage.

Time Away

Over the years I have travelled for different lengths of time – backpacking for six months, two-week luxury vacations, four-day getaways.  As the length of my travel time has altered I have noticed that how much I pack is reflected by how long I travel.  This does not mean the longer I travel the more I pack in my suitcase.  Actually, it is quite the opposite, the longer I am away the less I pack.

When I backpacked for six months around Europe I only took enough clothes for three days.  I hand washed daily.  I never saw the same people for more than a few days so what did it matter that the same T-shirt came out every three days.  The added bonus – fewer items packed to carry on my back.

These days I tend to take two-week vacations breaks.  I don’t have two weeks worth clothes but I do have a week’s worth.  So I pack for a week and do a wash at the laundrette mid-trip.  These holidays are all about having a break from life and that includes the housework, so I’m not interested in daily hand washing.

TOP TRIP TIP: To pack less pack according to your length of travel.  Grab one of these nifty handwashing tools* so you can pack fewer clothes.

Type of Trip

As you can start to see the type of holiday you have planned will affect what you pack in your luggage.

When backpacking you may only want a minimal amount of things to carry.  Possibly you are doing more adventurous activities and on the go daily.  Compare this to a resort holiday or cruise where you are likely to be relaxing throughout the day with the occasional sightseeing day, then need a selection of different items to wear in the evenings.

TOP TRIP TIP: Choose items of clothing to match your planned activities day and night.

Travel Wardrobe

Even though you may want a different outfit for each day, the trick is to condense that amount of clothing, shoes and accessories into one suitcase.  The answer to how to pack less is learning to mix and match your travel wardrobe.

Instead of dresses choose skirts/pants and tops.  Look at skirts with several colours, then plain coloured tops and scarves.  Or the other way around – plain skirts/pants with colourful tops.  Choose one pair of dress shoes that will go with all outfits.  Try using a scarf to eliminate the need for jewellery or just take one multicoloured necklace to jazz up your plain tops.

If you are really trying to save space/weight in your travel bag consider:

  • reversible jackets and skirts (then you only need to pack one of each)
  • scarves/pashminas for warmth and accessorising
  • pants that zip off at the knees to become shorts (just remember to zip the bottom half back on for the wash so it all fades at the same rate).

TOP TRIP TIP: Mix and match your travel wardrobe.

Share Items

Now you will need more than just clothes when you pack for your holiday.  There are things like the medical first aid kit and toiletries.  Many of these items you can share with your travel companions.

You will only need one basic first aid kit for the entire travelling party plus personal medications.  Then start to look at sharing toothpaste, shampoo, conditioner, moisturiser, insect repellent and sunscreen.

TOP TRIP TIP: Only pack one item of anything you can share with your travel companion

Travel Size Toiletries

Other toiletry items may be for just you, like your skincare range.  Some skin care companies make travel size options or you can create your own by purchasing empty travel size containers located in the toiletry aisle of the supermarket.

Of course, consider how long you are travelling for or how often you will use that product during your holiday.  For example, if you need to wash your hair daily for two weeks – the small travel size won’t last the time away, but you don’t need the bulky value version instead, try buying the smaller bottles to lighten your travel bag.

TOP TRIP TIP: Buy travel size items or create your own to add to your toiletries list.

Check What is Supplied by Your Accommodation

One final thing to check before you pack your travel bag – look at what your accommodation provides.  Most vacation accommodations provide hair dryers, shower gel, and moisturiser (OK I admit it’s possibly not the best quality) but hey we’re trying to lighten your travel bag 🙂

Lastly, don’t forget that they do have shops at your destination so you can always buy when you get there.

TOP TRIP TIP: Pack less by leaving any items that you accommodation supplies at home.

Look I still make mistakes and pack items I don’t wear or use throughout my trip.  But this packing light thing is a learning curve – it always will be.  Life circumstances are ever evolving, continually changing, as such the editing and culling of your travel packing list will forever alter as you try to lighten the load.

If you are looking for the ultimate packing checklist Go HERE.  You can even download and print your own copy.

Get your printable Ultimate Packing List HERE

Do you have any packing light tips?

How to pack light for travel and lighten your travel packing

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26 Responses to “How to Pack Light: Simple Travel Packing Tips

  • Now that I’d be doing laundry for an entire family, I definitely try to pack at least 5 days worth of clothes. On our last trip, I thought I’d done a good job of mixing and matching combos, but I still ended up with 1 unworn outfit by the time we returned home. My son is off in cold Washington DC right now. I really wanted him to pack light, but the requirement of bringing dress shoes, dress clothes + casual clothes and then 2 coats (layered because 1 Texas-worthy coat isn’t warm enough for DC) caused him to bring a bigger bag than desired.

    • I’m completely put off by doing hand washing for the whole family as well Michele, that’s why I too bring enough clothes for about a week. But trying to pack light for cold climates is a real struggle.

  • Great tips. I always try to mix and match my clothes and my kids stuff but inevitably pack too many clothes. I always think ‘one more spare outfit can’t hurt’. Something I find frustrating is when hotels or resorts don’t tell you everything that will be in your room. I’m forever packing my hair dryer for no reason ? Thanks for adding your top tips to #MondayEscapes

    • It’s pretty rare that a hair dryer isn’t included in any type of accommodation these days, Claire. But if I didn’t see it listed on the room amenities then I would assume there was no hairdryer. Frustrating because every little thing you add into your luggage adds to the over weight and airlines are now so strict with their luggage allowances.

  • Great tips. I LOVE packing light, but unfortunately I am married to someone who seems to need to take everything but the kitchen sink, and then we still manage to forget something important! 😀 #mondayescapes

  • I pack at least 5 days worth of clothes and always pack enough under ware for everyday, i don’t fancy hand washing knickers. I rarely take toiletries, can buy at destination or just use hotel items while I’m there. Most of my travel is to visit family and friends as I live in Dubai, with occasional weekend break with hubby, so most of my suitcase is usually full of gifts. #MondayEscapes

    • I loath handwashing too Suzanne and some hotels offer some exceptional quality in toiletries – I’ve even snuck some home in my suitcase.

  • Who unpacks into hotel wardrobes? – I never do.

    • Haha Lyn, I never use to unpack – I was never anywhere long enough. But now my travel style has altered and we base ourselves for a week or two in one place. So I unpack and hang any items that may crease.

  • Some good tips! I am a chronic over-packer, especially when it comes to medicine. I know pretty much everything I need will be available anywhere, but the barrier to GETTING it in a foreign country is enough for me to bring extra Imodium 😉

    • I like to pack the basic medications as well Amy. But just one box (or just a sheet from the packet) each of paracetamol, band aids, Imodium and Stemetil. I like to have just enough handy to start with and then I can always locate a chemist if it’s bad.

  • I must say travelling with hand bagging only is great in the heat in summer, however for a cold destination I don’t think I could do it, one pair of boots would fill my case! Love your suggestions #MondayEscapes

    • Packing for cold climates is always a bit more of a struggle to that suitcase light. However, the principles are much the same, one pair of boots (obviously you won’t need the strappy sandals 😉 ), one jacket and mix and match the layers.

  • As I am just trying to thing through my packing list for two months in Asia, I must say this article has been timed perfectly. For some reason I don’t want to take many clothes at all, and leaving towels, shower gels and shampoos home too-only taking them in travel size. I don’t think I’ve ever been travelling this light as I am planning this time.

    • Just remember Kreete, if you are travelling for two months you will need more than just a travel size version of shampoos. Asia is hot and humid, you may want to wash your hair daily. You may also want a sarong (handy for by the pool and when visiting temples, good walking sandals/all terrain shoes and lots of insect repellant – which you will use every evening.
      If you have any questions, please feel free to ask.

  • I only ever really mess up packing when I travel in my own car. I always think, “Hey, there’s plenty of room in the back” and before I know it the back end is full to the ceiling. Thanks for linking in this week at #wkendtravelinspiration!

    • The illusion that you have more space and therefore can pack more can be a trap. I think the trick might be to set out all the items you need for your trip, then pack and remember not to add anymore even if there is more space. Good luck with the next road trip, Jim.

  • These are some great tips – I used to be a chronic overpacker (“but…I MIGHT need these strappy sandals in the Netherlands in December…”). Thankfully, I’ve got very good at minimising what I take – I recently went on a trip with friends for a weekend, who were all amazed that all I had was a small backpack! #wkendtravelinspiration

    • Well done on the culling Milly. Did your friends ask you for advice as to how they too could pack lighter? Or were you wishing you had packed those strappy sandals?

  • I had light packing down – then baby arrived and changed EVERYTHIG #wkdtravelinspiration

    • Trying to pack light with kids is always a challenge Leona. When my son was a baby I would pack nappies, formula and snacks for the duration of the holiday. Whilst this meant that on the outward bound journey my suitcase was full on the way home it was much lighter as those items were no longer in my suitcase. As for the toys I try to find multi-purpose things like sticker books with a story or Duplo cars that can be just a car game or add in a few more blocks for building.

  • I take minimal amounts – plain trousers and tops so mix and match. Always two pairs of sandals in summer after one broke a few years ago and left me in flip flops! I take solid shampoo etc bought from Lush in the UK – a really great way to take toiletries if not available in hotels. #theweeklypostcard

    • I’ve just checked out the Lush website Tracy. What a great idea – shampoo bars saving space and the chance of leakage.

  • I follow pretty much these tips in order to pack light. The more I travel, the less I take. Yes, I only take one week’s worth of clothes and do laundry if necessary. It is a good idea to avoid carrying paper (magazines and books) since they weight a lot and buying souvenirs at the end of the trip. #wkendtravelinspiration

    • I’m still a sucker for the paper mags and books Ruth. But I know that if I purchased the electronic versions this would save me so much space and weight.

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