Ultimate Guide to Packing Light – 45 Tips for How 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 (e.g. waiting for baggage to be unloaded), money (no overweight fees), stress (no worrying about lost luggage) and the environment (less luggage means less fuel used to carry 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: 45 Tips for How to Pack Light.

45 Tips for How to Packing Light

Make a List

  • The Universal Packing List This really is the ultimate packing list creator. It even includes weather information. However, it will spit out everything you could possibly need, so trim down from here and remember to pack light.
  • Don’t Forget Your Toothbrush A nice application that will send you reminder emails, but you have to sign up (free).
  • One Bag: What To Pack : One-Page Checklist “This is a travel packing checklist, not a list of items to pack on any particular trip! Rather, it is a sort of ‘worst case’ compendium of stuff that you could sensibly consider.”
  • Travellerspoint: Packing List Another list of everything you could possibly need.
  • San Fran Chronicle CARGO CULT “This is everything I pack for a typical three-week trip to Europe or South America, riding trains and buses and splitting my time between town and country. It all fits easily into a carry-on bag, with room left over for a bottle of Côtes du Rhône, a baguette and a few souvenirs.”
  • The Lost Girls: What We Packed What these three gals packed for their 1-year round the world (RTW) trip.
  • About.com Honeymoon Packing List Includes massage oil and other items that might be fun to have.

Check it Twice

Edit Your List. Edit it down. Way Down. Cross off everything you don’t absolutely need. 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.)

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

    • quality — because luggage takes a beating, and because quality should always be an important consideration
    • transportability — because you will carry your luggage more than the carriers will (and yes, whatever your actual plans, you will carry it)
    • airline carryon limits — because in the real world, there are two kinds of luggage: carryon and lost
  • Brave New Traveler: Choosing the Perfect Backpack This backpacker outlines his quest for the perfect backpack before deciding on.

how-to-pack-light

Fold Your Clothes

Fold you 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.

  • OneBag: Packing Clothes discusses “Bundle Packing.” (I typically roll my clothes, but I might try this next time.)

Find Your Own Style

Ultimately, you are the only one who has to to live with the way you pack, what you pack, and how much you pack. (Eds note, actually all of us have to live with what you pack because if you bring your entire house with you on the plane, this is costing us in fuel and carbon emissions, but that’s beside the point for now.)

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)”

    and

    • “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, 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 and additions to this Ultimate Guide to Packing Light: 45 Tips for How to Pack Light.

photo credit: Cea

Comments

  1. By on

    Oh, wow. I had no idea there were that many articles written on traveling light. I’m a big fan of it myself and wrote my own article about it back in November. (I’ve linked to that specific article in my name.)

  2. By on

    wow, so many links! very informational. traveling light is very handy for moving around and I must say, your post is very true. holidays are best if you don’t have to worry about your stuff all the time. check out hotels in Fort Lauderdale for cheap rates that will maximize your trip further.

  3. By on

    This is a great collection of tips. I like the point about organizing the metal items together. Also, I think it’s important if you are taking a laptop, to take a very light one. Also, now that you can’t really take much in terms of liquids with you it makes it easier to not spill things.

  4. By on

    Great tips! I spent a year living in Paris and doing lots of traveling on super discount airlines like RyanAir and EasyJet, which all have obscenely strict rules on how much you can pack before the fees start piling on. Being on a tight budget was a great incentive to learn how to pack light! I even learned a new way to style my very curly hair when I made the decision to leave my blow dryer and straightener in Paris!

  5. By Hostelio on

    I have never meet a traveler who, after five trips, brags, “Every year I pack heavier.” The measure of a good traveler is how light he travels. You can’t travel heavy, happy, and cheap. Pick two.

  6. By lyn on

    ‘CNN.com: Packing Light, It’s all in your head recommends bringing a bar of soap and also using it for shampoo. ‘ – worst tip ever! If you’ve ever used soap to wash your hair you’ll agree. A MUCH better idea is to bring Shampoo and also use it as soap.

  7. By on

    Those are great tips! With the cost of luggage transport seemingly always on the rise, finding new and inventive ways to pack more efficiently is probably one of the best cost savings possible while traveling. Thanks for the wonderful links and advice!

  8. By on

    Love this article! This is the most informative article I have ever seen for information on how to pack light! We always talk about how easy it is to pack light, but until you actually do it and see that it is possible, it is often a difficult option to comprehend. Thanks for making this great resource page for others, hopefully we can all start traveling lighter.

  9. By on

    That’s so useful. Having so much things to carry is disadvantage specially when you are riding in airplane so you must lessen your load. I am happy that you share us tips that will help us to lighten up our loads.

  10. By on

    Wow what great directory of articles you created for packing lightly. Packing light will definitely solve so many issues if everyone did it. What I hate most is, and I’m guilty of this too – people going to visit friends or relatives they haven’t seen for a long while, always have to bring gifts and other random useless stuff. Why is this considered normal? You bring yourself as company to have real meaningful interactions! No? Well sometimes gifts are nice, but most of it is just ridiculous and it would be much simpler to just send some money over.

    Having a simple good quality carry on luggage with you wins every time. You bring what you need and not worry about your materialistic possessions getting lost.

  11. By on

    in my view everything available everywhere so just make small backpack. it make travel light so that travel can be enjoyable, comfortable and memorable. any way above your information looks very informative. thanks for information sharing

    with best Regard
    Nepal Tour

  12. By Best Carry On Luggage - Tiger Luggage on

    Pack light, use a hard case suitcase (my preference) and be particular about the amount of clothes for your trip. To save water and be better for the earth- choose to be earth friendly when you travel.

  13. By on

    Great advice ! I found rolling my clothes takes 20% lest space than just folding them normally. But more importantly, I think you need to be absolutely sure how much weight you can carry. Last time I travelled, I spent a whole afternoon trying to get it right, by taking things out, and putting lighter things in the luggage, ad nauseam… Only to find at the airport that I could have carried 2kg more because I had a computer!

  14. By Mh on

    My favorite tip is traveling in a high quality, but second-hand capsule wardrobe – that way when return packing involves choosing between bringing home souvenirs or my clothing items, I don’t feel bad jettisoning anything I brought.

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