How to Pack Light (with Realistic Advice)

Packing a suitcase or bag is the third most important task you have when going on a trip (after deciding on where you’ll stay & how you’ll get there). However, it’s the first most daunting. It’s time consuming, it’s energy depleting, and it’s overwhelming. A million thought are running through your head all at once. What if your bag is overweight? What if they say it can’t go on the plane? What if you forget something important? It’s happened to the best of us. This is why I’ve decided to make a list of tasks that will not only help you pack smarter but lighter. Packing a light suitcase is the best, most easiest, way to travel. For starters, it takes less time to pack and unpack! But it also lifts a huge weight of your shoulders (literally). You don’t have to struggle rolling it or carrying it up a stairway, you won’t have to spend time & money checking it in (unless you want to), and you won’t be stressed by the amount of stuff you could possibly lose. In my opinion, it’s an all around better and safer way to travel.

Packing Light (w/ Realistic Advice) - Ayla Boswell
Photo via @eggcanvas

I have been know to be the “light packer” in my friend group. I, however, wouldn’t consider myself a light packer. I think everyone else just overpacks. After traveling around the world since I was 7 months old, I’ve learned from my mistakes and picked up some skills in the process. Hopefully some of these tips I’ve listed will help you (or the person you send this to) to pack light. 

Use a smaller suitcase. This is what I always do because I don’t check in bags (too much waiting & they can get lost). It literally FORCES you to pack light. If it won’t fit, you can’t bring it. Traveling with smaller luggages is also all around easier. Especially if you are traveling in a country that will require a lot of walking or don’t have elevators. I’m still traumatized from the time I had to carry a 60 pound suitcase down four flights of narrow cement stairs in Florence.

Check the weather. Knowing the weather will make it easier to decide what you need to bring and what you can leave at home. This is something you should always do anyway if you don’t want to bring the wrong type of clothes. 

Start packing a week before. I’m someone who likes to slowly start packing a week or a few days before my trip. That way I won’t forget anything because I’ll place it in my bag as soon as I remember it’s something I’ll need. I can’t pack everything hours before a trip. I’m anxious by nature and I KNOW I’ll forget something. Packing early also eliminates the issue of panicking when everything won’t fit and/or overpacking because you’re frantic about forgetting something.

Make a list. List only things you know you’ll need and stick to it. Think about things you use on a daily bases that wouldn’t be found in a hotel. I almost always write a list for my trips or look back at old lists to make sure I got everything. This is also great if you’re someone who packs at the last minute because even though you’re rushing, you’ll know what you need and can check it off as you put it in your bag.

Take travel size & mini items only. This is such a simple thing to do but a lot of people will still pack a 12 oz bottle of shampoo. When I travel, all my liquids can fit in one ziplock bag (they kind of have to since I don’t check-in). Even my mascara is mini sized. Ladies, you know all those free samples and mini gifts sitting around? Use those for trips! Not only are they small, you could also throw them out before you head home which means more room for souvenirs.

Mix & match your clothes. Make sure when your packing that you can have multiple outfits out of a single item. If it only matches one thing, better to leave it out to make room for something that goes with at least two other items. If you decide to pack 5 tops that all match 3 bottoms, you’ll have 15 different outfit combinations with only 8 items! Another thing I like to do when packing for my trips is sticking to a color theme. That way I know I could wear any of my tops with any of my bottoms and vice versa. When I went on my last trip, all my clothes were black, white, navy blue, and grey. I think I look best when I wear neutral colors so this was easy for me to do.

Packing Light (w/ Realistic Advice) - Ayla Boswell
Photo via Diona Arfaras

Try everything before you go. I cannot tell you the number of times I have packed something and realized only after arriving to my destination that it doesn’t look good, doesn’t fit, doesn’t work, doesn’t feel comfortable. The list goes on. Universally, we all get excited for new trips and think, “This is my chance to wear this!” or “I need to go shopping before the trip!” I’m here to tell you, don’t pack anything you’ve never used or tried on. In fact, try on all your outfits before you go! See how everything looks paired together. You may realize those orange shorts match NOTHING. Now you’ll know not to pack them. If your hair is important to you, test out all the (mini *cough*) hair products too.

Compress your clothes. Rolling your clothes is a popular technique that many people do. I like to do it for my shirts and towel. Jeans are better folded in my opinion. However, if you’re really desperate to fit everything, you can purchase a vacuum seal storage bag. It literally sucks the air out with a vacuum so all your clothes are as flat as can be. Your clothes will be wrinkled when you finally take them out, but most hotels have ironing boards. Note: You’ll need to pack the vacuum to suck the air out for your trip back. Worth it? That’s up to you. You could also try using a large ziplock bag and pressing the air out yourself. Compressing your clothes won’t necessarily help you pack lighter but it will help you fit everything into a smaller suitcase. Which, in turn, is you packing lighter.

I hope my advice helped everyone who’s looking to pack light. I have travelled enough that I know what I need and know what I will actually use. I believe that is the key to packing light—know what you need and actually use.


15 thoughts on “How to Pack Light (with Realistic Advice)

  1. The vacuum bags are something I just discovered.
    One thing I’ve done for casual sight seeing clothes is to bring shirts made of dry fit material that you can wash at night in the shower and wear in the morning. Is that a guy thing?

    Liked by 1 person

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