Please sign in to post.

Any tips on packing light

Hi-I have the hardest time packing light.
Every time I travel I swear I will and the it never happens.
What are some of your tips for traveling light?
Thank you

Posted by
1680 posts

I struggle too. I've watched YouTube. I've read packing list blogs. Although they helped, they didn't pack the items I use or want. So from practice and some experience I've found a few hints that help:

1) Make a packing list of everything you plan to take from shoes to underwear to make-up by item. On your list note what goes into your suitcase and what's in you personal item. Don't worry at this point how long your list is. You will adjust it multiple times.
2) Test pack using your list, then weigh and measure your suitcase and your personal item. Do you comply with all of your airlines' limitations? If not, go to step 3
3) Unpack, review and adjust your list. Repeat step 2.
4) Did your second try make you airline compliant? If not repeat step 3.
5) Make notes and a schematic on your packing list as to how to fit everything in your suitcase and personal item.
6) Put everything away, give yourself a break. Stare endlessly at your packing list, cross out what you can live without.
7) Repeat step 2 using your adjusted, lighter packing list.

If you're not using packing cubes, they will help keep you organized and neat. I bought a luggage scale which is easier than a person scale to determine bag weight. I've gone so far as to weigh items on my food scale, but that was a little over the top. But I can tell you my Spanx leggings weigh 7 1/4oz and my shirts average 6oz each.

EDIT: My goal is to cut 5lbs which makes the total between carry on and personal item 25lbs. What is “overpacking” to you? As others have asked below, what is “packing light” to you?

Sometimes it's just as important to cut bulk as it is to cut weight. Something as simple of changing from a round hairbrush to a half-round, putting soap in a baggie instead of a hard plastic soap dish, and eliminating the bath puff saves room. By doing those three things I cut my toiletries bag depth by a third. Don't waste room with a hair dryer since hotels have them. Curling iron is up to you. Rip up your guidebooks into only the places you're visiting. By cutting up RS' France guidebook, I can save almost 2lbs that I don't need or want to carry around. Cutting bulk doesn't necessarily mean you will cut weight but it can make a difference complying to airlines' carry on size limits.

Enjoy the challenge. If you need or want hints as to what to pack, just ask. We all have our favorites.

Posted by
5569 posts

I'd like to know what Kim (the OP) has tried so far. What have you tried and why do you think it failed?

Posted by
154 posts

I'll meet your question with a question, Kim. What keeps you from packing light? Bring too much, heavy weight per item, less than ideal luggage choice, belief only toiletries brought from your own WC will suffice? I know I have the mindset that while traveling I never want to struggle with the weight of my 'case/bag. No self-induced pain, as it were. My travel bag is lightweight, organized with packing cubes with clothing/footwear choices that are neither bulky or hefty, and I am satisfied with rotating pieces every 3 to 5 days in creating the day's ensemble. Depending on a destination's accommodation, I bring the bare minimum of lotions and potions and will use host location offerings. As someone who wears makeup, I like double-duty products, e.g. tinted moisturizer and lip balm (each with SPF is ideal). I'm a write a packing list, count every. single. thing. when making said list and then consider, 'what if I dropped xxx ?' kind of packing-light adherent. In deciding if something makes it or not on the journey I ask myself will its absence ruin my trip? If it's not essential to my happiness/mental health/overall well-being, it needn't be schlepped thousands of miles away from home. Happy (and not heavy) travels!

Posted by
292 posts

Maybe you need to figure out what your definition of "light" is and what your goal is. I did a test pack my checkin for our next trip and it comes in a 18 pounds which is about 5 pounds less than our last trip. I've been thinking about what toiletries I could buy there and what souvenir/clothing I might get. I love Perlier and street markets. That will work. I need hair conditioner. I still want a picnic kit but am pondering the swimsuit. I'm thinking about the reality of washing and drying shirts and pants in a hotel sink. Our Airbnb with laundry is later in the trip this time. How do I work around that? One lesson learned it that I CAN do an entire trip with one pair of shoes. That is extremely liberating!

Posted by
1587 posts

I travel with carryon in the summer and or early fall so I pack thin items. I take 4 thin dark skirts and 6 thin tops that mix and match, a thin nightgown and 10 thin undies. I take only the shoes on my feet plus thin flip flops for hotel use, small travel size toiletries and skin care. I use hotel hairdryers and pull my hair up in a ponytail if it is too hot. I blow my hair dry with a round brush. I wear a light jacket or sweater on the plane and I take a small umbrella, a plastic poncho, and flat sun hat.
I roll everything and pack it all in cubes. If I didn’t have thin clothes, I’d be in trouble. I wash the clothes as needed, they all dry quickly and ironing is not needed.
My meds, liquids and snacks go in a small bag that sits over my suitcase.
My only electronic is my cell phone.
Winter travel or colder climes would be difficult but I hate cold weather so I don’t really have to worry about that scenario.

Posted by
2549 posts

Kim, I can commiserate. By my family and friends standards we pack light. By RS forum posters standards we are heavy packers. I struggle, not so much with toiletries because I just buy what I need, but with clothes and shoes. I do use packing cubes which helps keep the numbers down. My suitcase usually comes in at 25-28 lbs. I’ll be reading the responses hoping to pick up more tips.

Posted by
292 posts

I like the way you pack, Diane. One thing I missed on my last trip was hair conditioner. The hotels we were at had shampoo but nothing else. I'm taking argan oil and a light pair of flip flops.

Posted by
890 posts

Don't take "just in case" things (except medications that might be hard to find and a rain jacket or poncho). I used to take a lot of stuff "just in case." Now I realize I can make do, and if I need something desperately, I can buy it.

Use a travel pillow cover to stuff sweaters or fleece jackets and/or hats in, and use that instead of a travel pillow. I don't always do this, but I did it in November. Because of the time of year, I was bringing bulkier clothing. This worked beautifully UNTIL I was flustered at the facial recognition not working at passport control at Gatwick (and I hadn't been expecting to go through passport control, since we were just transiting). The guard suggested I remove my neck pillow. I did so, and ended up leaving it behind, along with the sweaters, hat, and gloves that were inside it. Oh, well, This DOES work if one isn't so careless.

Plan on layering. Plan on doing laundry. (I bring laundry soap that comes in small, thin sheets.)

Use packing cubes. Bring stuff that mixes and matches. Bring a nice scarf that can dress up a plain outfit for evening and cover shoulders in churches, etc. during the day.

Wear your bulkiest stuff on the plane.

Make yourself travel with carryon once, and you will be more motivated to keep doing it, because it makes travelling so much easier, in my opinion.

Posted by
1142 posts

I’ve been backpacking (wilderness) since I was 8. I’m 51 now. I’m so used to making do with very little it’s easy (and yet people are always amazed at the comfort level!) Here’s what I took for a fall trip to France for example, last year for 22 days:

One sleeveless shirt (blend with stretch) -black
Two long sleeve shirts ( one cotton/modal, one lightweight merino wool, which was a quarter zip neck for venting/neck protection)- grey/dark grey
One lightweight merino wool sweater, still thinner but warmer than the zip neck -grey
One rayon blouse/shirt that looked a bit nicer -Black with black/white floral sleeves

One pair black skinny jeans that were so dark they could double as nicer pants, one pair darker lightweight jeans

3 pairs no-show socks wool blend, one thin mid sock merino wool

5 pairs wool thong underwear 1 pair wool bikini for sleeping. I gave up bras several years ago, but occasionally take a lightweight no wire from Negative underwear that weighs nothing.

Wind resistant woven fleece sweater with hood (looks nice but is excellent for warmth and wind
Waterproof lightweight trench coat with hood

Nike phantom sneakers black/white

Worn: one black lightweight merino long sleeve and one pair light blue jeans cropped above ankle, black thin arcteryx synthetic vest excellent warmth very lightweight
Adidas original retro sneakers camel colored suede

Umbrella, meds, contacts (dailies) moisturizer, face wash, toothbrush/toothpaste combo (bought at REI) small cosmetic bag with tweezers small amount of makeup. Collapsible silicon diffuser (curly long hair), guide book, maps.

I don’t take body soap, or shampoo/conditioner. First, there’s always soap wherever I stay. If there’s not one night, water will get me clean enough until the next day. I don’t wash my hair that often since it’s long curly and dry. If there’s not enough shampoo in the room, we’ll buy a $3 bottle of each at a drugstore/pharmacy/grocery-partner often takes his own travel size. I’ll throw it away when I leave or leave it. I use hotel lotion. I took running shorts and a running shirt too (Nike Phantoms stand in for a few maintenance runs)

In my small personal item goes any snacks, book(s) ID/passport, eye drops, tic tacs, plane collapsible pillow/eye mask, Burt’s Bees lip balm and empty water bottle.

I’m probably forgetting something but probably not anything major. Hopefully this is helpful. Clothes can be adjusted for season.

As mentioned, I do laundry at least once, and use packing cubes (but only need two). I can wash my underwear in the sink, it’s dry FAST.

Posted by
11462 posts

Learning to pack light is an ongoing experience. I've been traveling and packing light for years yet I constantly learn new ways to save space and weight.

When you are getting started, there are a few tips I can offer:

1) Make a packing list of everything you might want to take. Put everything you could think you might want to take of this list. Don't edit. That comes later. Arrange each item into categorie--clothes, toiletries, medications, electronics, etc

2) Go through the list and cross off the items you realize you don't need. Ask yourself if it is something you would use enough to take with you or if it is something you could easily get "over there." (For OTC medications, I ask myself...."If I need this item at midnight, do I really need right then and there, or can it wait until the morning. The same for toiletries.)

3) Once this list is somewhat pared down--don't worry, you're not done--take the rest of the items on the list and lay them out on the bed or anywhere you can see them all. Put each category item with other category items. Then pick up each item and seriously ask yourself if it is something you need to take or can it be found in Europe? Don't bring "What if" items if they are not expensive and can easily be purchased in Europe. You won't have to do this each time as part of this process is developing a master basic packing list you can modify for each trip.

4) When you have done all of the above, practice pack and see how you are doing. If you still have too much stuff, repeat step 3.

I compose my packing list on the computer but print it out when I edit. I find it easier that way.

Posted by
5727 posts

My best tip on packing light is don’t! Unless I was going for a short week long city break, I always check a bag, then I can take camera, binoculars and telescope in hand luggage, leaving the clothes, liquids etc for the checked bag.

It makes me laugh that almost daily on this forum, people struggle to squeeze their belongings into a small bag. Do what Europeans do and take a bigger bag!

Posted by
1800 posts

Why do you need to pack lighter? Are you not able to manage your luggage ? Is it airline fees?

Posted by
217 posts

Jennifer- you must be a lucky person who has never had a bag go missing!

Another plus of not checking a bag - unexpected flight changes happen (miss your connection due to airlines fault) and this seems more common these days. If you haven’t checked a bag, you might get a better reroute than your original. That has happened to me several times. The first thing the agent asked me each time was “Did you check a bag?” My no answer got me a better route than my original air miles booking gave me!

Posted by
3261 posts

You learn to pack light the same way you get to Carnegie Hall: Practice, practice, practice until you know what works for you. But for me, the biggest tip is to buy clothes that can be washed in the hotel sink and dry within two days. I have been known to sink wash an item at home and see how long it takes to dry. For a 10 day trip, in addition to what I wear on the plane, I pack 1 pr pants, 2 pr leggins, 1 pr shoes, 4 shirts(love merino wool) , 5 panties, usually only a light LL bean jacket, rain jacket that covers my rear end. Remember that you can usually buy what you need in Europe. I still have the jacket I bought in Rothenburg because it didn't occur to me that its not 90 degrees in some places in June. No pjs-I use leggings and a shirt. I also pack a foldup-bag that can be used instead of a purse on day trips or even checked on way home if necessary. Since I don't work, my only electronics are my phone and kindle.

EDITED: Alternative to a rain jacket in areas where rain is unlikely: pack a cheap poncho in its pouch which would take up almost no space.

Posted by
78 posts

I just plan to do some laundry every 5-7 days. I prefer to just take some time at a local laundromat, but some here like sink washing. I take enough clothes to last about a week. This, along with underwear and socks, fits in a carryon bag along with an extra pair of shoes. I try to be as minimal as possible with toiletry items (using hotel shampoo and hair dryer, buying stuff upon arrival). I don’t take a bunch of fancy clothes for “dinner” or anything like that. Maybe one “nice” outfit if plans dictate.
I like not having so much stuff to worry about!

Posted by
1159 posts

Two biggest items that prevent packing light and take up space are shoes and anything non-clothing. Make two lists, one list the things you wear and the second a list of things you don't. Clothes pack tight. Other things, not so much.

Posted by
682 posts

Like Aimee, we are backpackers so have the packing light thing down.

I do take my own shampoo and conditioner as I color my hair and I don't want to use other stuff that will strip the color. I just use 1 ounce containers to put those in. I use contact lens cases for my moisturizer. For medications, those go into little 2x3 inch ziplocks for each day, marked. Then those go into snack size ziplock. I do take an extra weeks worth just in case. I use my backpacking hairbrush, which is very tiny, and get by with that and the hotel hair dryer.

In the summer it is even easier go light, but I can do it for winter as well as we just did for Iceland. We each had a carryon that came in at about 19 pounds, and that included hiking boots. I wore my snow boots on the plane and had my hiking boots in the back, and my husband did the opposite. Just stuff socks/underwear into the boots. His parka was big and heavy, so I put that in a space saver bag, which gave him a lot more room. I just wore mine on the plane. We did have to check these bags as we had micro spikes in them, but otherwise they were carryon size/weight.

The big thing for me is to really look at what I am packing for clothing. I take only what I know I will wear, and yes, you can wear clothing more than once.

Posted by
1425 posts

Only pack items you are absolutely certain you will use multiple times. Might come in handy isn't good enough.

Posted by
960 posts

I came to packing competently for international travel after decades of ultralight backpacking and bicycle touring, It was easy.

Packing light, similar to trigonometry, is not difficult in the least. Maybe we can help you attack your barriers. The more common psychological issues: a perceived need to be prepared for any situation and mishap, refusal to do laundry, and needing a new outfit for every day or event. Be assured, despite convenience, rhythm, security, possibly lower cost, and reduced stress level, packing light simply does not work for everyone.

Try a Field Test: Follow any of the several hundred light packing lists that are easily available all over the web and pack your carry-on. Take a road trip to a nearby attraction, someplace interesting you've wanted to visit for the last two years. Practice living exclusively out of your carry-on and force yourself to do at least one load of laundry in the rough. Take simple notes, being sure to complain about everything you didn't like. Figure out what worked and what did not. Refine your now expertly field-tested packing list, adding back all the stuff you have proven that you simply cannot live without. And there you have your known minimum tolerances. You can now stop worrying about ever packing light. Pack to enjoy your trip. Take two bags. Or three.

Posted by
2777 posts

Put laundry on your itinerary. I see two-week itineraries all the time that are jam-packed and make no mention of the need to do (or drop off, whatever) laundry on day X.
Think about the discomfort or aggravation you felt last time you dealt with an unwieldy amount of stuff--you just need motivation.

Posted by
21871 posts

We all have our keys to packing light. Two words --- Make (a) list !!!! Now we have had lots of practice but our key is the packing list. Second part -- on the plane home for each trip -- we evaluate the list. What worked, didn't work, needs to be replaced, should have had..., etc. When it comes time to pack for the next trip -- we stick to the list. We have boasted that if you handed us tickets (old days) we could be at the airport in two hours and it takes 45 minutes to drive there. Packing light is a learned skill and some are very slow learners or even resist.

Posted by
1425 posts

When you return home and unpack, make a list of the things you packed but did not use or would not pack again the next time.

Posted by
130 posts

I agree with all of the above comments for packing light. There are a few excellent videos on YouTube which you might have already seen. I like Sarah Murdoch’s excellent tips on traveling light. https://adventureswithsarah.net The one thing that helped me the most was weighing everything. Sarah uses a sharpie to write the weight of the item of clothing on the tag. I created a spreadsheet instead. One sweater might weigh 1 pound while another equally functional and stylish weighs just 8 oz. It’s a process of experimenting. Before you leave test out all washable items to see how quickly they dry if you plan on sink washing in the hotel. Not everyone likes to do this and I understand that you’re on vacation but I found it easy and convenient. I took one RS backpack and a purse to Spain on a 2 week trip. Now I travel with 21 in. roll-on bag instead but the whole thing packed weighs 17lbs so I can do carryon only. The important thing is that your vacation is for your enjoyment so if packing some extra clothes, shoes or electronics works for you then go with that.

Posted by
6484 posts

First reality one needs to accept is that you WILL wear your jeans or slacks or dress or skirt multiple times and guess what NO BODY cares. Secondly, you can do laundry and probably will. Can do it yourself or drop it off. Its not like the US is the only country in the world that cleans clothes.

I usually travel to London during fall and/or winter months. Thus the need for heavier attire. However, I want and do travel light. One 23 inch roller bag and small carry on backpack. The latter is where i stuff my venerable goose down pillow. Its old with few feathers left but it provides the comfort I need.

In the 23 inch roller bag I use packing cubes. Always take 2 pairs of shoes or sandals because I average 6-8 miles a day of exploration on foot. Nothing worse than having uncomfortable footwear so both pairs of footwear are worn in and comfortable.
My preferred brand is Keen. Lightweight and durable. Costly? Yes. Worth it? Yes. Nary a bister or broken strap or lace or tread. Wear one pair on the plane. Pack the other in the carry on.

My toiletries are minimal as I know I can buy what I need where I’m going. So small toothpaste, tooth brush, the conditioner from a box of hair coloring
( gave up Lady Clariol 2 years ago but adore the conditioner tube thats included in the package. That tube is VERY practical for travel and I need conditioner for my hair) brush, and some small tubes of Gold Bond hand creme. From my 99 cent store I’ll also take a small round tin of Nivea face creme. All of the above fits into a packing cube.

As I live in the Land of La where sunshine is nearly 365 the grey and chill and rain and dampness dictates I take warmer clothes. So I’ve learned that the Land’s End brand fleece provides the warmth I need. Its lightweight and packs easily. I’ll also take
a zip up lightweight puffer vest to wear beneath my Ex Officio raincoat. Its lightweight. Love the pockets and length. Breathes and has a hood. Its the last thing I pack in the carry on. Just before landing I’ll grab my under the seat backpack, un roll the rain coat and put it on. Or I’ll wait till I’m through immigration then stop in the loo and retrieve it. Everything except a pair of footwear is in the roller bag in packing cubes.

You can pack light. 3 tops, 2 bottoms, if into dresses 1 dress, 2 pair of foot wear with 1 worn on the flight, 1 scarf, minimal toiletries and 1 coat or sweater for warmth. 1 purse or small back pack. I use a small Baggallini backpack that is the perfect size for a small bottle of water. My wallet is elsewhere on my person. That is packed in the 23 inch roller bag.

It can be done. Make a packing list, lay everything out on the bed, cull, review, cull some more. Be kind to yourself especially your back. Your bag shouldn't be so jammed full that you can’t pick it up easily and walk with it without discomfort or a struggle.

EDIT: and the only electronic I pack now is my iPhone.

Posted by
1142 posts

We have boasted that if you handed us tickets (old days) we could be at the airport in two hours and it takes 45 minutes to drive there.

This is us. I can be ready for a weeklong backpacking trip in less than 1 hr 45 min. It would take me less than 20 minutes to get my gear ready, the biggest thing would be the food I would have to gather and re-bag up some of the fresh style accompaniments I would need, which would involve a trip to the store usually (we keep at least a weeks worth of freeze dried meals at the ready because we are known to spontaneously decide to go on a trip the next day. I make a lot of my own freeze dried foods).

International travel is even easier because I don’t have to worry about any food!

Posted by
1680 posts

I'm loving everyone's ideas. It's making me reevaluate a few things on my packing list. I almost ordered an Eagle Creek Pack-It folder this morning but remembered that the Sharper Image packing cubes (from TJ Maxx) I used my last two 1-week trips worked just fine for my shirts and tunics, keeping them wrinkle free and neat.

I have insisted that my fussy feet want to take 3 pair of shoes but after a winter of not wearing sandals, I'm debating if the sandals should stay home. ½ lb not packed is a ½ lb lighter carry on. Weight and bulk add up in bits and pieces.

More on lists: Every time I rethink something to be packed, I adjust my list. I use a word doc and color code what won't be going or is debatable. It's a work in progress and includes notes from 2019 Italy trip about what worked good and what didn't.

I'd like to hear more from Kim: what are her packing light issues? Have our suggestions been helpful?

Posted by
1799 posts

The biggest thing I did to pack lighter was to buy a lighter suitcase. I was having trouble lifting my suitcase on trains. I bought a travel pro and cut five pounds off my weight without leaving anything at home.

Posted by
1142 posts

I should clarify I use the Eagle Creek compression cubes. Not regular packing cubes. Invaluable for me.

Posted by
217 posts

bogiesan - love the reference to trigonometry (I was a college math teacher in my previous life), especially since today is Pi Day!!!!

Posted by
458 posts

I do things a bit differently and it takes more time but has always worked for me. I start 2 weeks before departure. I used to travel 200k per year on business and more on vacation. I never checked a bag once except occasionally on a direct flight home or if it was required (small airlines, remote locales, seaplanes, etc.).

I pack everything to start. Then I unpack it, all of it. Then I cull. I cull everything down to toiletries and underwear. Then I repack. Sometimes I do this more than once. Yes it takes time but as a visual person this actually has worked for me for 25 years. Helps me to stare at the piece and think how much I will truly wear or need. I practice lifting. Can I myself lift it to an overhead for the plane or for the train?

I do struggle with shoes because I have a special lift on my left shoe (left leg 1/2 inch shorter due to break as a kid) so I couldn’t buy shoes over there and wear them in a pinch, even flip flops. That said I am down to two pair now every trip. It varies depending on where I am going and what the trip entails. Last year was doing a lot of hiking and mountains in Switzerland and Austria so the Keens went. But I stupidly took two other pair, Birks and Clark’s.. the Clark’s were worn maybe twice, so they are not going. This year doing almost all city stuff (UK) and zero outdoor. So I will get by with the Birkenstocks, nice sneakers. I do need two pair because of again my leg issue, have to swap out.

I am starting today on my cycle of pack and unpack and repack as I leave in two weeks. Haven’t traveled for leisure in late winter/early spring for a long time so preparing for that. Like Claudia, living in SoCal I get cold easily now (they say our blood thins, who knows) so have some layering like puffer vests and thin sweaters. Need to add in warmer hat, gloves, scarf.

Do laundry, best advice I can give, I always wash socks and underwear in the sink pretty much nightly. Halfway through trip will either pay the $$$ to have all dirty laundry done or do at laundromat. Sometimes I will wash pants or shirts in sink but only if I am in same location for 3 nights to ensure drying. Love the towel warmers in Europe as you can crank those on and many of your clothes will dry quickly if hanging on them.

This works for me better than lists but we are all different. I also vote for the cubes. Good luck.

Posted by
4622 posts

Hi Kim, look at Sarah Murdoch’s videos of packing light. She’s an experienced former RS guide and now has her own travel company.

I don’t do the capsule wardrobe that lots of people like. I just take four outfits regardless of how many weeks I will be traveling and just sink wash items (I always wear clean clothes.) - usually it’s a 3-4 week trip. It’s easy to pack and easy to get ready in the morning. And who cares if I’m wearing the same dress in Nice, France that I wore a few days ago in Paris? I take a pair of comfortable, sandals with a good traction bottom - Keens’ Rose Sandal, and I bring a lightweight pair of cute black flats for dinners, nice concerts, etc. People have complimented me on always looking nice.

I travel solely by train in Europe and move around quite often, so the light weight is a big factor for me.

Posted by
1894 posts

I have a definite rule that if I will not use an item three times or more, then I leave it at home.
This would be for things like a swimsuit , an extra pair of shoes "just in case", more jewelry....the list goes on.

Are you trying to get down to carry-on only, or just a lighter version of what you have taken in the past?
One thing is to find a sturdy suitcase that is the absolute lightest weight in the price range you can afford.
Also, your purse/day-bag/tote bag needs to be lightweight too.
Check shops like Marshall's TJ's, etc; and take a measuring tape with you if you are buying one to fly on certain airlines that have very strict baggage measurements, especially for carry on only bags.

I have a friend who came with me once bringing her whole huge handbag that she uses daily at home.
It was full of a huge wallet, loyalty cards, photos, a lot of makeup and other random stuff never needed on a trip out of country.

Posted by
457 posts

One of the best pieces of advice I got from this site was to pack no more than 10 pieces of clothing (excluding underwear and sleepwear). Pick whatever works -- pants, shirts, dresses, jackets -- but limit it to 10 items.

Now, if I can just figure out how to pare down the electronics ...

Posted by
1804 posts

I pack four outfits and roll them up and wear the fifth one on the plane. I also have a travel wardrobe so my clothes won’t wrinkle. I wear a good pair of walking shoes and throw flip flops in the bag that I’ll wear on the plane and at the hotel. It’s important that you bring one pair of shoes that are on your feet and not in your suitcase.
I also pack laundry powder pods and a color catcher for when I do laundry and don’t bring more than I need. This way I can throw in whites with colors. Airbnb’s are good places to stay so you can request a washer and dryer.
If I pack a raincoat or wear a coat, I use that as a robe. I have a rule, if I don’t use it or wear at least four times don’t pack it. Of course, there are exceptions i.e., a swimsuit, etc. But the key is to eliminate choices on whether you’re going to wear it or not.
When packing medication and vitamins put it in the smallest baggie possible and carry toiletries in plastic bottles that don’t exceed any of the countries regulations that you’re flying in or out of. If the amount allowed isn't enough bring two of the same thing. You also want to carry your bags on the plane without checking anything through. Not only will this save time you won't have to worry about your luggage making it.

Posted by
1142 posts

Yes, med containers are a good point to consider, MaryPat!

I'd have way too many plastic bags, or else be fiddling through weeding them out so I use the little pots from GoToob, (morning, night, mid-week, etc) and have about three. My 'extra' weeks, all get put into a ziplock though.

Posted by
3356 posts

I hate heavy luggage. I wear all black tops & pants so it’s easy to mix & match. I wear the heaviest shoes/boots on the plane & pack my walking shoes which are lightweight black running sneakers. I save my skincare samples from Kiehl’s for travel. Talk about very light weight! I pack travel size shampoo and conditioner. If I need more, I will buy locally.

Posted by
111 posts

Carry on only for me, a necessity for my 70ish body carrying luggage up those steep steps into European trains! I finally learned that secret is to invest in a few great pieces of clothing that look good but wash easily in the hotel sink and dry quickly. I love Woolx tops, Rip Skirt Hawaii skirts, and REI pants. I take 2 pants, 2 skirts, and 4 Woolx tops of different weights. Add a silk long underwear bottom, a washable sweater or fleece, and a coat, plus quick dry undies, and I am ready. I always take 2 pairs of shoes - one sturdy and one a bit nicer looking but still comfortable (ex. SAS sandals).
Happy travels!

Posted by
3714 posts

Tip #1: Travel solo. Having no one else to deal with your bags but you promotes packing restraint. Full disclosure: As I've gotten older and my hair has gotten grayer, the more help I've been offered when putting my bag in the plane overhead bins or on the racks above train seats or getting on and off trains. Even at 76, I'm fully capable of doing these things myself, but I sometimes accept the help if the situation doesn't seem too hinky to me.

Tip #2: Sit in a place on the plane where you can see how bags are loaded. You'll never check a bag again. They load them face (the side with the pockets) down. The bags frequently fall off the conveyor belt, more often from a high place on the belt than from a low one.

Tip #3: Start with a wheeled bag that weighs no more than 6 pounds empty. All the bags I have weigh less than that. The "big" 22x14x9 one weighs 5.5. The 2 international ones weigh 4.5 pounds each.

Tip #4: Invest in a digital luggage scale. Use it to verify the packed weight of the bag. If it goes over 22 pounds, remove stuff until it doesn't. No more than 20 pounds would be even better.

Tip #5: Pack for a week no matter how long you'll be gone. Plan to wear each garment 2-3 times before you do laundry or have it done for you along the way.

Tip #6: Limit your major garments (tops and bottoms) to 10 that are low-volume and lightweight. My tops usually include 2 short or elbow length sleeve tees, 2 long or 3/4 length sleeve tees and 2 long sleeve button up shirts to go over those or wear by themselves. No kind of wool is my friend, but I might add a lightweight cotton or synthetic sweater if the weather calls for it. My bottoms consist of 3 pairs of pants. I don’t do dresses or skirts, partly because of the volume, but mostly because I look better in pants. You've already seen so far that many pack much, much lighter than that.

Tip #7: Use something to inspire your travel wardrobe choices. Not being a neutrals kind of woman, I use a scarf. In fact, I feel a little underdressed if I don’t wear a scarf in Europe and scarves make easily washable bibs. As examples, these are the two that are in competition to inspire me this year. Both are cheap. This one has a black field with lots of colors to choose from. This one has fewer colors which could be a good thing.

Tip #8: Limit your shoes to 2 pair. Wear the heaviest ones (for seriously comfortable, safe and stable walking) on the plane, train or any other transportation you take. Pack the light shoes you plan to use for "dress up." As a solo traveler, I rarely go out to dinner or anywhere else at night so my light (12 oz for the pair) flats are more for around the room or hotel than for dress up.

Posted by
1 posts

I did a safari trip to Africa where (because of flying on small planes), I could only have 38 pounds total, including purse and personal items. Here are the tips I found most useful (based on YouTube video of a R.S. travel guide:
Use a kitchen scale to weigh clothes-- a lot of my tops were surprisingly heavy due to buttons, snaps, zippers, etc! It adds up.
Get super-lightweight non-cotton underwear (not so much to save on weight but because they are so quick-drying for sink washing)
Share toiletries with hubby (eg no need to bring two deodorants, two toothpastes, etc).
Lightweight toiletries bag (I use a Sea-to-Summit-- made of a ripstop-nylon sort of material).
Travel rain poncho instead of raincoat.
If it will be at all cool where you are going, bring a light down jacket-- light, packs down tightly, and can double as a pillow.

Posted by
292 posts

As I was reading through this, I was reminded of a friend's mother. My friend's dad was a doctor and her parents were forever jetting to conferences in exotic locations. Her mom was a stylish, well-dressed woman but insisted on only taking a carry-on. She always packed a capsule wardrobe to get her chicly through the conference socializing AND an evening gown and shoes for the big dinners. Now, that's packing!

Posted by
1142 posts

Another “that reminds me” — when I first met my partner, his grandmother died. His mother is an formidable old school Southern woman. I’m an Irish redhead from Montana. We flew carry on only on purchased-that-day- flight from WA to NC.

When we arrived, she was aghast that we didn’t bring a suit and appropriate dress etc for the funeral (old political family, very very large funeral), and was quite frosty at first to me. When partner said we had, she looked at me like “what have you done to my son” I had some packing tricks up my sleeve, lol. She insisted on getting his new, fancy fancy suit out to take to get pressed, expecting it to be a ruined mess—but my tricks had worked and only his shirt barely needed touching up. She couldn’t believe it, nor that I’d fit a full length black dress and tall black suede boots and a long dress coat (January) for the graveside in my carry on, along with a weeks worth of clothing.

Suddenly the atmosphere was about 20° warmer.

Posted by
682 posts

Aimee--Good job! When our daughter was. in high school, her boyfriends family moved from OR to NE. For his senior prom, our daughter and I flew out and I packed her prom dress. Yes, one of those silky long ones that wrinkles if you just look at it. I packed it perfectly and when we arrived it didn't need a thing. My husband doesn't wear suits often, but when he needs them when he travels, he always asks me to pack them.

Posted by
18388 posts

My solution to packing light is this.

  1. Get two travel bags, one smaller than a regulation carry-on, closer to a personal item bag, with shoulder straps, and the other a full blown, regulation checkable sized, wheeled bag.

  2. Pack the small bag as an emergency bag, with only things you absolutely know you can't possibly do without for the first few days, like a couple changes of clothing, until the lost big bag arrives. Be brutal. If there is ANY chance you can do without something for a few days, save it for the big bag. Then put everything you think you might possibly want in the big bag that can be checked.

  3. Take the small bag as a carry-on. Assume the big bag is going to get lost anyway and leave it at home.

Posted by
4622 posts

Lee, thank you as usual for “keeping it light”! LOL!

Posted by
960 posts

I wear all black tops & pants so it’s easy to mix & match.

Could never do that. It's obnoxious neons and mismatched socks, all the way. When the bus gets ready to leave, I want someone to look around and ask, "Hey, where's that funny old guy in the fluorescent jacket?"

Posted by
2930 posts

Aimee & Mikliz97,

Me, too. We carried on for my daughter’s wedding in Liverpool. Hold harmless, my husband did wear his suit jacket. We had a week of meeting her husband’s relatives, and then the party the evening before, the wedding and breakfast, and the evening wedding party. I have never had to look so good for an entire week while on vacation…and more than one pair of shoes. It was great, but a little heavier than usual. It worked like a charm.

However, coming home I was going to have to wear my wedding hat, which I purchased there. The steward immediately knew I had been in a wedding and offered to take care of my hat, and chatted about the wedding when she did. (sorry, this always sticks in my mind because there was an American couple laughing at me at the gate for wearing my dress hat… The flight attendant made up for it by being so helpful and nice.)

1). Watch a packing video for spirit or frontier airlines. Underseat bag.

2). Pretend you are vacationing at a nudist colony - then pack.

3). Pack only what you can carry comfortably on your back for 1 hour in a backpack.

4). Packing cubes always help me.

Posted by
843 posts

I'm not sure if this has already been mentioned so I apologize if it's a repeat. Using solid toiletries frees up space in the 3-1-1 bag and lightens the load. I take a small piece of solid shampoo and solid conditioner. I usually end up using the hotels but the solids are just in case. I also use a solid deodorant and solid sunscreen. For small amounts of liquids I use contact cases.

Posted by
11462 posts

I can reccomend J.R. Liggett's shampoo bars. They make mini-shampoo bars that are perfect for travel. They even sell a small case for them.

https://jrliggett.com/

I visited their "factory" when I was near them last spring. I say "factory" because I passed the place twice looking for a factory. It's actually an old barn that has been converted with just a small sign difficult to see from the road. They don't actually have a store but if you stop by they will sell items to you. They said they get about one visitor a month.

I was given a tour of how they make the soap and it fits the image of what you would expect from this type of operation. No modern equipment. The machine that makes the packaging is from 1928. One employee makes the soap, the woman I dealt with takes care of billing and shipping. I didn't see anyone else.

I've also use the bars as regular soap and for shaving.

The products are also available on Amazon.

Posted by
890 posts

Lush also sells solid shampoos and conditioners.

Posted by
18388 posts

Watch a packing video for spirit or frontier airlines. Underseat bag.

I see that the Underseat bag for both those airlines is 18" x 14" x 8", or 2016 in³. I could do that!

Over a decade ago, when I came back from a trip to Europe, I put everything from my travel bag into a cardboard box and measured the length and width of the box inside and the depth to which is was filled. 1400 in³. And that's still all that I take.

So I should have no problem with a 2000 in³ bag. The hard part is going to be finding a bag that small that still opens like a book, not a top loading backpack - and one with hideaway backpack straps.

I find it ironic that Rick Steves, who promotes light packing, doesn't sell a bag appropriate for light packers. The only bags he sells at around 2000 in³ have wheels and weigh a ton.

BTW, I have an Appenzell bag, and everything I take, except for the netbook, would fit in it, but there is no margin, and I don't like the way it loads. I use it as a gym bag.

P.S. I also take along a small netbook, but in it's carrying case it's less than 300 in³ (by itself it's less than 100), so it would fit in the 2000 in³ main bag with everything else.

Posted by
2930 posts

I suggest 10 main clothing items including what you wear. For example, I take 3 slacks (2 are usually black jeans), 4 tees (2 short sleeve, 2 long; mine are Landsend modal tees), 2 tailored blouses (which can also be worn over the tees), and a nicer vest (I am a vest person, not a sweater person). Sometimes I take one blouse and 2 vests (but I have a reversible one as well). I don’t travel in the summer.

Also, I pack flip flops for the room and rarely another pair, but, if so, an extremely light pair. I do wear my walking shoes. I take a scarf and a pashmina, earrings, 3-4 bras, 7 socks and unders and PJs. My toiletry kit, including my liquids bag, fits in a small Ebags kit they no longer sell. I have a spring/fall jacket (Landsend) that i bring. Oh, and my back up glasses.

The rest is my cell and or iPad, cords, camera, battery pack, meds, docs, and blue tooth eye mask. These go in my purse/PI or in a bag I can pull out of my carryon if forced to check it. That being said I usually check my carryon. I also have a light grocery bag that I can roll my jacket into before I place it under the seat in front of me…to keep it clean. Oh, and I have a quilted, stand up, bedside table bag.

For winter travel I also pack leather gloves, earmuffs and scarf. My present personal item is a Sherpani Soleil and my carryon is my RS wheeled bag or my Eagle Creek Tarmac, which they no longer make.

I miss packing so much…that I have been working on our bug out bag. It is a sad state of affairs… LOL

Edit: Whoops. I just saw Lo’s almost duplicate post plus some. Sorry.

Lee,
You can go to Amazon.com and look up “Frontier, Spirit Airline bag.” A few 18”x 14”x8” bags pop up. One is by Wandf. Wandf bags come in different sizes. The RS appenzell works as an underseat bag. There are many bags that will work. Frontier airline and Spirit airline have merged.

Posted by
18388 posts

I know Spirit and Frontier have merged. Both were on my "no-fly list", for other reasons. My first reaction was great, now I'll only have one airline on my no-fly list.

I've never flown Spirit, nor do I want to, but I have flown Frontier, and it was the worst (and least ethical) flying experience of my life (and I've flown a lot).

Posted by
1178 posts

You can go to Amazon.com and look up “Frontier, Spirit Airline bag.” A few 18”x 14”x8” bags pop up. One is by Wandf.

I own this bag and can confirm it fits easily under the seat as a personal item.

Posted by
18388 posts

You can go to Amazon.com and look up “Frontier, Spirit Airline bag.”

Well, spit. That didn't work. Seems anyone who has a travel bag smaller than 18x14x8 is marketing it as a "Frontier/Spirit bag", whether it was designed to fit the personal size regulation or not. Case in point is the Wandf bag that's touted as a Frontier/Spirit bag. It's only 70% of regulation size (about 1400 in³).

At least the F.Fetivin bag looks like it was actually designed to meet the Spirit/Frontier size, but it doesn't open fully or have backpack straps.

The Sucipi bag opens fully, but it, too, lacks backpack straps.

The RS appenzell works as an underseat bag.

As I said above, I have an Appenzell bags, which I don't use 1) is just barely fits all the stuff I take to Europe and 2) I don't like the way it loads.

I have an old Travelwell bag, that isn't sold anymore. It's kind of a junior convertible backpack, with straps, and it opens flat. It's also only 1400 in³. I have used it for short trips. It would fit the personal item regulation.

Fortunately, I'm not planning to fly Frontier or Spirit, so I'm not restricted to 18x14x8.. I would just like to find something smaller than my current eTech convertible Jr. at 2350 in³.

I have a Hynes Eagle. It's advertised at 2023 in³; I think it's considerable smaller, but it might work.

I see that Wandf also has 30 & 40L bags. Their weights are a real attraction, but again, no backpack straps.

Still, I would like to see our light packing guru sell a bag for that purpose.

Lee,
You and I shop alike! I have the Appenzell and the etech junior bag from Ebags. I use these bags differently. The Wandf bag does come in an 18x14x8 size, but only with a shoulder strap. I, too, would like to see backpack straps added. The Wandf bag is basically a large packing cube for Frontier/Spirit airline or minimalists. Patagonia has a 27 liter lightweight tote pack. I use it as an underseat bag. I have the older version.

Lee,
I noticed with Wandf that different colors are different sizes. So, anyone needing the more restrictive 18x8x14 bag needs to look closely at the measurements listed before ordering.

Posted by
18388 posts

When I started trying to pack light, ala Rick, I was using an RS convertible backpack. Then I switched to an OPEC bag (remember them). Both had shoulder straps in addition to the backpack straps, but I found myself not using the shoulder strap because it kept slipping off my shoulder (unless I pulled it over my head to the opposite shoulder, but that was awkward). So I started leaving the shoulder strap at home.

Posted by
960 posts

While you can use solids to reduce your 3-1-1 kit, You can also buy lots of stuff locally. Don’t bother to pack most of those toiletries unless you’re super picky or have allergies. Almost every major brand is international these days and as RS says, go out and explore the shops, you SHOULD be able to find something looks like toothpaste.

Posted by
1178 posts

Roubrat,
Thanks! One day, I may need to buy that bag for my husband.

It was stuffed with books from a shopping spree and weighed a LOT as my husband hauled it through BOS and CLT last year. The straps held up for such a cheap bag.

Posted by
1178 posts

Don't take things you can just buy locally when you get there. Things like toothpaste, body lotion, hand lotion, etc. I just take a sample size to last the first day (and the plane), then I have an excuse to browse the pharmacies and supermarkets and buy some new to me stuff to use while there.

Maybe we need to do a collective shout out to RS about an underseat bag that is 18” x14”x8” with backpack straps, one main compartment, one external zip pocket, grab handles made of strong nylon webbing, good zippers, no mesh exterior - only solid fabric, some minor back padding. It would basically be a big RS packing cube. Do It Rick!

Posted by
1178 posts

Maybe we need to do a collective shout out to RS about an underseat bag that is 18” x14”x8” with backpack straps, one main compartment, one external zip pocket, grab handles made of strong nylon webbing, good zippers, no mesh exterior - only solid fabric, some minor back padding. It would basically be a big RS packing cube. Do It Rick!

And it weighs almost nothing. It could be called Rick Steves UnderSeat Forum Bag.

Posted by
11462 posts

I realize that one person's definition of packing light is another persons definition of packing heavy. There is no consensus.

I think we have to define categories like: Light, very light extremely light and "don't you even bring a change of underear?"

Posted by
18388 posts

don't you even bring a change of under[w]ear?

What's underear, anyway?

Hey, I've actually thought about this.

1) make it a very short trip, like one day. OK, that doesn't usually work.
2) go to a nudist destination, like Cape d'Adge. All you need is a toothbrush (Oh, and maybe a comb).
3) my underwear, shirts dry overnight. Take one pair of jeans; don't make it too long a trip. Eat an early dinner, come back to my room and wash underwear and shirts. Hang it up to dry and don't go out of the room until morning. (Note to self: avoid flammable buildings.)

Well, there is one more option, but it's only available if you don't have any friends.

Posted by
18388 posts

I realize that one person's definition of packing light is another
persons definition of packing heavy. There is no consensus.

I think we have to define categories like: Light, very light extremely light

Doesn't "defining categories like: Light, very light, extremely light" require consensus?

Oh well, how about:

Light: Everything goes in a regulation sized, non-wheeled carry-on
Very light: Carry-on meets Lufthansa weight limit, 8 kg
Extremely light: Everything goes in a personal item

Heavy: Carry-on, but need wheels
Very heavy: Wheeled, has to be checked
Extremely heavy: Need assistance with checked luggage

Posted by
11462 posts

Heavy: Carry-on, but need wheels

No consensus. I would describe your style as hobo packing.

Posted by
960 posts

If you wander out of the RS Universe and explore the other major travel sites, in particular those dedicated to traveling light for months at a time – something the youngsters call Digital Nomadery, you will, actually, find within these worlds generally accepted definitions for their few acceptable levels of packing. They tend to use more aggressive terms like "Insane" for anything beyond a carryon-only style.

Posted by
319 posts

For me, "light" is a 17 pound carry-on roller-bag or a 15 pound backpack.

Yes, to lists, weighing each item, merino wool and the 'nobody cares what I am wearing' mentality. I pack the same for 3 weeks as I do for 7 weeks and is interchangeable. Everything can be hand-washed and will dry fast. Merino wool (for me: shirts and socks) can be worn multiple times before washing. I take 4 pair of underwear and wash a pair each evening, unless I am transiting the next day. No jeans: too heavy.

Over many trips I've noticed my clothes weigh the same as "everything else," which used to include a lot of paper: printed reservations, train tickets and guide books. This year everything is in the cloud. The only paper I am taking is a moleskin journal (how else will i remember where I ate?) and a small portion of RS England guide. For the first time I bought the e-version of a RS guide book (London), though I did all my planning with the paper version. This is saving about 10 oz for a 3 week trip to London and Bath.

I will also consider leaving some items behind (clothing) to lighten my load on the return trip and to make room for the few things I may purchase.

Someone asked "why light?" I travel solo, take public transit and stand only 5' tall. I don't want to risk a delayed bag and nor take the extra time required to check a bag and pick up a checked bag. I use the Eagle Creek 20" International 2-wheel carry-on, weighs 5 pounds. I also have an eBag Junior Weekender backpack, weighs 3 pounds. I will use the backpack for the first time on an overseas trip where I will be on planes and trains with it. So one piece of luggage, a small purse and a stuffable small day-pack is all I take. The backpack lets me be hands-free.

Carrying less means less time on 'what to wear' decisions and less stuff to deal with in the hotel. Packing cubes help with that as well. By the time I get home I am tired of seeing myself in those clothes, I DO admit to THAT!