Last year, as I prepared for a spring trip to Europe, I thought about all of the different activities and climates I would need to plan for. There would be sunny beaches in Spain, cold and wet hikes in Ireland and of course the fantastic dinners and dances with my friends.
For the first time in many years I considered actually checking my luggage, so I could just take everything I wanted and not be concerned about what to bring.
This was a big trip so I felt totally justified but when I thought about when my luggage was lost, or when the wheel came off of my roller bag and I had to carry 3 bags upstairs, across the train platform outside in England in the rain, I remembered why I always travel light!
So, now it was my challenge to see if I could bring everything I needed and wanted in 1 carry-on bag.
The first thing I always do is go through my expected itinerary day by day and make a list of what clothes I will need. Starting with what I will wear on the plane and every day and evening for the entire trip.
Immediately, the list becomes overwhelming and seems to include just about everything I have in my closet. Knowing that it is not reasonable, I begin to pare down.
First, I select the main color scheme I want for the trip (black and gray or brown and blue). Right away that decreases my list by half or more, especially since I now only have to bring one color of shoes.
Next, I begin to put together complete outfits and lay them out on the bed. Every top must match every bottom – no exceptions. You never know when you are going to have a spill on the one blouse that only went with that skirt and need to change it. You will never be sorry that you have more choices that match as opposed to ones that don’t.
I stick to solid color bottoms and then add printed tops and scarves for color and variety.
Now comes the fun part, I attempt to pack my bag (I use a rolling backpack, it’s versatile and lightweight and don’t have to worry about broken wheels or handles). I don’t even get half of the clothes in when I realize that I still need room for shoes and shampoo. This is usually about the time the panic sets in and I start thinking how much easier it would be to just check my luggage but I refuse to give in and start over.
I look back at my list and start eliminating anything redundant or unnecessary. I don’t need 3 pairs of jeans or that bulky sweater that I might wear once, so out they go. It’s amazing what you’ll discover when you start to work with what you have. I found that I don’t need a separate swimsuit cover when that lovely black blouse will do fine or that I can layer warm weather pieces for the cooler climate.
This is where I give myself permission to change, rethink and repack absolutely everything. Now that I know what will fit in the designated bag, including shoes and personal supplies I can make whatever substitutions I want, as long as it all still fits in the bag.
I ended up taking nice dress slacks, jeans, a skirt, a dress, a sweater, blouses, a swimsuit, walking shoes, boots, flats and a raincoat. Not only did I have more than enough to wear, but even came home with a couple of tops that I never wore at all, that really surprised me.
Packing light is a fine art and with a little practice you can master it too. Take the lightest weight, wrinkle free garments that you can find, remember layering is your friend. Not only can you take more with you but you can also wash things out easily during your trip.
Use compression bags to help maximize the space and roll everything tightly. You will be surprised how much you can get into that one little bag and how much easier your trip will be when you learn to travel light!
What kind of packer are you? Have you ever had an experience taking too much or too little on a trip? Share your stories and join the conversation in the comments below.