Travel Tips for Packing Light

Last post about Ireland; non-travel-related posts will resume next week!

When we took a 9 day trip (including 2 travel days) for a friend’s wedding I packed entirely into a carry-on suitcase and a handbag. Here are some of the tricks I used to pack light and still have room for possible thrifted treasures and many thank-you gifts.

  1. Do laundry. Whether you’re visiting family/friends and can use their washer and drier, staying at an AirBnB with laundry facilities, in a hotel with in-house laundry services, or just using the sink in a hostel, washing mid-trip is the best way to halve the amount of clothing you bring. Some folks opt for a travel steamer but with space considerations and the voltage change I opted to forego it. We stayed in 3 AirBnBs and one bed and breakfast and made sure at least one had laundry (no dryer, but we were there 3 nights so air drying was no problem).
  2. Fold KonMari style. You may not be into the “magic” in your regular life, but this technique – even my lazy approximation of it – saves space in your bag and makes it easy to see everything once you arrive. (Nothing like packing super carefully only to dig through your suitcase for something… and then having to re-pack it the next day.)
    The-KonMari-Method-Pants-Folding-512x680 The-KonMari-Method-Shirt-Folding-536x680
    Source of these rad visuals
    It’s also wrinkle-reducing – my floor-length dress unrolled after a week of resting in KonMari with nary a crease!
  3. Stuff your underwear and socks into your shoes. Unless they’re collapsible, your shoes are going to take up a certain amount of room no matter what. Why not make use of it? (If the idea of your underwear coming into contact with naked foot territory weirdos you out, tuck them in a plastic or cloth bag first.)
  4. Wear your heaviest layer. Leave that bulky sweater or coat out of the bag and use it as a pillow or a blanket in transit. It can be tied around your waist or tucked on top of your carryon handle while you wander through terminals or train stations.
  5. Travel in your pajamas.  Obviously this depends on what type of pjs you wear (no nightgowns please), but if you wear leggings or a t-shirt to bed you can easily wear these in transit. If you don’t sweat through you’ll still be okay for sleep and you’ll save a fresh outfit for your destination while not bulking up your baggage with your long johns.
    Sporting my PJ shirt and leggings (under jeans) in Dublin:
  6. Use a kid’s toothbrush. This makes the most difference for a backpacker or someone who’s counting every ounce of weight, but even a conventional traveler will save a little space this way. Bonus: the bristles are super soft so your dentist won’t accuse you of scrubbing off your gums.
  7. Pack travel versions of your essential cosmetics. Duh. But the emphasis here is on the “essential.” You likely do not need every cream and applicator you use in the course of a year (or even a normal week) while traveling. Usually use one lotion for face moisturizer and another for your body? See if one can pull double duty. Normally use two different brushes to get just the right do? See if a comb can stand in the breach. Sharpen that eye or lip liner before you go so you don’t have to take the sharpener.
  8. Bubble wrap. I mix my own face toner and oil moisturizer and keep them in small glass spray jars. To keep them from breaking in transit, I slip them into little bubble wrap sleeves (either the ones they shipped in or ones I make out of bubble wrap from other packages). Then into the quart ziplock bag they go:IMG_4917
  9. Exfoliate with a baby washcloth.  These suckers are super thin, kind of micro-fiber-y, and dry easily overnight. Unlike packing your clarisonic, you’ll never even know it’s in your suitcase but your skin will thank you. (Cutting up a microfiber cloth meant for dusting computer screens works too.)
  10. Save those soap nubbins. You know when your soap dwindles to such a small size it’s annoyingly impossible to get a good lather? Save these and melt them into one slightly larger nubbin (yeesh, even that word is annoying) or just take one nubbin and be slightly annoyed for the week but don’t worry about taking a soap case with you. We weren’t staying in hotels and couldn’t guarantee free toiletries so I took along the end of my savon de Marseille bar in my toothpaste curl tin: IMG_4914 (one curl = one brush; less waste and none of the chemicals of regular toothpaste. Yes I’m a hippie.)
  11. Binder clip your headphones. If you’re like me and still haven’t gotten on the noise-canceling headphone bandwagon, keep track of your spaghetti-like ear bud cords with binder clip. This will save you inordinate amounts of frustration, preserving your sanity for figuring out an unfamiliar transit system or converting temperatures. Just make sure the cords go through the triangle and aren’t pinched by the black part of the clip, which could damage them:IMG_4918
  12. Take clothes you can toss. We packed, wore, then tossed: socks with holes, a ratty undershirt, a bra long past the end of its life cycle, and my crapped out running shoes.  So many caveats to this last one… like being a runner, being near the end of your shoes’ life but not so near it you’ll injure yourself, and finding a place to donate or recycle your old pair. But if it works out, you’ll save a bundle of room on your return trip.

What are your travel-light packing tips? Scroll down to comment!


2 thoughts on “Travel Tips for Packing Light

  1. My suggestion #1 is: TAKE LESS!!! Others don’t care if they see you in the same outfit multiple times (they usually won’t even notice)! #2: Bring only comfortable, wrinkle-free garments – you don’t want to spend your precious vacation fiddling with your clothes. #3: Stick to limited colors – one or two neutrals with perhaps one accent color – don’t be tempted to take that “new” item you just love that doesn’t go with EVERYTHING else in your suitcase!

    And finally, I LOVE your tip #12! I am definitely going to do that on my upcoming trip! (You know how stuff in your suitcase expands over the course of the trip and if you wear and toss, your suitcase won’t become jammed up with dirty socks!)

    1. Carol – truth!! I keep finding that when I travel I re wear things, either because I’m around family/friends and I know they don’t care, or because I’m traveling someplace new to me and won’t see the same people more than one or two days. So I often take less than what I would normally wear in a week and am the happier for it.
      #2 and #3 are also pearls of wisdom- I have been tempted to bring the “new” or favorite clothing item more than once and though it feels good the day I wear it it usually complicates the rest of my suitcase.
      Let me know how bringing stuff you’re about to chuck anyway goes! Thanks for adding to the conversation :)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *