How to Pack Light when Travelling
Weight limits imposed by airlines and travel companies and a desire to collect some souvenirs serves the need to understand how to pack light, we hope this article assists you whether taking a tour to New Zealand, Europe or Britain. Odyssey Traveller is a Antipodean travel company serving World Travellers since 1983 with small group educational tours for senior couples and mature solo travellers.
10 Oct 22 · 10 mins read
25 Tips to Travel Light
Packing light isn’t easy, but if done properly it can bring unheard benefits to your travels. By streamlining your packing down to hand luggage only, you can save a great deal of money on check-in fees, reduce your carbon footprint as a lighter plane uses less fuel, and skip those darned long check-in and baggage claim ques! Then when arriving at a new place, it’s so much easier to move around with light luggage, rather than being encumbered by a massive suitcase.
Travelling light doesn’t mean you need to make any major sacrifices. All that’s required is a few changes with your luggage, prioritising what you really need, and you won’t even notice what you’ve left behind. You’ll realise it’s possible to significantly trim down your packing weight and save space in your bags while still travelling in comfort and style.
At Odyssey Traveller, we’ve compiled 25 of our favourite packing tips to help you do so. These tips are part of our general advice for mature and senior travellers on our small group tours but are useful for travellers of all ages.
In addition, all of our programs come with detailed:
- Country-specific advice
- Reading suggestions
- Advice on visa applications for the countries being visited
- A list of inclusions and exclusions
- Plus, other important relevant information to assist you in planning your trip.
Find out more about our tours here or read on for our comprehensive tips for travelling light.
Check your airlines’ luggage policies
Airlines generally don’t charge passengers anything extra to bring abroad one personal item and one carry-on bag. Generally, these items must be able to fit an overhead compartment or under the seat.
However, rules regarding the size and weight of these items are not standardised. For example, the allowable size for your free under seat bag is 40cm x 25cm x 20cm on Ryanair, but 45cm x 36cm x 20cm on easyJet. Some airlines charge extra for bags that weigh more; others are concerned only with measurements. Restrictions on your personal item also differ. Some airlines limit the item to something small like a handbag or a thin laptop. Some also include both your carry-on bag and your personal item in their weight limits.
It’s best to check your airlines’ latest carry-on rules before packing so you don’t get caught off guard. If you have connecting flights, make sure to check the policies of each airline you are flying with and not just the one you bought the tickets through. Be especially careful with European-based airlines. Although they may offer cheap flights, they are known to have the strictest policies around weight and size limits for carry-on bags, and may end up costing you much more.
Choose the right bag
The best way to pack less is to use a smaller bag. As you’ll have less space to work with, you won’t feel compelled to bring as much and will have to prioritise. Consider taking a smaller suitcase or backpack, depending on the type of travelling you’re doing. A wheeled suitcase will work fine for a holiday where you’re not travelling around as much, such as at a resort. Otherwise, a backpack is much more versatile and easier to move around with.
It’s also crucial to consider the weight of your luggage bag itself when packing. Larger rolling carry-on bags can be quite heavy, using up your valuable weight limits. Choose bags with a light a weight as possible for your foundation.
Weigh your bag
Weigh your bags before heading to the airport, rather than just guessing how heavy they are. You don’t want to find out last minute that your bag is heavier than allowed and end up having to play for checked baggage. Buy a cheap set of travel scales to make sure you’re staying within the airline carry-on weight limits. Bring it with you to use again if you’re planning to also go carry-on on your return trip.
Think outside the bag
If you require the use of heavier items when travelling, it may make more sense not to bring them in your bags but rather rent it there or even ship it over to your destination. For example, if you’re going on a biking adventure over several days, it may be better to ship over your bike that you’re used to riding. But if you only need gear for a day or two, it’s probably better to rent. Of course, if renting is expensive, it may end up cheaper to just bring your gear with you.
Stick to a packing list
A huge mistake when packing is adding much more than you actually need. Filling up extra space with non-essential items is tempting but it will just result in weighing you down. Rather than just going through your things and adding them to suitcase, it’s best to make a packing list and stick to it. Think about all your planned clothes and gears carefully and add all the things you absolutely need to the list before packing. If you’re not a hundred per cent sure if you’ll need something, don’t bring it. For any last-minute emergencies, you can usually find most things at your destination.
Pack the day before
Don’t leave packing until the last moment. If you’re too hurried, you might get stressed and stuff your bag too full of items you don’t really need.
Roll your clothes
Take up less space in your bag by rolling up clothes. Lay out two or three pieces flatly on top of each other and roll tightly from one end. Squeeze air and wrinkles out as you go. This works best with softer fabrics that are less likely to wrinkle, such as cotton and wool. Studier fabrics, such as denim jeans, are better to fold.
Use packing organisers
Maximise space and keep your things organised by using packing organisers, such as packing cubes, stuff sacks, and compression bags. Organising clothes in packing cubes, rather than putting them straight in your bag, makes them easier and quicker to find. They also place a natural limit on the number of items you can pack. Stuff sacks are also handy to group underwear and socks, or miscellaneous items you don’t want to just toss into your bag, such as earplugs, jewellery, sewing kit, and gadgets. Compression bags, meanwhile, squeeze things down by removing excess air, helping you to save a huge amount of space. Be careful though, as compressing does not ensure a lighter bag, and can tempt you to overpack.
Don’t pack more than a week’s worth of clothes
If your trip is longer than one week, it’s easier to make time to do laundry along the way.
Bring versatile clothes
Pack versatile clothing items with neutral colours so that you can easily mix and match them all to create several outfit combinations. If an item doesn’t work with multiple outfits, it should be left at home. As should anything that you’d only use on unique occasions. Add small items, such as a bandana, silk scarf, or earrings, for some colour and extra style. And remember it’s okay to repeat outfits.
Bring multi-use shoes
Most travellers only need to bring two pairs of shoes that can be used for multiple purposes. For example, running shoes can be used for running, walking, and hiking. You don’t need a new shoe for every occasion. This means leaving behind bulkier shoes, like high heels or hiking boots, for easier multi-use alternatives if you can. Choose shoes that you can easily match with most outfits.
Don’t pack clothes just in case
Be realistic about the clothes you’ll need and don’t bring along items for the odd chance you’ll need them. If the weather is going to be warm and sunny, then plan for that – don’t bring big, warm clothes just in case. If something happens and you really need an extra layer, you can always buy something there.
Choose lighter fabrics
Swapping out heavy and bulky clothes, such as those made of wool and heavyweight fleece, for more lighter materials can save you a great deal of space and weight and will dry faster after washing. Opt for lightweight fabrics such as silk and synthetics such as nylon and polyester. Although slightly heavier, cotton, linen, and cotton blends are still on the lighter side and are good options to take. Technical gear is especially useful for winter wear. Thin thermal jackets, warm fleece, and clothing made of merino wool will all keep you warm during cold weather without adding weight.
Bring versatile layers rather than a heavy coat or chunky jumpers and add or remove them as the temperature conditions change. For example, you can layer a short-sleeve shirt with a long-sleeve top, or a add a lightweight jacket in colder climates.
Wear your bulkiest, heaviest items with you on the plane rather than packing them. This goes for your jeans, boots, cardigans, jacket, and coat. Even if you don’t need a coat on your holiday, one with large pockets can be used on the plane to hold your phone charger, socks, or various other items! Airports are usually kept cold, so you don’t have to worry about overheating. And once on the plane, you can keep cool by turning the overhead fan on.
Limit the toiletries
Leave the toiletry bag behind – – the lightest option is to bring no toiletries with you if possible. Find out if you’re accommodation will provide you with the basics such as shampoo, lotion, or razors. Most other toiletries can be purchased at your destination – even in the most remote locations. And if it’s not something you’ll require every day – such as toothpaste or toothbrush), then you can most likely go without it.
Take smaller sizes
If you do need to take toiletries with you, opt for smaller travel size ones. A 100ml shampoo can last for more than 2 weeks! You can buy travel size bottles from most pharmacies that you can then refill with your favourite product. Or you can transfer your toiletries into travel tubes, pill boxes or storage bottles. And if you run out, you can always top up with any free products from your hotel or replace locally.
Use solid toiletries
Solid toiletries are an even better option for travelling, as they are smaller and lighter than liquids. Solid shampoos, conditioners, deodorants, soap, and even body moisturizer all tend to weigh less than their liquid alternatives. Plus, you won’t have to worry about liquids allowance at the security checks. And they won’t accidentally open and spill everywhere when travelling!
Share your toiletries with your travel partner
If you’re travelling with a friend, there’s no need to double up on most toiletries. Most things you can share. So split the list of what you both require and reduce the weight of both your bags.
Plan on doing laundry
Doing laundry is a necessary part of travelling lightly, but you don’t have to take your bulky laundry items with you. A small bar of soap is all you need to clean your clothes – and it can also be used for your hair, body, and dishes. Your clothes can be washed in your accommodation’s sink or even while you’re showering. Otherwise, most hotels and hostels offer laundry services or washing machines to use. And if not, it’s usually pretty easy to find a cheap local laundry service nearby.
Only take your essential medications
Don’t bring any particular medication you haven’t needed recently, as you’re unlikely to use it while you’re away. Limit the medications to any prescriptions you have, especially if you need to take them on a daily basis. Any other emergency medications can be found at pharmacies at your destination.
Limit the beauty products
Even if you usually have an elaborate beauty regime, you don’t need to bring all your products with you when travelling. Let loose a little and just bring the absolute necessities. The same advice goes for devices like hairdryers, hair straighteners, or curling irons – these can all be left at home.
Leave the laptop behind
If you’re going on holidays, then you most likely don’t need your laptop. If there is the odd occasion you might need it, then most smartphones can now do all the things your computer does. For those that struggle to use the phone’s keyboard for writing longer things, a foldable Bluetooth keyboard is a useful tool. This with a phone is much lighter and saves much more space than bringing a laptop.
Take a Kindle
For the book lovers out there, travelling lightly doesn’t mean you have to leave your books behind. Load as many as you like onto your Kindle and save valuable weight that heavy paperback books take up.
Pack small headphones
Your big headphones may provide better quality when listening to music, but they also take up a decent amount of space in you bag when not being used. Take smaller headphones that you can easily roll up and shove into your bag or packet.
Odyssey Traveller Tour Advice
At Odyssey Traveller we have a number of blogs and resources that provide you with general advice for travelling. This advice is particularly intended for senior and mature travellers on our various educational small group tours.
We have some 300 tours listed on our website, from Dinosaurs in Mongolia to a Walking tour of the Camino de Santiago in Northern Spain or the Australian outback. All are designed for active, inquisitive travellers in a small tour group environment with a set itinerary.
We have been serving global travellers since 1983 with educational tours of the history, culture, and architecture of our destinations. We specialise in offering small group tours partnering with a local tour guide at each destination to provide a relaxed and comfortable pace and atmosphere that sets us apart from larger tour groups. Tours consist of small groups of between 6 and 12 people and are cost inclusive of all entrances, tipping and majority of meals. For more information, click here, and head to this page to make a booking.
For more travel advice, check out some of our other blogs, including:
- What to pack for holidays
- Preparing for a walking holiday or tour
- 35 Responsible Travel Tips
- Women’s Walking Shoes: The Definitive Guide
- Travel Fitness and Wellness on Small Group Tours
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