If you have ever travelled with a large heavy backpack or suitcase (or both) before then you’ll be all too familiar with the negatives of packing too much. In fact this is a common mistake of travelling and something that many people will fall victim to at some point or another. It’s a problem that some people don’t even realise they have. It starts as the seemingly innocent thought “I’ll pack this just in case”. Before you know it you’ve got 2 bags jam packed full of things that you will most likely never take out of the bag until you arrive back home.
I don’t think I’ve ever heard anybody say “I wish I had packed more!” More often I hear people with large bags complaining that they wished they hadn’t packed so much. In most cases though, if there is something that you forgot to pack you will be able to find an equivalent item at the destination country. For example you can find clothes, toothpaste and other toiletries at almost every airport or city in the world.
The problem is that we as humans fear being unprepared. So we try to pack for every possible scenario. We also get caught up in idea of using specialty products when travelling. It’s easy to walk into a suitcase shop and see all the travel accessories and think “Hmm, I could use that for my trip”. Most of these things will have single purposes or take up a lot of space and weigh in your bag after you’ve used them.
This guide is to help you decide what is absolutely necessary for your trip and give you tips for packing more versatile multiuse items instead. Later on in the book I will also share my packing list along with items that I once thought useful but proved to be a waste of space.
So why should you pack light? It also opens up possibilities that wouldn’t have presented themselves otherwise. For example you may have turned down that last minute day trip because you couldn’t find anywhere to store your suitcase or simply couldn’t afford the storage cost. With one bag though, you’ll be more free to take every opportunity. Here are just a couple more reasons to get you started:
- No need to pay for storing your bag in a coin locker.
Coin lockers are usually hard to find (or always full), expensive and a hassle. There have been times when I travelled with a particularly large or heavy bag and used the coin lockers. Since packing lighter though I haven’t ever felt the need to use one again.
- No paying extra baggage fees at the airport.
I recall one time before I got into travelling light that I travelled on a budget airline and my bag was only just barely over the maximum carry on limit. Luckily it was only a domestic flight and in this particular case the extra baggage fee was included in the sale price. Since travelling with a 20 litre bag though I haven’t been asked to weigh the bag, not even on budget airlines.
- You will never have to wait at the luggage carousel ever again.
Usually I am immune to the pain of waiting at the luggage carousel. However last year I actually briefly moved to South Korea to try teaching English and I took a secondary rolling suitcase because I fell victim to thinking “I might need more”. It was going into winter and the jackets were bulky and I didn’t have the knowledge of (or money for) ultralight down jackets. I had to wait almost 1 hour or so for my bag to finally come out and it was a strong reminder to never pack more than one bag.
- No need to leave bags at the hotel after checking out.
With a rolling suitcase it’s often a pain to take it anywhere if you’re not directly on your way to the airport. Not only that but also it makes you stand out strongly as a tourist. A light backpack on the other hand is very inconspicuous and convenient for day trips and between hotels.
- Keep your bag on you when travelling on the bus.
Whenever travelling on a bus or coach large suitcases need to be stowed in the buses undercarriage which leaves you without access to anything from your pack. You can have peace of mind knowing your bag is safe in your own hands.
- Bag can fit under the plane seat, no need to stand up to access it.
I never store my bag in the overhead bin. The main reason is because I like to have quick access to my passport (for filling in immigration papers) and my headphones for tuning out. This is especially useful when you’re in the middle or window seats and don’t want to have to always bother the person next to you to access the overhead locker.
- Never worry about ‘lost luggage’ from an airline.
Because you have your bag always in your sight you never need to worry about the possibility of the airlines losing your stuff.
- Nail clippers, safety razor and tweezers are TSA friendly
I don’t know exactly when the rules got relaxed but a lot of items that are commonly thought to be note safe for carry-on bags are actually okay to take on board now. The rules are slightly different in different countries however but for the majority there’s no problem.
These are just a few reasons why I believe that everyone should try packing light at least once. I guarantee that once you try it, you will find it difficult to return to a heavy old suitcase again. I do understand that there are some people who for one reason or another are unable to fully achieve it in their current circumstances. For example someone whose job it is to sell non-carry on friendly items or musicians with large instruments. For these types of travellers packing light would be difficult but not necessarily impossible.
These types of travellers would just have to think outside the box, think outside of the checked baggage. They could for example ship the items to their destination or in some cases find a carry on friendly version. I have seen instruments like guitars that fold in half or have smaller versions for travelling.
At the very least they could embrace one bag travel for most of their leisure trips and carry the extra items they need when they’re back at work. Another thing to consider is the possibility of renting what you need at the destination.