These days, it’s all about how to “travel light”
Traveling light simply means that working off the “carry-on” model. This translates to one carry-on sized bag (9″ x 14″ x 22″) and one personal item (9″ x 10″ x 17″)—nothing else. I know it doesn’t sound like a lot of space but it’s plenty. Trust us. If you pack well, you won’t miss a thing.
Think about all the times you traveled and came home with stuff that you didn’t even use. Add to that anything you used just because you brought it or because you didn’t have anything else that was clean. Now, think about the stuff you wish you brought. Better yet, think about the outfit you wish you could have worn the whole time because it was so comfortable and you looked so good in it. Next time, just bring that outfit and leave all that other stuff at home. That’s what traveling light is all about—reducing the clutter and making your daily choices simple so you can focus on your traveling experience and not what you’re wearing.
That said, traveling light is not for everyone and it is certainly not the right choice for every travel situation. However, if you are one of the legions of travelers looking to minimize your luggage and streamline your travels, here are a few things to consider before you pack.
Pack those dependable old favorites
Everyone has a favorite pair of shoes or an outfit that they consider their “go to” wardrobe items. These are the items you want to pack. When you’re traveling, comfort is king and nothing is more comfortable than an old favorite. Do not buy new shoes or a new outfit and bring them without wearing them first. An all-day outing in an unfamiliar city is not the place to find out that your shoes cause blisters or that a seam on that new shirt is chaffing your neck. Instead, look for those dependable yet stylish items that are climate and culturally appropriate for your destination.
Plan on doing laundry once every 5-7 days
We know the first thing you’re gonna say is, “why would I want to do laundry while I’m on vacation?”. We thought the same thing at first but the truth is—doing laundry while traveling is simple and more cost-effective than lugging around a large suitcase of spare clothes. Simply put—if you want to travel light, there is no way of getting around doing some laundry.
There are generally three ways to get the job done.
Down and Dirty—hand washing socks and undergarments (separately of course) and letting them air dry in your room. We will post a follow-up to this that will show the best ways to do this.
Fluff and Fold—going to the in-house or corner laundry and washing a load. This option can be more time-consuming but it is a good opportunity to live like a local and grab a nice coffee/beverage while you wait. Many hotels typically have a laundry room on site. If you’re staying at a condo/suite, there will probably be a washer/dryer in the room.
Triple Deluxe—toss all your laundry is the hotel laundry service bag call the front desk. Typically your clothes will be done by morning or be waiting for you when you come back from a full day of sightseeing. The triple stands for triple the cost which is highly dependant on your location and how fancy the hotel is. Although this option is expensive, it is super easy and is still typically less than airline baggage fees (unless dry-cleaning is involved).
Bottom line—if you’re traveling for a week or more, plan on doing laundry at least once. If you’re on an active vacation (think skiing/hiking), plan on doing several loads. For active vacations, we highly recommend the “Fluff and Fold” method—just make sure to get a room with access to a washer/dryer.
Limit your options
Limit yourself to one or two options (3 max). We suggest bringing one dress-up and two dress-down option with several mix-and-match combinations to go with them. For example: Bring one pair of jeans, some chinos, and a pair of comfortable dress pants or dress. No one will care if you wear them every day—especially if you’re always going to different places. Mix and match these items with a few stylish accessories and no one will even notice—even if your traveling with the same group. Trust us!
The only exception to this would be socks and underwear. We suggest you bring enough for 4-5 days and plan on doing a small bit of laundry. Small items like these can be easily washed in your room with a small laundry kit (see “Down and Dirty” method above).
Shoes are a pain to travel with. We recommend only bringing two pairs (3 if you really need something fancy). If you’re bringing boots of any kind, try to wear them while traveling and pack your lighter options.
Bring items that travel well
When making your final selections, make sure to consider how well each item will travel. Ask yourself…
- is it wrinkle free
- does it dry quickly
- is it stain resistant
- does it packs small
- is it travel size or can you make it travel size
- can you pick it up at your destination
- is it multi-purpose
- does it resist odors
- is it in keeping with local culture
The items you bring should fit most or all of these criteria. This doesn’t mean you have to go out and buy a whole new wardrobe. You can be methodical about your selections and achieve the same goals. If you’re going to buy anything, we suggest starting with underwear and socks. We like SmartWool for both socks and underwear but there are many travel specific brands—like ExOfficio—out there.
Bring Layers—Not Bulk
Avoid bringing bulky items like heavy sweaters or big heavy jackets. That is not the way to travel light. We suggest layering instead. Adopting a layering method to keep warm gives you more clothing options with less bulk. For cold weather, we suggest bringing a couple of base layers with one or two mid-layer options and an outer shell for wind and water-proofing. You can find many performance layer options at places like REI but you can also find dressy/casual options at places like the GAP. We like the everyday cashmere sweaters at J.Crew because of their warmth to weight ratio, natural antimicrobial quality (doesn’t get smelly), and classic stylish look. Note: This is probably the only instance where we will say, “more is less.”
Pack Smart and Small
Our last bit of advice is to learn how to pack. Start by using packing cubes like the ones offered by Eagle Creek. These help keep all your clothes organized and packed neatly.
Roll smaller clothing items instead of folding them (think t-shirts and underwear). They take up less room that way and can be packed much more efficiently without as many fold lines. Pants, dresses, and dress shirts should be folded flat.
Put all your toiletries into travel size containers. Don’t be that person that tries to get a family size bottle of shampoo through TSA. GoToob containers from HumanGear are great ways to keep your stuff organized and manageable.
Remember to leave some room for souvenirs.