I travel a good bit throughout the year, mostly for business, but sometimes for pleasure. Like everything else in my life, I appreciate a practical, simple and manageable travel experience.
None of this “two suitcases for a three day trip” nonsense.
And, you can forget about checking baggage.
I want to be able to breeze in and out of the airport with ease. To pull my bag from the overhead compartment, and make my way to long-term parking without waiting F O R E V E R for the baggage claim conveyor to crank up.
Traveling light isn’t just a priority for plane trips, either. You don’t want side-eyes from friends, wondering why you’ve packed your entire wardrobe for a weekend girls’ getaway, or how come there’s no room for anyone else’s bags in the trunk.
Don’t be that person.
How To Travel Light: 5 Tips
1. Get the right sized carry-on bag.
Every fall, my in-laws ask what I’d like for Christmas. Most of the time I say, “Nothing in particular! I’m sure you’ll do a fine job of finding stuff I’m into.” This past Christmas though? I definitely had something in mind: new carry-on luggage.
The bags we’ve been using are old. Like, heavily used, wheels off kilter, zipper ready to burst, old. The last few times I’ve flown places, I’ve actually worried about the suitcase popping open—or a wheel flying off—while I jogged from one gate to the next. Thankfully, the Travel Gods looked favorably upon me, and so far my clothes have stayed safely stowed.
Back to last Christmas. Not only did I want new luggage, I wanted something flashy (so it’d be easy to tell apart from all the other bags in an airport or being loaded off the Megabus) AND something that fit within general carry-on bag guidelines. Most airlines, trains, and buses use similar dimensions and limitations: no more than one bag and one personal item per passenger, and around 10 x 16 x 24 inches in size (that’s Southwest; some airlines go a little bigger). There’s nothing worse than buying the perfect suitcase and then realizing after you get home that it’s too big.
2. Pack the right amount of clothes.
I’ve gotten really good at knowing the essentials I’ll need clothes-wise for a week or less of travel, and I make sure to build a pack-able wardrobe that mixes and matches well. Unless you’re a super sloppy eater, the likelihood is a single pair of simple, plain dark jeans will work for an entire trip—and no one will be the wiser.
Same for shoes. Find a pair—maybe two—that’ll work for the whole trip. Something plain and easy to pack, like black ballet flats, simple strappy sandals, or riding boots.
Shirts, scarves and other accessories don’t take up much space, so that’s where you can change things up and make a basic outfit differ from day to day.
I know what you’re thinking: riding boots? Well, I wear mine pretty much daily from fall through winter and into spring. If I’m traveling, they might be the only shoe I bring! If you’re wearing them, then you don’t need to worry about space in the case. The trickiest part will be getting through the checkpoint where you need to remove your shoes, and in the world of tricky things, that’s not very tricky at all!
3. Leave some stuff at home.
When I’m staying at a hotel, I never ever bring shampoo, conditioner, soap, or a hair dryer. For one thing, it’s a pain to keep travel-friendly sizes around (if you’re a carry-on person, like me), and also…the hotel stuff works fine. No, really, it does.
I get it. You HAVE to use your fancy shampoo and the facial cleansing set your aesthetician recommended. I happen to not care that much, especially if it lightens my traveling load by a few pounds. I’ll save the special stuff for when I’m home.
Since most airlines allow one carry-on and one personal item, you need to be strategic with your purse. Often times when I’m traveling it’s for business, so I need my laptop and its case. My purse—if I’m smart—will have a long enough strap to cross-carry in the airport, and also be small enough (or flat enough) to fit into the laptop bag once it’s time to get on the plane. See what I did there? Three bags for the price of two.
5. Bring only what you can carry alone, all by yourself, with your own two arms.
If it turns out what you need to bring on the trip doesn’t fit into a reasonable number of luggage pieces, take a step back and reassess things. Do you really need four full outfits for three days’ worth of travel? Why are you packing six pairs of shoes? What if you use the roll-up method for clothes instead of folding? Is there a better way to pack more compactly???
The goal should be to carry all your own stuff. Unless you’re going away for several weeks, in which case I’ll make an exception—that is, of course, unless you have a washer/dryer available. Then definitely bring only what you can carry alone, all by yourself, with your own two arms.
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