Before our travel photos post to social media, we must pack. Travel packing is a Goldilock’s game. Is it too much, too little, or just right? Here’s some tips:
Packing light makes air travel less stressful…
What do you think about when preparing for a vacation?
If you’re like many people, you’ll spend hours scrolling through Instagram, Pinterest and other social platforms dreaming over the amazing pictures and picturing yourself in those locations.
Which images pull you in and tickle your imagination about your upcoming travel experience?
What excites you most…the places you will see, things you will do, and meals you will eat? Or…is it how on earth you are going to pack every item from your closet into a 21-inch carry-on suitcase?
On a recent international trip, I noticed how much time my fellow travelers spent getting situated on the plane.
You know the routine. You stroll down the aisle looking up to find your row and seat number, hoping the person you end up sitting next to doesn’t have the sniffles and practices good hygiene.
Once you find your seat, people get up, shift and shuffle, to make room for the new occupant but not before the suitcase-in-the-overhead dance begins.
For some, I imagine, shoving their bulging suitcase of worldly belongings into that overhead compartment may be the most grueling workout they’ve had in years…probably since their last vacation!
As passengers on my flight home struggled with their luggage, the flight attendant patiently announced no less than five times that our delayed flight would depart as soon as everyone was in their seats with seatbelts securely fastened.
This got me thinking about the amount of stuff we bring on a trip.
How Much Stuff Should You Pack When Traveling?
Think about what you’ll do on your trip, that helps you decide what to bring…
What is too much? What is too little? How do we know when it’s just right?
And finally, would we travel with greater ease if we chose to travel, on vacation and perhaps even through life, a little lighter?
It’s been said we often travel to “get away from our stuff.” You know, material and psychological “stuff.” The work, the routine, and the grind.
That’s partly true, but we also travel as a way to experience stuff.
So, how do we experience something new…fully embrace the moment and the opportunity, if we drag around our over-stuffed baggage (good or not).
And, how can we get away from our “stuff” if we bring it with us…literally!
Wouldn’t it be great if we could hobo it…you know, tie a kerchief to a stick, fill it with a few possessions and call it done?
That would be great, until you need a clean pair of underwear!
So, what’s the next best thing?
Traveling and packing light so you end up with the perfect amount of clothes, toiletries, and shoes (yes shoes!) to enjoy your travels while looking and feeling fabulous.
I did pretty good in the packing department for this trip. I didn’t break a sweat or put anybody’s eye out when I put my suitcase in the overhead bin; however, there is always room for improvement.
Once I got home, I did what I always do when my curiosity is piqued. I researched!
I went onto YouTube and various travel sites to explore the topic of how to pack and, for my interests, how to pack light. I found a lot of information about new products, packing cubes, wheeled luggage, and backpack luggage.
Gadgets of the travel world!
You could easily get nerdy and get lost as you scramble down various rabbit holes looking for how to pack your suitcase.
But don’t lose sight of the goal: Packing light for your next vacation.
This involves some thought.
There are a couple of videos which played out more like challenges. Similar to a “how many hot dogs can I eat in a minute” the video host was showing viewers how to get all those items into a small suitcase. They were focused on “can I do it” instead of thinking “should I do it.”
Get Your Mind Straight to Pack Right
Taking less with you leaves space to bring back more…
The first thing I discovered about packing is this: Start with your mindset and think, “What will I need on my trip?”
Items needed. As in shoes, clothing, toiletries, electronics, etc.
When you think that way, your list gets pretty short.
And, depending upon where you are traveling, the FOMO (fear of missing out) on bringing something important diminishes because chances are they have stores, pharmacies, laundromats and other modern conveniences you can use. If they don’t, some items you use at home you won’t need in a ‘primitive’ environment.
So first of all, relax!
Next, here is a short list of things to consider when you are packing:
Rolling suitcase or Backpack?
This is a preference and there is no one right answer. What I do suggest is whichever you choose, start with the smallest size first. When you know you have small travel gear and space is limited, you’re less likely to embark on a “packing challenge.”
Think: “Do I need this” not “Can I fit it?”
We may be more inclined to over-pack with a rolling suitcase because we don’t have to carry it. Because of that, you are less aware of how much is really in there…until you need to lift it into the overhead bin and struggle to close the door.
There is a reason many flight attendants have Herculean upper body strength!
On the other hand, a backpack makes you very aware of how much you’re packing. Because you must lift it onto your back, you are more likely to keep the weight to a minimum and lose the unnecessary items.
If you’re not physically able to carry a backpack, for whatever reason, then the choice is simple. Go with a rolling suitcase.
If you are traveling to a walking city in Europe with lots of cobblestone streets, anticipate using public transportation such as trains and buses, or are traveling with children and would appreciate a “hands-free” experience so you can tend to them rather than a rolling piece of luggage, a backpack is your friend.
Just like you have a “go-bag” at home, for emergencies or everyday life with young children, keep a list of items you like to bring when you travel. When you have your go-to travel clothes, shoes, and toiletries, prepped and ready to go, you are one step ahead of the game. Then, just fill in where needed.
If you take prescription medicine, be sure there is enough to last throughout the trip. Bring a copy of your prescription in case you run out during the trip. While you may not need it, knowing you have options when you get there alleviates travel stress.
Finally, when it’s time to pack, lay out everything you would like to bring during your trip. Think about your travel goals:
- What will you be doing?
- How long will you be gone?
- What type of weather do you expect?
- What is comfortable?
- What makes you feel good while you’re wearing it?
- What will look good on Instagram! 🙂
This will be different for men, women and children. However, everyone should be thinking about what is needed rather than what can fit into the bag.
I’ll talk about women’s items.
If you are traveling to a summer destination, things are easy because shorts, summer dresses, bathing suits, and sandals take up very little room. For a summer trip, I could easily get away with hobo-ing it!
Start with basic lightweight pieces. Light items keep your luggage manageable and dry quickly if you need to wash something in the hotel sink then hang it to dry. Look at the fabric and choose easy-care options.
Black, lightweight pants or leggings are a very good foundation. Jeans are nice, but can be bulky and heavy. For tops and bottoms, think layers. If you are heading into cooler weather, you can wear tights under pants or leggings. You can avoid bulky packing and still enjoy beautiful seasonal weather. For a one week trip, most packers choose 2 pairs of dark colored bottoms and a pair of tights or pantyhose to layer.
Next come the tops. Choose clothing you feel comfortable and attractive in. Leave the stretched-out t-shirt at home! You’re on vacation…ignite your inner diva. Go ahead…you know you want to!
The fabric should feel good against your skin and should flex and move with you. Avoid anything that needs ironing. There are lots of new fabrics that look great even without being pressed.
Colors are your choice; however, if you choose a few basic colors for the tops (white, tan, black, red) then you can spice things up with scarves, jewelry, lightweight sweaters and wraps.
Next up…workout gear. For me, the easiest traveling workouts are running and yoga. Enjoy weights? See if the local gym allows access for a daily fee. Two clothing pieces for the bottom, a couple sports bras, and four tops are usually enough for a week-long trip. You can wash things in the sink as needed.
Again, consider the fabrics and choose lightweight. If you are running, bring lightweight running shoes. For the gym, don’t forget workout gloves, music, water bottle container (remember you can re-use one purchased on the trip), and a small bag and lock to carry personal items.
Jackets and coats are bulky and must be brought with you into colder climates. Luckily there is new technology, Outerwear is available in fabrics that keep you warm without taking up a lot of space. Bring a water-proof outer shell to go over your layers.
Add a scarf and gloves, they really do keep you warmer! They are fashionable, and useful. My favorite combination is an ultra-lightweight, down-filled jacket underneath a water and windproof outer jacket. When I get too hot, I can take off the filled jacket and roll it up about the size of a softball and tuck it in my pocket, purse, or daypack.
Do you need a hat? If you are headed to a sunny location (even a winter sunny location) your face will appreciate a hat and sunscreen. Hats are also great for a bad hair days or no-time-to-fix-it hair days.
A ball-cap is easy to pack. So is a floppy wide-brimmed hat. Wear it on the plane, or put it in your suitcase, just be sure it’s flexible enough to handle it. Or, add a clip-on hook so you can hang it from the outside of your travel backpack as you walk around. I prefer keeping everything tucked in so nothing catches; however, hanging clips can be useful.
Toiletries and makeup
Remember the 3-1-1 rule for airplane carryon luggage. You are allowed:
- 3 ounces (actually 3.4 ounce) or 100 ml (milliliters) in size per item
- 1 quart-sized clear plastic bag
- 1 bag per passenger
Now, this doesn’t mean one bag for all your toiletries and makeup, this is for LIQUID items.
Liquids include liquids, sprays, creams, pastes, roll-ons and gels. In the toiletry and makeup department that could be:
- Shaving cream
- Hand/body lotion
- Liquid makeup
- Toothpaste gel or cream
- Deodorant: gel or roll-on
- Lipstick or lipbalm which is gel or roll-on
Larger sized liquid items may be allowed; however, they will need to be in your checked luggage.
For the most updated TSA information, go to www.tsa.gov
Consider getting some toiletries at your destination. It may be possible to buy regular sized quality product for less than “travel-sized” items from your local store. If you are traveling for more than a couple of days, this could make sense. When you head home, leave un-used product behind.
To ease the security process: check in larger sized items defined as liquid by TSA, purchase toiletries when you get to your destination, or choose non-liquid varieties where possible (for example, stick deodorant, stick perfume, stick sunscreen, powders, and crystals).
Tip: When you purchase something considered liquid from a Duty-free shop at the airport, and your travels take you through another security checkpoint at a different airport, the 3-1-1 rule WILL apply.
For example, if you purchase 300 ml (6 ounces) of lotion, plan to transfer that into two 3 ounce containers before going through the additional security or check in your bags. There is no guarantee the additional security checkpoint will allow the larger container through, even when you were able to carry it on during the previous flight, because they must comply with the TSA guidelines they are operating under. Plan ahead.
We live in a connected world, that’s a fact. How much or little we bring in terms of phones, laptops, tablets, readers, and cameras depends on your preferences and needs for the trip.
It’s very easy to take way too many gadgets, because, face it…gadgets are cool!
However, the good news is with each passing year technology improves and the gadgets get smaller, lighter, and can perform multiple functions. Include the ability to store and retrieve cloud-based information and you are more likely to find a light-packing solution.
If you work from the road, think about how much you really need:
- Is it possible for you to perform everything you need to do with your iPad or tablet rather than adding the weight of a laptop?
- Are you fully using the functions on your phone and tablet?
- Which apps (like the Kindle app) can eliminate the need for a second device?
- Which apps have come out that could fill in the gaps for what you may otherwise do on your desktop or laptop computer?
- If not, does it make sense for you to upgrade your laptop for a slimmer and lighter model?
Just like with packing your basics in terms of clothing, take time to ask yourself how you will be using the technology on your trip. From there, you can determine which items you need.
Then, after your trip, debrief yourself:
- What did you bring and not use?
- What did you not bring and needed?
- What solutions do you need to look at for next time?
Oh, and when you are traveling internationally, be sure you bring a plug adapter for your destination. All the gadgets in the world are useless if they are not powered up.
Putting it all together
Now it’s time to plan your packing. First place everything out where you can see it.
- Is everything clean and in good repair?
- Do you have the matching pieces?
- Do you have everything you need when you wear it?
- The right undergarments, scarf, jewelry?
Think about your travel goals.
- Is there a fancy dinner planned?
- An outing that will require a certain type of clothing?
- A photo shoot?
It’s like those paper dolls we had when we were young. Do you remember mixing and matching and getting fancy with all the pieces?
Remember, just like any pre-planning, do your best and don’t worry about forgetting anything. Trust that you will figure out a solution or be willing to be spontaneous and “go with it” if something gets missed.
Time to Pack
Backpacks give you hands-free enjoyment for the places you travel…
Now, take a look at what you have laid out and consider which items are your “must haves” and which are your “nice to haves.” Pack the must-haves first.
Traveling cubes are great for packing. For no other reason, keeping things organized relieves a lot of unnecessary stress when it comes time to find something. Plus, if you have ever had your baggage opened and checked while going through security, you will quickly see how useful cubes are!
Organize things in a way that makes sense for you.
Some people pack per outfit. Others pack by type of clothing putting all shirts in one cube, skirts and pants in another, and undergarments in yet another.
You can color-code by day or by family member if more than one person’s items are going into the same bag. This works great for children!
Roll or fold based on your preference. There’s an ongoing debate about which is method is best. Those who have tested it out have had mixed results. You may discover that a hybrid approach works best, rolling some and folding others. Just remember to fill in all empty spaces. Don’t forget that socks can be stuffed into shoes and look for similar “gap” opportunities.
Use one cube for electronic items and cords and another cube for your 3-1-1 toiletry or liquid items. Be sure you can easily get to these as you go through security. This means placing them at the top of the bag or in an easily accessible exterior pouch.
After these are in your suitcase of backpack, pick it up, Goldilocks.
Is it too heavy?
Or just right?
Obviously if it’s too heavy, stop right there and take another look at your “must haves” to be sure they really are items you cannot leave behind.
Then, if you have determined you cannot eliminate anything based on where you are going, your personal needs, and the purpose of your trip, simply realize you may need to check in your luggage for this trip.
No packing-shaming or guilt needed!
Now, if there is additional room and weight allowance, take a look at your “nice to have” items and decide what else you will pack.
Finally, consider adding an empty, flat duffle bag inside your luggage. (actually, for longer trips I do this first!)
When you are taking a trip where shopping is eminent, having an additional piece of lightweight space to carry that extra stuff for your journey home will make things easier. And, when it’s the right size, you may even be able to carry it onto the flight as your 2nd, personal item. Just put your purse inside the duffle when you check in.
Final Thoughts for Traveling Light
Everything in life passes; be courageous enough to live in the moment…
It’s all a learning process, after all. Each person is different based on what they are doing. Remember that even when you are armed with all the best information, the real test will come when you travel.
You will learn what works and what doesn’t. No two travelers are the same so embrace what works for you and forget about the rest.
The real goal with traveling is to explore, learn, grow, and experience everything this great big ole’ world has to offer. Nobody is keeping score (although they are paying attention to size and weight!) lol.
Have fun, dare to travel light, be joyful and patient. Fill your vacation with more memories and less stuff.
P.S. When you get back….will you please tell us about your journey?