Travelers have been experimenting with ways to carry less stuff for as long as people have been traveling. Some travelers are able to take it to an extreme, putting everything they need for months of travel in a simple, light backpack.
Regardless if you are traveling solo or with a bunch of people, there are a number of things you can do to carry less stuff:
- Ship it ahead. This is especially helpful during the holiday season when shipping gifts ahead is likely the only way they’ll arrive in one piece, but it’s also true for other trips. Know you’ll need a favorite movie or game (or cereal, diapers, pillow) when you get there? Ship it ahead of time. If you’re staying at a hotel, call the hotel to let them know a box will be arriving in your name and they’ll set it aside for you. That’s true of vacation rentals as well, and shipping ahead works great when you’re staying with family or friends. Kids love seeing their favorite things when they arrive. Plus, you can ship it all back home when you’re ready to return.
- Pick the right bag. To avoid dragging a small trailer behind you, find the right bag for your kind of travel. You’ll want one that is lightweight and super sturdy. Those with non rigid structures conform better to the contents and are easier to stuff into overhead bins and under bus seats. Wheels are helpful, but wheels AND straps to convert it to a backpack are even better. Also, be sure it’s correctly sized for the overhead bin.
- Use what’s available. Hotels often provide common toiletries to guests, including soap, shampoo, conditioner, and more. A quick check when you make the reservation will tell you what should be available. If you ask nicely, they can usually provide other items as well: razors, toothbrushes, etc. You’ve paid for the room, so use the amenities instead of hauling those items.
- Buy it there. Other places have great stores too. Left your jacket at home? People get cold and wet in other countries too. So buy what you discover you need when you arrive.
- Don’t be afraid to do a little laundry. If it means packing less, then it’s worth it. Many hotels have laundry facilities, and rental homes do as well. If you don’t believe you’ll have laundry soap when you arrive, pack a small zippered plastic bag of the stuff or buy a little when you arrive. You don’t even need a washing machine.
- When in doubt, leave it behind. If you’re thinking you may not want that dinner jacket or those heels, put them back in the closet. Sure, you’ll have to wear the same shoes to dinner that you wore at the museum, but isn’t your back’s health worth it? Plus, in a worst case scenario, you can buy it there (see step 4) and ship it back home (see step 1).
The bottom line is that traveling light is better for you, for your body, and for everyone else. You waste less physical energy when you’re hauling less stuff. So you’re more alert, more rested, and better able to move safely through the world.