How to Pack Lighter and Travel Light – Follow the 4 Steps to Smarter Travel

How to Travel Light and Smarter 101

 Less really is more.  

Travelling lighter will save you time, money and hassle. It`s surprisingly easy too!

  • Transport will be cheaper – baggage fees and bag supplements will be reduced.
  • With a light case you have greater freedom to do what you want.
  • Less stuff to lose and or break and the airline can`t send your belongings to the wrong destination.
  • Less hassle – less to lug around.  Your back and shoulders will thank you!
  • Quicker – no queuing at the luggage carousel.

You have more control as you literally have less baggage to cart around.  Travel is meant to be an escape from the norm – so don`t  take stuff you are not going to use just because you normally have it at home. It just takes up room and reduces your freedom and opportunities for spontaneity.   Read on to learn the 4 easy to follow steps to lighter travel.

Travel Smarter - How to Travel Light

Travel Smarter

Technology has made travelling light even easier as you can now just take a Kindle instead of multiple paperbacks.  A small 7″ tablet acts a sort of amazing entertainment box, allows you to research your destinations and use cool apps like Skype, Imessage and Whatsapp to keep in touch with those who are not lucky enough to be with you.

Use the four simple steps I outline below and you will definitely be taking less on your next trip. 

How To Travel Light

Four Steps to Lighter (and Smarter) Travel

Luggage carousels are so last season

Luggage carousels are so 2013…

  1. Preparation  
  2. Use a packing list
  3. Take it smarter
  4. Smart packing

#1 Preparation

Find your baggage allowance and limits.

You need to know exactly what you can take on the plane/bus/train.

Cabinbaggagesize.co.uk lists the cabin baggage allowance of many major airlines in an easy to use scrollable chart.

Watch out for weight limits! Fines can be hefty for breaking these rules so check our site and the official info before you fly.

Top Tip: Get Some Luggage Scales

Choose a suitable bag.

Your choice of  baggage is very important choice because you take it everywhere, particularly on long term trips.
The best bag for you really depends on your needs and style so it is would be wrong to make blanket recommendations.
However, an inexpensive, utilitarian and lightweight backpack is the Cabin Max which is a good carry on size. It is available in a range of colours – although it`s not going to win any fashion contest soon!

This backpack fits nearly all hand luggage allowances including Ryanair, BA, easyJet at 55 x 40 x 20 cm. I have a more detailed review of this cabin bag but I would recommend it to most people looking for a  decent, inexpensive bag to save on baggage fees and this does that job excellently.  Rated very highly on Amazon.

The Cabin Max Frankfurt is a messenger style bag which you may prefer.
So do we feel prepared? Now it`s time to make a quick packing list!

#2 Use a Packing List (I bet you`re not currently doing this!)

Start making a packing list – the easiest and most effective way to start to travel smarter.  It`s so easy and yet so effective.

Typically you may pack something like this (not all of it) and you should adapt your packing list based on what you need.  If last time you took two jumpers then never wore one you should probably take it off your list…


  • Passport
  • Visas
  • Flight tickets/boarding pass/hotel/hostel reservations/details of accomodation/car hire e.t.c
  • Travel/health insurance information/free EHIC card for Europe
  • Driver`s license and ID cards (students often get discounts)
  • Money, cash, credit/debit cards
  • Copies of important documents

Clothing to consider

This page does an excellent job of explaining in a little more depth about what clothes to pack and is a thoroughly useful website for those wanting to learn to lighten their load while travelling.

  • 3+ Pairs of underwear
  • 3+ Pairs of socks
  • Jumper/hoodie/sweater/cardigan
  • Fancy jacket
  • 2 pairs of trousers/skirts – one jeans? one lightweight trousers
  • 1-2 pairs of shorts
  • 3-4 T-shirts, polo shirts, blouses – take slightly different ones for different ocassions.  One long sleeve?
  • 1-2 Swimming outfit
  • Cagoule/raincoat/umbrella
  • 1 Pair of slightly dressier shoes
  • 1  Pair of sandals/flip flops
  • Walking boots?
  • Hat/bandana/scarf – multipurpose items
  • Belt


  • Watch
  • Water bottle
  • Headphones/ear plugs
  • Torch
  • Sunglasses/glasses
  • Paper and pen
  • Maps/guidebooks/phraseboo
  • Tickets for anything else
  • Small amounts of food for the flight?

Toiletries – buy when you arrive

 Toiletries will normally take up a lot of room and many are not allowed on flights as hand luggage anyway (have to be 100ml or less) Therefore, as a general rule of thumb it is best to buy toiletries at a cheap shop when you arrive. Prioritise items like contact lenses, personal medication and possibly suncream which are more personal, specialised and expensive.
Find out more about the hand luggage liquid rules and how you can beat them.
  • Small toiletries bag
  • Toothbrush and toothpaste
  • Deodorant
  • Contraceptives
  • Comb/hairbrush
  • Suncream
  • First aid kit?
  • Make up?
  • Necessary medicines/tablets

Gadgets and Electronics

The gadgets you may want to take.

  • Camera – a near necessity for any trip and non DSLR`s are quite cheap now.
  • Phone/Mp3 player with some cool apps like Skype
  • Tablet/Small laptop
  • A Kindle – they really are excellent. My Kindle review.
  • Chargers for the above
  • Travel adaptors

All of the above can be found on Amazon for reasonable prices – Click the Kindle above for a link!

I am sure I missed something important out but hey it was just a quick demonstration.  If you really want to travel light I recommend you make your own packing list and stick to it!

Top Tip: Change your packing list regularly to reflect on what you didn`t need/use on your last trip.


#3 Take it Smarter

Use your pockets

Pockets are incredibly useful for travelling cabin baggage only as no airline restricts the use of them. They are very useful for keeping some documents like passports and flight tickets anyway but they also allow you to take other items like small cameras on board without eating into your allowance.
Try to wear clothes with accessible pockets for your flights as it gives you more carrying capacity.
If you are really dedicated you could even get one of these rather innovative, clever but ridiculous looking jackets which let you take a laptop, books, camera, handbag and gadgets in your jacket pocket while also taking your normal cabin bag…

A good way to take more within the carry on allowance but ain`t nobody wanna wear that!

These are allowed on all airlines but you can replicate the effect on a lesser scale by wearing a large jacket with a couple of pockets or some trousers with big pockets and look a little more fashionable simultaneously.

Wear layers and your bulkiest clothes 

Fairly obvious but you should be wearing your bulkiest and heaviest items of clothing to enable you to pack lightly.  Wear multiple layers e.g. Hell even 2 T-shirts if you are struggling! a jumper and/or a coat and try to wear heavy trousers like jeans if you are going to be taking them.  Even better is to wear clothing with lots of pockets as mentioned above.

Take a Kindle! They Take Up Less Room Than 1 Paperback

Many find reading a very relaxing and pleasant activity to do during the holiday (I certainly enjoy the chance to read a book for once as I have a lot more time while away and less jobs to do.) However, books are bulky and heavy so I was always reluctant to take books with me – a shame as I wanted to read.  Purchasing a Kindle really helped solve this problem as it meant  I could carry over 1000 books with me.  It really is fantastic and weights less than one book!
Lighter than a paperback, with a fantastic screen for reading (you really do get used to it!) and with ebooks generally being cheaper than book it is fantastic and you can download a new book within 60 seconds.  Also, it has a long battery life (around 8 weeks.) I have one of the original Kindles but as technology always evolves there are better ones now.  The Kindle Paperwhite is particularly impressive and lets you read in the dark also.

Leave the laptop at home – swap it for a tablet if you can

They are very large and normally mean you won`t make the most of your holiday.  Try to bring another device with the internet such as an Ipod, your phone, or tablet.  It will save space and may make you go out and experience the location more. You can always use the computers in the hotel, or go to an internet cafe. I recommend the Nexus 7 on my recommendations page.

BELIEVE You can travel hand luggage only!

Believe that you can travel lighter, maximise your baggage allowance and plan carefully and YOU WILL.

For example, take lighter smaller multipurpose clothes that match with each other. Use accessories to change your style like a scarf or bracelet. Buy toiletries on arrival.  Use a Kindle.  Store documents on Dropbox.

#4 Smart Packing

Try to roll your clothes to reduce the space they take up in your limited cabin bag.  The traditional folding method is rather inefficient and you should try the rolling or bundle method for packing your clothes – especially for items like underwear where any unwelcome folds and creases are going to be less of an issue.

A really cool tip I discovered is hanging creased clothes nearby while you take a hot shower.  If you can do this it should remove some of the wrinkles and crinkles in your clothes.

This Lifehacker article gives a good overview of the rolling method.

Onebag.com has a good bundle wrapping diagram too which I will try and get permission to post here!  Either way the traditional folding method is not the smartest way to pack – especially if space is at a premium.

Folding is not the most efficient packing method

Don`t assume folding is the best packing method.

Quick Recap

  • Decide what you need and then prioritise
  • Get the right cabin baggage
  • Buy toiletries when you arrive
  • Wear bulky!
  • Take a Kindle
  • Leave the laptop at home
  • Keep trying to think how to pack
  • Use a packing list – link is an example list
If you follow these tips and think carefully I`m sure you will able to travel light and enjoy the benefits of lighter travel: lower costs, reduced stress and hassle from travelling with just cabin baggage.
Good luck and have a fantastic trip!
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Comments (15)
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