I’ve gone from jumbo suitcases to a backpack while on the road because I want to travel as carefree as possible. The less things I am responsible for while in a foreign country, the better. Reducing my travel load took changing my approach to how and what I pack. Here are the five ways I’ve learned to travel light:
- When it comes to clothing and accessories, create a custom packing list. I’ve come across so many suggested packing lists online, some with 10 to 40 items on them that the authors think you might need on your trip. What I’ve learned is that the most effective packing list (for me) is the one that’s tailored to my upcoming destination. That means my list doesn’t change with each season; it changes with each new trip. For example, it’s a great idea to pack warm clothes for chilly Fall weather in France, but if you pack the same way for Fall weather in Rome, you might end up sweating and stripping off layers in public [or so I experienced recently. HA]. I’d rather pack according to a city’s projected weather for that week. Yes, researching your destination’s weather may be extra work, but it will save you from carrying around unnecessary clothing and other items that your favourite travel guru may have suggested you take.
- Review and reduce. Once you’re set on what to pack, lay it all out on your bed and, depending on the length of your trip, immediately reduce the amount of ‘stuff’ by at least a third. If you’re traveling for 3 weeks, do you really need 2-3 weeks worth of clothes? I don’t think so. This was a tough lesson for me to learn. I used to pack 2 outfits per day for every day of my trip, along with matching accessories and shoes. It took a while to reconcile the ideas of still being able to look presentable without the need of traveling with half of my closet. I’m exploring, not strutting down a runway! So now I stick with clothing basics that can be dressed up or down in the evenings with a light jacket. For lengthy trips, I think 1 week’s worth of clothing is fine, just be prepared to either pay for laundry or wash & dry your clothes in your room. Both options are worth avoiding having to travel with a heavy backpack.
- Organization is key. I’ve fallen in love with packing cubes! They are the best things I never knew I needed for travel. I find the space in my backpack is used more efficiently with these cubes. There’s less confusion about what-is-where because everything is in its proper place. The size of the cubes also force me to ‘fold small’ by using the rolling method when I pack my clothes, thus creating more space. I purchased the eBags brand of packing cubes (along with the backpack and day bag) but there are several great brands out there for you to compare prices, reviews and quality.
- Consider a travel backpack as opposed to a hiker’s backpack if you are not, in fact, hiking. I have seen some monstrous (30L to 80L) backpacks on main streets in beautiful quaint cities that are clearly meant for the woods and the hills. These huge bags knock people every time the person turns around, block views in tight walking spaces and they look completely out of place. Also, I feel they almost encourage over-packing because of their large size. In the past, I have witnessed people having to check their hiking backpacks as luggage because they were too big to fit on the airplane. There is nothing light about hiking backpacks because that’s not their intention. They serve a unique purpose – to help you lug all of the important things that may keep you comfortable or save your life while you’re trudging up a mountain. If you intend to travel and go sightseeing without adventure hikes, just say ‘no’ to using a hiker’s backpack.
- Go easy on the technology. Unless it is your job to professionally record/capture your travel escapades, I doubt that you really need more than one camera, several lenses, a video camera, a laptop, tablet AND smartphone, iPod, etc. on a single trip. Overkill. Not only is it a burden, it’s also setting you up for a loss of thousands of dollars if your property is ever stolen or mistakenly left behind. You don’t want to make yourself an obvious target for theft in a foreign country anyway, right? I mostly travel with just my camera, my smartphone and (sometimes) my tablet. When I do carry it, I don’t use my tablet in public. It’s more for writing blogs and emails in my hotel room, transferring pictures from my camera or for watching movies before I sleep.
So that’s how I travel light! There is always room for improvement, so if you have more ideas, please let me know!