Ultimate Guide to Packing Light – 45 Tips to Packing Light

We’re of the mindset that there’s only one way to pack, and that’s to pack light. Packing light saves time, money, and stress on bodies and on our planet. Think about the time spent waiting for baggage to be unloaded. Think about the money spent on having to pay for checked luggage. Think about the stress of worrying about lost or stolen luggage. Remember too the stress on our bodies as we lift, lower, carry and cart around heavy suitcases. And there is the impact on the environment; less luggage means less fuel used to transport it. In our quest to bring you the best and highest quality information on packing light, we’ve compiled our Ultimate Guide to Packing Light.

Easy Tips for Packing Light

Make a List

Make one master list. When you think of something you really need to bring, write it on this one list.

Check it Twice

Edit Your List. Edit it down. Way down. Cross off everything you don’t absolutely need the first three days. Remember, you can buy just about everything abroad if you end up needing it.

Choose the Right Bag

You know how work expands to fill the time? The same is true for bags. If you bring too big of a bag, you will fill the space. It’s just human nature. Unfortunately, we haven’t found the best backpack or favorite lightest luggage yet. (Though from pictures and reviews I’m partial to: Ebags Mother Lode Mini Duffel for business, the Osprey Farpoint 70 travel backpack for backpacking, and the Osprey Farpoint 40 for something a bit smaller.)

  • Choosing A Bag
    The most important things to consider are:

    • quality — because luggage needs to be durable
    • transportability — because you will carry your luggage more than the carriers will
    • airline carry-on limits — because in the real world, there are two kinds of luggage: carry-on and lost


Fold Your Clothes

Fold your clothes in an efficient, wrinkle free manner. Use a special compression bag (like the Eagle Creek Pack-It Compression Sac) to roll and remove the air.

  • Roll your clothes to save space
  • Best Tips and Links

Following are the best tips for packing light and what to pack from a variety of great sources:

  • 4-Hour Workweek: How to Travel the World in 10 pounds or Less Tim Ferriss’ blog post on “how to travel with 10 pounds or less” is a good post to see just how extremely light you can pack; however, his theory of “buy it there” isn’t always the best for the environment. Some items he suggests that we also like:
  • OneBag We linked to it in several places above, but this really is a great resource.
  • Wiki How: How to Travel With One BagAlso suggests packing using a bundle method.
    • Mail home or give away items not necessary for traveling, such as finished books or souvenirs. Trading books is a great free way to keep one’s travel library fresh.

  • Carrying off the art of one carry-on reminds us of the hassles of traveling in a post-9/11 world – “Swiss Army knives are a real bugaboo.”
  • Vagabondish.com: In or Out: How to Pack for a Month Long Trip A guide to packing for a long trip reminds us of the importance of good socks.
  • About.com How to Pack Light for Business Trips
    • Come As You Are: Wear your power suit on the plane and take it off once you get to the hotel.

    • Group “Hot” Items: If you know that your money clip, tweezers, watch, or necklace is going to set off that metal detector, group those items into one carry-on that you can send through the x-ray machine.

  • Ruk.ca Extreme Packing says to leave the guidebook, novel, and ipod at home.
  • GayWired: The Art Of Packing Light
    • Rule #5 – Every 7 Pieces Packed Should Yield At Least 14 Ensembles

      Each piece of clothing that goes into your luggage should be interchangeable with at least one other piece you intend to pack. Every shirt should match at least two pairs of pants, every blazer should work with at least two different shirts or sweaters, and so on and so forth.

  • Plonkee.com Packing Light Rulessuggests two items for fun, off the beaten track travel:
    • tiny maglite torch / flashlight
    • bottle opener keyring – handy for drinking cheap beers
  • Newsnet5.com Packing Light Can Save Money When Traveling states to wear your heavy clothes and travel shoes on the plane.
  • Slow Travel Trip Checklistsays
    • “Make sure your passport is valid for 6 months past your return date (many countries require this)”


  • “Print out the information from your country on what to do if your passport is lost or stolen”

  • Washington Post: Packing Light Issue A series of good articles on how to pack light– including a fun “what’s wrong with this picture.”
  • Realbuzz.com How To Pack Light reminds us that items abroad may be cheaper than at home.
  • Travelers Notebook: 10 Steps to Packing Light Before Your Next Trip highlights the benefits of flipflops.
  • Sound Money Tips: Pack Efficientlysays
    • “Find out what amenities the hotel already has, i.e., robes, hairdryers, shampoo, and don’t pack those items.”

  • Arthritis Today: Packing Light (yes, you read that correctly, even Arthritis Today has packing tips) suggests saving make-up and skincare samples that come with cosmetic purchases.
  • My Money Blog: Save Time and Money by Traveling Light suggests Sahara Convertible Pants.
  • BootsNAll.com: Packing LightWe love this tip:
    • All the clothes I take must come from second-hand stores. Clothes, especially when worn day after day and beaten clean nightly in a washbasin, wear out quickly. I always seem to sit in something messy, spill my lunch, have a darling baby burp all over me, or snag on a thorn bush somewhere along the adventure trail.

  • Wisebread.com: Frugal Travel Tips for Packing Light “Plastic bags can shield books from the rain, carry dirty laundry, keep small items in one place, and much more.”
  • Travelite reminds us a few other reasons for traveling with less. You “don’t have to tip porters” and can “easily volunteer to be bumped on a full flight.”
  • Verber.com: Packing and Traveling Light suggests long underwear so you don’t have to bring extra pants and shirts.
  • Transitions Abroad: Pack Light and Travel Happy
    • The world’s getting really small: you can buy Dial soap, Colgate toothpaste, Tampax, Nivea cream, and Bic razors in Sicily. Tourist shops in major international hotels are a sure bet whenever you have difficulty finding personal items. And if you can’t find one of your essentials, ask yourself how 300 million Europeans can live without it.

  • Rick Steves: Pack Light “You’ll never meet a traveler who, after five trips, brags: Every year I pack heavier.'” He also has packing lists.
  • Reids Guides: Packing Light “Also leave space in your pack for accumulating souvenirs.
  • CNN.com: Packing Light, It’s all in your head recommends bringing a bar of soap and also using it for shampoo.
  • Boston.com Packing Light for Ski Trips Fleece is the dominant fabric for layering
  • Smart Packing doesn’t provide a lot of information on the website, but sells a book with the same title.
  • MSNBC.com Packing Light with Double Duty Travel Gear suggests a filter water bottle which has a built in filter. “One way to have what you need and still pack light is to look for gear that does double duty.”

If you need help booking your flights, check out our posts on Vayama, Priceline Bidding, and Flexible Travel Search Engines.

More Packing Light Resources

Want even more information? Check out these books for more tips on how to pack light:

How do you pack light? What’s your best packing light tip? We look forward to hearing your tips!