As airline baggage fees have continued to increase, more and more travelers have embraced a minimalist approach to packing. While some people have taken this to the extreme by advocating for not bringing a suitcase altogether, there is a happy medium to be found.
The solution? Pack what you need, but be strategic so that you can pack as light as possible. Here are some helpful hacks to help you out.
1. Choose the right suitcase.
When people think about packing light, they often get so caught up in worrying about what goes in the suitcase that they forget to consider the suitcase itself. But choosing a lightweight suitcase is great for two reasons. One, it’s more portable, so you won’t throw your back out when you go to hoist it into the car or overhead bin. Two, it’ll help you avoid excess baggage fees, which can range from $100 to $450 depending on the airline. Bonus points if you constrain yourself to using nothing but a carry-on.
2. Make a list before you pack.
It seems so simple that it’s easy to dismiss, but listing out what you plan to bring can help you identify redundant or otherwise unnecessary items. When making your list, consider how many days you’ll be gone, whether you’ll be able to wash clothing during your trip, and whether you’ll need to be prepared for big changes in weather. Once you’ve made your list, stick to it—don’t toss in items at the last minute because you get caught up in worrying “what if.”
3. Choose clothing wisely.
The best clothing for travel is lightweight, non-bulky, not easily wrinkled, and pairs well with the other clothing you plan to bring along. If a piece of clothing doesn’t meet these criteria, seriously consider whether it’s really worth hauling with you. If you’re traveling somewhere cold, pack lightweight (but warm) layers, such as thermal underwear and thin sweaters. Then, plan to wear your bulkiest layers (such as winter boots or a winter coat) on the plane in order save room in your suitcase.
4. Compress, compress, compress.
As you place each item into your bag, your goal should be to make it as small as physically possible. Fold and roll your clothes in order to shrink them down and save room in your suitcase. Ball up socks and underwear and shove them into shoes. You may even want to consider compression bags for your clothing if you really want to maximize space.
5. Embrace multi-taskers.
Whenever possible, aim to pack items that can serve more than one purpose. For example, why pack a bottle of shampoo and a bottle of conditioner when you could pack a two-in-one shampoo/conditioner? Or take a sarong, which can be a skirt, a blanket, a sunshade, a towel, or even a bag if you wrap it up and tie off the ends. Think critically about every item you pack and consider whether you could accomplish the same end goals with less.
6. Use your smartphone to your advantage.
Speaking of multi-taskers, smartphones are probably one of the most powerful tools at your disposal. They contain a camera, communication device, travel guide, map, news and reading, and a place to take notes or jot down short journal entries all in one place. Download useful travel apps before you go and leave behind anything that has a function that can be carried out by your phone.
Practice these strategies often enough and you’ll learn that you can make do with less and less. In fact, don’t be surprised if you find yourself packing for a multi-week vacation in a single carry-on suitcase. With the right strategies, it’s completely possible.
Featured photo credit: Jake Ingle via images.unsplash.com