It seems most of us appreciate the idea of packing light but hesitate when it comes to the things we might have to go without. How could we possibly leave the country, or even the house, without our beloved pair of jeans or well-worn sneakers? What if I told you traveling light doesn’t mean sacrificing personal style or precious space?
Traveling with less is about investing in more:
You won’t have to wait in line to check baggage. If you check-in for your flight online, you can head straight to security.
I once missed my connecting flight but thankfully was able to get on the next plane to Dallas. If I had checked luggage, I surely would have missed my flight to Budapest. Packing in only a carry-on means everything you need is with you–whether it’s public transportation, cobble-stoned streets or a flight of stairs, you are ready!
Over-packing is synonymous with wasted space and, often, this wasted space costs you money.
With only a carry-on, you can skip the luggage carrousel after the flight and head straight into your next adventure! Furthermore, you can spend less time deciding what to wear daily and more time enjoying the food, the city and the sights.
I once spent $200 for an overweight suitcase … I was only over by four ounces. I still cringe when I think about it. Packing light means avoiding the outrageous airline fees. With budget airlines becoming more popular, it is likely the fees will continue to increase.
If you forget something or under-packed, buy the item at your destination! A new coat, a fragrance, a new pair of shoes, etc. (if you truly need it) is a practical “souvenir” to take home from your travels. I recommend shopping at stores you won’t find in the U.S. to make it unique.
Here are a few lessons I have learned throughout my travels that helped me pack for my eight-week trip to Hungary, Australia and Fiji in just one carry-on suitcase and a backpack.
Pack what you love.
Don’t lie to yourself. If you don’t wear a piece of clothing at home, you’re not more likely to wear it simply because you’re abroad. Life is too short to pack and wear clothes you only half-heartedly enjoy wearing. If you pack only your tried and true pieces, you will be sure nothing in your suitcase will go unworn.
One method that works best for me is to go through my closet and to pick the clothes I could not go on my trip without. If I hesitate about a piece of clothing, I trust my gut and leave it at home. If you don’t know where to begin packing, selecting your favorite pieces is a great way to start. Once you have your pile (or two), now you can begin the real work.
Create a theme.
The goal of packing the “perfect” travel wardrobe, if such exists, is to be able to grab one top and one bottom and create a cohesive outfit. Sadly, this means you might have to leave your favorite neon sweater or velvet pumps at home. Instead of packing in terms of outfits, pack according to a theme. This will allow you to create multiple outfits from a select number of pieces.
Take a look at the clothes you loved from the first round of selecting items. Notice the patterns, shapes and colors you naturally gravitate towards. For me, this included floral prints, stripes and earthy hues. For you, it might be polka dots or plaid. Whatever your personal style is, embrace it and hang up any clothes that aren’t true to who you are.
Re-wear and re-purpose.
There is this idea in American culture that says you can’t be an outfit repeater. Some of us plan our outfits so particularly to ensure we don’t wear the same top or the same jeans within a certain timeframe (guilty). As a traveler, being an outfit repeater is the best thing you can be. I promise.
One of my packing philosophies involves taking one article of clothing and envisioning how many outfits I can create using this one piece. Dresses aside, if there is only one outfit option, it doesn’t go with me. This is where you get to be creative and have fun putting together different outfits.
Don’t forget some items can serve multiple purposes. A scarf can accessorize a plain T-shirt, keep your neck warm and be wrapped as a skirt or even a sarong. Sweaters can be worn over dresses to create a skirt look or tied around the waist to give a casual vibe. High-waisted jeans can be worn underneath loose shirts or belted with a top to create two different looks. The possibilities are endless!
Hope for the best.
I have found the main reason we over-pack is the desire to be prepared for each situation. Rain. Snow. Heat. Spontaneous combustion.
There are very few places to travel, maybe Antarctica or sub-Sahara Africa, in which some necessities will not be available to you. Leave items such as full-size shampoos or lotions at home. Not only will you save space, but buying new products at your destination will be a great way to discover what locals enjoy using.
While it’s important to pack for the best scenario, it is also equally important to be both smart and simple. Find out what the weather will be like where you are going and be prepared to the best of your ability. For example, a raincoat is a great item to pack–it’s practical and typically light. But you don’t need both rain boots and a raincoat. You can go without a blow dryer, hair straightener and curling iron.
Pack for the best scenario–positivity goes a long way, and if not, there is likely a DM (if you’re in Hungary), an ABC store (in Hawaii), a CVS/Walgreens (in the continental US) on the corner.
In the end, traveling light is about realizing that experience doesn’t need “stuff.” Whether you’re riding a tuk-tuk in Phnom Penh or sipping coffee in Vienna, you’ll find that none of the concerns about material possession will matter in that moment.
Travel light and carry memories, not things.