This post is for you, my husband who no longer has any idea what packing light means. There was a time, not so very many years ago when we could go on holiday without the kitchen sink. In fact, we coped for a month in New Zealand with just a motorbike pannier each and a small rucksack between us. These days, we travel with two kids, two large dogs, an estate car and a folding camper (over-sized trailer tent). We have even had a genuine discussion about whether to bring the cat next time.
So to remind us how it’s done and to offer a few tips to anyone else wanting to save space, here are my top 10 tips on packing light.
1. Make a list before packing
I’m not a big list maker. But when you’re packing, it’s useful. The list should consist of everything you think you need and how many of each thing.
Before you pack a thing, cut the list in half – at least. There will be washing facilities, I promise. Even if it’s just a sink and some hand-wash powder. You don’t need 14 pairs of pants.
I can manage on two pairs of shoes for a holiday. My running trainers and a nice pair of flip-flops. Trainers are fine for running, hiking and anything active. Pretty flip-flops are fine for the beach or for going out. That’s enough.
3. Wear the bulky items to travel
However warm it is, wear your biggest pair of shoes , your jeans and whatever jumper or coat you are taking. It is incredible how much space this saves.
4. Use the space by packing smart
Roll up your underwear and put it into your shoes. If you have any boxes, bags or pockets that don’t fold down, put things in them.
5. The roll and sock trick
Roll up small items of clothing like tops and shorts. They’re always smaller when rolled and they don’t crease like they do when folded.
Then take a sock, put it over your hand and grab the end of the rolled top. Put your sock onto it as you would your foot. This will keep the top from unrolling, therefore saving on both space and creases.
6. Choose light materials
With the exception of what you’re wearing to travel in, just choose the clothes that are light and breathable. They take up less space and get less creased.
7. Ditch the buggy
If you’re travelling with young children, do you really need a pushchair or buggy? When you’re travelling, baby carriers or slings are just so much easier.
You can take them on the plane as hand luggage and they fold down to nothing. Additionally, there’s much less hassle when you’re walking around.
I took Libby on a business trip to Paris when she was 10 months old. I’m pretty sure that if I’d taken a buggy I’d still be there now waiting for someone to open the access gate on the underground.
8. Travel with hand luggage only
It’s possible, even with children – I’ve done it. And don’t forget that if children are old enough to have a seat, they also get a hand luggage allowance. There’s no problem with packing your things into their case.
After all, whatever size suitcase you take, you’ll fill it and you’ll never, ever use everything that you take.
9. Take miniatures
There really is no need for a full size bottle of shampoo and conditioner for a fortnight. Miniature bottles will be plenty. A nice soap will take up less space than a shower gel and a roll-on deodorant instead of an aerosol.
If you’re going somewhere that doesn’t provide towels, take a travel towel. They dry quickly so they don’t smell and they take up so much less space.
10. Double up
When chosen carefully, many items can double up to do two functions.
For example, a gorgeous light summer dress will do for an evening or a day on the beach. Better still, sarongs are fine for evenings, poolside, seaside and even an improvised picnic blanket.
For more packing ideas, check out my tips for packing a camper van for family travel.