Tips for Packing Light

April 2018

There are many reasons to consider packing light. While solely relying on a backpack for traveling may seem too daunting, there are a few simple things you can do to help yourself pack less.

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Wear your bulky items during travel

Items such as jackets, sweaters, jeans, and shoes like sneakers or boots take up alot of valuable space in your luggage. Use yourself as an extra bag! This works well especially when traveling during the colder months. I layer up during travel- even if it a bit uncomfortable- to keep the weight of my backpack low and leaving plenty of space for other essentials.

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Pack a drawstring or other foldable bag

When traveling, we always stick an empty drawstring bag or foldable day bag into our backpacks for a few reasons.

  • If our carry-on backpack surpasses the weight limit (has not yet- knock on wood!), we can use the empty drawstring bag as our new “personal item” that airlines permit and transfer the overweight pounds into the drawstring bag to keep our carry-on from getting checked.
  • If the luggage does not meet the airline’s other carry-on requirements and needs to be checked (our backpack always meets the requirements but we have seen many bulging rolling suitcases get checked at the gate), you have a spare bag to rescue items you want while in flight.
  • We use the empty drawstring bag as an extension of our backpacks while in flight. Since we typically sit in the window and middle seats, it is annoying and inconvenient to maneuver our way into the aisle to reach the overhead compartment. Before we board, we take out the items we want for the flight (headphones, Kindle, eye masks) so we do not have to access the backpacks during the flight.
  • This extra bag will also work as a day bag while exploring so you can leave the travel backpack behind.

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Use packing cubes

Packing cubes have changed the way we travel. Not only does it help compress our items and give us more packing space, but it keeps everything organized. If you are making multiple stops, re-packing your bag between destinations is easy since the packing cubes serve as their own drawers. There is no need to constantly unpack your entire bag into hotel drawers then reassemble your things at the end of your stay. There was no time to unpack on our storm chasing trip as we stayed in a different hotel (and a different state!) every night. With late night arrivals and early morning departures, these cubes kept us mobile. Incorporate packing cubes on your next trip as an inexpensive strategy to structure your packing.

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Switch to solid toiletry products

The 3oz rule for carry-on liquids was a conundrum, especially when figuring out how to pack for a two week trip in a backpack. For women especially (guys may have it easier in this area), this can seem a higher hurdle, but a few easy steps can streamline your liquid packing. Keep makeup and hair products simple. You’re on a trip for you, so unless you have a list of formal events on your calendar (weddings, etc), don’t overburden yourself with a large volume of items you don’t need. For makeup, I use powder foundation, a small pack of eye shadow, and eye liner that takes up little room in my bag and no liquid space. I am also willing to forgo my favorite liquid shower products for a week or two while away from home. Either use the products that are provided at your accommodations, or dive into these creative solid products I have grown to love. Sunscreen comes as sticks (just like deodorant) and make sun protection accessible. All of the shower products at Lush are a light traveler’s dream come true. Try them our on your next trip!

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Stay away from one use only items

One use items are the single greatest perpetrator of over packing. Too many “what if” clothing or shoe scenarios drive your luggage content up until you suddenly risk exceeding the 40 pound checked bag limit. Packing items that you can only wear once defeats the purpose of packing light, and you usually don’t need them (again, weddings, etc. exempt)! You should be able to match any bottom with your tops even for more formal dining or events that feel like one-offs. For example, winter in Paris– my only shoes were black boots, pants included fleece lined leggings and dark jeans, and I packed a few long sleeve shirts, a wrap dress and a black blazer. I mixed and matched these every day to dress up or dress down. For our evenings out at Frenchie’s and ASPIC, I wore the black boots, the leggings, and wrap dress and the black blazer and threw on a necklace that made my outfit acceptable for fine dining but were all the usual clothing items I wore every day of the trip. I actually used the same packing strategy for our Barcelona trip to similar success!

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Read more in depth packing tips at Deskrib!

Happy travels!

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