Travel Tip Thursday: 10 Tips for Packing Light
It’s easy to overpack when travelling - it’s natural to want to be prepared for any contingency you may meet along the road, forgetting that necessities will be available in nearly any country you visit. Things like soap, shampoo, conditioner, toothpaste, deodorant, and pain medications can be found in stores along the way. Rather than taking up precious space in your pack for these items - it’s really not necessary to bring a full-size bottle of shampoo, promise! - it’s easier to pick them up along the way, and less expensive! Bring enough to last you the first week - after that, you should be able to find what you need along the way.
1. A good rule of thumb is to lay out everything you think you need to bring, and then cut that in half. Then half that again. What you’re left with will be the basics - that’s all you need. Remember that you’re going to want to buy things along the way. Right now, you may want to bring every t-shirt you own, but once you get there, you may find one you want to buy to wear, and to take home as a momento. If your pack is already stuffed to the brim, you won’t have room to add anything you may want to bring back with you.
2. Utilize packing cubes. They’re pretty inexpensive - around $20 on Amazon - and well worth the investment. Packing cubes help keep everything organized, and they help keep you on-task while packing. If it won’t fit in your cube, it stays behind. Nobody wants to be searching for a pair of dry socks and have to empty everything out to find them. Have a cube for clean clothes, dirty cloths, personal items, and so on. You’ll be grateful for the prep - and the condensing! - later.
3. Never pack “enough to last you”, especially on long-term trips. Sure, you might go through four full size bottles of shampoo over the course of an average six months, but that doesn’t mean you need to pack them all for your trip. Buy along the way - it’ll save you pack space and weight. Same can be said of nearly any other personal item - people need them in every corner of the world. You’ll be able to find them, too!
4. Pack jeans sparingly. Bring your favorite pair - if that - and leave the rest. Unless you’re travelling to a cold climate, chances are you’ll pack those jeans and never wear them - or maybe wear them once. They’re heavy, bulky, and mostly unnecessary.
5. Pack no more than a week’s worth of clothes. Plan on doing laundry. This falls into the category of not packing too much of personal hygiene items. Laundry happens in every country, in every part of the world. Take part in their methods of washing. Use hand soap and a sink to wash clothes. String them up in your hotel room using a piece of paracord. This portable hand-powered wash bag is a great option, too, if at a slightly higher price point.
6. Pick a bag that’s carry-on size. Choosing a smaller bag is the easiest way to ensure you won’t pack too heavy - because it will hold less. Here’s a post on how to choose the right pack. Know your pack’s limits and stay well within them. Plus, you’ll avoid the checked baggage and overweight fees!
7. Try out your packing. Put everything you think you’ll need in, say, a week in your pack. Live out of that pack for a week. Find anything you don’t need? Remove it from your pack. Anything you haven’t touched in a week, you probably won’t need over the course of your trip. Note that this doesn’t apply to the important stuff - like malaria meds or shower sandals.
8. Find multipurpose items. Don’t just take a shirt - take a shirt that will go with absolutely any other item of clothing you want to wear. Instead taking separate shampoo and conditioner, find a 2-in-1.
9. Limit yourself to one bag. It’s tempting to say, “I’ll bring my big pack AND pack my day pack”. Well, bringing a day pack is a great idea - but find one that folds up into a little pod, stash it in your big pack, and use it for day excursions when you don’t want to bring your full backpack. This won’t be possible if they’re both stuffed full from the minute you depart.
10. Don’t overthink it - but don’t underthink it. Remember that there are some things you’re going to need, and bring those. Remember that there are some thing you think you’ll need, but you won’t. Go for light small “luxuries”, like single-serve powdered drink mixes, don’t overpack on food, and remember this is an opportunity to try new things! Instead of bringing your tried and true coffee, stop into a local cafe. Pick up a book along the road. Skip the electronics in favor of a journal and a deck of cards.
What are your best packing tips?