Travel Hacks: Real Tips on How to Pack Light

By Ellen Andreu

This past summer I spent two months in Europe. Before I left, I couldn’t decide on what to bring or how much to bring. Then I checked the prices of checking luggage for each of my 13 flight.

I decided I would challenge myself. I would bring everything I needed in a carry-on suitcase and a small backpack. This made day trips, boarding flights and getting my luggage from point A to point B so much easier. There were several days I had to get from an airport to a metro station to a train station to an Airbnb all in a few hours. If I had anything more than a carry-on suitcase, I think I might’ve fainted. Making this decision saved me a lot of effort, time and money.

So, I recommend that the next time you travel, you consider packing light. Here are my tips on how to pack light the right way:

  1. Bring two of each. I use this rule when I’m packing “staples.” Staples are things you NEED to pack and clothing that goes with every outfit. The staples I packed were jeans, skirts, tops, comfortable shorts and shoes. For jeans, I picked a light pair and a dark pair. I knew where I would be going and some of those places would have weather in the low fifties. It’s always safe to bring at least two pairs of pants if you know you are going somewhere cold. Also, the black jeans doubled as something to go out in at night. If I was planning on going to any bars or clubs, I could pair the dark pants with a nicer blouse for a really simple, cute outfit. When it came to skirts, tops and shorts I packed two skirts and two shorts, one flowy and one jean, and two t-shirts, two blouses, and two casual tops. It’s important to have some versatility in your style by bringing a small number of nicer clothes, but when traveling, you need to make sure you always have really comfortable, simple, casual tops and bottoms to create a relaxed look that’s also easy to walk around in for an entire day. Lastly, I brought two pairs of shoes and then a pair of flip flops. I had one pair of sneakers for walking around in and then one pair of cute sandals that I could wear out at night and also during the day if I needed to. For underwear, socks and other miscellaneous items, I brought as many as I would need for the trip, but since I was gone for so long, I brought enough to wear for about a week and a half before having to do laundry.
  2. Use packing squares. Packing squares are KEY! For the most part, you can find them at any store that sells suitcases. They really revolutionized the way I packed and unpacked. You can roll up all of your clothing into these little squares and then pack them into your suitcase in sections. I used one square for under garments and socks, one for shirts, and one for bottoms. Then when you need to unpack, you can simply take the squares out of your suitcase and into any drawer while keeping everything packed up nicely.
  3. Simple is more. I learned that it’s not about how many clothes you bring, but how you mix and match each outfit. When you bring a bunch of simple outfits without any crazy, clashing patterns, you have many more options for outfit ideas. Packing clothes that can match any pair of shoes or any bottoms you bring, will help you create new outfits every day. I am the type of person that likes wearing different outfits when I travel because I take so many pictures and I want to avoid looking like I only have two outfits. However, if you pack simple “staples” and lots of shirts that can match everything in your suitcase, you will have so many more options, and no one will even notice that you packed your entire life into a carry-on for two months.

With these three simple tips, packing for your next long or short adventure will be easier. It is absolutely possible to pack a carry-on for a month or more. Avoiding the headache that comes with lugging around giant suitcases is definitely worth the challenge of packing light.

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