How to pack light

I just got back from a kick-ass holiday in the Yukon and Alberta. One simple thing that made it extra kick-ass was that for once I did an awesome job packing. Two weeks away with only carry-on luggage, I rocked the vacation. Over-packing can cost you more money in terms of paying overweight charges at the airport and having to pay more for taxis and transportation to haul bigger bags. It also saves a lot of aggravation in terms of not having to wait at baggage claims and having more travel options and flexibility available to you.

Here’s how Mr. Bean does it…

Here are some tips for packing light:

1. Save space in your luggage by wearing more clothes. Airports and planes are all air-conditioned so wear long pants and sleeved shirts to maximize space in your backpack or suitcase. Tie a sweater around your waist to save even more room.

2. Pockets are your friends. Cargo pants and shorts with multiple pockets are great for stowing away extra gear (cameras, travel guides, wallets, etc). 

3. Lay everything you think you’ll need out and then put half the gear back in your closet. You dress differently when you’re on the road than you do when you’re at home or at work. I wore the same pair of jeans several days in a row and recycled my shirts a lot as well.

4. Remember that you’re not traveling to the moon. Unless you’re doing some serious backcountry trekking, chances are you’ll be able to find a laundromat to wash your clothes half way through your trip or purchase anything you might have missed from a local department store.

5. Roll your clothes. I find you can pack a lot more than you can by folding clothes.

6. Be smart with your pack. Choose one with a lot of different compartments to pack away all your essentials in an organized fashion. If you can’t get away with just a carry-on bag, choose a larger pack that has a zip-off day pack.

7. Be smart with your organization. With security really ramped up at airports these days it’s important to have your carry-on well-organized to get through the screening process as quickly as possible. Make sure your liquids are all less than 100 ml (or sometimes less depending on the airline – be sure to check the restrictions beforehand) and packed in a seal-able plastic bag (usually no larger than 1 litre). Keep that bag at the top of your pack so you can take it out quickly at the security gate. Keep anything that may be flagged by security easily accessible (ex. they always ask me about my harmonica so I keep it handy in on outside pocket in case they want to see it).

8. Minimize non-essential luxury items like books and electronics.

9. Pack outfits that can be used in a variety of combinations. Bring clothes that can be mixed and matched for different situations.

Packing light is all about being hassle-free. Be smart and reduce, reduce, reduce and you’re next trip will be a lot more pleasant (and you won’t come home with 12 sets of clothes you never wore).


Funny stories. Good advice. Josh Martin is the author of the book “Simple(ton) Living: Lessons in balance from life’s absurd moments.” Click here to learn more and to purchase a copy.

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