Knowing how to pack light for travel means you’re able to spend more time enjoying your trip abroad rather than worrying about how you’re going to drag your suitcase up that next flight of stairs that you encounter.
Traveling light isn’t all that difficult and as long as you practice a few basic techniques and take advantage of some of the tips in this post you’ll be travelling with a lot less stuff than you ever thought you would be able to.
From choosing the right backpack or suitcase to being particular when it comes to the style and type of clothing you’re bringing there’s actually quite a lot that goes into packing light.
There are quite a few benefits to taking on more of a minimalist packing approach and after the first time you’re traveling around Europe or anywhere else in the world without as much you’ll definitely be thankful for traveling with less.
Not only is it easier to get around but you’ll avoid any neck or back pains from having a backpack that’s too heavy and you won’t get embarrassed anymore if you’re not having to lug a 50lb suitcase up the stairs.
So, how much should you pack?
Well, I’m going to get into some tips for packing light in just a second but it depends on how long you’re traveling for when it comes to how much you need to bring.
Keep in mind that if you’re only spending a week or two abroad you won’t need that much stuff and ideally you’ll be able to travel with the same amount of gear even if you’re spending a few months away from home.
How to Pack Light for Travel: Tips for Packing Light
Choosing the Right Luggage
It doesn’t matter if you’re traveling with a backpack or a suitcase, the main thing here is to make sure you go with something lightweight and portable but that still offers enough features that you’re looking for.
Traveling with something that you’ll be able to bring on the plane, bus or train is your best bet and it’s important to find something carry-on size that you don’t run into any issues taking your luggage on board with you.
Another good reason to limit yourself to something that’s able to be carried onto the plane or any other form of transportation you’ll be taking is that the less space you have the less you are able to over-pack and carry more than you need to.
Depending on how much experience you have with packing lately I recommend traveling with anything between 25 liters and 45 liters in size whether you’re looking at a backpack or suitcase.
Regarding suitcases, I suggest traveling with the smallest sized ones available, those that are usually recommended for using as a carry on.
One more thing to keep in mind is that you should always remember to leave a little bit of spare room in your luggage just in case you buy something while you’re traveling like any souvenirs, additional clothes or anything else you might be interested in picking up.
Once you chosen a backpack or suitcase to travel with it’s time to actually start packing and this is where you can really start to save some space.
Depending on where you’re going you can check out some packing lists online but otherwise it’s pretty basic when it comes to what you should bring.
If you are traveling during the summer then you’re going to want to bring some summer appropriate clothes and just one sweater and a pair of jeans just in case of any chilly weather.
During the winter and any other colder months you really only need one or two pairs of pants, one or two sweaters and just one winter jacket to keep you warm along with any smaller accessories like gloves, hats or scarves.
When it comes to the material of the clothing you’re traveling with a recommend looking for any items made from synthetic materials or Merino wool.
Cotton is quite foggy, hard to dry after getting wet and doesn’t offer as much warmth or versatility as synthetics like polyester or more natural materials like Merino wool and these materials are also much lighter and quick-drying.
There are a wide range of travel clothing options available and it’s possible to still look quite fashionable and stylish while still being able to wear clothes that are much better designed for traveling with.
Instead of packing something new for each day of the week make it a point to do some light clothes washing while you’re abroad whether you have to wash your clothes in the sink or you have to do a load in your hotel, hostel or AirBnb washing machine.
Being able to wash clothes abroad means you’re able to travel with less items and you can put on freshly cleaned clothes without having to carry something new because you’re not able or willing to wash what you brought.
It’s a rule of thumb that anything you pack for 7 days of travel is going to be good enough for 7 weeks or even 7 months of traveling as long as you’re able to wash your stuff every few days.
There are some bulky items like shoes and winter jackets that take up a lot of space when you’re packed but as long as you choose the right options and only bring just one jacket or one pair of shoes then you shouldn’t run into any issues and it will be a lot easier to travel light.
Slimming Down Your Electronics
These days there are so many ways to stay connected with your friends and family online that it’s not surprising that many travelers are traveling with a wide range of different electronics from smartphones and cameras to laptops and tablets.
With smartphones being as advanced as they are a smartphone is all you really need for traveling as it will allow you to take great photos and keep in touch with people back home as well as letting you upload content to social media like Instagram or Facebook.
On the other hand, for many people that are interested in photography or travel blogging or just want a little more capabilities when it comes to electronics they’re traveling with a smartphone might not be enough but there are still some shortcuts you can take.
With your camera you could opt to bring a smaller and more portable mirrorless or even a GoPro instead of a huge DSLR.
Instead of your dedicated gaming laptop you could bring a smaller, more streamlined laptop or just use a tablet instead depending on what you need to do online with your computer.
There are plenty of workarounds and shortcuts that you can take advantage of if you want to travel lighter as long as you’re willing to make a few small sacrifices and spend the time to find suitable alternatives that you can use.
This is a section that’s more applicable to female travelers but toiletries are a huge part of many people’s luggage.
For girls especially, traveling with a wide range of makeup and other accessories along with your toothbrush, toothpaste and any other toiletries can really add a lot of bulk to your bags.
If it’s a good idea to go through each item and only make sure that you’re bringing something that you’re going to be using every single day instead of something that might be used just in case or a lot less often.
I understand that looking good and feeling good about yourself is important so I’m not suggesting that you don’t bring any makeup or accessories at all but I recommend just taking a look at what you’re traveling with and choosing the most important items so that you’re not lugging around a lot of extra dead weight.
For many guys it’s good enough to travel with just a toothbrush and toothpaste but feel free to bring any additional accessories like hair gel, cologne or anything else you want to travel with in the toiletries section as long as it’s lightweight and something that you’re definitely going to be using.
Extra Tips for Packing Light
- The night before you leave lay out everything that you’re bringing with you and make sure that it’s something you’re going to be using on a regular and hopefully daily basis
- Only bring one pair of jeans and consider traveling with a pair of dedicated travel pants instead
- If traveling light is important for you you’re going to need to choose practicality and functionality over style and fashion
- Compare a wide range of different backpacks or suitcases to see which have the best features for you and are lightweight enough to travel with for an extended period
- Look up a packing list for the destinations you’re visiting and check out YouTube videos on how to better organize your suitcase or backpack
- Use packing cubes as a way to keep everything organized and to minimize the amount of wasted space in your luggage
- Don’t hesitate to ask fellow travellers or any locals where you can wash your clothes or simply learn how to wash them on your own without a washing machine
- Consider traveling with a purse or a dedicated camera bag where you can store anything you need to quickly reach and to take with you throughout the day for all of your daily essentials