16 Tips to Pack Light and Smart

Packing for a long trip? Check out my guide on 16 tips to pack light and smart for all your travel needs.

For a period of a year, I literally traveled around the world in one carry on luggage and a backpack. A lot of people asked me how I can pack so light. Did I have enough clothes? Did I wash my clothes? (OF COURSE). This blog will talk about how i was able to pack light.

Make a Packing List

Even though I’m a last minute packer, but I always make a list way in advance so I don’t forget the essentials I need to bring with me. The essentials generally include phone chargers, computer cords, passport, gifts for people, camera and camera charger, etc.

Use a light weight suitcase

how to pack light

It’s always a good idea to invest in a quality and light weight carry-on suitcase. My suitcase has traveled with me to numerous countries and it still works amazing. I also never do check-in baggage because airlines or airports are notorious for losing your check in luggage! It’s always safer and better to do a carry-on. You don’t have to get to the airport as early to check in, and it saves about 30 min after the flight from waiting for your luggage.

However, the only time I would suggest checking in luggage is when you have a long layover and want to get out of the airport. You don’t want to have to take your luggage with you ๐Ÿ™‚

Roll up your clothes

I learned this one from some friends who also travel a lot. Always separate your clothes by materials! Roll up the soft ones like shirts and blouse and put them at the bottom of the suitcase. If you have to fold your clothes, fold them into the same shape and size and put above the rolled up clothes.

Using Packing Cubes

I only understood all the hypes around packing cubes recently after I tried using it and what a difference does it make! It not only protects your clothes but also help you organize and separate your clothes into different cubes. A while back I would have to go look through half of my suitcase to find the shirt I wanted to wear but with packing cubes, I can separate out all my shirts from other clothes that I pack.

If you want to learn more about packing cubes, read this packing cube product review.

Do laundry at the hotel

If you are staying at least 2 nights in a row at the same hotel/hostel, it’s a good idea to wash your clothes there. Some hotels and hostels offer laundry service or laundry machine, then you don’t need to air dry the clothes. However, I usually hand wash my clothes in the bathroom, roll them up inside a towel (like how we dry our hair). After about 15 min, I air dry my clothes! This saves so much space for things like underwear and small tank tops.

Save room on shoes

Foldable Flats

When I travel, I usually need to bring multiple pairs of shoes and they always take up the most space. I wear flats a lot, since they are great for walking and still look dressy. I recently got these amazing foldable flats from Talaria Flats. They don’t take up as much space in the luggage and I was able to wear them to a nice dinner and wedding! Always wear your heaviest shoes (like sneakers) on the plane, and pack the foldable travel flats to maximize space and minimize the weight of the suitcase.

Bring Flip Flops

I’m sure not everyone does this but throughout my travels, I find that some hotels do not provide slippers and hostels definitely don’t. It’s always easier to have a pair of flip flops to wear around showers and such. Pro Tip: rumor has it that many hotels’ showers are extremely dirty, so wearing flip flops in showers is highly recommended

Check the weather before you pack

I have seen this happening a lot. People don’t check the weather forecast in the destination country/cities before they pack! So many times I hear about girls having to buy coats and jackets because they didn’t bring enough clothes (unless it’s an excuse to shop).

Get Converters with USB ports

Some of these converters are big and chunky. Either get a small one or get the universal converter with USB ports like this one here. Having USB ports on a converter has helped me and my friend so many times when the hotel room has limited numbers of outlets.

Have a dedicated toiletry bag

This should be a no brainer as everyone is now required to put their liquid items in a zip lock bag. Since I travel a lot, I just keep all my travel size items in a zip lock bag and ready to pack them at any time. The airports in the U.K. are especially strict about this!! If you go over the limit, they will inspect your suitcase and take items out one by one (and throw things away). Other countries I’ve flown from were not this strict, so be extra careful when you fly through the U.K! Also, if you use gel eye liner and eye shadow, put them in the bag too. They also count towards “liquids”.

Bring medicine

Maybe it’s just me but I tend to get sick a lot on the road. Sometimes it’s quite inconvenient to try to get medicine especially if you don’t speak the language. I always bring cold medicine and stomach medicine as those are probably the most common illness you get on the road

Bring the heavy/thick jackets on board with you

If you are going somewhere cold, just bring the jacket/coat with you on the plane. They tend to take up the most room in a suitcase, so it’s better to take them on board with you rather than trying to pack them. Airport security will stop you if your carry-on luggage is too heavy, but they will never stop you if you bring a heavy coat with you!

Save room for shopping

how to pack light

Chances are you will be shopping for clothes or souvenirs when you travel. You always want to save some room in your luggage for your shopping! Otherwise you might have to buy a new luggage just for all your new purchases.

Bring face masks

When you travel, you can’t bring all your usual skincare products and being out all day walking under the sun may damage your skin without you realizing it. I always bring these sheet masks with me when I travel, since they are lightweight and easy to carry. I like to use the Korean brands like this or these snail masks.

Make copies of your important documents

A lot of popular tourist destinations are also filled with pickpockets. If you lose your passport or important documents, it may take a few days to replace them. I’ve had friends that lost their entire suitcase in the train station in Paris. So it’s always a good idea to make a copy of your passport and other documents and keep it separately from where you keep your travel documents.

Get a travel ATM card

This mainly applies to American citizens who travel the world. I personally hate to bring a lot of dollars and exchange them because 1) I feel unsafe carrying a huge amount of cash 2) the exchange rates are never in your favor. Most people might not know this but Charles Schwab offers an ATM card that allows you to withdraw from any ATM in the world without a fee! I almost always withdraw from ATMs after I land in my destinations since the rates are a lot better and it’s much more convenient to withdraw from ATMs rather than having to find a currency exchange place.

Final Thoughts on How To Pack Light

There are so many ways to pack light given the carry on size and weight restriction these days. For more resources and information, also check out this wonderful blog on how to pack like a minimalist.