When I travel, I like to challenge myself. One of the challenges I typically face is packing. When you’re on the move a lot, having two giant roller suitcases, a purse, and a hat case is not only heavy and cumbersome but also screams, “TOURIST.” I choose to travel with a 40L backpack, which can hold everything I’ll need for months on end.
Most people see what I’m packing and gasp in horror. They ask me how I can survive with such a small amount of stuff. In all honesty, it makes life so much easier. Here are 5 tips to help YOU travel as light as possible!
- Find the Right Luggage
There are tons of luggage options on the market. You have to choose what’s best for you and the way you travel. I always recommend trying to fit everything into a carry on. Now, I understand not everyone can be as minimalistic as I am, but it saves you lots of hassle.
If you pack with a carry-on, you can save money when you fly. Most budget airlines will charge you to check a bag. Having a carry-on sized bag also makes it easier to throw under a bus, put in overhead luggage, or convince a handsome man to carry it for you. It’s also one less thing to keep track of and potentially lose, or worse, have stolen.
When I was shopping for the perfect luggage for my travels, I knew I wanted a backpack. My local outdoors store showed me what would fit my frame, how to adjust my bag, and what would work best with my travel style. That’s how I settled on the Osprey 40L backpack, which has a detachable day pack. The day pack was perfect for my computer and meant I could take my computer to a coffee shop or pack snacks and drinks for a day-long hiking trip.
If you’re not sold on the idea of carrying a backpack around, consider a rolling backpack. This gives you the option to roll your bag when you’re on hard surfaces—like when you’re running through an airport to avoid missing your flight -or throwing it on your back when you’re navigating through cobblestone streets.
Rolling suitcases are another great option. I recommend finding one that has four wheels and testing out the wheels in the store before you bring it home. It’s never fun to have a suitcase that has a lazy wheel which makes it difficult to maneuver.
There are tons of other options to choose from. But don’t feel overwhelmed; the best way to start shopping for luggage is by going to your local luggage store and seeing what’s best for you.
- Pack with a Purpose
When I prepare for a journey, I make sure everything I pack serves multiple purposes. My scarf can be used as a blanket on a plane, for privacy in a crowded area, or to cover myself when visiting places that require me to be more modest.
I do allow myself one luxury item. This is something that I don’t necessarily need, but makes me happy. My luxury item is my eye mask. I am someone that gets really cranky if I don’t have a good night’s sleep. If I’m staying in a hostel, or trying to sleep on a flight, the light really disrupts my slumber. When I have my eye mask on, I can sleep soundly— even through the loudest of noises. For you, your luxury item could be a token from a special memory, or a picture of your family back home for when you’re feeling homesick.
- Picking Clothing
When I begin packing the first place I start is with footwear. Shoes take up a lot of room and can also make you either completely comfortable or absolutely miserable. Make sure your shoes are well broken-in so you don’t get blisters. I try to pack at least 3 pairs of shoes:
- A comfortable pair of athletic shoes that I can go hiking in or that will allow me to walk for miles in one day.
- A pair of flats/heels that are dressier, which I can wear to a nice dinner or if I’m going out to a bar with friends.
- A pair of sandals to wear on the beach or for relaxing. These can double as shower shoes if I’m staying at hostel where I don’t have a private shower. A pair of flip-flops take up very little room and can easily be thrown away if more space is needed.
Packing clothes is always a tricky part of packing; it’s what usually takes up the most room in your suitcase. When I pack, I try to bring a lot of dark clothing. This makes it easier when I’m doing laundry, because I don’t have to do two separate loads. It also helps me “blend in” more. If I were wearing my hot pink yoga pants (yes, I do have a pair of those!) I would stick out like a sore thumb. But, when I’m dressed in all black I can blend into the crowd more, which is a “safety trick” that a lot of experts recommend travelers try to do.
I pack all my clothes in Space Bags. Remember how I told you that I only had a 40L backpack? Well, that doesn’t fit a lot of clothes. Space Bags keep my stuff organized and conserve space in my bag. I’ve met other travelers that swear by packing cubes, but I think they take up more room —every corner is precious! But again, whichever you find works best for you!
- Throw Away and Buy New
When you’re traveling, you are going to not only experience new sites and cultures, but also new fashions. I usually bring clothes that I don’t mind tossing if I need to. If you’re traveling for a long period of time, you typically get sick of wearing the same clothes every week and they also get worn out more quickly.
It’s easy to pop into a local shop and buy the latest fashions. Buying clothes on the road can also be treasured as a keepsake. I still have the dress I wore when I met a handsome man in Krakow, and the scarf I bought with new friends I made in Budapest.
- Don’t Forget…
Most travel items are easily replaced if you forget to pack them or leave them behind. Don’t fret, because most places will have a toothbrush, shampoo, or even underwear that you can buy. Once I went on a weekend trip and forgot to pack undergarments—don’t worry they have them just about everywhere!
The things that I always triple-check to make sure I have them packed are:
- Passport: This is not easily replaceable! I also have a photocopy saved to my cloud and a photocopy with my parents in the event I should lose it.
- TSA Approved Luggage Locks: This way you can keep your belongings safe when you aren’t nearby.
- Electric Converter: If you lose it, it can be replaced, but it’s much harder to find the converter for your electric items in another country and it will be a lot more expensive.
- Thank You Gifts: I like to bring a few small tokens from my home country. This could be something as simple as a t-shirt, postcards from your hometown, or something your hometown is known for. Then when you meet people on the road, or need to give a “Thank You” gift, you have a memorable keepsake for them.
I think it’s always important to remind people that most of the things you pack are just that: things. Clothes, shoes, and toiletries are easily replaceable. The important part of packing is to make sure what you bring will help you have the best possible experience.