8 Simple Tips to Pack Light for Travel

Packing light makes traveling so much easier! These tricks and packing tips will show you how to pack light for any trip.

Packing light is one of the most important things for me when traveling. I always consider how I can pack as little as possible for an upcoming trip, because I absolutely HATE carrying around heavy luggage. It’s the least fun thing about traveling, so I try to pack in a way that will be completely hassle-free for me while I’m away. That has required coming up with some simple tricks to pack light.

The main reason I pack light is because I’m weak (noodle arms), and I don’t want to struggle every time I need to pick up my bags. There are a million instances throughout any given trip where you will have to, yes, actually carry your own bags, so make your life a little easier and make those bags light.

But I also like to pack light because I really hate having stuff. It gives me anxiety. If I over pack, I will likely throw things out (give them away) during my trip, then come home and wonder why I got rid of that shirt I really liked. (And then buy the same shirt that I gave away, which starts a whole other cycle of bad practices.)

Why You Should Pack Light

  1. Save money on baggage fees
  2. Easier to carry your luggage (especially if you’re moving from place to place and/or traveling alone)
  3. Takes up less space on public transport, in your hostel room, etc.
  4. Your luggage is much safer if you can easily keep it in sight/in hand
  5. Freedom from the confines of material items (ok, this is a more abstract reason, but trust me, you will feel a lot of freedom without heavy bags to lug around)

While I’ve definitely moved into a lifestyle that makes it easy to pack less when I travel (buy less, accumulate less), it was still a process for me to get to this point. So if you’re a notorious over-packer, don’t worry: there is hope!

Also as a side note: if you pack a lot, and you really enjoy having tons of outfits and things with you, or all of your photography and fancy gear, and you are traveling in a manner that makes it easy enough for you to bring all of that with you, then that is totally ok too. Pack what you want! But if you’re here, I assume you want to learn some tricks to pack light.

I have quite a bit of experience with minimal packing, which is where I picked up all of these tips to pack light. I once went on a 3-day city break with nothing but a small tote bag that passed as a personal item on a super budget airline, just to avoid the baggage fees. I traveled around New Zealand for a year with just a carry-on size backpack. I’ll admit that I missed having clothes to choose from after that year, but it was well worth it for the freedom it gave me to constantly move around.

This intro really got away from me, so let’s just get into it. Here are some of my top tips and tricks for packing light for travel!

photo of a backpack with text overlay

Tips and Tricks for Packing Light

1. Start with a Small Bag

If you start with a gigantic suitcase, you’re going to fill it. It’s one of the basic laws of nature. But if you start with a reasonably-sized (or better yet, slightly too small) piece of luggage, you’re more likely to be picky about what you pack. When you find that you can’t fit everything you want to bring, you’ll be forced to think about what you need to bring instead.

I like these smaller luggage options for a variety of trips:

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2. Wear the Same Outfit Everyday

Okay, I know most of you don’t want to wear the same thing every day, so maybe this one is a bit of an exaggeration (unless you’re me, because I will actually just wear the same outfit as often as possible). It is important to re-wear the items you bring, though. You don’t need a pair of pants for every day that you’re gone. You don’t need 10 shirts for a 5-day trip. Bring versatile items that you can mix and match. They can still be cute items that show off your personal style, just as long as they can be worn in multiple ways.

Packing Tip: If you’re on a longer trip, you really only need to pack for 1 week. After that, you can do laundry, just like you would at home.

3. Use Packing Cubes

Packing cubes won’t necessarily help you pack less, but they will allow you to fit more into your luggage. They keep your items organized and compact, which creates more space. If you start with something small (as suggested above), that extra space will come in handy. Packing cubes helped me fit a year’s worth of stuff into a carry-on size backpack. They really make all the difference!

Here are some good packing cube options to choose from:

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4. Bring Only the Essentials

Lay out everything you want to bring with you on your trip. Before packing each item away into your bag, ask yourself: do I NEED this? In what situations will I actually USE this item? Sure, we can all come up with far-fetched possibilities in which we might need a thing, but be really honest with yourself. If you aren’t absolutely sure you’ll use it, don’t pack it. You can get almost anything you truly NEED at your destination, but you probably won’t miss that thing you didn’t pack at all.

5. Invest in Good Shoes

This might seem like a strange addition to the list, but trust me, it makes total sense. Shoes are usually one of the biggest and bulkiest items to pack. If you’re bringing multiple pairs of shoes with you for every possible occasion, it’s going to be impossible to pack light. Instead of bringing 5+ pairs of shoes, invest in a really good, versatile pair of shoes.

Why bring athletic shoes to hike and exercise in, and casual shoes to walk around in, when you could just bring one pair that works for both? If you’re going to a warm climate, you want to do some hiking, and you’re going to be spending time near the water, there’s a shoe for that. If you’re going to be doing a lot of walking, but you also want to look stylish, there’s a shoe for that. It’s worthwhile to spend time and money on the right pair of travel shoes!

Packing Tip: Wear your bulkiest pair of shoes on the plane, pack another pair that is compact and lightweight, and always bring a pair of flips flips/thongs/sandals (especially if you’re staying in hostels).

6. Par Down your Toiletries

When it comes to toiletries, bring a toothbrush, toothpaste, deodorant, and a bar of soap. You don’t really need anything beyond that. It’s also important to consider paring down your other hygiene and beauty products. Instead of bringing a 10-step skincare routine, maybe just bring 2 items (I know, this is blasphemy to some people). Take your makeup routine down to a couple of steps.

If you really want to pack light, don’t even bother with the basics, because you’ll be able to get them once you arrive at your destination! Most hotels (and a lot of other types of accommodation) provide basic toiletries for you, like shampoo and soap. You might be surprised to find that some also offer toothbrushes, toothpaste, razors, shaving cream, and other items—just ask for them! If you can’t get them from your hotel, you can easily pick them up at a local shop (but be careful where you buy, because tourist-driven shops will overcharge).

Packing Tip: Re-package your toiletries into smaller containers (like these re-usable tubes). You definitely don’t want to pack full-size products for your trips (and you can’t if you’re packing carry on only).

7. Ditch the Books—Get an E-Reader!

This is easier said than done for a lot of people. I just got a Kindle less than a year ago, so I was one of the slow adopters. But using an e-reader has changed everything! If you’re an avid reader while traveling, it will be worthwhile to invest in one. They are super lightweight, weighing way less than a book. This is especially necessary if you’re planning a long trip and you want to bring a bunch of books with you. If you don’t want to get an e-reader, just bring one book and trade it out along the way.

Need more reasons to switch to an e-reader? Here are 5 more reasons every traveler needs one!

8. Start Packing Early

The earlier you start packing, the more time you’ll have to think about what you actually need to bring and what you can leave behind. Do a pre-pack a couple of days before you leave (or more if it’s a longer trip), and start removing items as you find things you could live without. When I was preparing for my year-long trip to New Zealand, I practiced packing my 46-liter backpack a couple weeks ahead of time to see how everything would fit. It helped me realize that I could actually get rid of a couple pairs of pants, a few shirts, a jacket, and some other items. If I had waited until the last minute, I would have been too stressed to figure out what I could leave behind.

These were just a few of my tops tips to pack light, and they always help me to condense my packing list down to as little as possible. Some trips might require more stuff, and it’s okay to pack more if you really need it. But hopefully these packing tips will help you pack strategically and stress-free.

If you’re interested in reading more packing tips from me, leave a comment below. I’d be happy to share minimal packing lists, toiletry packing lists, my favorite travel items, and more if you guys are interested!

Read More Packing Tips & Lists:

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girl with a red hat and blue backpack

Disclaimer: This post may contain affiliate links. By purchasing through these links, I may receive a small commission at no additional cost to you. Travel Daze is also a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.

Images in this post were sourced via Unsplash.

By Courtney Minor

Wandering around and writing about it.

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