Packing properly is hard. It’s especially hard if you’re taking a long journey, perhaps through multiple countries, or you’re planning to be away for a while. We all want to have as many comforts of home with us as we can while we’re traveling. But then, packing a bunch of stuff means you have to transport it, which is definitely less fun.
Forcing yourself to limit yourself to one smaller, lighter bag can seem an impossible task, but once you crack it, life on the road, or in the air, becomes much more manageable. If you can keep your luggage carry-on only, you’ll also save a ton of money in checked baggage fees and all that time you waste at baggage claim.
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How to Travel With One Bag
The first step to making sure you can travel with a single piece of luggage is to make sure you have the right luggage! If you only have enormous bags, it would be impossible to avoid the temptation to fill them. Buy a small bag, and you’ll be forced to think much more carefully about what you’re putting in it.
While most people prefer to travel with wheeled luggage, when you’re specifically looking to travel light, a backpack might be more suitable. If you’re traveling around a lot, dragging a wheeled case behind you can get boring really quickly, and a backpack allows you to spread the weight across your body better. Need to run to catch a bus or plane? You’ll be much quicker with your luggage at your back than rolling along at your feet.
The Principles of Packing Light
The first rule of traveling with minimal luggage is to pack only what you absolutely need. This sounds obvious, but you’d be amazed at what we can convince ourselves we ‘need’ to pack, when in fact, we don’t really need it at all. A good way to start is to lay everything you think you ‘need’ out on a flat surface, so that you can see everything all at once. Take each item, one at a time, and think – really think – about whether you need it or not. More stuff doesn’t necessarily mean more prepared!
Secondly, don’t pack more than seven days’ worth of clothing. You really, really don’t need to. It’s a lot easier to do laundry than to drag half a closet with you. Do some research about places you can get your clothes cleaned on your travels, and leave that third sweater at home. Pick versatile clothing that’s easy to layer and adaptable for all weathers.
Thirdly, make sure to only pack things that will be useful to you on every step of your journey, or that are multi-purpose. If you need special gear, but just for one moment of your journey, look into renting it locally rather than taking it with you. Also, remember that even in the world’s most remote places, there are stores where you can buy essentials such as toothbrushes or toothpaste.
The final rule of packing light is not to leave it until the last minute. If you leave it too late, you might end up just throwing things into your bag and leaving without those necessities. It’s also a good idea to not fill your bag right to the top. Leave space for souvenirs!