Let’s face it, the past year and a half hasn’t exactly been great for those of us who love to travel. Thanks to the COIVD pandemic, most of us have stayed pretty close to home for a year or better, in part because many borders were shut down, but also because it was the safe and wise thing to do.
Now that things are beginning to improve however, I’m sure more than a few of us have started to think about our first post-pandemic trip abroad. That trip may still be months away, but it is never too early to start planning and preparing. And since this will be the first time many of us have gone on a big adventure in quite awhile, it is also an excellent opportunity to reassess exactly how we travel too.
With that in mind, here are some tips on how to travel light, even when embarking on a journey that may last weeks. Even if you’re a very experienced traveler, there is a good chance you’re not being as efficient as you could be when it comes to packing. By carving additional pounds or kilos from you bags however, you’ll find the experience is even more rewarding.
Ditch the Luggage
While a suitcase may be a stylish and convenient way to lug your clothing and other items around, most aren’t particularly designed to help you travel lighter. If you’re looking to cut some weight from your bags when hitting the road, you might want to start by replacing your luggage. Switching to a backpack or duffel bag not only tends to lighten the load, but is also easier to carry through busy airports, on public transportation, and through crowded city streets.
My bag of choice for most travels these days is the Cotopaxi Allpa Travel Pack, which is simply an amazing option for those looking to travel light.
This may seem like it should be common sense, but it is remarkable how often even veteran travelers fail to heed this advice. When packing your suitcase, backpack, or duffel don’t bring things you simply don’t need. That includes a fresh, clean outfit for every day of the trip. Instead, pack items that you can wear multiple times and are versatile enough for use in a variety of situations. Apparel made merino wool is especially great because the fabric tends to be moisture wicking, temperature regulating, and anti-microbial–meaning it doesn’t pick up smells when worn for extended periods of time. This allows you carry less, but stay comfortable no matter where you go.
Dress in Layers
When deciding what clothing to bring it also helps to develop a good layering system. By packing various pieces of apparel that compliment each other it is possible to remain comfortable in a variety of weather conditions and environments. Lightweight, moisture wicking clothing close to the skin helps to keep travelers comfortable and dry. A mid-layer for added warmth and an outer layer for extra protection from the elements can all be mixed and matched as needed. Appropriate layers allow you to pack less, but still remain prepared for changing conditions.
Limit the Number of Pairs of Shoes
The natural tendency for many travelers is to pack a different pair of shoes for each of the various activities they intend to do on their trip. That can mean everything from a pair of sneakers and hiking shoes to dress shoes and high heels can make their way into the bag. My rule of thumb is to never bring more than two pairs of shoes on any given trip, which can be accomplished by finding footwear that is comfortable and versatile. Keep in mind that shoes not only take up a lot of room in your bag, they can also be quite heavy. That means when you’re learning how to travel light, you’ll also have to learn to go with less.
Leave the Laptop Behind
If you’re traveling for work, leaving your computer behind isn’t usually an option. But if your trip is for pleasure, simply don’t bring it. Instead, use a smartphone or tablet to store important information, search for locations and activities, and to communicate with others. Those devices are much more lightweight, easier to keep charged, and often provide greater functionality.
Leverage Technology to Your Advantage
Embracing technology can help you cut weight from your bags in other ways too. For instance, most of us don’t need to carry heavy and expensive photography equipment when our smartphones take exceptional photos. That same device can also be used for communicating with travel companions, getting directions to destinations, finding restaurants, museums and other attractions, and even playing music or podcasts.
Similarly, a tablet is a multi-functional gadget that can be used for reading books, playing games, watching movies, sending emails, and sharing on social media, Once again, the level of versatility that these devices deliver makes them excellent travel companions that allow you to leave other items at home. Keep in mind though, you may need to bring a portable battery pack to help keep those devices charged while on the go.
Limit Your Luxury Items
When embracing how to travel light, you’ll need to learn to leave some things behind. You’ll want to pack the items that are “must haves” while leaving the “nice to have” gear behind. That isn’t to say that you should travel so light that it isn’t enjoyable, just that as you evaluate the amount of space in your bag and how much it weighs, you’ll also have to make hard decisions about what comes along. A good rule of thumb is, if you don’t absolutely need something, don’t bring it. That said, if you have an item that you take with you on every trip fro sentimental reasons, it’s okay to make some room in your pack for it.
When deciding on what items to bring it also helps to think small. For instance, when packing a toiletries bag, be sure to look for the travel-sized options of shampoo, soap, and toothpaste, even if you plan on checking your bag. Those items are compact, lightweight, and take up very little room. They also tend to get lighter as the trip goes along. You can extend this same logic to other items as well, brining smaller chargers for electronic devices, packable daypacks for outings, and other gear designed to be minimalist in nature.
Versatility is the Key
If there is one word that continued to pop up throughout this story, it is “versatile.” That’s because it is a great concept to keep in mind when learning how to travel light. The items that you put into your pack should be as versatile as possible, serving multiple functions throughout your trip. If you pack something that is only good for a single use, you should pause for a moment to consider whether or not it is truly necessary. If the answer is no, then remove it from your bag altogether.
By strictly evaluating what goes into your pack you’ll soon learn that you don’t need to bring as much as you might think when you travel. By getting your travel bag smaller and lighter, you’ll find a sense of liberation that can be exhilarating. And with time and experience, you’ll likely find even more ways to streamline the process. When you do that, you’ll realize that world truly is open for exploration, allowing you to go anywhere for a long as you like, but remaining comfortable and confident along the way.
We’ll see you out there.