The first time you go travelling you try to pack for every occasion whilst keeping your bag light. Halfway through your journey you’ll realise you haven’t touched half your clothes and want to send them home but it’s expensive. Every time you set off in future your bag will get lighter and lighter, but it’s still too much. Here’s a few tips for travelling light that I have found handy.
Pack a smaller bag first.
Put everything you’re taking with you into a bag half the size of the bag you’re taking. It can be a tight squeeze; that’s fine. Once you’ve managed to fit your gear into this smaller bag – THAT’S IT. Now you can move all this stuff into your regular backpack and you’ll find you have a fair bit of space, which makes it a lot more accessible when travelling. You’ll also find you didn’t pack to the limit due to trying to squeeze only what you needed into the smaller backpack.
No expensive clothes
When the time comes during your trip that you want to send half your clothes home, you can just throw stuff away or donate it to your hostel’s box of stuff for other people (they’re quite common). There’s no urge to hold onto a bunch of plain tees that cost £2 each and you can always replace them with equally cheap clothes you find whilst travelling. If you pack your favourite clothes that cost an arm and a leg back home you won’t feel okay throwing them away and they’ll weigh you down without being worn for your whole travels.
One pair of shoes
This took me a lot of adventures to realise. I used to pack a pair of “everyday” trainers for exploring and a nicer pair for nights out, fancy meals etc. Eventually I switched these out for flip-flops. Now I just take one durable and dark pair of trainers that can be used for trekking/hiking, general chilling and nights out. Shoes take up a lot of room and you’ll always favour a certain pair, so just take one pair that will suit every occasion. For me it’s a pair of black Nike running shoes.
Roll & squish your clothes
Don’t fold them – that wastes space and makes them hard to access. They also become unfolded and laziness means you won’t re-fold them all every day. I tried vacuum bags to separate my different types of clothes and cleanliness, but recently I’ve realised this just takes up time and makes me hesitant to wear different things because of the effort required when re-sealing my vacuum bags. Rolling clothes up as tightly as possible and squishing them into every gap possible saves room and makes everything easily accessible without upsetting the rest of your bag.
Don’t take a coat
The first time I was advised to take a waterproof was when travelling Southeast Asia. Storms and heavy rainfall was certain so I bought a cheap, thin travel raincoat from Primark. It did rain a lot but in short stints and during the rain it was still really hot. There’s also waterproof coats available at most convenience stores for £2. I wore mine twice over many months because I quickly realised it was a lot easier to get wet and dry off about ten minutes later from the heat than to unpack my coat, get it really wet whilst still sweating profusely and then have a wet coat to deal with.
Ditch your technology
My job requires a laptop. My first two major travels included taking my laptop with me – I rarely used it because it was too sunny for the screen and seating was uncomfortable everywhere. Heat and fun often meant I was never in the mood to work. Eventually I downgraded to just taking a tablet with me but the same thing still happened and I rarely used it. Eventually I made the leap to taking nothing but my phone and I will never go back. Having no expensive tech to worry about and no guilty feeling that you should be doing work is fantastic. You’ll probably ignore me and take something anyway, but you’ll agree with me afterwards I promise.
Take a pen
Paper is everywhere, but finding a pen is impossible everywhere. They’re also weirdly expensive in every country I’ve visited. You often need a pen to fill in arrival cards in new countries and just generally… everywhere. Take a pen and keep it somewhere accessible. It sounds simple and un-important but seriously – it’s super important.
Get a waterproof(ish) bag
I’ve never bought a waterproof bag cover because I spent an extra £3 when purchasing my backpack to get a waterproof one. Whenever I see people faffing around putting on their bag cover, hanging them from their hostel bed to dry off or trying to squish them into their bag I know I made the right decision. It’s totally worth it.
The art of toiletries
Ditch all your sprays as they take up a lot of space and aren’t allowed in hand luggage. Use roll-on deodorant under 100ml and forget hair products. Buy tiny toothpastes and despite what others say, I would recommend buying toothpaste BEFORE you reach your destination. Toothpaste is a lot cheaper in Western countries and it’s handy to have when you’re stuck in an airport for a million years feeling gross. Take a cheap and rubbish toothbrush – it will get dirty or squished but if you splurge on a cheap hotel every now and again you’ll often get a complimentary replacement. Buy shower gel at home and put it in smaller containers – it’s expensive everywhere and airports won’t let you take a full bottle anywhere. When you stretch to a cheap hotel you’ll probably receive complimentary shower gel so use it and take the tiny bottles – those things are handy for storing all sorts. Do the same with sun cream, it’s also cheaper back home and needs to go into smaller bottles. Toiletries are generally the most annoying thing to have in your back, so minimizing what you have and putting it into tiny bottles is essential in my opinion.
Don’t buy a big bag
Every airport and train station is full of backpackers carrying 70L beasts on their back. Why do you possibly need all that stuff? I tend to travel with a 35L backpack, although my next rucksack will be 25-30L because after a lot of trips, I have got this packing thing down.
Take an exercise band
This may sound like it goes against all the “pack light” advice, but I believe it’s an essential if you’re travelling for more than a month. Even if you’re not a gym-goer, staying in-shape and healthy should be a high priority for everyone. You start to feel sluggish and weak after travelling for long enough and gyms cost an absolute fortune. Grab an elastic exercise band before travelling – it can be tied to your bag so it doesn’t take up space and can often serve other purposes such as hanging clothes in your hostel room. Grab one off eBay before you go as they’re hard to find and expensive abroad.
Pack a frisbee
Oh boy I wish I had learned this earlier! Plates are rare whilst travelling and in hostels where you can cook your own food, they’re often dirty. Using a frisbee as a plate, a protective layer in your backpack or a way to socialise is great. I will never travel frisbee-less again.
Your hoodie is too thick
My hoodie gets thinner and thinner with every adventure. During my second trip to Morocco I decided to ditch the hoodie altogether; what a huge mistake! Despite the blazing sunshine, wind was enough to force an overpriced hoodie purchase in Essaouira from both myself and my girlfriend. From now on I will always pack a hoodie, but keep it as light and small as possible to save space in my backpack, because it’s only ever neccessary when the wind picks up.