Travel Tips

The Art of Packing Light for a Trip

Packing Light | The Early Airway

Packing light. The mantra for the new age of travel. Long ago, world travelers took with them steamer trunk after steamer trunk full of clothes and mementos from home on their extended journeys. Lady Anne Blunt spent decades traveling the Sahara in search of pure Arabian blood to add to her stock, complete with chandeliers and china sets.

No more. Today’s traveler is veering towards the “less is more” concept where experiences mean more than possessions. Travel guru Rick Steves has long been a proponent of packing light and his carry-on size rucksack one of the travel industry’s best selling packs for more than two decades. His motto is “On your trip you’ll meet two kinds of travelers: those who pack light and those who wish they did.” Truer words were never spoken.

Think back to your last holiday. Remember seeing passengers struggle with oversized bags and multiple carry-ons. Sore backs and cranky tempers prevail. Then consider the alternative. Imagine breezing to the counter with your lightweight bag. Standing in line at security is no longer a, very literal, pain in the neck. You board the plane and easily fit your carry-on into the overhead or under the seat in front of you.

With the calm picture in your head, the next question becomes HOW? How exactly do you pack for holiday with less? Full-time traveler James Turner does it with a 26litre backpack. Journalist Rolf Potts famously traveled the world with NO luggage at all for 6 weeks. He explored 12 countries on five continents without one single bag in his “no baggage challenge”.

Okay, it’s time to say it’s ok to want to at least bring ONE bag on your trip. Back to the question of how to par down and spend your time researching your destination rather than stressing over what to pack. Here are five tips from the experts on packing light.


1. Packing Light Starts With a Test Run

You will walk with your bag more than you think. To start off, limit yourself to 20lbs which is typically a 9”X 21” X 14” carry on size. Trust us, you can do it. Now lay out and pack everything you think you may need. Once you are packed actually take your bag and spend an hour wandering around your hometown. The goal of this exercise is not to punish you, but rather to show you just how much effort is required to have an over packed bag. It is not so much about traveling light, but about a traveling lifestyle which promotes serendipity.


2. Justify Your Choices

A common myth of travelers is that they need to be prepared for any situation. The honest truth is that you can get nearly anything you might need anywhere in the world. Certainly, if you are heading to the Sahara for an extended camel safari, you may want to make sure you have enough toothpaste. For pretty much any more traditional trip, believe us, other countries DO have toothpaste! Ask yourself the all-important question “how often will I use this”? Not will you use it, but how often.


3. Choose Multi-Purpose Items

Full-time traveler Clayton’s number one tip is that 20% of your items should cover 80% of situations. To simplify this focus on mixing and matching of clothes, taking only items in two complimentary colors for example. When looking at your compiled items, if you find yourself asking “but what do I do if….?” Or “this might come in handy if…” leave it out. Experienced travelers are all too familiar with returning home to unpack and realize there were items in the bottom of their bag that were never used. Do not make this mistake.


4. Use Packing Cubes

Packing cubes are a life changer. The important thing to know, which type is best for you. There are the basic packing cubes which are excellent for simply categorizing and organizing like items. To further decrease your space, go for compression bags, those packing cubes where you compress the air out of them, dramatically decreasing the space required for your items.


5. Bring Very Little

Here it is, the crux of it all. To travel with next to nothing, you must simply bring very little. Look back on the previous tips. All focus on simplifying, justifying, and asking yourself do you actually really NEED the item in question. The odds are, you don’t. There is no need for three kinds of moisturizer, six lipsticks, and an entire bag of jewelry. Think simple, not in the bland way, but in the manner of a chic French woman who is capable of totally changing her look with the addition of a scarf and an updo. Think elegant.



The tips here are just a start for packing light. Experienced travelers have taken trip after trip to truly develop a list that works for them. The true pro Rick Steves packs exactly the same for summer and winter travel with the addition of a lightweight jacket to layer to his existing wardrobe.

Male travelers have an easy go. Whether catching a private jet charter or standing in line at customs, men can generally get away with casual pants and a lightweight, read easily hand washable, button up shirt.

Ladies tend to pack more, wanting to change up her look day to day. Be warned, keep it simple. Remember the addition of a scarf or different pair of earrings completely changes the tone of an outfit.

Traveling with less is a mindset. It is a desire to stroll calmly down endless terminals, to not wait for baggage, to lose the shoulder and neck pain of hauling overweight bags. Traveling with less involves planning and control, but in the end is worth not having those two extra shirts in your bag.

One additional bonus of packing light is that you can buy souvenirs at your destination and have room in your bag to transport your treats home! Never again worry about how to bring home that artwork or Venetian vase. All in all, the benefits of traveling light are many. This is the year to make your life easier.


Travel Tips

Travel Packing Tips for Over-Packers

The challenge of packing for a holiday is one of the most stressful parts of the trip. Imagine it now. Your vacation is set, your trip is booked, and you leave for the airport soon. Everything is arranged except for one thing. You have to pack. As tempting as it is to pack for every imaginable scenario, here are a few important travel packing tips to consider that will assist in making packing a breeze. Frequent travelers often develop a well-honed routine to further enhance the ease of the ordeal.


Plan for the Best-Case Scenario

The best of the travel packing tips may just come from travel guru and author Rick Steves. Rather than pack everything you might need plus the kitchen sink, pack for the best-case scenario and bring extra money to buy yourself out of any serious jam. By packing smart you can turn each item into something that covers multiple uses. Rather than packing a heavy winter coat, for instance, plan on dressing in multiple layers, knowing that those layered items always can be used again in different ways. Embrace the mantra “When in doubt leave it out”. Remember, people all around the world use deodorant, shave, put on make-up, and wear clothes. By packing light, you also add to the adventure. Just consider how much more fun it is to run out of a toiletry somewhere out in the world and require a fascinating cultural trip in search of a replacement.


Utilize Packing Cubes & Compression Bags

Another of the pro travel packing tips for packing efficiently is the use of packing cubes. These individual zippered containers are perfect for compartmentalizing items. They come in a variety of sizes and most often are sold in sets. Not only do packing cubes decrease the size of items in your main bag, they are fantastic in their ability to keep you organized on the road. When you combine, for instance, all undergarments in one, shirts in one, pants or skirts in another, it is a simple matter of grabbing the intended bag to find what you are looking for.

As wonderful as packing cubes are, to even further decrease the room your clothes take up, consider compression bags. These plastic bags literally compress the air out of the bag, thus dramatically reducing the amount of volume needed. There are several types of compression bags, so it is important to select the kind that you can roll the air out of, rather than those requiring a vacuum type attachment.


Wash Along the Way

There you have it, the packing light dilemma solved. All joking aside, packing less is the most sure-fire way to avoid over packing. Crazy as it sounds, the rest of the world has, in fact, learned how to wash clothes. Many travelers embrace having their clothes sent out in, for instance, Mexico or Southeast Asia, where within a matter of a few hours your nasty garments come back smelling like a rose and perfectly pressed for the cost of a latte back home. By sending clothes out, travelers are not only helping the local economy, but also decreasing what you need to bring. In a pinch, rinsing out a few things in the sink and hanging to dry overnight can also increase your wardrobe.


You Don’t Need That

It’s one of the travel packing tips you might not want to hear, but probably need to. Truly, you don’t need that, or that. It can’t be said too often. Light packers are happy packers. Airlines ever increasing baggage fees aside, the joy of strolling out of the airport with your lightweight bag while others struggle with bulky, weighty monsters, can only feel good. Even if you are fortunate enough to be able to fit a private jet charter flight into your budget, why not do yourself a favor and consider simply leaving some things at home. Most hotel rooms offer hair dryers and toiletry products. Checking the projected weather ahead of time is always a good idea, but if there is an unexpected warm or cold front, simply look at it as an opportunity to purchase a travel memento in form of a cute t-shirt or scarf.


HOW You Pack is as Important as What You Pack

Word from the pros: roll your clothes. It is not a normal thing. Most people fold their clothes at home and, of course, this is how stores display their merchandise. However, one of the great travel packing tips is that rolling your clothes tightly can do much to eliminate wrinkles, but also creates a smaller footprint in your luggage. One great tip is to remember that you will pack as much as you can into whatever size bag you choose. So the idea is to go out and buy a bag 20% smaller than you would truly like to take. Pack it with everything you plan on taking on holiday. When satisfied, return that bag to the store and purchase the bag in the size you are truly planning on traveling with. Repack everything you had carefully chosen for the smaller bag. There you go! You have everything you need but with a lighter bag and with a bit of room to bring home souvenirs.


Eliminate Full-Size Toiletries

By now most potential travelers are well aware of the airlines restrictions on liquids brought onto the plane. Keep in mind that most hotel rooms offer up shampoo, conditioner, moisturizer and soap. For those items you must take with you, purchase travel size options, or head down to the local store to pick up some plain plastic containers in the appropriate size to fill up. These generally will easily last the traveler the course of a one or two week vacation. Leave those Costco size containers at home, and travel lightly with the carry on version.


Regardless of when or where you are traveling, the pros attest to the fact that you can pack the same for two weeks or two months. By carrying layering pieces that mix and match, considering a little laundry or hand washing along the way, and only taking what you truly need to get started, the days of packing angst are behind you.


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