From my travel experiences as a kid, I am used to going on vacation with a mini version of the entire household. My family always made road trips with our caravan in which there was plenty of room for everything a person could possibly need. A small coffee maker, a kitchenette, a small TV. In my aunt’s caravan there was even a small bathroom and a mini washing machine.
You can guess how big my suitcase was when I first went on vacation myself. I had never been outside of Europe, but decided spontaneously to visit a friend who was doing an internship in Thailand. I borrowed the largest suitcase imaginable from my parents and dragged it with me to the other side of the world. The suitcase was packed with everything I thought I could possibly need, but of which at least half I never used. I even did my laundry there, as in the end you always wear the same things on your trip.
That is so different from how I travel now. I prefer to bring a regular size backpack – not to big, as neither am I and I am the one carrying it around the whole time – and I prefer to take as little as possible with me. Less to wear and less to worry about. What you don’t have with you, cannot be stolen and cannot get broken. Less clothes means less choice stress when getting dressed in the morning. How amazing is that!
I didn’t even realize that I was traveling so much lighter, until I was on a vacation with my mother again. When we traveled back to Russia a few years ago, I found a hair dryer and electric kettle with tea and tea mugs in her maxi suitcase (really, no joke). It was a reminder of how impossible it seems to many people to travel light. Or even travel with hand luggage only for a couple of months! Do you think you could do that?
That’s why I like to share some tips for downsizing your luggage. With these tips I am sure you can!
1. What do I need?
Do not mindlessly pack your suitcase or backpack with exactly what you always take with you and has been on your packing list for years. Think carefully about it. What do you usually wear on holiday? Do you need three pairs of shoes, if you always end up walking on your flip flops every day? And which clothes and products usually return back hom unused? It is good to evaluate this right a trip, when you see exactly what you have taken with you and now bring home unused. Make a mental note of this immediately. Or an actual comment on your packing list.
2. Have someone doing your laundry
If you are traveling for three weeks, you do not have to bring clothes for three weeks. Decide how often you want to have your laundry done and only bring clothing for in between these washes. We usually bring clothes for about 1.5 weeks. As a result, we noticed that on our short 11-day trip through Jordan, we actually didn’t take much less with us than on a 2-month trip!
Extra tip: discuss with your travel companion how much underwear you both take with you. This way you avoid having to wash your stuff after only two weeks, while your travel companion has to look for washing facilities every other week. It is much more convenient if you coordinate this and always need to find a laundry service at the same time.
3. Leave your stocks at home
If you travel for six months, you will need more than that one bottle of deodorant and shower gel. But please, just leave that second bottle at home. People also use soap and shampoo abroad. You can buy it there as well. That is often also a lot cheaper. And even if it is not (in our experience, for example, sunscreen is often more expensive abroad)? Are those few cents worth the trouble of carrying all those bottles of shampoo, deodorant, etc.?
4. Invest in travel essentials
Though traveling light is usually about taking less with you, there are some travel essentials that you actually do want to bring with you. My e-reader for example is my best friend when traveling. I easily read piles of books during our travels. Can you imagine how many kilos that would be if I actually put those books in my backpack? Of course, an alternative is to exchange books while traveling or to buy a new English-language novel on the road. But I just prefer to read the books that are high on my reading wish list and to bring them on my e-reader.
So think carefully about what the stuff of which you bring a lot. Books can easily be replaced by an e-reader. A towel, bath towel and wrap? Replace it with a nice hammam towel (and use the towels in hotels and guesthouses as much as possible). Do you bring a laptop with you, maybe because you work or blog on a trip? When purchasing a new one, try to choose one that is as light and small as possible.
5. Use a smaller suitcase or backpack
Do you notice that as soon as you have a larger house, it almost automatically seems to fill itself up with stuff? And that a new and larger wardrobe will be packed again in no time? That also works with your luggage. Choose a smaller suitcase or backpack to force yourself to pack smarter. And do you really want to travel light? Then only pack some hand luggage!
What are your travel hacks to travel as light as possible?