Hi there, I'm Jess, founder of The Wander Word. I transform tourists into culturally immersed travelers by empowering them to take life-changing trips.
If you read my post 5 way to travel stress-free, you might have noticed that packing light was the longest section. One reason is because I described two airport-to-lodging scenarios. One describes the scenario with heavy, checked luggage. The second describes it using someone who packed light.
When we are traveling somewhere, it is only natural to want to bring too much stuff with you. That is because “stuff” gives us familiarity and comfort in a new setting. It is all psychological. So, what if you could train yourself into not needing all that stuff?
In this post I will give you tips to train yourself into packing light when you travel as well as showing you how to get the most out of the clothes you bring by coordinating and matching. This post focuses on women’s clothing but the same concept can be applied to any style.
Okay, let’s be real. You are going to shop when you travel. You might be buying clothes, souvenirs, books, food, whatever. I like to pack ultra-light and buy some major pieces at my destinations.
I like to have things in my home as travel memories and usually purchase something small in every city I visit. If you don’t plan on packing light, you will have to make room in your stomach for that awful gut feeling that you are not going to be able to buy x, y, or z because it won’t fit in your bag.
Part of my travel damage control is to pack as light as I possibly can so that I can treat myself onsite. I really enjoy European shopping and supporting the local economy by visiting family owned shops and buying things I think are beautiful and will remind me of the special places I visit.
It stresses me out when I travel and I have to think about being able to fit new items I pick up along the way in a suitcase that is already completely full.
It makes traveling more fun for me because I can casually shop if I’m in the mood. I now have countless clothes from Italy, Spain and Portugal. I have a small lantern from southern Spain and a unique picture of Naples printed on a piece of wood. I can enjoy my travels from home.
One of the best ways to train your brain into packing light is putting your big suitcase in storage (or just donate it) and invest in a durable, lightweight, smaller than average, carry-on suitcase. That was a lot of adjectives before we got to the word suitcase. They are important. A bag can be light weight but not durable, smaller but not functional, etc.
I usually get mine at TJ Maxx or Marshall’s because I can usually find an aesthetic and unique enough bag that fits the prerequisites.
About a week or so before your leave, start wearing potential travel outfits so you can scan each piece of clothing and analyze its purpose and functionality for your trip. Start noticing if you can wear each piece in multiple ways so you can mix and match a smaller number of items into many outfits.
Think about what you will be doing on your trip. Are you going to be walking a lot? Swimming? Hiking? Lounging? Think about your ideal outfits that use colors and patterns that are easy to match across the board. It is kind of like a math problem.
Cuteness + functionality + high matching potential = an item you should bring with you. If your clothing pieces do not fit all the requirements, simply don’t bring them.
After you have done all your math equations, lay out all the items of clothing on your bed and put outfits together. Organize by color and clothing type to physically build every outfit you will wear on your vacation. Make sure that you eliminate some pieces during this part of the process.
Flashback: I’m returning home from Italy after a 2 week stay at my bestie’s house. I’m 19 years old with no self-control or decision-making skills. I had packed every cute outfit and pair of shoes. I had gone shopping at the outlets for more clothes and gone in HARD on souvenirs. In order for my bag to close upon my departure, I had to sit on it and pray it would zip all the way.
I arrive at the check bag counter and am told my bag is overweight. I must pay an additional 80 euro on top of the 50 I have already paid to check the bag in the first place. I’m poor and I’m effing pissed.
That was the last time I willingly checked a bag. Why would I ever pay more than I would for lodging to check my bag? It just didn’t make sense to me. I wouldn’t pay 130 euro to stay one night somewhere in Italy, so I will be damned if I pay that much just to take my belongings with me.
Due to this shift in thinking, I always avoid any check bag fees or paying a penalty if my bag is too heavy. I also weigh my bag after I pack it to make sure it adheres to the airline cabin baggage requirements. Usually, your carry on can be between 10 and 15 pounds, but check with each airline before you travel.
Also, depending on the airport and boarding pass options, I rarely have to wait in line to check in. I do mobile check in and get my boarding pass right on my phone, or, I hit up a kiosk and print out my boarding pass myself. It is the best feeling in the world to walk in the airport and go right up to security without having to do anything else first.
Here is a list of suggested clothing items to pack light for a trip to a warm destination:
Here is a list of suggested clothing items to pack light for a trip to a cold destination:
Packing light is a skill to be mastered over time. If you’re not there yet, that’s ok! Keep working on it. I hope this helped 🙂