Every time I pack to go somewhere, I treat it as a challenge to see how little I can bring. The less I take, the happier I tend to be. I don’t have to lug around a big duffel bag, I can breeze through security at the airport, and there’s just less for me to keep track of when I’m on the go. When I’m traveling I like to feel mobile, not weighed down by a suitcase.
Learning how to pack light takes time, and it won’t just happen during one trip. But it’s so much easier to say “I will pack less,” than to actually do it. I’ve gotten pretty good at only packing what I really, truly need, and wanted to help any folks out there struggling to save space in their luggage.
1. Only do carry-on.
From here on out, don’t check any bags. Even if you can afford to check a bag, act like you don’t have that option. I tend to fly Southwest, and I could check 2 bags for free with them, but I never do because I seriously don’t need that much stuff. No one needs that much stuff when traveling. Creating the boundaries and sticking with them is not easy, but it makes a big difference.
2. Bring clothing items that work for multiple outfits.
Now that you’ve made a decision on your carry-on bag, it’s time to save space with your clothing. Pack a few base items (roughly 2 per week) and choose clothing that you can mix and match. For example, when I go to LA from a Thursday to Monday, I usually go with denim shorts that I end up wearing (plus tights if it’s cold), and if I would like more options I’ll pack a skirt in addition. Then I’ll pick a couple fun shirts that will go with both, and I’ve managed to create some outfit possibilities for myself without overpacking. Remember that the size of your closet really doesn’t matter when you’re traveling, and you’ll have such a better time with more practical options.
* Once you’ve decided on what you’re bringing, remove items.
Aha! It was all a dirty trick, because now that you’ve set aside what you want to pack, you need to remove something. Trust me, though, this is something that a lot of travelers do, and for a good reason: it works. After you’ve set aside what you want to pack, remove one outfit–or, if you’re opting for an interchangeable base, as I recommended, remove one item. I guarantee you will not miss that one outfit or shirt, no matter how difficult you think it is for you to leave home without it. This was how I taught myself to pack less. Once I realized I was able to remove things and it didn’t make a difference, I now question the amount of clothing I need to bring with me anywhere.
* Don’t pack shoes.
Shoes take up crazy space, so find a pair that you could live in and wear those on the go. Booties are my go-to, since they’re comfortable, sturdy, and still look amazing when I go out at night (I have this pair). If you absolutely have to take another pair with you–I feel you, sometimes I pack my hiking boots if I’m feeling outdoors-y–then stuff socks and underwear into them when you pack to save space.
* Plan to wash clothes.
If you’re going on a month-long trip, you don’t need to pack a month’s worth of clothing. Whether you bring some Febreeze in a small spray bottle, pack a small amount of detergent to wash things in the sink, or if you set aside one morning to go to a laundromat, packing clothes for more than a week or two is silly. You can still pack light, even for long trips, but you just have to get a little creative and find the time to clean your clothing.
* Travel size EVERYTHING.
Am I the only one who loves going to Target to look at the travel-size-stuff section? Maybe. Anyway, to save space on products, small-ify whatever you can on your own–lotion, for example, can just be put into a smaller container. Things like hairspray or baby powder need to be purchased in travel-size form, otherwise you’re stuck carrying around the full-size one. Not only is it an obvious space-saver, but it will prevent you from checking bags!