31 Travel Experts Share Their Best Tips for Packing Light

by

Packing light advice from the experts

Everyone aspires to pack light. Some travelers are successful, others can’t help but bring everything and the kitchen sink.

Here on our blog, packing light tips are the most popular posts. Even veteran light packers like Jeremy and I are always open to new ideas.

Packing light is a process, not a goal. We can always get better.

So we asked our favorite travel writers, speakers, designers, and CEOs,

What’s your best, non-obvious tip for packing light?

These travel experts all took different approaches. Some downsize their luggage forcing themselves to carry less. Some focus on clothing, others on toiletries. Some use technology to replace physical objects. Every one has great advice.

Check out their packing tricks below then let us know your best tip for packing light in the comments.

Follow the entire list of travel experts on Twitter.

Skip ahead by topic:
Luggage, Clothing, Toiletries, Technology

Skip ahead by expert:
Rolf Potts, Adam Seper, Matt Wilson, Tony Rulli, Christina Ricchiuti, Dave Dean, Blaine Ballard, Alex Jimenez, Netanya Trimboli, Clint Johnston, Nick Huggins, Katie Coakley, Lina Stock, Shaun Huberts, Frank Brown, Michael Tieso, Jessica Festa, Mike Stone, Isabel Clift, Matt Long, Sean Keener, Jess Dante, Mike Richard, Megan Lee, Doug Dyment, Taylor Welden, Jill Permadi, Chez Brungraber, Diego Saez-Gil, Tania Cruz, Jeff Broman

Luggage

Rolf Potts, Travel Author

Rolf Potts's packing tips

My best unorthodox advice for traveling light is to not take a bag.

Follow Rolf on Twitter or learn more about Rolf’s No Baggage Challenge.

Adam Seper, Editor at BootsnAll Travel Network

Adam Seper's packing tips

Never buy a backpack/suitcase that is bigger than carry-on size. If your travel pack/suitcase is small, there is no possible way to overpack.

Follow Adam on Twitter or learn more at BootsnAll.

The Outbreaker Travel Backpack is the best carry-on sized backpack for urban travel.

Matt Wilson, Adventurer in Residence at Under 30 Experiences

Matt Wilson's packing tips

The best packing tip is to pack a daypack inside your fullsize bag. This way, at the airport, you can take the second bag out, and have two bags small enough to carry them both on. Now, you never lose your bag, and don’t pay baggage handling fees.

Follow Matt on Twitter or learn more at Under 30 Experiences.

Tony Rulli, Travel Blogger at Landing Standing

Tony Rulli's packing tips

You will always pack whatever size backpack you have to the absolute exploding point… it must be some kind of immutable law of physics. So knowing this, buy a bag at least 10-20% smaller than you think you want and take it home and pack it full. This is then the most you are allowed to bring on your trip. Then return the backpack to the store and buy the original size bag you wanted, like say from Tortuga :), but only pack what you stuffed into the smaller bag. Now your bag is lighter, you still have everything you need, and you might just have a little extra room for things you buy along the way.

Follow Tony (and his wife Meg) on Twitter or learn more at Landing Standing.

Christina Ricchiuti, National Geographic Channel Producer and Travel Blogger

Christina Ricchiuti's packing tips

Leave those bulky jackets and boots behind and head instead to a warmer climate. Bikinis and sandals don’t take up much room… leaving your suitcase light with plenty of room for souvenirs!

Follow Christina on Twitter or learn more at Packed Suitcase.

Clothes

Dave Dean, Founder and Editor of Too Many Adapters

Dave Dean's packing tips

Merino. Clothing made from merino wool is super-lightweight, keeps you warm in cold weather and cool in hot weather and you can wear it for days on end and it still won’t smell.

Follow Dave on Twitter or learn more at Too Many Adapters.

Blaine Ballard, Bag Reviewer at Loaded Pocketz

Blaine Ballard's packing tips

For me, the key to packing light is clothing choice. I always favor synthetic materials for undergarments and insulting layers in favor of cotton because they are lighter weight and don’t take up a lot of volume. They also dry quicker if you need to launder while on the road. For instance, I’d favor a Polartec quarter zip over a heavy cotton sweater. Smart wool is another alternative.

Follow Blaine on Twitter or learn more at Loaded Pocketz.

Alex Jimenez, Founder and Editor of Travel Fashion Girl

Alex Jimenez's packing tips

When choosing your clothing for a trip take a look at each item’s fabric and consider the following factors: quality, thickness, weight, wrinkles, transparency, and texture.

Your ideal travel clothing is durable, takes up minimal space and weight, is wrinkle-free and opaque, and matches with the rest of your clothing in style and fit.

Follow Alex on Twitter or learn more at Travel Fashion Girl.

Netanya Trimboli, Communications Manager at Hostelling International USA

Netanya Trimboli's packing tips

Versatile, low-maintenance clothing is key to packing light. Consider these 5 factors that make an article of clothing desirable when traveling and aim to have each piece you bring satisfy at least 3 of them:

  • Comfortable for touring around, but can be dressed up for the evening
  • Is appropriate for cool or warm weather
  • Doesn’t show stains
  • Folds up small
  • Coordinates well with almost everything else you’re bringing

By following these guidelines, you’re maximizing the usage of each article of clothing, so you can bring less.

Follow Netanya on Twitter or check out HI USA.

Clint Johnston, Travel Hacker

Clint Johnston's packing tips

I only pack clothes that are versatile and my best example of this is my brown leather boots that I can wear for a full day of hiking and out to dinner the same day. Recently I wore them dune bashing in Dubai and then to dinner at the Burj al Arab.

The clothes you pack also need to have great wearability. Clothing that can only be worn once before a wash is a waste of space. I like merino wool shirts and socks from Icebreaker and Smart Wool. These can be worn days on end without needing to be washed and they seem to never smell.

Follow Clint on Twitter or learn more at TripHackr.

Nick Huggins, Chief Adventurer at Nick’s Travel Bug

Nick Huggins's packing tips

Only pack enough clothes for 7 days, no matter how long you’re traveling for. It is easier to find a laundromat once a week than it is to carry all of the extra weight around with you the entire trip.

Follow Nick on Twitter or learn more at Nick’s Travel Bug.

Katie Coakley, Travel Writer

Katie Coakley's packing tips

I’m a big fan of objects and items that can perform a double duty. For example, I always pack the sarong I bought in Thailand. Not only is it a beach cover-up, but it can also serve as a tablecloth, picnic blanket, makeshift satchel (hobo style), pillow, head scarf for bad hair days, shawl, changing room screen, privacy curtain for a bunk bed…the list goes on. Having one item serve many purposes keeps my packing to a minimum.

Follow Katie on Twitter or learn more at Katie on the Map.

Lina Stock, Travel Blogger at Divergent Travelers

Lina and David Stock's packing tips

Be aware of your color palette when selecting clothing. If your color palettes are cross compatible, you will have many outfits from less clothing while you are on the road.

Follow Lina (and David) on Twitter or learn more at Divergent Travelers.

Shaun Huberts, Musician and Author

Shaun Huberts's packing tips

Place all your clothes into your bag vertically so it looks more like a filing cabinet; this way you can see all the clothes you have with you without having to lift up or remove the ones on top. From here you not only have a better view (and reminder) of how many shirts or pairs of pants you have but you can also see which shirts (or whatever clothing item) stand out and potentially don’t match your outfits. Remove the oddballs.

Follow Shaun on Twitter or learn more at How to Pack Like a Rockstar.

Frank Brown, Editor at 1 Bag, 1 World

Frank Brown's packing tips

Go through your packing list or lay out everything you plan to take on your bed or the floor. With every item, ask yourself why you’re taking it. If you start with the words ‘what if,’ or you only plan to use it once during an extended trip, it may not be a necessity. Too many non-necessities and you go from packing light to packing heavy.

Follow Frank on Twitter or learn more at 1 Bag, 1 World.

Michael Tieso, Travel Blogger at Art of Adventuring

Michael Tieso's packing tips

Rubber bands. While they won’t make your bag lighter, you’ll be able to fit more into a smaller bag. I use rubber bands to tie up each piece of clothing and use up the most space that’s available to me in my bag. It’s also a great way to keep the clothing in your bag neat and organized.

Follow Michael on Twitter or learn more at Art of Adventuring.

Jessica Festa, Travel Writer and Blogger

Jessica Festa's packing tips

I’m a firm believer that everything you need for a trip — whether it be three days or three weeks — should be able to be packed in a carry-on.

This is simple once you master the art of layering your clothes. Choose a color combination for your attire and pack only pieces that match this so that you can mix, match and layer to create different looks (instead of packing completely separate outfits).

Follow Jessica on Twitter or learn more at Jessie on a Journey.

Mike Stone, President of Abroad101

Mike Stone's packing tips

I couple the carry-on mentality with wearing my bulkiest clothing items for the travel itself. If you sport your bulkiest shoes and a jacket, you can clear plenty of space for more items in your carry-on while having an extra layer for the chilly plane ride.

I also pack a large plastic bag in my carry-on that I can use after passing security to redistribute any items from my luggage and store my shoes overhead during the flight. Bring a pair of comfortable socks and enjoy your upgraded shoe-free leg room, all while experiencing the relief of embracing the minimalist approach to packing and enabling your trip to be filled with experiences rather than clutter.

Follow Mike on Twitter or learn more at Abroad101.

Isabel Clift, Senior Content Editor at Web Reservations International

Isabel Clift's packing tips

  • Ball up your socks and underwear and stick them inside your shoes – this saves space in the rest of your bag.
  • Don’t bring toiletries you can just buy there for cheap – shampoo, conditioner, bodywash and sunblock, for example.

Follow Isabel on Twitter or learn more at The Hostelbookers Blog.

Matt Long, Travel Blogger at Land Lopers

Matt Long's packing tips

[P]ack no more than two pairs of shoes. For guys especially, shoes can take up a lot of room so it’s important to be selective when packing. I usually take a nice pair of sneakers that can be used for everything from hiking to happy hour as well as a light pair of loafers for more dressy travel occasions.

Follow Matt on Twitter or learn more at Land Lopers.

Toiletries

Sean Keener, Founder of the BootsnAll Travel Network

Sean Keener's packing tips

Everywhere you go, has 99% of what you need. You can buy almost anything, anywhere in the world. So, it truly is safe, to pack 1/2 of what you think you’ll need.

Follow Sean on Twitter or learn more at BootsnAll.

Jess Dante, Creator of The Abroad Guide

Jess Dante's packing tips

Unless you’re traveling to a remote village with no electricity or running water, purchase all of your toiletries at your destination. Hit up the dollar/euro/pound store when you arrive for hair products, deodorant, toothpaste… everything.

You’ll save a ton of space in your luggage and you won’t have to lug around any heavy liquids.

Follow Jess on Twitter or learn more at The Abroad Guide.

Mike Richard, Editor of Vagabondish

Mike Richard's packing tips

The one tip that’s allowed me to cut my luggage by more than half is simple: pack concentrated laundry detergent and quick-drying, synthetic clothing and wash everything while you travel.

This one tip has allowed me to travel for months just about anywhere with little more than 2 shirts, 2 pairs of pants, and 3-4 pairs of underwear.

Follow Mike on Twitter or learn more at Vagabondish.

Megan Lee, Study Abroad Director at Go Overseas

Megan Lee's packing tips

You’ll likely need to wash your clothes at some point, and carrying around a big bottle of Downy or Tide isn’t even enjoyable when you’re not toting your belongings on your back. My suggestion? Bring a ziplock baggie of powder detergent, and extra gallon size ziplock baggies (these come in handy in more ways than you can imagine).
If you find yourself sans-washing machine, you can make your own by stuffing water/laundry/soap into the bag and giving it a little (okay, a lot of) shake. Rinse in water and voila: clean clothes. Easy peezy, fresh and breezy!

Follow Megan on Twitter or learn more at Go Overseas.

Doug Dyment, Travel Skills Writer and Speaker

Doug Dyment's packing tips

For those trying to pack light, it’s difficult to choose worse items than bottled liquids (and gels, and aerosols). They are heavy, bulky, prone to leakage (especially on airplanes), and a security concern. And with but a little forethought, the vast majority of them can be eliminated entirely.

From shampoo/conditioner to toothpaste, from sunscreen to insect repellent, from facial cleanser, foundation, and moisturizer to mascara, bronzer, and face mask, even exfoliants and perfumes, all come in solid versions that will save you weight, space, hassle, and the environmental cost of excess packaging.

Follow Doug on Twitter or learn more at One Bag.

Taylor Welden, Soft Goods Industrial Designer and Senior Editor at Carryology

Taylor Welden's packing tips

  • One pair of jeans only. Yes, only one pair. A second pair or pants only if you’re going to be 7+ days.
  • Lay out everything you think you need to bring on your trip. Then remove half of these items. You don’t need all that stuff.
  • Packing light sometimes means no carrying a bag at all. Utilize airport lockers for specific travel situations where you don’t need everything.
  • Don’t use cotton socks. Invest in a few pairs of ‘smart’ socks made from wool and/or synthetics.
  • Use ExOfficio boxers. Seriously. Just do that now. On a 10 day trip to Asia, I will be completely comfortable only bringing 3 pairs of boxers (1 pair I’m wearing, 2 pairs in the bag). They pack down super small, they’re extremely lightweight, they can be washed easily and dry really fast (way faster than cotton). The other knock off brands don’t come close either. Lifetime warranty. Love mine.

Follow Taylor on Twitter or check out his portfolio.

Jill Permadi, Travel Blogger and Rock Climber

Jill Permadi's packing tips

  • Forgo towels. They’re heavy and hard to dry. Most hostels will have them available for free or for rent.
  • Packing cubes and compression bags help tons in limiting what you bring! When traveling with only a daypack, I made sure all of my clothes fit in one of the packing cubes.
  • Super wicking clothes and underwear. Since you’ll be doing more laundry than usual, quick-dry clothes come in handy.
  • Start with your bag. If you start with a smaller bag than usual, you’ll end up taking less than you would. I ask myself this question a lot, ‘Can I get this at [my] destination?’ if the answer is ‘yes’, most of the times it doesn’t make it into the bag.

Follow Jill on Twitter or learn more at Jack and Jill Travel.

Chez Brungraber, Founder of Gobi Gear

Chez Brungraber's packing tips

For summer travel, choose clothing and fabrics that dry quickly, and if possible, are not too heavy even when wet. Whether from hiking hard or getting caught in a rain storm, wet clothes can add considerable weight to your pack.
For colder weather, choose one great outer-layer that will keep everything dry underneath. Also, a trash bag or rain-cover for your entire pack can be essential.

Follow Chez on Twitter or learn more at Gobi Gear.

Technology

Diego Saez-Gil, Founder & CEO of WeHostels

Diego Saez-Gil's packing tips

You can ‘de-materialize’ certain objects by replacing them with apps on you phone. The obvious example is the camera, but also think of the travel guide book, maps, the moleskine, books, magazines, etc.

Also, if you are taking a long term trip, you can buy clothing from locals as you go with apps like Modabound (an Airbnb for clothing) and others.

Follow Diego on Twitter or learn more at WeHostels.

Tania Cruz, Co-Founder at the Poshpacker

Tania Cruz's packing tips

Don’t bring any books on your trip. This way you’ll be forcing yourself to talk and meet new people. Don’t worry about books, no need to carry them, you’ll find plenty where ever you go.

Follow Tania on Twitter or learn more at The Poshpacker.

Jeff Broman, Travel Blogger at Go Travelzing

Jeff Broman's packing tips

Download guidebooks to your phone using the Kindle app to save weight and space. You also do not look like every other tourist carrying around the same guidebook.

Follow Jeff on Twitter or learn more at Go Travelzing.

———

Now it’s your turn. Share your best light packing tip in the comments.

If you want more great packing and travel advice like this, join our weekly email newsletter.


Don't Leave Anything Behind

Perfect your packing with our free carry on packing list.

Join our mailing list below to get your packing checklist and weekly packing tips sent straight to your inbox.




Spam is the worst, so we won't send you any.

{ 28 comments… read them below or add one }

Megan Lee November 14, 2013 at 9:50 am

I might pack a bag tonight just to practice. Thanks for all the advice!

Reply

Fred Perrotta November 14, 2013 at 10:25 am

Always good to get a few extra reps in. Proper preparation prevents poor performance.

Reply

Travis Sherry November 14, 2013 at 9:54 am

Awesome list of people with great advice. And you’ve built a great product, congrats on that. As someone who has been trying to convince my audience to just bring a carryon for years, I want to thank you for making my task that much easier!

Reply

Fred Perrotta November 14, 2013 at 10:27 am

Thanks, Travis. I always direct people to Doug’s site OneBag.com. It’s a great resource for getting started with downsizing luggage.

Reply

Michael November 14, 2013 at 10:17 am

Thanks for including me! Great list.

Reply

Fred Perrotta November 14, 2013 at 10:25 am

Thanks for contributing, Michael. Great to see that other people are meticulous packers too.

Reply

Brandon Quittem November 15, 2013 at 11:13 am

Great advice! I was going to be surprised no one mentioned the kindle until Jeff saved the day! ha ha.

Reply

Fred Perrotta November 15, 2013 at 11:19 am

Gotta save the best for last sometimes

Reply

D M November 16, 2013 at 8:36 pm

Use a carry-on size backpack, and only pack it up to a maximum of 10% of your body weight.

Reply

Fred Perrotta November 17, 2013 at 8:43 am

Use a carry-on size backpack? You won’t get any argument from us.

Reply

PaigeAllOvertheMap November 18, 2013 at 7:53 am

Having just returned from an 11-month trip living out of a carry-on bag and a small backpack, I can attest to all the ones that recommend taking very few things, buying things you need on arrival, and thinking hard about the fabrics you pack. I learned a lot of new tips here, though! I guess I need to start planning the next big trip now….

Reply

Fred Perrotta November 18, 2013 at 8:13 am

Any excuse to travel is a good one

Reply

Alex November 18, 2013 at 6:44 pm

Thanks for including me in this round up! No more excuses to overpack!

Reply

Janice Jones November 18, 2013 at 9:17 pm

Our airline only allows 7kg max and that includes the case you try overpacking with that weight restriction So pack for this and you will never have too much

Reply

fantastique November 27, 2013 at 5:56 pm

in regards to buying toiletries upon arrival: i’ve started to this but then i’ve run into times where i really want/need to brush my teeth at some point (what’s that super delayed flight/cheap flight but so. many. stopovers.?) or just really want just a little bit of my everyday moisturizer or some facial wash?

solution: contact lens case.

it’s small enough that it won’t take up much room in your bag and you’ll probably never be bothered by security for it. if you’re not a contact wearer, chances are you’ll know someone who is (and they almost always have more than they need) and, if not, any glasses store will have some extras kicking around. i’ve also used this for storing vaseline and small earrings. so small, so handy.

Reply

Blaine Ballard December 1, 2013 at 11:48 am

Fred, thanks for giving me the opportunity to participate in this round-up. In addition to clothing choice, got to give a huge thumbs up to Eagle Creek’s Pack-It folder. I use the 18″ and it does a great job of compressing clothes and keeping them relatively wrinkle free while saving space for other items in my bag. I take it on every trip regardless of whatever bag I use.

Reply

Fred Perrotta December 1, 2013 at 12:40 pm

+1 for packing folders. Jeff from Go Travelzing got me onto them. They’re great for nicer shirts and pants that you don’t want to roll.

Reply

Travel Guides January 23, 2014 at 9:28 pm

Great work,thanks for sharing..

Reply

lona July 9, 2014 at 3:35 am

Awesome list of people with great advice. And you’ve built a great
product, congrats on that. As someone who has been trying to convince
my audience to just bring a carryon for years, I want to thank you for
making my task that much easier! it is so able to share with my friends who went niagara falls with bus tour to niagara falls from new york city..

Reply

cameraandcarryon July 10, 2014 at 2:49 pm

Make a list. Pack. Edit. Then edit again. Then repack. Then ask once more, “Do I need ALL of this?” Check out what we packed for our 6 month journey abroad, and what we’d do differently next time here >> http://www.cameraandcarryon.com/2014/06/what-we-really-should-have-packed/
Happy travels!!!

Reply

Mabel September 11, 2014 at 6:51 pm

Lists are great! I make one for every trip. 🙂

Reply

Genevieve Parker Hill August 15, 2014 at 11:04 pm

Great list! My best, non-obvious tip for traveling light is to make sure everything you bring is lightweight and dries overnight. That way you can wash it out in the sink and wear it the next day.

Reply

Mabel September 11, 2014 at 6:49 pm

Usually, I only take carry-ons for shorter trips. But I’m going on an 18-day trip soon to the UK, and I am NOT going to waste time sitting in a launderette. I have downsized my suitcase, and I will be taking only travel-sized toiletries and hitting up the local Boots when I get there. I have two side trips planned out of London, so there will be a smaller duffel inside my bag, and a backpack for the other trip will be my carry-on. The little duffel can turn into a second carry-on if I shop too much, LOL. 🙂 These are all good tips, though, and I’m going to bookmark this article.

Reply

Lars Melger November 17, 2014 at 2:04 pm

I really like the tip about taking wool clothes. I want to travel someday, but I have a very cautious personality that won’t let me leave home without stuffing my bag. I’m always thinking “am I going to have to use this” and almost always the answer I tell myself is ‘yes’. I’m going to go on a small travel trip during the summer, which might help me out, but I hope I’ll learn to be smarter about my packing. I would hate to drag along a giant bad I don’t need.

http://www.shalomdenver.com/business-services/packaging-and-assembly

Reply

Mabel Margaret November 26, 2014 at 10:00 pm

Very good post.

share fashion tips

Reply

Pratik Joshi December 12, 2014 at 8:55 am

sharing very useful content… keep updating..

Reply

shriharinanu December 13, 2014 at 2:07 am

fine tips. Really helpful..!

Reply

Jens Oliver Meiert December 15, 2014 at 6:37 am

From my experience (now traveling 17 months with about 9 kg in a regular backpack) I’d second Rolf Potts’ idea.

(But the “law” holds: The longer you travel, the lighter you should pack, http://meiert.com/en/blog/20140617/meierts-law-of-travel/.)

Reply

Leave a Comment

{ 55 trackbacks }