6 Tips to Packing Your Bags for Lightweight Travel

Packing Light

Packing bags simply and efficiently is one of the major challenges for planners, and it is becoming more of a necessity as airlines continue to increase prices for checking bags.

Last month, Delta became the latest airline to raise the price of checking a bag, joining Jet Blue, United, and multiple Canadian airlines. There are plenty of ways to minimize your baggage anxiety, including rolling your clothes instead of folding them, putting the heaviest items near the wheels and even using packing cubes to organize your bag. When it comes to making sure your luggage doesn’t exceed the weight limits and that your carry-on isn’t a lead weight dragging down your trip, there is only one answer, though: pack lighter.

1. Pack What You Need, Not What Fits

When packing a bag, even the most experienced travelers sometimes give into the innate urge to pack until their bag is about to burst. They often have a lot of room in their bag, so why not fill it up? Isn’t that the point? Not if the goal is to pack light. Planners and meeting professionals are an adaptable group that comply with any packing restraint. The trick is implementing that restraint from the very beginning.

Start packing with a bag smaller than the one you plan to take. Ask yourself why you are choosing each item. If the answer is because you might need it instead of you will need it, set the item to the side. Fill that bag completely, then simply transfer those determined essentials to your real bag. Everything that wasn’t important enough to stuff in the first bag is just as unnecessary in the second.

2. Plan Your Outfits Beforehand

Especially when dressing to impress, it’s easy to get carried away. Planning your outfits beforehand, however, will save you time, sanity and space in your bags. The key is to bring clothing that can mix and match within a single-color palette instead of packing multiple standalone, complete outfits.

Combined with the right blouse one day and dressed up with a wrap top and an eye-catching scarf the next, the same pair of pants can work twice as hard for a woman’s wardrobe. Add in some carefully chosen jewelry, and suddenly only a couple pieces of clothing become capable of multiple different looks. Layers and neutral colors are the best bet for making sure some clothes can pull double-duty.

3. Consider Doing Laundry on the Go

If a trip is long, eventually there are only so many times you can wear the same shirt. But instead of packing for days on end, the simplest answer is just to do a bit of laundry midtrip. No matter the length of the trip, never bring more than a single week’s worth of clothes. Preferably, stick to even less than that. You can pay for many hotels to clean your clothes, find a local laundromat or go our personal favorite route by doing it yourself.

Bringing a small bag of concentrated, powder laundry detergent and a few extra ziplock bags is all you need to turn your hotel sink into a quick laundry station. Water, detergent and plenty of shaking in one of the ziplock bags will get your travel wardrobe back in meeting-ready shape. Planning ahead and bringing quick-drying synthetic clothes can make the process even smoother. Materials such as Merino wool are also a great choice. It is specifically designed to be lightweight, soft and “stink-resistant”—meaning it can be worn multiple times without washing.

4. Minimize Toiletries

This may be a hard one for many people, but doing away with even some of the usual toiletries will go a long way toward lightening your load. The vast majority of hotels supply shampoo, conditioner and body wash. Most even provide other essentials, such as razors, toothbrushes and toothpaste, on request. And for the most committed of light-packers, every destination has a convenience or dollar store where you can pick up affordable toiletries.

For those that simply feel more comfortable coming fully prepared, an easy step is switching to solid toiletries. Not only are solid versions usually lighter than their liquid, gel or aerosol equivalents—you don’t waste space on extra bottles, either.

5. Embrace the Digital Revolution, Even if Just for Your Trip

Airports, paperbacks and magazines are a time-honored combination. When it comes to slimming down your bag, however, digital media is your dearest friend. Whether it is reading material for the plane, guide books, translation dictionaries, maps, paperwork or anything else you will need for meetings and events, chances are there is an app for it. The more you can fit onto your phone or tablet, the lighter your bag will be.

If you absolutely need a hard copy of something once you arrive, look into local printing shops beforehand, ask your hotel if guests can print on site and examine your options before trying to load it all into your bag. And if the idea of relying on your phone or tablet so thoroughly is troubling—especially at a conference where it can be a pain to find an outlet to charge your devices—consider investing in a portable charger. They are convenient, can be quite affordable and take the anxiety out of using your devices on the go.

6. Acknowledge the Problem of Shoes and Tackle It Head on

Limit yourself to two or three pairs of shoes. As with the rest of your wardrobe, your shoes are going to be doing a lot of work with the different outfits you assemble, so it is important to think beforehand about how to make the most of every pair.

Likewise, as tempting as it might be to wear your most comfortable shoes while traveling, wearing your bulkiest, heaviest pair on the plane can make a big difference when it comes to your bag. The same can be said for your bulkiest coat.