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How to be a Light Traveler: Stop Overpacking Once and for All!

How to be a  Light Traveler: Stop Overpacking Once and for All!

We’ve all been there: You are packing for a trip, and think you are doing a good job not overpacking. However, when you go to zip up your suitcase- Uh oh. It’s not going to fit! This list will teach you how to be a light traveler and stop overpacking once and for all!

I definitely have a history of overpacking. What if we go to X, Y, or Z and I’ll need this outfit? What if the weather changes and I need a different top? I want to bring these shoes, but what if they get uncomfortable? 

I’m sure a lot of you can relate to wanting to bring 100x more outfit options than you actually need. It can be super hard to narrow it down- what you want to wear today might not be what you want tomorrow!

Before you read this list, make sure you read these packing hacks. They will also help prevent you from overpacking and having to check an extra bag of luggage because – oops – your bag is over 50 pounds. 

No matter if you are packing for your honeymoon, a family vacation, or just a weekend trip, you will feel better knowing you only packed exactly what you need.

Having too many bags and suitcases is going to get old really fast as you run through the airport, hop on subways, and drag your bags through the city. Save yourself the hassle and stress, and follow these tips to become the ultimate light traveler!


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light traveler

Benefits of Packing Light and Being a Light Traveler

The more bags, suitcases, backpacks, and stuff you have to lug around, the more stressed you will be. Would you rather just have a small suitcase when walking around the airport, or a suitcase with a backpack, and a purse, and a tote, and a blanket, and this and that. 

The less you have to carry around with you, the less you need to worry about!

Here are some other benefits of being a light traveler:

  • You won’t need to pay any extra baggage fees. If you have too many bags or your bag is oversized (and doesn’t fit in the overhead bin), you will be charged more. No one wants a surprise fee! 
  • No checked bags. Traveling with just a carry on is less stressful because you have all of your things with you at all times. You won’t need to pay for a checked bag, wait for it at the gate, or anxiously hope that your bag doesn’t get lost!
  • Less to carry around. Like I mentioned earlier, having less in your bag means less to carry around. This means you won’t get as tired pulling your suitcase around! It is also easier to sit down and eat at the airport restaurant without taking up the whole aisle with all your stuff. 
  • Less to worry about! Traveling is stressful, no matter if you are flying or driving. With less stuff, you have less to keep an eye on and worry about!

Choose the Right Suitcase

striped bag on top of suitcase

You know what the best way to be a light traveler is? Use a smaller suitcase! You literally cannot overpack if you only have a small suitcase, right!?

Having a small suitcase will encourage you to only pack things that you absolutely need, because, well, you simply don’t have the room to pack anything else!

We always only bring a carry on when we travel, and never check a bag. This helps us from overpacking, and to be honest, we’ve never felt like we didn’t have enough clothes or anything.

We each bring a small carry on bag that fits the requirements of a carry on for the airline, plus a personal item. 

You can read all about my absolute favorite flight bag here. Believe it or not, it actually fits under the seat and counts as a personal item! This bag plus a small suitcase is more than enough for a vacation!

Packing Shoes for Vacation

suitcase with shoes and globe

One way to become a light traveler is to check your shoe choices. I’ve got to be honest: I LOVE shoes and have entirely way more shoes than one person actually needs.

It makes sense when you go on vacation to want to bring all your cute wedges, sandals, and those cute heels you just bought. However (as I am sure you already know), it is best to leave most of them at home. 

The best tip I have for packing shoes is: BE REALISTIC

How many times on this vacation are you actually going to wear those heels? Will it just be for one night or a couple of hours? If yes, chances are, you can do without them. 

Shoes take up a lot of space in your suitcase, so be realistic in what shoes you will actually wear on your trip. 

I try to pack just 2-3 pairs of shoes for an entire trip. Try to pair your shoes with your outfits- see if you can wear any pair of shoes with any outfit!

Typically this looks like this:

  • One pair of sneakers/tennis shoes to wear while traveling on the plane/airport, or if you have any physical activities planned during your trip. 
  • One pair of sandals or flip flops- an essential if you are taking a beach vacation
  • One pair of everyday walking shoes. These can be any shoes you would typically wear during your day to day activities. This pair is what you will end up wearing most of your trip. 

Of course, you can mix and match these shoe choices depending on what kind of trip you are taking. Sometimes you might need an extra pair or two, like if you are going to a wedding or fancy event. 

Packing Clothes for Vacation

suitcase with clothes

This one is always really tricky for me (and most travelers I’ve talked to!) Like I mentioned earlier, it can be difficult not to pack all your favorite outfits, especially for a vacation you are super excited for!

I get it- when going on vacation, you often buy new clothes, and want to wear them all! 

However, just like when packing shoes – be reasonable!

Most of the time, you will end up only wearing a handful of the outfits you brought with you, which only takes up unnecessary space in your suitcase. 

Here is my method of packing clothes for vacations:

  • Plan out what you are doing each day of your vacation. This will give you a good idea of what type of clothes you will need for that day.
  • Check the weather. This will help you plan outfit choices that make sense for the anticipated weather. Make sure to double-check the weather a could of days before your trip, so you can make adjustments as needed.
  • Layout your outfit choices. This is something I do before every trip I take. I literally lay out EVERY outfit I plan to wear on my bed. Here, I include everything I possibly need for that outfit including socks, underwear, camis, pants, tops, etc. This will ensure you have a complete outfit ready to go for each day. 
  • Label each day. I might be a bit crazy, but I put a sticky note on each outfit to label what day each outfit is for. This helps keep my outfits and suitcase organized. All outfits are already planned out, so there is no question about what I will wear each day. 
  • Add 1-2 extra outfits. Here is where you can bend the rules a bit. I always add an extra top or dress to my outfits just in case. You never know, right?! You might spill something on one outfit, the weather could change, your shirt could rip, etc. Adding 1-2 extra outfits gives you some extra freedom while still being a light traveler. 

You can read more about this method in this packing hacks list!

Ditch the "Nice to Have" Items

suitcase with clothes flip flops hat and sunglasses

An important thing to remember if you are trying to be a light traveler is to pack the must-haves first and ditch the nice to have items. 

If you are purposefully trying to pack light, you will want to ditch the items that you don’t necessarily need, but are nice to have.

Now, I am not saying you cannot bring these items, because there are tons of travel essentials that make vacations easier and better, and by all means, you should use them.  

What I am saying is, pack all of the things that you MUST have first. These are the things that you absolutely cannot travel without- things like clothes, your toothbrush, shoes, etc. 

Then, access how much room you have left, and use that space to pack those “nice to have” items. 

This way, you can be confident in knowing that you have everything you need, plus some extras if you want!

Packing Bulky Clothing Items

person sitting on suitcase

Even if you are a light traveler, sometimes you need to bring big or bulky items. For example, maybe you are taking a winter vacation and need to pack a bulky jacket. Maybe you are going skiing and have all your gloves, hats, mittens, etc. How do you pack them all!?

One of the best tips, in this case, is to simply wear as much of it as you can. Sometimes this is possible, but it is understandable that sometimes you can’t- it might be 100 degrees in your current location, but you are traveling to somewhere 20 degrees. You won’t want to be wearing your winter jacket in the 100-degree weather. 

Plus, this is uncomfortable, and no one wants to sit on a plane with all their winter gear on. 

In this case, try out the ranger roll. Rolling clothes takes up a lot less space in suitcases, even for larger items.

If you don’t know about the ranger roll, watch this video to learn how! 

Packing Toiletries

travel liquids bag and suitcase

One way to be a light traveler is to pack as little toiletries as possible. Hotels typically provide you with most of the toiletries you could need, so there really is no reason to pack all of them.

HOWEVER. I don’t even follow this rule. I like to bring my own shampoos and soaps, just because I know they work well on my hair and skin, and having a little bit of normalcy from home is always nice!

If you do decide to bring your own toiletries, here are some “light traveler” guidelines:

  • Get a bunch of those 3-ounce travel containers for liquids you need most of – shampoo, conditioner, etc.
  • For toiletries that you only need a little bit of, purchase smaller bottles and containers. Sometimes you only need a few pumps or drops of something, so there is no sense bringing a full-sized bottle. 
  • Purchase some eco-friendly travel items, such as shampoo bars. This way, you won’t need to pack them up on the way home! 
  • Get a travel toiletry bag that fits a lot, but zips up small. I use this one, and I am still shocked by how much it holds because it looks so small!

Leave some Empty Space

packed suitcase on bed

One way to be a light traveler is to leave some extra space in your suitcase. How much extra space will look different for everyone depending on their suitcase and what items are in it.

However, leaving a little extra space is always beneficial. Here are some reasons why:

  • You will want some extra room to pack gifts and souvenirs on your way back home!
  • When you are going through your suitcase and wearing all your clothes, your suitcase just doesn’t ever stay organized (Like, no matter how hard you try!!) Having extra space will make packing up to go home much easier!
  • Extra space = less stress. No one wants to have to sit on top of their suitcase to get it to zip up. Plus, if the bag is too full, the zipper could burst, and no one wants that!
  • You don’t want to go over 50 pounds. If you are checking a bag, most airlines charge you extra if your bag is over 50 pounds. Don’t overstuff your bag- leave more room so you know you didn’t go over the weight limit. 

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I hope this list gave you some good tips to become a light traveler! Don’t forget to sign up for the My World Sights newsletter for the latest travel news and deals! Plus, you will get a FREE travel itinerary when you sign up!

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Margaret Haas

Sunday 30th of June 2024

We are spending a 3 days in London and then cruising to Belgium, Amsterdam, Norway and Iceland. Coming up with a packing list has been a daunting task. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated!

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