How lightly do you travel? Since 2010, I’ve flown and holidayed with carry-on luggage only. That’s a handy seven kilograms of clothes, shoes and toiletries.

My friends were amazed when I told them about my light flights: “How do you do that? You’ll have to tell us how!” I started writing Planepack to do just that: provide tips, advice, interviews and reviews for light travelers.

My decision to travel light was heavily influenced by the airlines. After my luggage was lost four times – once for six weeks – I left the large bags at home and took a chance with hand-held luggage only.

Since then I have never looked back. My husband also ditched the big bag so now we both travel light together.

I’ve been to Europe, Vietnam, Japan, New Zealand, New Caledonia and travelled within Australia with hand-held carry-on luggage only. This is how.

Plan Your Light Wardrobe

When planning my wardrobe, I consider

  • Where I am going;
  • How long I will stay;
  • What I must take with me;
  • What I will do while there.

If I’m holidaying at the beach, dining at the marina, exploring the neighboring towns, I plan my wardrobe for each activity, but that doesn’t mean different clothes for each occasion.

It’s all about mixing and matching outfits. Tops have to match skirt, pants and shorts – and it helps to select one colour palette. Never take anything that might be ‘nice to have’. It never is: it just takes up space in your bag.

If I’m going on a business trip, I plan similarly: one pair of smart slacks or skirt with a few changes of tops, and one unstructured jacket – and I’m all set. I promise you that no-one ever remembers what you wore the previous day!

Take Only One Carry-On Bag

Travel with the lightest possible carry-on case. My wheelie cabin bag weighs only 1.5 kgs. This means I can pack in a 5.5 kg wardrobe, which is plenty, I assure you.

You’ll thank me when you carry your light bag up and down stairs, in and out of taxis, onto boats and planes and over cobblestones. Light bags are particularly handy when you have to run to catch that last flight!

how to pack light

Weigh Your Clothes and Toiletries

Packing light is an art: roll, fold, vacuum pack – you choose the style that suits you best. But your contents determine how light or how heavy your bag is. I weigh everything to get it under the average 7 kgs limit.

Don’t be fooled by clothes in synthetic fabrics that roll easily – they are generally heavier than cotton, linen and wool. If you travel with a select wardrobe, it’s easy to unpack your clothes on the other side, which keeps them wrinkle free and easy to access.

My husband is amused when I pull out the kitchen scales, but once you know how much individual items weigh – and I keep a spreadsheet – it’s easier to decide which things to leave out of your bag. Toiletries can tie you down: declutter your cosmetics case.

It’s a good idea to research airlines’ websites for their particular weight restrictions before flying. Some airlines are more weight generous than others.

Unburden Your Bag

For the past few trips, I’ve cut back on appliances – both on board flight and for the other side.

I no longer carry a laptop, tablet or camera. Instead, everything I need is on my smartphone: books, videos, camera, internet access, banking, travel maps and more.

I’ve discovered the joy of audiobooks on a plane: I put on my comfy travel headphones, tuck into my pillow, protect myself with a face mask – yes, it sounds funny, but it’s the best way to stay hydrated on a long haul flight – and drift away with my eyes closed, listening to something not too demanding.

But I do carry the killer necklace for an evening out. My packing might be light, but I still like a little glamour.

Enjoy the Trip with Light Luggage Only

My most valuable light travel principle is to enjoy the trip. Remove the burden of heavy checked in luggage. Travelling with one small, light carry-on bag is liberating. A small wardrobe removes the fuss of deciding what to wear: enjoy a pre-planned, easy wardrobe.

The best recommendation for travelling light is you no longer wait anxiously for bags (that may never arrive) at baggage claim. Stride past that baggage carousel and cruise through the airport door like a rock star.

Want to be a liberated traveler? Pack light and you will you be.

Do you try to travel with only one carry-on bag? How do you lighten your luggage and enjoy a stress-free travel trip? Please share your stories and tips in the comments below.

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