In the past 6 months or so I’ve been doing a lot more traveling than usual. I’ve gone along with my husband to a couple of international conferences and events, and we’ve visited family in the US. But on all of these trips, even the 2-week visit to Australia, we never checked a single bag. And it was great. Not having to wait for your luggage to show up on the baggage carousel is liberating and time-saving. Now when I see people with several giant suitcases, I think to myself that unless they’re going abroad for several months, there’s no way that they need that much stuff. But packing light is a skill, and I didn’t always have it. Based on how I used to pack, here are some reasons you may be over-packing, and how to address them.
1. You don’t know what you’ll be doing
Find out or plan activities
Different activities have very different clothing requirements. You probably have an idea of whether you’re going to be skiing versus snorkeling, but do you know whether you’ll need cocktail attire? If there’s too much uncertainty, you may be tempted to pack “just-in-case” outfits. But if you figure out the actual activities you’ll be doing on your trip, you can take the guesswork out of packing and pack just what you’ll actually use.
2. Packing unitaskers
Don’t pack those shoes that look fantastic with one specific outfit, but don’t match anything else. If you can’t wear an item multiple ways, ask yourself whether you really need it. This is especially true for shoes, which take up a lot of room. If you’re trying to pack light, you’ll be a lot better off with one pair of shoes that match everything than a different pair for every outfit. The same goes for everything else in your suitcase, because the more versatile the pieces you pack, the less you’ll need.
3. Packing mismatched items
Pick a palette and stick to it
This doesn’t mean you can only wear neutrals, but choose a neutral or two, and make sure everything goes with it. This makes it much easier to mix and match the limited pieces that you bring, since everything will look good together. The easiest neutrals for me are black and white, and then I add another color or two that look good with these. If you’re worried about looking boring, jewelry and accessories are a great way to add interest to your outfits without taking up much room in your suitcase.
4. Packing things you don’t wear
I used to make the mistake of packing my running shoes and workout clothes on trips, and then never taking them out of my suitcase. When I’m traveling, exercising just isn’t a priority for me. Just be honest with yourself–are you really going to wear that fancy top you’ve never worn at home? If not, leave it out.
5. Not doing laundry
If you can swing it, doing laundry during your trip is a great way to travel light. This is way easier if you’re staying with friends, family, or at an AirBnB with laundry facilities, but you can always hit up a laundromat if necessary. Depending on the climate, and aside from socks and underwear, I’m totally fine with wearing things several times before I wash them, but you can almost halve the things you need to bring just by doing a load of laundry.
Do you have any tips for packing light? I’d love to hear them!