how to pack light

How to Pack Light in Under 50 Pounds?

So you are tired of bringing suitcases and want to pare down?  You vow to bring only a carry-on next time.  I’ve heard of some people going to the extreme and just bringing a carry-on for a 2 week trip.  Before you do this, I challenge you to try this at home BEFORE your trip.  Pack the carry-on, then take all the clothes out and only wear those clothes, use that make-up, etc.

We all start the vacation with great intentions (I will only eat healthy food this trip, will wake up at 5am and see the sunrise, take a walk everyday) but it is vacation and sometimes those intentions are painful in reality.  If you can take the challenge and be happy with your decision, well then BRAVO, I applaud you!  I could never do it, nor do I have a desire to.

I can think of one exception to the above.  If you are moving around a great deal and/or taking trains and have to cart and load your own luggage.  I am usually on a cruise or staying in one location and taking day trips.  I would rethink the amount I bring if, for instance, I booked a multi-regional visit to say, Italy with train transport to all 3 areas.  This would involve carting the luggage from hotel to train and back to hotel 3 times, not to mention the airport.

Now if you are one of those people who  pack 2 or 3 suitcases and are tired of paying the fees,  I think you can do it in 1 checked piece and 1 carry-on. (and I will show you how).  Here are the reasons why I check luggage instead of joining the trend in bringing only one carry-on.

travel with just one bag

Disadvantages of Packing Too Light:

  1. When you need an item you don’t have (and you will) you have to figure out where you can purchase it
  2. It usually costs more money, especially near tourist areas
  3. Finding the item in the store is difficult in another language
  4. You have to take precious time out of your vacation to do this
  5. Sometimes (especially in the case of toiletries) the item does not work as well as the item you usually use
  6. In the case of clothing or shoes, the sizing is different overseas and usually you won’t be able to return the item

Here is a step by step guide to packing a reasonable amount of clothing/toiletries while having what you need to be comfortable….

Read also: How to Travel Carrying Only One Bag

Make a copy of your itinerary.

Write next to each day the outfit or outfits you will need to get through the day.  For example:

Day 1:  Arrive on overnight flight – wear heaviest clothes on plane

Check into Cruise Ship – change to lighter clothes

Take Shuttle to Venice

Dinner on Ship – change shirt and footwear

Show after Dinner

Will need to pack:  pair of shorts, 2 shirts, sandals

When dressing for your flight, don’t forget to wear your heaviest clothes, you will wear this same outfit home too.  Sneakers are heavier then sandals.  Bring a jacket or sweater depending on season (even in summer you will need a coverall for air conditioned areas).  Jeans are heavier then shorts or summer/light pants, wear your heaviest shirt.  Why?  It saves weight that would otherwise add to your suitcase.  AND no matter what season, the flight is always cold.

Plan Your Outfits:

You know your wardrobe.  Write next to each article of clothing the specific piece you are taking i.e. white long denim shorts with blue long silk shirt. To cut down on outfits, make sure you are wearing each article of clothing at least twice (on a long trip more than twice).

If you are traveling with kids:  put outfits in one Ziploc bags – one per bag.  This will save time in getting the kids dressed and out the door.If they are older, you can just give them the bag and they can dress themselves.

Laundry or no Laundry?

The idea of doing laundry on vacation does not thrill me, especially if I have to go out of the way to do so.  On a recent 12 day cruise I had to rethink my stance.  After all, that’s 12 days of souvenirs that have to fit in my carry-on coming home.

On a long trip it can be advantageous to do some laundry if you can do so without losing time.  On our cruise we were 5 doors down from the laundry room (most ships have these for passengers).  So it was no sweat to go to the room, put in the clothes, set an alarm and return for drying (really bad manners to leave clothes and go to dinner).

If you decide washing laundry is the way to go, bring a plastic bag or bottle with enough detergent for estimated loads (1 or 2 maybe more if you have kids).  Make sure you put the container in a ziploc bag before placing in suit case.  You don’t want to have to wash your clothes as soon as you arrive because the container leaked all over them.  I can’t tell you how many times this extra step saved the day.  Yes, they have detergent in Laundromats but do you really want to pay 3 times more, have to get change or run the risk of the machine running out?  Time equals fun, don’t waste it!

If you decide against laundry you may still want to buy a travel clothesline (cruise lines usually have one in the shower), then you can wash your under garments in the sink (not so bad) and hang overnight.  Some travelers use shampoo to do this or soap.  I bought small Woolite packages.

Read also: 40 Tips for Traveling with Kids, Babies and/or toddlers

Do not carry clothes that we do not usually wear

When on vacation, some people modify their appearance, dressing up in local attire and daring with dangerous costumes, confident that their friends and acquaintances will keep their distance. Before you stuff your suitcase with extravagances that you never wear in your place of residence (those that we got for no apparent reason), make sure you truly belong to this group.

They merely take up space, and in the end, we’ll be wearing the same shorts and t-shirt for the holidays. So far, commuting has yet to be proven to have the power to turn a nerd into a fashion blogger.

Wherever possible, carry light objects.

Jeans and denim apparel take up a lot of room in a bag. Choose skirts and pants made of cloth. Isn’t it true that you can carry jackets or coats on your arm? Do you want to release those massive boots you’ve been eyeing? Do you have any sneakers that may be used for the same purpose? Then sports would be a better option.

Of course, you must always be adequately prepared for the unexpected. It’s important not to overdo it! Don’t go overboard with caution or recklessness. Find the lightest bags you can. Because the weight of your luggage is limited, why waste it by bringing a 20-pound suitcase? Traveling with duffel bags is inconvenient, but it may be worthwhile.

Read also: 10 Tips to Become a Sustainable Traveler

Be strategic so your clothes are cleaned for packing:

One week before trip – start washing all the clothes you need.  If you have a spare room or an area, lay clothes out and accessorize them.  I suggest you bring FAKE jewelry.  Do you really want to lose the ring your Grandmother gave you?  I left a whole bag of jewelry in a cab once (thank God it was fake).  I even have a fake wedding ring I bought in an airport.  Really – who do you need to impress? Your family and friends won’t care.

Gravitate towards the items that do double duty…flip flops can double as slippers, jackets as bathrobes (or see if hotel offers robes as a service), scarves can make great belts…well you see where this is going.

Add everything else you will need to your list:

Now that you have your outfits set, you will need to think about what else you need.  I have googled packing lists to get ideas.  Here are some:

Make-up (this is so important I pack some of it in my handbag in case airline loses my luggage), contacts, water shoes, alarm clock, travel pillow for plane, eye shades, sun tan lotion, brush, toothbrush, toiletries…everyone has different needs so this will vary.  I urge you to WRITE IT ALL DOWN and check off as you pack them.

NOW you can pack:

One day before trip start to pack.  Here’s how to fit it all in your checked luggage:

Put aside those items you don’t really need but want to bring – pack them last

Roll your clothes and lay them next to each other in a row

Put socks, scarves or anything that will fit in shoes

Use every space

Put a piece of paper with your name, cell phone number and work address in your luggage (if it gets lost and tags fall off they will know who to return to).

WEIGH YOUR LUGGAGE – some use a luggage scale, others get on scale without then with the luggage and deduct the difference .

Now decide which of the items you don’t really need to add.


Resist the urge to add extra clothes “just in case”


Put your medicine, phone, laptop, iPad, ear buds, charging cords, a change of clothes and bathing suit (if warm location), jewelry (if real) and anything else of value in your CARRY ON.  (You are allowed a handbag and a carry-on.  You can always pack your handbag a bigger bag which will give you more room).

Why?  Always have a Plan B.  Airlines lose luggage.  Trying to get new medication would be a HUGE time waster, not to mention dangerous to your health.  Replacing your electronics is just plain sad.  Trying to buy a bathing suit will, most times, take you out of your way and cost you time and money.  You will need a change of clothes if this happens.  Plus you need some of these items for the plane.

Now that you have packed, place your luggage near the front door.


Reserve your handbag for the items you will need to access enroute to your destination.  This would include boarding passes (print out night before), passport, phone, phone charger (some airlines have chargers on flights now!), iPad, money, pens, etc.

HINT:  When charging your cell phone and other electronics the night before the trip, put them on top of your handbag so you don’t forget them.  Leave a note on your luggage in big letters that says HANDBAG so you don’t forget that.


Save your packing list, it will help you next time you go away

Make a copy of your credit cards (should have this anyway in case they get stolen), put them in your carry-on (never your checked luggage).

Coming Home:

Most likely you will have souvenirs.  Pack your heaviest souvenirs in your carry-on.  This is to prevent your bags from exceeding 50 pounds.  If your bags go over the airlines will charge you more (could be 100 bucks!).  Wear your heavy clothes again.  If you have books or magazines you’ve already read and don’t need – leave them behind or give them away (cruise ships have libraries, airlines pass used books out during delays) to lighten the load.

When You Get Home:

It is ideal to empty your bags into the washing machine or laundry basket.  Empty out everything else in your suitcase.  Take your original packing list, add to it anything you may have forgotten and needed on your trip and put list in your suitcase for the next trip along with your travel pillow, converters, etc.

This system may look a little overwhelming in writing but trust me, I have learned over my many trips to follow it.  I would have to say that the item I missed the most when forgotten on a trip was my hairbrush.  I was able to buy a brush but it was not shaped the same and my hair was out of sorts till I got home!  Have you forgotten something important while traveling?  How annoying was that?


I’m in my late twenties who loves the freedom of traveling, the feeling of being anonymous in cities, vegan food, nature and the ocean. I feel the happiest when I’m on the move and in the moment.

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Kara Bout It