Travel Bug: Best Tips for Packing Light

Travel Bug: Best Tips for Packing Light

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A few months ago I was hiking in the Galician region of northern Spain on el Camino de Santiago, and also traveling all around Europe on a tight budget. You can find very cheap flights in Europe, but the costs they hit you with are baggage fees, where if you literally can’t shove, jump, or punch your carry-on into the overhead compartment rack, you will have to check your bag (at a steep or undesireable price). Long story short, I needed to pack for about 10 days straight when hiking and 3 weeks straight over my spring break, all in a lovely Osprey Hornet 46 Liter bag, which is comparable to a larger backpack. So, here is “The Lucky 7,” my general rules to follow when packing in addition to my item lists for two trips!

  1. If it’s on Your Back, it Will Pack – Most of the time if you have a bag on your back, even if it may be a little bigger than standard size, the flight attendant will just look at your bag and pass you up in the line. This may not always work, but remember to try and carry everything you need right on your back.
  2. Plan, Make a List and Check it – Whenever traveling it is good to know where you are going, the weather and climate, etc. It usually helps to write things down as reminders and cross items off once you know they’ve been packed.
  3. Pack Efficiently – It’s true that one person may be able to fit double the items as someone else just because they know how to pack right. To take advantage of the most space in your bag, roll items like pants and shirts and use smaller things like socks and underwear as filler items. When you can, think miniature as far as toothpaste, toiletries and other small accessory items.
  4. Versatility is King – When packing light, if you are trying to minimize items, it’s a good idea to make sure clothes can be worn for different purposes. Pack some pants that can look dressy with a button-up, but also can be pulled off casual and feel comfortable. I highly recommend the prAna bronson pants, my favorite! Try to make sure almost everything can go with all other clothing items in your bag if you can, and maybe lean toward bringing more neutral colors.
  5. If You Debate it, You Won’t Need it – If you keep on thinking you may or may not need an item, leave it out. Always remember you can do laundry pretty much wherever or at least hand wash clothes. This classic mistake might be due to the many seemingly fantastic travel gadgets available, but a good rule of thumb is if you don’t need it at home, you don’t need it while traveling.
  6. Wear it! – If your bag doesn’t fit or you need more space, wear some of your clothes. I once saw two travel buddies in the Stockholm airport literally pulling out half of their clothes in the security checkpoint! Definitely put on the most clunky and heavy things as well as shoes and sweaters so you pass the weight limit. If you’re worried about wrinkly clothes consider buying wrinkle-free wear.
  7. Simplify – Remember that you can always buy things there. Challenge yourself, see if you can survive with the most minimal belongings. The nice thing is too, then you don’t need to lug around a very heavy bag the whole trip!

Here is a sample list of the things I brought with me in my spring break bag where I traveled to around 5 different countries: comfortable walking shoes, sandals, Patagonia capilene baselayer, hat, sunglasses, swimsuit, shorts – 1 athletic – 2 North Face, shirts – 2 dress – 2 undershirts – 1 long sleeve tee – 4 tees, pants – 2 pair, socks – 5 pair (odor resistant if possible!), underwear – 4 pair, jacket – rain/insulator, moneybelt/documents, electronics – cell phone (doubled as alarm clock) – camera – ipod – computer (if need be) – chargers – memory cards, Nalgenes, watch (comes in handy!), ear plugs, toiletries, small quick drying pack towel, notepad, small first-aid, bag locks, chico bags and any snacks if you wish. I would say I overpacked too!

On a different trip, when I hiked for 10 days in northern Spain, I substituted some things out for others: comfortable hiking boots (worn at almost all times), sandals (for at hostels), Patagonia capilene baselayer, hat, bandana, shorts/pants – lightweight convertable zip-offs – 1 athletic, 1 North Face, shirts - 4 pair, socks – 5 pair (boy did these smell), underwear – 4 pair, jacket – rain/insulator, moneybelt/documents, electronics – cell phone (doubled as alarm clock) – camera – ipod – chargers, Nalgenes, watch, ear plugs (necessity for group hostels on the trail!), toiletries, small quick-drying pack towel, sleep sack, hammock, collapsable hanger, playing cards, notepad, small first-aid, bag locks and chico bags. Some other hiking materials were needed on this trip.

Just remember with added fees from airlines, the hassle of baggage claim and the many TSA regulations, being able to carry on luggage is a must and will make your life a heck of a lot easier. There are many instances where people need to get their bag checked, and you do not want to fall into this trap. My one friend on the way to Morocco barely got her bag past security after I saw her pull out Ugg boots, and other heavy items too (see tip #6)! I have confidence that everyone will be master packers next time they travel. Here are some dimensions for your convenience…

American Airways: The maximum dimensions cannot exceed any of the following measurements: 22″ long x 14″ wide x 9″ tall or 115cm (56 x 36 x 23 cm). All carry-on items should be stowed in an overhead bin. You are also allowed one personal item in addition to your carry on.

RyanAir: Strictly one item of cabin baggage per passenger (excluding infants) weighing up to 10kg with maximum dimensions of 55cm x 40cm x 20cm is permitted. (handbag, briefcase, laptop, shop purchases, camera etc.) must be carried in your 1 permitted piece of cabin baggage. Extra/oversized cabin baggage will be refused at the boarding gate, or where available, placed in the hold of the aircraft for a fee of £50/€50. If you are unsure, check at the Bag Drop desk before going through security. You are NOT allowed on personal item in addition to your carry on.

I hope “The Lucky 7″ and my sample lists can help you on your next adventure!