pack and travel light

We all need simple tricks to pack and travel light as we are all guilty for bringing too much – packing our travel bags with way too much stuff for our holiday. We only end up using half the stuff and wearing half the clothes. What a nuisance to lug it around everywhere with you.

In fact, when I ask fellow travellers what they wish they knew before they departed on their holiday, majority said they could have packed lighter! So fear not, I have a compiled a travel packing guide for you to help keep the luggage weight down on your next trip.

In March this year I was on a tour in India and sharing a room with a Canadian traveller. I was completely gobsmacked when I saw what she had packed in her suitcase. Summer and winter clothes – she brought a winter jacket just in case. We were in India in the summer season! She had lots of heavy books and a full sized kettle. No wonder she struggled dragging her suitcase from hotel to hotel.

To avoid this hassle and give your arm muscles a break (they want a holiday too), try applying one or some of the following travel packing lightly tips.

Study the weather

Consider checking the country’s weather first - average temperature/rainfall and if they have a monsoon season. This is important for two reasons:

  1. Helps avoid the temptation to pack for the weather you’re currently experiencing at home. As my Dutch cousin said before she arrived in Australia for a short holiday “It was so hard to pack only summer clothes for sunny hot Australia while it was bitterly cold in Den Haag”.
  2. Helps avoid adding unnecessary weight to your luggage, for clothing and shoes that you will never wear on your trip. Remember, it is you that will be carrying your luggage everywhere. No need to bring winter clothes to a summer destination!

What can the country offer you?

Consider the country you’re going to before you start packing. It can alter the type of clothing you need or don’t need to bring. Let me give you some examples.

During the cooler months in India you can wear sari’s and pashminas. These weigh a lot less than jeans and jackets. Also, toiletries are quite cheap in India and most Asian countries, so why not buy the toiletries there.

In the high altitude, colder climes of the mountainous regions of Peru or Bolivia, you can buy inexpensive locally made handwoven jackets and woollen hats that will keep you so warm.

If you’re going to Singapore or Kuala Lumpur for a shopping trip, go with an empty suitcase because you will definitely fill it up. I went to Kuala Lumpur with 5kg and came home with 23kg.

My special Pre-packing formula

Now this is where being strict with yourself comes in. You may have fooled yourself into thinking that you absolutely need everything that you have packed but I have a funny feeling you can do better. Here’s a little formula I follow to keep the luggage weight down.

  • I start packing one week prior to departure.
  • I create two sections on my bedroom floor. The first section is all the essentials that I take on every trip (eg. toiletries, cameras, cables, first aid kit, sunscreen etc). The second section is all the clothes and shoes I want to bring.
  • Two days later I go through the second pile and take away the clothes and shoes that I really don’t need (you know what I’m talking about, the ones you added to the pile for the ‘just in case I need it’ scenario). Be tough. Be strict.
  • Another two days later, I go through the second pile again and remove some more. Hopefully in the meantime you have done the research on the country’s weather and some of the activities you will be doing. I usually find at this stage, I have taken away nearly half the amount of clothes that I started with. I feel lighter already!

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Bring things that have more than one function. I love efficiency.

For example, if a shirt/t-shirt goes with only one item in your clothing pile, then don’t take it with you. You want to be able to wear a top with several pants/skirts/shorts. Mix and match and you end up having many outfits.

Hair scrunchies/hair elastics double as elastic bands to help keep things together in your bag.

Rolling vs folding

I’m a big fan of rolling clothes into any type of luggage. Because rolled up clothing makes it easier to squeeze clothing and other items into gaps inside your luggage, it means your stuff can be packed in tighter.

The drawback is because you can pack a lot more into your suitcase or bag, you end up increasing the weight. We found this out when I packed my room-mates suitcase for her as she was returning home after nine months working on cruise ships. She didn’t want to part with any of her clothes and shoes. So I told her that I would be able to fit it all into her suitcase. She was amazed that I did. But then we found out it weighed 30kg and she was only allowed 23kg. Out went half her shoes and home she went. Moral of the story – fold your clothes instead or buy a smaller suitcase!

The big Squeeze

Squeeze many bottles into one. I just recently purchased three bottles of vitamins so that I could have three months’ supply with me. When I opened one bottle, I noticed that the container was barely half full (typical packaging these days – to make it look like you are buying more). I managed to tip the contents of the other two bottles into the first one. It filled up to the brim but at least now I only had to pack one vitamin bottle into my bag instead of three.

three bottles of vitamins laying on a table
an opened suitcase with 4 space saver bags - clothes inside

I haven’t tried this myself, but Beth from the USA squeezed her clothing into those space saver bags (rolling out the air to compress clothing) to be able to fit more into her tiny rucksack. What an awesome idea.

Smaller is better!

On shorter journeys, you do not need to bring 300ml bottles with you. They weigh a tonne.

pack and travel light with these 4 colour coded travel sized bottles

Instead buy a collection of smaller containers, 150ml or less to fill up. Colour coding is very helpful. For me, the blue 150ml bottle is shampoo, the yellow one is conditioner, the orange 75ml is body wash and the white 75ml is hair nourisher. You can do the same for serums, body moisturiser etc.

Also, buy smaller versions of your toiletries – 50g toothpastes, 50-100ml face wash or moisturisers. I never bring the full sized item with me…. unless I’m embarking on a 12 month journey! 


Finally, when its time to leave, you can always donate unwanted clothes and toiletries so that you don’t have to carry them all the way back home. Perhaps you may need to make some room for your new purchases!

How do you pack and travel light?

What tips do you have to pack and travel light on your next trip?

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About the author

Lisa is a travel gypsy by heart, having already been to over 70 countries and still counting. Founder of Travel Groove, to share travel tips, tricks and knowledge with other travellers.

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