If you aren’t a frequent traveler, packing for holiday or vacation travel means more anxiety about how to fulfill the packing light mantra. Who wants to schlep a bulging, obese suitcase? But what about all that “stuff” you might need? Tips for packing your luggage lighter are really all about adjusting your attitude. The “might” in “might need” is key here.
First and foremost, forget what the Boy Scouts say about always being prepared. “Just in case” is only applicable if you are heading across the Sahara on an extreme hike or to the top of Everest for a little sightseeing or … you get it. Most of us are going to somewhat civilized and urban areas. Packing this just-in-case item or that possible need or the other what-if means you are burdened. Heck, if you really absolutely need something NOW, you can always go buy it. And what do you have or own that you really can’t do without for a few days? I mean, really? And, remember, if you are going to visit or stay with friends or family, your hosts will likely have an umbrella or extra sweaters you can borrow. And a washing machine to use.
‘Just in case’ is not the case in packing light
I have been on trips that were expected to be pretty warm and weren’t, so I ended up wearing the same ONE sweater and the ONLY pair of long pants I had every single day for 10 days. Did anyone care? Nope. Sure made dressing easier!
Same goes when it was suddenly much hotter than expected on another trip: My pack lighter system could handle the addition of a super light cotton tee from a local store.
I once wore a camera strap as a belt when I realized my pants kept falling down. And I’ve been jokingly called MacGyver, after the TV adventure genius, for all the ways I’ve rigged things using for example a safety pin, an airline luggage tag, or a Nite Ize Gear Tie. I’ve even used a small Eagle Creek packing cube as a purse in a few situations!
The HI Travel Tales team landed in Greece once – while our suitcases decided to stay someplace else. For three days. Oddly, all we found we really needed to acquire were a few toiletries, a t-shirt for Him, and a skirt for Her. The whole adventure was hilarious, and we still laugh about it, especially when we look at photo after photo with both of us wearing the same things.
Personal comfort items in the carry-on: three tips
When you are packing light, all those just-in-case extras can stay home. You may squirm at first since you are likely used to moving into an outback survival mode when packing. Let it go to start packing lighter. Breathe deeply. You can. Take a look at another HI Travel Tales story that lays out tips and detailed steps on how to pack smart and keep your luggage light.
That doesn’t mean not taking absolute necessities. While I may not pack a bottle of Tylenol, I usually have a couple of doses to bridge any emergency gap until I can get more. I make sure the tops or coats I do have can all be worn together if it gets that cold or separately if it gets that warm. Paper prescriptions for medicines or eyeglasses are much lighter than extras of stuff.
I do carry a few tiny items in my airline “liquids” bag or in my carry-on that will make me comfortable if I land without suitcase – for example, earplugs, eyeshades, a little nearly-empty tube of face lotion, toothbrush on international flights, itty-bitty eye drops, inflatable travel neck or back pillow, and a light sweater and scarf. I also like having a small snack of some sort in case you end up sitting on a runway with no escape.
Want, not need
Using the list-assess-demolish-pack system laid out in our past story on packing smart, you can start to pare back to pack light. I think about the misery of trying to make it through foreign subway systems, up and down stairs in small inns, or over cobblestones with a hefty bag. And that outweighs my need for those just-in-case extras.
Packing light math: Just-in-case item + Increased misery = Easy decision to pare back
Think of you
What packing lighter doesn’t mean is ignoring what needs you know you have. Always cold in the plane or in restaurants? Take that extra sweater or scarf. Not a lover of exploring cities all day in sandals? Pack along those sneakers — and the sandals for a jaunt a block down to the café. Know you’ll be lounging in your room? Have those comfy pants or lounge socks you love. Just make sure all of those things are the lightest of light.
Always ready for a workout? A light daypack and hat may be called for. Planning an all-day bike ride? If you just won’t have fun without your bike shorts, pack them in (I once schlepped a light pair of bike liners with a cushioned seat pad for two weeks, but the single day I wore them all day made it worth it.)
List-assess-demolish-pack: Take a tip from our HI Travel Tales treatise on packing smart before your next venture. Then reconsider every item you have laid out.
Even being pretty light packers means that invariably we have come back with a top or pants we could have done without. But that’s much better than three pairs of shoes you wore once each or full-size toiletry bottles that are now only a third empty.
Packing light is packing smart. Packing smart means more travel comfort.