I’ve said this before, but my biggest travel pet peeve is having to carry around way too much stuff. Some people hate airports, some people hate flying, but I absolutely loathe lugging around a giant suitcase with the entire contents of my life.
So unless it’s completely unavoidable (like when I travelled to the arctic in the winter) I have vowed not to do it to myself!
So how do I do it?
First: I don’t buy into the theory that you need all sorts of fancy compact travel gear in order to pack light. I have 3 items that I will mention below, but they are by no means mandatory. They are items that I love and recommend, but you do not need them!
Second: Do not bring anything that you are not absolutely certain you will need. This requires a certain amount of ruthlessness, because you’ll see as you pack it’s really easy to justify any item.
Third: Do not bring more clothing than you need for a week. For trips longer than a week, plan to do laundry. Most hotels and many hostels have laundry facilities. If you’re concerned, check what amenities your accommodation has before you book. I look for laundry facilities, hair dryers for rent, and a kitchen, if I can find it. I usually stay at hostels so I can save some money and meet people (I frequently travel solo, so its nice to have some company sometimes).
On this trip to Ireland, I managed to get a really terrific flight deal. The catch was that it didn’t include a checked bag, or a carry on. The airline only allowed one ‘personal item’ of up to 17x13x10 inches for free. So, I packed everything I needed into a small backpack (the 15L daypack that zips onto a larger travel backpack that I love – but use far less frequently).
Here’s what I brought with me to Ireland:
- 1 pair of pants (mine are stretchy ‘jeans’)
- 3 shirts
- 7 pairs of socks
- 7 pairs of underwear
- 1 bra
- 1 cardigan (can be worn as a shirt or an extra layer)
- 1 pair of leggings and a tank top (to sleep in)
- 3 makeup brushes
- Translucent face powder
- Foundation in small container
- Pacifica face wipes
- Mini shampoo, conditioner
- Mini bottle of castile soap
- Toothbrush and small container of toothpaste
- Mini hairbrush
- Lip gloss/Chapstick: A must for flying (the air gets really dry onboard)
- Pack towel: This is one of the ‘travel’ items I have found really useful. It’s a small microfiber towel that packs up super tiny. You’ll never be able to pack light if you decide to bring a full size towel. If you don’t want to buy a travel towel, and you’re staying at a hostel, its ok. Many places will let you borrow one for a small fee, or if your lucky, provide it for free.
- Packing cubes: This is travel item number two. These help keep my bag organized, as well as help to compress items into a smaller more easily packable form.
- A lock: To lock items in your locker or bin (only if you are staying at a hostel).
- Eye mask: I have this amazing contoured one that my sister gave me and affectionately refers to as an ‘eye bra’ because it has moulded cups that are designed to keep light out better, and not press directly on your eyes.
- Phone charger
- Inflatable pillow: This is the final fancy travel item that I will mention. I absolutely adore my inflatable pillow. It set me back a pretty penny (was around $50 Canadian) but its more than paid for itself in comfort at this point! I even got my mom one for her month long trip on the Trans-Siberian, and she loved it too.
This little mini pillow is actually designed for backpacking and portaging, so is wonderfully compact. When deflated, it fits into the palm of your hand. Mine is a small pillow, which I find works great for planes and as an extra pillow when I want one. They sell a slightly different version that is the classic neck pillow, but I like mine better because its more versatile. I’m still able to use mine like a neck pillow; I just deflate it a little bit and tuck it under my neck 🙂
- Phone (with digital boarding pass and books downloaded for the flights)
- Wallet (credit cards, bank card, health card, driver’s license, travel insurance information, left over euros from last trip etc.)
- A pen (for filling out customs declarations)
Food & Snacks
I bring lots of snacks when travelling. The airline that I used this time around is a budget airline so there was no meal included with the price of the ticket. The food for sale on board was incredibly expensive, and not vegan, so I planned ahead and brought myself plenty to eat.
- Yummy homemade sandwich
- 2 vegan orange dark chocolate bars
- 1 vegan energy bar
- 1 container of sliced fruit
- Travel mug with coffee (that I drank on my way to the airport, before I went through security)
- Reusable water bottle that rolls up (fill this up after you go through security but before you get on the plane!)
What I wore on my person
If you can, wear the chunkier items that don’t pack up as small on the days you’re flying.
- Jeans (with a belt)
- Shirt with a funky vest
- Socks, underwear, a bra
- Winter coat
- Fall boots
- Hat, scarf and gloves
That just about sums it up! It really is possible to travel this light.
I can’t emphasize enough how much more enjoyable travelling is when you aren’t burdened with tons of stuff. What you bring with you will vary person-by-person, but I wanted to show you what I normally travel with to prove its possible to have everything you need without carrying around everything but the kitchen sink.
Have any packing secrets? Did I miss any awesome items that make your travels easier? I’d love to hear about them below.