The Ultimate Cheat Sheet: Travelling Light

Gina Daniel
Image: Isaeva Anna on Shutterstock

Are you a fan of the carry on? They’re amazing when you’re travelling light and it means you can make a swift exit from the airport once you get through customs. Or, you may enjoy savvy packing, saving space in your suitcase and optimising the amount of clothing you can bring with you on holiday.

Alternatively, you could be like me 5 years ago. Someone who packs every pair of shoes they own into their luggage, eventually needing to sit on top of it in order to zip the thing up.

I can’t count the number of times I’ve packed whole outfits that I didn’t wear when I was away, or how many times I’ve packed a hairdryer without checking if the hotel room I was heading to already had one.

Over the years, I’ve picked up more than a few tips on how to travel light, and with the help of some pretty travel-savvy bloggers, I’ve put together the ultimate guide on how to travel light and spend more time enjoying our holiday.

The Benefits Of Packing Light

When I was younger, I didn’t mind TOO much about whether or not I was packing too much or if I actually NEEDED to pack the fifth pair of heels into my suitcase. To some, packing light might not even matter, but to many, there are so many benefits. These include:

  • Avoiding charges at the airport. Nowadays, a lot of airlines are very strict when it comes to how much you can take with you on your flight. When you book a holiday, you will usually be able to find exactly how much weight you’re allowed before you even book. This really gives you no excuse to not adhere to this and means that the airline can charge you a hell of a lot of money at the airport (Easy jet charge £12 per 3kg, meaning even if you’re under 12, you will still need to pay this amount).
  • Having less stress at the airport. You know exactly what’s in your bag and where, should you need to fish something out.
  • Room for souvenirs (naturally).
  • If you pack light enough to only need a carry-on, you can skip the wait at baggage claim and get to your destination faster.

Tips On How To Pack Light For Your Holiday

Take the liquids you need

When packing, it’s tempting to bang all of your liquids into your suitcase. Bottle of shampoo, conditioner, body lotion etc, these all add up. Ensure you’re only taking the liquids you need by using reusable travel bottles. Not only does this save weight in your luggage, but space as well.

Create a capsule wardrobe

Choose items that match each other, for example, multiple tops that match different skirts, jeans etc. The same can be said for shoes, choose comfortable flat shoes that double up as shoes you can wear when dressing up for the evening.

Courtnie at Travel Bash believes that mix and matching your clothes are the key to successfully packing light:

Most of the time, we pack way more than we will ever wear. So, I give some thought into my planned activities and then choose a few garments that are multi-functional. Aim for one dress, one versatile jacket and one pair of casual shoes.

Use a smaller suitcase

It might sound simple, but taking a smaller suitcase with you will ensure that you pack only the essentials. It seems that no matter the size of our suitcases, we’re subconsciously always trying to fill them with to the brim with the “essentials”. Make the process easier for yourself and choose luggage that’s smaller than the average size.

Charles from McCool Travel agrees:

One way I advise travellers on how to travel light is to buy a small suitcase and then make everything you want to bring fit in it. Sounds drastic for over packers but it is a simple and effective solution. For longer trips, incorporate laundry time into your schedule. I like to book vacation rentals (like VRBO, Airbnb, etc) or stay at hotels with laundry rooms or with friends.

Luggage scales

These are always handy to have in order to avoid weight charges when you’re coming home (thanks, souvenirs). Make sure you shop around for the lightest pair of scales you can find before dedicating yourself to a purchase.

Create a packing list

Before I created packing lists, I would mentally go over each aspect of my routine and pack based on this. So for example, I would go over my skincare routine and throw everything I needed into my suitcase. The problem with this is that I would 100% miss a lot of things. I would remember to pack my mascara, remind myself to add this to my case later, and then completely forget to do it.

One pro of creating a list is that you can sit down and have a real think about what you need. You can also tick a box to say that you’ve packed the item, and tick again when you’ve double-checked that the item is packed.

Compress your clothing if where you’re heading has an iron

If you’ve ever used compression bags, you’ll know just how small they can go. Even if you’re using a smaller suitcase, you can still optimise the space in your case by compressing clothes.

Tim from The World’s Cheapest Destinations agrees:

Roll or use packing cubes. Either way, the idea is to stuff everything in your bag as efficiently as possible so there’s no wasted space.

Lightweight clothing

Whether you’re heading on a summer holiday or a winter getaway, packing lightweight clothing is a positive no matter your destination. Choose a waterproof cagoule that can fit easily in your baggage and weighs next to the nothing.

Laurel Robbins from Monkeys and Mountains Adventure Travel recommends SmartWool tops:

They’re lightweight, don’t take up much room and best of all they don’t smell even when you wear them multiple times — meaning that you need to pack less.

Wear some of your heavier clothes

This should be a no brainer, but it’s an easy mistake to make. I don’t know about you, but I love to plan an airport outfit. Yes, I’m sad. The truth is, you don’t get weighed when boarding a plane (yet), so wearing your heavier items of clothing can effectively save you room (and weight) in your luggage. So coats, hiking boots and jumpers are definite plane attire.

Disposable toothbrush

The majority of us use an electric toothbrush nowadays, but these can surprisingly weigh a lot. Consider purchasing environmentally friendly brushes before travelling.

Take the medication you need

Now, medication doesn’t weigh a lot at all — but buying a tablet organiser and packing them into your shoes can save up some room. It also means you won’t forget when you have or haven’t taken your medication.

Swap liquid toiletries for solids

Cut down on liquids. Even in travel-size bottles, the weight of liquids really adds up and surprisingly creates a lot of extra weight. Try to cut back on liquid toiletries if possible.

Jen from Jen on the Run has a point. I can’t count how many times I’ve packed shampoos or conditioners only to find that they have burst in my bag, ruining clothing etc. Consider swapping your liquid shampoos and body lotions etc for shampoo bars and solid body butters. You can find a large selection in stores such as Lush and The Body Shop.

Invest in a mooncup

A box of tampons (or pads) can take up the space of a pair of shoes, hairbrushes, or some folded t-shirts. A mooncup can be kept discreetly in your hand luggage, or in your coat pocket.

Ditch the hairdryer if possible

Before travelling, check that your hotel room has its own hairdryer. This saves tonnes of room in your luggage as well as weight. If you’re travelling to multiple places, pack a small towel and let your hair try naturally when possible. This way, you can take your styler instead of your hairdryer and compromise on the weight.

Take a small set of headphones

Bulky headphones are great for keeping the noise out, and there’s something comforting about their squishy earpads when you’re on a flight. The only problem with this is that they can take up a lot of space in your hand luggage. Compromise with some in-ear earphones which can be put in your pocket when not in use.

Kindles instead of books

Kindles can store literally hundreds of books, maps, guides, language apps and more. In my opinion, they are the ideal travel companion and can maximise space in your hand luggage.

Roll don’t fold

For years I was a serial folder. However, after my boyfriend showed me just how much rolling your clothes can completely maximise space in your luggage, I haven’t done it another way since.

Sarongs are a lifesaver

Cover up, tablecloth, privacy, pillow, headscarf. The sarong really has a use for every situation. If you’re in a hostel, a sarong can provide some privacy and can double up as a pillow when you need it. Stop viewing them as a mum thing, it’s your new travel hack.

Stick socks and underwear inside shoes

Inside your shoes live tiny hidden packing spaces. Stuff your socks, keys, nail varnish, whatever is small enough, into the extra space and maximise your packing potential.

One towel max

Most hotels in the world provide their own towels. So, only pack one beach towel (or a normal towel if you’re backpacking) they are easily washed and dried in warmer climates.

Lia from Practical Wanderlust even suggests bringing your own clothesline:

Bring along a travel clothesline and laundry soap. If you have a little clothesline with you (we love ours from Sea to Summit) and some soap, you can wash your dirty clothing (think: undies) in the sink or shower mid-trip, which means you’ll need to bring less along with you!

Quick-drying clothes for summer

If you’re travelling for a long time over the summer, ensure your clothes are quick-drying, this will save so much time if you’re cleaning your clothing as you go.

Gina Daniel

Written by

Digital Marketing 💼 Writer & Home Decor Blogger 💻 English & Film BA (Hons) 🎬 Coffee drinker & TV/Film buff ☕

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