He who would travel happily must travel light.

Antoine de Saint-Exupéry.



“You want me to do what?!” I asked my husband before a trip to Vietnam and Thailand. For whatever reason, he thought I could pack in this:




There’s no way I’ll fit everything into a roller carry-on bag, I thought. To pack light is one thing, but that—that’s impossible!  But with a little persuading and coaching, I managed quite successfully (although I confess I did tuck a couple of things in my husband’s bag).


Eleven flights, twelve hotels, and thirty days later, I was extremely happy I had.


Pack light and you will have…

  • No worries about paying overweight baggage fees.
  • No need to stand in line to check in a bag.
  • No need to watch the baggage carousel go around and around, waiting and hoping your bag wasn’t left at the last stop.
  • No tripping over luggage in the smaller rooms so common in other places of the world.


Those who travel often know that packing light is the way to go. Less is definitely better. But of course the question is, HOW DO YOU DO THAT?


How on Earth Do You Do That?

Honestly, we’re still working on this (Or maybe I should say I’m working on this. My husband’s got it down.) and getting better with every trip. But here are a few things we’ve learned to pack light.



Plan for fewer days than you’ll be gone

A classic packing mistake is to plan one outfit for every day you’ll travel. Instead, use the 3 to 1 guide. One pair of pants/shorts paired with three shirts/blouses. Unless you’re planning to hike through a steamy jungle, most people can wear one shirt or blouse more than once. Add a single sweatshirt and a single rain jacket and you’re set.



Invest in travel-size toiletries and appliances

Travel-size hair dryers and irons all fold up compactly. For liquids, like hair gels, etc. we like Humangear GooToob containers. You can find them at any travel or outdoor clothing store or places like Target. They’re squishy, squeezable and pass the airport security criteria of three ounces or less.



Roll with it and pack light

Rolling up your clothes before packing them saves lots of space and also helps keep your clothes from wrinkling. Recently, we packed up our son for his study abroad trip to Norway. First, I packed the traditional way by stacking the clothes.


stack pack vs. pack light

Standard stack-and-pack


This picture doesn’t quite do it justice, but look how much more space we had when I rolled the same clothes.


roll clothes to pack light

Pack light and roll your clothes


As my son said, “A ton of extra space!”



Choose clothes made with lightweight fabrics

Clothes made with lightweight fabrics are less bulky and easier to pack. And if you do need to wash something up, they dry quickly.


My husband has several of Kuhl’s quick-drying shirts. These collared shirts can be worn out to dinner or to church, and they wash up nicely, when needed, in a hotel sink and will dry within an hour or two.


The same is true of pants. Instead of bringing bulky jeans, try khaki-colored active pants that climbers and hikers use. Brands like prAna or Kuhl (available online or at sporting goods stores) are comfortable, lightweight, and don’t wrinkle. And, depending on the pair, they can pass for something dressier than jeans.



Fill unused spaces

Packing a suitcase is a little like playing the old video game of Tetris. You build a solid layer, interlocking each piece with the next before moving on to the next layer. Place your first layer on the bottom of the suitcase, then look for unused space. Stuff socks inside a Nalgene bottle or fill a shoe with a pair of underwear. Once that layer is completely filled, move on to the next.



Try compression cubes

You’ve probably heard of regular compression sacks. They reduce a pile of clothes to a rock-hard wad. That’s fine if you’re on the end of the your trip, have a suitcase of dirty clothes, and don’t mind rumply clothes. But a friend recently told me of a company called Eagle Creek that makes uniquely zippered “cubes” that compress your clothes. Unlike regular compression sacks, though, these compression cubes keep your clothes organized.


So pack light and travel happy!


Do you have any “packing light” tips?