Packing light is the goal of every traveler—and for most, getting there is a work in progress. Even the most seasoned jet-setter occasionally finds it tough to travel minimally, but it’s all about being strategic about what goes in your suitcase. Here are some of our favorite packing hacks to help you travel lighter, faster, and smarter on your next trip, whether you’re off to a weekend adventure or a multi-week journey through Europe.
Plan Outfits Ahead Of Time
To make sure you’re not packing anything you don’t need, plan ahead. Take a look at your itinerary and figure out what you need to wear for each activity. Not only will this ensure that you have the right clothes for the trip, but it also prevents you from bringing too many unnecessary items.
Follow A Color Palette For Each Trip
Pick a color combination for your specific trip, then only bring pieces that can be mixed and matched with this palette. By packing complementary items, you can create different outfits while using the same set of pieces over and over again on the road.
Pack Lightweight Fabrics
When you’re figuring out what to pack for a trip, choose clothing with lightweight fabrics you can layer in cold weather, instead of packing thick, bulky items. Bring quick-drying clothes and synthetic materials such as polyester and nylon. If you’re headed to a winter destination, an ultralight down jacket or fleece jacket are good options.
Be Smart About Footwear
One of the best ultralight packing tips that most seasoned travelers follow is to bring no more than two pairs of shoes for every trip. A comfortable pair of walking shoes is a must, perhaps one that can also be used for hiking and other outdoor activities on the itinerary. Pick your second pair strategically, whether it’s a dressier pair of sandals that you can also use sightseeing or flip-flops for the beach.
Bring Multi-Use Items
Make sure every item in your bag is hard-working, which means they have multiple uses on the road. For instance, a sarong can be used as a beach cover-up, but also as a towel, blanket, or a scarf at various points in your trip. A makeup bag can be reduced to just a few products, like moisturizers that double as sunscreen and balms that can be used for the lips, dry patches, and mosquito bites.
Don’t Pack For More Than A Week
Another good rule for packing light is to never pack stuff that will last you for more than a week. Once you’ve learned how to pack efficiently, a week’s worth of clothing and essentials can fit quite easily inside your carry-on luggage.
If you’re traveling for longer than one week, do laundry in the destination instead of lugging around a month’s worth of luggage. It should be simple to pop in a local laundromat, but bring powdered laundry detergent just in case.
Many tourists bring books, magazines, or maps around during their travels. Reduce your luggage by investing in a Kindle or a tablet, which gives you many more options on the road at a fraction of the weight.
Buy A Small, Lightweight Suitcase
Here’s the thing: if you have large luggage, you’ll end up stuffing it with items you don’t necessarily need. With a small suitcase, you’re forced to pare it down to the true essentials. Avoid the temptation and purchase a smaller suitcase that is large enough for a week’s worth of clothes, but compact enough to fit in an airplane’s overhead compartment.
Travel With Packing Cubes
If you want to know how to pack a backpack or suitcase neatly and efficiently, here’s the secret of most travelers: packing cubes. It maximizes space as well as helps you keep track of everything in your suitcase. On a budget? Instead of purchasing a set of packing cubes, use freezer bags, which can be easily used for the same function and are strong enough for multiple uses.
Keep in mind that most hotels and resorts will provide toiletries for guests, so there’s no need to bring your own in your travels. It’s also easy to purchase cheap ones at your destination. If you do have to bring your own toiletries, opt for solid bars of soap and shampoo, rather than liquid counterparts, which tend to be heavier.
Wear Your Bulkiest Pieces While Traveling
Instead of packing your puffy down jackets, heavy jeans, and bulky hiking shoes, wear it on your way to your destination. Not only will you save a ton of space in your luggage, but you’ll also be fully prepared for the blast of freezing air inside the airplane.
Pack What You Need, Not What You Might Need
Ultimately, only make space for the true essentials: a few pieces of clothing to mix and match, medicine, a gadget or two, travel documents, and other must-haves.
If your priority is to pack light and travel easily on the move, resist the temptation to pack for “what if” scenarios—an umbrella if it rains, an extra pair of shoes if a special occasion comes up, etc. Chances are, you can buy practically anything where you’re going, so limit your luggage space for the true necessities.
Test your ultralight packing skills on a backpacking adventure: KKday’s 5-day, 4-night backpacking trip to Kingston, Jamaica. Known as the City of Music, Kingston offers an authentic travel experience full of reggae, local food, and unforgettable activities.