Have you ever felt burdened by all of your luggage while traveling? It doesn’t have to be that way! You should be able to enjoy the journey, not just the destination. Unless your last name is Kardashian, you probably don’t have a private jet and people to cart your luggage around for you. Keep reading for my top 5 tips for packing light!
Why Bother Packing Light?
Over the past several years (and after a couple of delays due to checked bags), Dave and I have officially converted to the carry-on only club. It’s not as hard as you might think to pack in only a carry-on bag, and the benefits are endless! No checked-bag fees, more flexibility and freedom, quicker packing, etc. Another great thing about having only carry-on luggage is that you can zip right past all the people waiting for their checked bags at the luggage carousels. You’ll be the first in line to get your rental car, and already on your way while they’re still waiting for their luggage!
Packing carry-on only has helped us to be more flexible when traveling. On one of our recent trips, we were supposed to have a 2 hour layover at JFK before flying home to Buffalo. That flight home ended up getting delayed by 4 hours, but there was another flight leaving for Buffalo within 45 minutes of when we landed for our layover. We got off our first flight and ran through the airport (we even had to change terminals), getting to the gate just in time to find out that they still had open seats. They were able to change our tickets so we could get on that flight within minutes of takeoff. Our layover ended up being 45 minutes instead of 6 hours! That definitely wouldn’t have happened if we had checked bags.
I promise, once you go carry-on only you won’t go back! Here are my top 5 tips for packing light:
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1. Get a Carry-On Bag You Love
After countless hours of research, I finally decided to get an Osprey Farpoint 40 backpack last year right before our trip to the Azores. I got the S/M size based on my height, and it’s the perfect size for a carry-on. The dimensions are 20”H X 14”W X 8”D, which also qualifies as a carry-on with stricter international airlines. Even fully packed, the Farpoint 40 is super comfortable thanks to the fully-adjustable sternum strap and hip belt. It also has lots of security features, including zippers that you can lock with TSA-approved luggage locks.
The great thing about packing in a backpack is that you can take all of your stuff out of it when you get to your destination and use it as a daypack for hiking or day trips if needed. The Farpoint 40 is probably larger than you actually need for a daypack, but that way you don’t have to bring a second backpack.
Some of the runners-up I researched alongside the Farpoint 40 include: the Osprey Fairview 40 Backpack, Peak Design 45L Travel Line Backpack (I have a couple Peak Design items and they are so well-designed!), and the Timbuk2 Wander Pack.
2. Make a List (First) and Stick To It
We love Rick Steves’ article “Packing Smart and Traveling Light” as well as his printable packing list. I recommend to go through your list before you start packing to determine what exactly you do and don’t need. It’s easier to be objective when making your list ahead of time. It’s harder when you’re looking at that giant pile of clothes on your bed and trying to decide what to pack. It’s important to be realistic; you don’t need 4 pairs of pants for a week-long trip to a warm weather destination.
3. Be Selective About Your Clothes
Here are some general guidelines to follow:
All your clothes should mix and match with all other items.
This also helps to make layering easier since all your pieces go together. Bringing clothes that mix and match can make a small number of pieces more versatile. You can search Pinterest for “Carry-On Capsule Wardrobe” for some great ideas!
All your clothes should be fast-drying.
Being able to wash and dry your clothes quickly makes it easier to pack less clothes in your carry-on. You can wear them time and time again without running out of options.
All your clothes should pack down small.
I don’t pack denim any more; jeans don’t pack down small and are probably the slowest-drying item in my closet. My main travel pants are prAna Transform leggings and these North Face Aphrodite 2.0 Pants. They are super comfortable, pack down really small, and are quick-drying.
4. Use Packing Cubes
Packing cubes make it easier to keep your bag organized. There are also compression packing cubes that can help pack your clothes down even smaller. These Eagle Creek “Pack It Cubes” & “Pack It Sacs” are the ones we have used the past few years and they have held up great! My goal when packing is to fit all of my clothes into two of these cubes.
5. Bring Laundry Soap
It’s easier to pack fewer clothes if you plan on washing them in the sink or tub with your laundry soap. Then you can hang them to dry on the backs of chairs, a balcony railing, or a travel clothesline. This is the main reason why I choose to bring light, fast-drying clothes on all of our trips. We have brought both liquid and solid bar types of detergent. If I have enough room in my liquids bag, I prefer to pack this Sea to Summit biodegradable liquid laundry soap concentrate. If I don’t have enough room in my liquids bag, I pack this little “Wash & Stain Bar” from The Laundress. Although I haven’t tried them out yet, if you’re short on space in your liquids bag, you can buy packets of powder detergent designed for washing clothes in the sink.
Do you have any other tips and tricks on how to pack light? What would you add to the list!
2 thoughts on “Top 5 Tips for Packing Light”
I don’t travel by plane too often but I have made it a point to be carry-on only if I’m flying. (I didn’t really have that option when going to Kazakhstan since I was there for ~9 months, but having checked bags just adds an extra variable to worry about! Thankfully, there were no snafus.) Years ago (when we were in high school), my dad lost a checked bag (that I don’t think he ever got back!) and he had (foolishly) packed our handheld camcorder in it — so that’s now lost forever! I never want something like that to happen to me if I can help it. When traveling with both carry-on and checked luggage, I think of that and put the “I absolutely don’t want to potentially lose this” items in my carry-on. But then it gets me thinking, “If I don’t have that same mindset about these other things I’m bringing, why am I bothering with another bag at all?!” haha I have been trying to be more intentional about the clothes I buy and not purchase things that I don’t love, but I still have a way to go with paring down the things I already have, but I digress!
I just wanted to echo that pre-planning outfits and only bringing items that mix-and-match is SUCH a time and space saver! That’s the only way I pack now. It makes things SO much easier. I bought myself a travel backpack that falls under carry-on guidelines when I went to Hawaii in November 2018. It was so wonderful being hands-free and knowing that I only had to worry about one bag. 🙂 I’m going to use it at the end of the month when going on a weekend getaway with friends. Looking forward to the puzzle of outfit planning lol.
p.s.: Your blog is so cute, Jenni! Came on here to check out the nursery tour but then started poking around lol
Thanks Jordan!! 😊 That’s my worst fear losing something so important in a checked bag! I definitely avoid it al all costs. I definitely agree about the clothes mixing and matching, it makes everything so much easier