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How to Pack and Travel Light

You see these poor souls, sweating up hills of cobbled streets in Europe, or struggling in the airports with multiple, huge luggage - always sweating. Carrying bulky bags is an inconvenience for travelers in many ways:

  • Travelers can expect high excess baggage fees, ranging anywhere from $60 to $300, round trip.

  • It's also a struggle to move them through the airport, which are not well-staffed nowadays and more so since the world has been bit by the travel bug!

  • And it is definitely a struggle to drag that heavy luggage yourself up hills of narrow, cobbled streets. The only way around that is to pay for an expensive rideshare or taxi, and depending on traffic conditions, it's not guaranteed that they can drop you off right at the doorstep of your lodging.

  • When multiple travelers take a rideshare or taxi, that vehicle may not have space in their trunk (boot) for all of your bags,

  • Even finding space inside some of the smaller hotels and hostels might be unexpected negative of bringing big bags.

Experienced travelers pack light!


Traveling Light, Tip #1

Buy luggage with tags that say it is "TSA-approved, carry-on" sized


When shopping for luggage, look for that tag. That means the dimensions of that bag fit within most airlines' regulations to fit inside of the cabin, and therefore the airline won't force you to "check it," which means they normally won't charge you for it.


My TSA-approved-sized bag has totally gotten me past the ticket counter without paying excess baggage fees. True story:


When I approached the ticket counter for my flight to get my boarding pass printed, the attendant asked the dreaded question "Are you checking any bags?"


Her attitude told me she was itching to charge someone an excess baggage fee. My stomach knotted up.


"No," I replied. "I don't have any bags to check."


She raised her eyebrow.


With her eyebrow still raised, she peeked around her ticket counter and spotted my TSA-approved sized wheelie bag at my side.


Her eyebrow lowered and she quickly nodded. Not another word was said. Zero conflict. She was very civil and I got my boarding ticket. The dreaded moment had passed and I did not have to shell out my credit card.


Now, looking at the bag size, you might worry you won't be able to fit as much clothes as you think you possibly need, but keep reading to for tips to maximize that small luggage!


Traveling Light, Tip #2

Bring old clothes you will wear a few times and throw away during your travel


There's always a faded piece of clothing or shoes with an imperceptible hole that you really should have gotten rid of it months ago. Pack that. Wear it a few times while traveling.


I usually buy a piece of clothing and/or shoes when I'm traveling as a memento.


Just before I have to get on my next plane, I'll throw away the piece of clothing or shoes with the hole in it.


Everything remains balanced in your small luggage: you bought something new, and got rid of something. Net zero. Win-win.


Emphasis: I do NOT condone throwing away perfectly good clothes.


Traveling Light, Tip #3

Do laundry while traveling

This is such an obvious answer, but people don't seem to think they'll have time. For a fee, the lodging will do your laundry. The cost of getting your laundry done, whether you take the time to do it yourself or you pay someone to do it, will never be more than excess baggage fees. Prices for doing your laundry are minimal: from $5 - $10. Compare that to the $30 - $600 in excess baggage fees.


Traveling Light, Tip #4

Pack layers of lightweight clothes

Wearing layers ensures you are ready for whatever weather and it also looks like you have a completely different outfit on. Vests can do wonders. If the material is thin, you can fit more in your bag. And the more layers, the more outfit options you have.


Traveling Light, Tip #5

Bring neutral-colored clothes or matching colors

Unless wearing contrasting colors is your "thing," pick a color scheme and stick with it.


I've found that the easiest thing is to just bring a lot of neutrals: grey, black, tan, beige and one "accent" color. So, for instance, I'll pack a mix of five trousers and leggings in neutral colors, two neutral colored vests, five neutral colored shirts... and two turquoise shirts and a scarf. You can't go wrong.


This approach has made it infinitely easier for me to quickly dress myself when I'm excited to get out the door and explore!


Traveling Light, Tip #6

Wear your thickest clothes on the plane

Don't take up half of your suitcase packing your thickest jeans and your jacket! Wear it to the airport. In the heat of Miami, I'll fold that coat and scarf over my arm and just walk it through security.



Leave your stuff behind. It's only stuff. You're traveling for the joy of travel, so travel light and enjoy!



carry-on sized luggage
Luggage, similar size as my TSA-approved sized bag for carry-on

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