5 Ultimate Tips for Traveling Light

If this is your idea of packing you're in for a shock to the system.

Size Matters. You can usually tell a frequent traveller from an amateur by the size of their suitcase. In general the more I travel the less I carry, I have learned that on most of my holidays comfort is key, both in wardrobe choice and luggage volume. The restrictions imposed by low-cost airlines have made the matter even more important.

I have now mastered the dark art of packing all I need for a holiday of four days and under into a miniature suitcase which fits into the metal gadgets airlines use to measure hand luggage dimensions, even when I’m carrying my (very) bulky SLR with me.

I always follow the following 5 rules when packing:

Only take what you need
This might seem like the most obvious tips in the world, however I never cease to amaze myself at our capacity of packing more than we need. Think through your itinerary and make a good inventory of what you might need. Once you have it, make a list and start going through the list removing things that you might not really need. You will find loads of them. I once travelled with someone who carried a towel for each day, and we were staying at good hotels. He had carried them along “just in case”. The same goes for clothes. Do you really need two completely separate outfits for each day of the trip?

Re-purpose items
You definitely need to keep your hygiene levels decent, so I’m not suggesting that you wear the same underwear for a week, however if going on longer holidays you might want to pack some hand-wash detergent to wash some basics.

I find that I can carry less trousers (which are really bulky, especially when compared to tee-shirts or shirts) if I travel in semi-formal jeans. Wear them with a tee-shirt and you’re comfortable and casual; wear them with a shirt and you will not be kicked out of a restaurant. The same goes for shoes, I travel in a pair that are comfortable but can be dressed up (within limits) or down as needed.

Finally if you really need to have a different outfit every day, plan your wardrobe well and carry a consistent set of colours. That way you can mix and match items and still carry less.

Pack smaller items
Buy travel-packs of toothpaste and deodorant and, if you are particular about your shampoo or face-wash, pour some into small containers. I find that the little shampoo containers from hotels are brilliant to be re-purposed as containers – and it’s good for the environment too!

Your choice of clothes can also make a difference here. Wool, for example, gives much more warmth than cotton for the same volume, so pack a woollen top instead of a cotton (or polyester) one of the same warmth and you gain space and volume.

Pack well
Another piece of advice that should be obvious but is so often overlooked. If you throw all your items into a suitcase or bag at random you can never expect to fit everything into one neat package. Pay extra care and attention to items like socks (if you put them in pairs by turning the top over the other one) and shoes. These eat up space if not packed well. Fold everything neatly and roll certain items tightly, especially undergarments which don’t need to be crisply ironed when you wear them.

Pack a folding bag
And the final trick is to always pack a folding, collapsible bag. If traveling as a couple you can take only one with you, it is generally enough. This is a life-saver when you pack your bag to the limit and then cannot resist the temptation to do some shopping abroad (and who can?). If flying low-cost I sometimes pay extra in advance for luggage allowance on the way back only. This way I can relax while I’m there because I know that I have something to fall back on if the need arises.

Photo (CC) by alamodestuff (Flickr)

(#66 of 366 X 2012 project)

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