Woman Embracing Red Suitcase

8 Essential Tips to Master the Art of Traveling Lightly

These days, there are very few airlines offering customers free bag check on their flights. In fact, the cost of checking a single bag typical runs travelers $20 to $25. And forget checking multiple bags, unless you want to be out $50, $100, even $200 (!) dollars.

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What’s worse: if your bag weighs more than a set amount (typically 50 pounds), you will pay even more due to “oversize bag” fees. This additional cost makes it important to pack light for your upcoming travels.

However, packing light (and smart) can be difficult. Especially if you have a wide range of activities planned and are uncertain about the weather conditions in your destination. Here are eight tips to help alleviate the packing stress and help you master the art of traveling lightly.

#1: Choose the Right Luggage

Your choice of luggage makes a big difference when it comes time to pack and weigh your bags at the airport.

Choose a bag with few compartments to leave you with a larger open space to fit your items. When you choose a bag with several compartments, it limits the types of clothing you will be able to fit into the bag.

Also, look for a lightweight bag, as any extra pounds from the bag decrease the amount of contents you can put inside without being stuck with the oversized baggage fees.

Woman Embracing Red Suitcase
Together Again, Madrid © chispita_666

#2: Pre-pack

It’s important to take the time to evaluate every item that you are putting in your bag. Often, we over pack and bring more outfits than the number of days that we will be gone. This will weigh you down and increase the odds that you will have to pay fees.

Prior to touching a single item in your closet, create a checklist. Determine the number of shirts, pants, shorts, skirts, dresses, undergarments and shoes that you will need for the activities you have planned. Be sure to include accessories, toiletries, electronics and entertainment that you plan to bring, too. Once you’ve compiled a list, review it and remove any unnecessary items.

Once you have finalized your list, grab all of the items on the list and lay them out on your bed (or wherever you plan on packing). Carefully consider all of the items you have. Are there any that are redundant? Are there pieces of clothing that you can reuse so you can eliminate any unnecessary outfits?

A great tip to use when selecting clothing is to stick to two to three colors so every item can go with almost every other item you are bringing. This boosts your outfit selection without requiring you to pack more pieces of clothing.

#3: Share

There are many items that couples bring on a trip that become redundant. For example, you only need one set of shampoo and conditioner and one tube of toothpaste. To ensure that you aren’t bringing unnecessary items, create your packing checklists together and identify items that you can share.

Along with toiletries, you may find it easier to share your electronics and airplane entertainment (magazines, books, crossword puzzles, etc.) instead of packing two sets of each.

Even if you do decide that you both need to bring your cell phone or laptop, you may want to compare chargers and power supplies to see if they are interchangeable. Doing something as little as bringing just one charger instead of two can free up space in your bags.

#4: Make an Impact With Accessories

If you pack neutral clothing, you can reuse them throughout your visit. However, it’s understandable that you don’t want your pictures to look like you’re wearing the same outfit throughout your trip. This is where accessories come into play.

By selecting striking accessories, you can make a big fashion statement without taking up too much space in your bags. Just be sure to leave the valuable jewelry at home.

Man with Suitcase (black & white)
Eternal Wanderer © mamnaimie

#5: Determine the Weather Conditions

With a little research, you will be able to determine whether your winter jacket, boots, hat and scarf are necessary to pack in your bags. These items take up considerable space, so if you can leave them at home, your bags will automatically be lighter. Bringing lightweight layers can also help you beat cold weather without adding bulk to your bags.

Of course, weather predictions are just that so you may want to do additional research, looking at historical average highs and lows for the month that you will be traveling.

#6: Bundle It Up

Many travelers lose space in their bags simply because of the packing methods that they use. As recommended by Doug Dyment, who runs onebag.com, in an interview with NPR, you can use every inch of space by packing in bundles.

“You think of laying a shirt on your bed and placing this bundle where the chest would go and then gently wrap the sleeves around the bundle, and then bring the bottom up and wrap it around the top,” explains Dyment.

Dyment also recommends packing stuff inside your shoes to utilize that space as well.

#7: Wear Your Bulky Items on the Plane

Passengers can save room in their bags by wearing their heaviest and bulkiest items on the plane. This may include your coat or sweater and your sneakers or boots.

While this may be a pain when it comes to the security checkpoint, it is going to free up room in your bag so you can pack those extra pair of pants or the dress that has been hanging in your closet just waiting to be worn.

#8: Shop When You Get to Your Destination

There are some items that simply take up a lot of space or could potentially create a huge mess. These items are often easier to purchase once you get to your destination; and if you get them at a good enough price, you can simply throw them out or donate them before returning home.

For example, towels, while relatively light-weight are bulky and may force you to bring an extra bag for your beach vacation. Instead of packing the beach towels in your linen closet, purchase some inexpensive towels when your plane touches down.

AAA.com also recommends to leave your shampoo, soap and hair dryer at home, as many hotels have these items available to you for free. Before you opt out of packing these items, call your hotel to ensure that they provide them to their guests.

Of course, you probably were already planning of shopping when you get to your destination. If you plan on shopping for souvenirs, you may want to consider shipping them back home instead of packing them in your bags. Depending upon the items and the distance, you could save money when paying for shipping instead of baggage fees.

Have you mastered the art of traveling lightly? Share a comment below with your tips!

  1. Purposely buy smaller luggage. I used to have a truly enormous suitcase- seriously, I could probably fit inside it if I tried. Then the luggage-handlers at the airport damaged it to the point where it could no longer be used. This probably wouldn’t have happened if I had owned and used a smaller suitcase. The upside of my behemoth suitcase’s demise is that Southwest replaced it with a smaller one.

    On my recent trips, I’ve used a backpack instead of a suitcase. I don’t think it’s more convenient, but it does result in me packing very lightly!

  2. Great tips here, especially for backpackers, traveling light is inevitable! Fit it all in a bag, always a challenge. Thank you!

  3. Make a list. Compose a pack list. Be sure to coordinate shirts and blouses with bottoms. To maximize your traveling wardrobe fashion savoir faire, stick with solids and versatile basics. Rule-out any clothes that do not match other items.

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