Packing tips for traveling light

I just flew in from North Carolina and boy, are my arms tired!


No? Okay.

In all seriousness, I went on vacation last week! It was very relaxing and I got to spend some quality time with a good friend – and the beach! I flew Spirit Airlines which is a phenomenal value for the price you pay. It was a truly minimalist vacation.

Your Ass + Gas

The motto of Spirit Airlines is “Your ass plus gas.” I was immediately hooked. The premise is simple: You get a no frills travel experience for a rock bottom price. You get a randomly assigned seat at check-in and can carry on a personal item. Not even a carry-on size bag – just the one personal item such as a backpack, large purse, etc. I used a Timbuk2 messenger bag. There are no free drinks or snacks. You want to pick your seat? You pay. You want a drink? You pay. You want more bags? You pay.

I love this model because I am capable of traveling very light and I usually don’t even take airlines up on their free food and drinks, so why should I pay for it? And if you want it, you can afford it because the tickets are so much cheaper by not pre-loading all the amenities for a plane full of people to all get a free drink and the opportunity to duke it out over exit row seating. It’s truly a win-win.

One might assume that “you get what you pay for” and that a cheap ticket (I am talking CHEAP – round trip from Cleveland to Myrtle Beach was less than $100) means terrible service and no leg room. There was average leg room and everyone was professional and positive. There were no sassy flight attendants.

Overall – I highly recommend Spirit Airlines. If my future holds more travel in it, I will probably go for the membership to save even more on my flight fares. I could make a weekend trip to go visit my brother in Florida for less than a hundred bucks (even less with the membership).

Those of you who remember my backpack for 5 days in Sevilla, Spain can probably imagine that a 4 day, 3 night stay at a friend’s house was easy peasy packing for me!

Benefits of Packing Light

There are a ton of reasons to pack light when traveling.

  1. The airline can’t lose your luggage. Nothing to check = no opportunity for the airline to lose your bag, leaving you stranded and underwearless in a foreign land.
  2. Everything is accessible. If the entire contents of your stuff fits under the seat in front of you, there’s no awkward shifting to rifle through your bag in the overhead compartment, and you don’t have to worry about it falling out and hitting you on the head when you open the door after landing. Nobody else can touch your stuff, because it’s with you the whole time.
  3. You can get around easier. It is much easier to get around your destination with only a small carry-on bag. You can walk around and get places not accessible to those who are taxi-bound because they checked a bag and it’s too big to walk with. The world is your playground when all your stuff fits into a small bag.
  4. You aren’t in a rush. You don’t need to check into your hotel to un-encumber yourself of your worldly possessions if you only have a small bag. Go do whatever you want, the hotel will be there when you are ready.

So now that you’re thoroughly convinced of the merits of traveling light, where do you even begin?

Packing Tips to Travel Light

  • Make a list. This is step one to everything in life.
  • Pack sockless shoes. No socks = more space.
  • Wear your bulkiest items on the plane to keep more real estate available in your bag.
  • Wear layers on the plane.
  • Pack multi-function items such as pashmina scarves, which can be used as a beach sarong, skirt, top, scarf, blanket, or pillow if you’re really desperate. Pack a bar of soap that doubles as a shampoo bar or laundry soap in a pinch (plus, no liquids-in-the-luggage rule to deal with!).
  • Wear your pajamas under your clothes on the plane, or resolve to sleep naked.
  • Evaluate the need to take something with you vs. your ability to purchase or obtain it once you are there. My friend graciously allowed me the use of her toiletries so all I had to pack was my toothbrush, rather than toothbrush, toothpaste, shampoo, body wash, etc. However…
  • Consider your destination. A beach destination may have higher prices on things like sunscreen, wide brim hats, and the like, just as a cold-climate destination may have inflated costs associated with gloves and scarves. Do a cost to space analysis and decide what gets priority in your bag based on how easily you can obtain it at your destination.
  • Roll your clothes to take up less space in your bag.
  • Use tools like packing cubes, space saver bags, Grid-It, and other organizers to better utilize your packing space.
  • Look at the weather forecast and decide if some items need to be added to or removed from your bag.
  • Evaluate laundry availability. If you can do laundry at your destination, you can pack fewer clothes. Fact. I don’t care if you wear the same outfit twice and nobody else does either.
  • Ladies: One word – dresses.
  • Use a backpack or other multi-functional bag that can be emptied and used while you are at your destination as a shopping bag, hiking bag, etc. (depending on what you’re doing – if you are going to be poolside for 48 hours and God himself could not move you from your reclining pool chair, then pack whatever bag you want).
  • Consider a lightweight waterproof jacket if you are going somewhere with unpredictable weather. It won’t take up much space and will be very useful for you in the event you are caught in the rain. (Did I ever tell you about the time I stopped in the middle of a hurricane to go to DINOSAUR WORLD?)

Recommended Products

Here are some products that I love and/or intend to try out and find out if I love them:

  • Timbuk2 – I personally guarantee that you will love anything you buy from this website. My boyfriend and I both have messenger bags, and their backpacks are phenomenal.
  • Packing Cubes – I haven’t tried them, but I am assured that I would love them. These are likely going to be a purchase before my next big trip.
  • Grid-It – These are GREAT for keeping small items organized and collected. Perfect for earbuds, charging cords, pens, small notebooks, etc. They allow everything to be organized in a flat plane rather than in a pile at the bottom of your bag. We have approximately nine million of them. (That’s not very minimalist. I think we have about four).
  • Plug adapter for international travel – I had to buy one at a small electronics mart in Spain. Buy one online or somewhere in the land of your native tongue for the least stressful experience.

The Fun Part – With Pictures!

So… what did I take on vacation? I started by laying out all the things I wanted to take with me, which included:

  1. Pink striped dress
  2. Purple dress
  3. Brown dotted dress
  4. Pashmina scarf
  5. Bathing suit
  6. Tee shirt
  7. Gray shorts
  8. Black capri pants
  9. Underwear x4
  10. Pink tank top
  11. Black tank top
  12. Black tank top
  13. Sports bra
  14. Coaching program notes
  15. Book
  16. Notebook
  17. Pen
  18. Essentials from purse
Tips for packing light, how to travel light with a carry on bag
Cat not packed.










I then decided what I would wear on the plane (the capris, one black tank top, the tee shirt, and the scarf) and rolled the rest up:

Roll your clothes to save space in your carry on bag when you pack light
Rollin’, rollin’, rollin’…






When everything was rolled up, I packed it into the bag:

Rolled clothing takes up less space in a carry on and allows you to travel light
All packed!











But then I decided that I didn’t super love the pink dress, and I could probably get away with not packing it. So I took it out. I also opted to take my Kindle (which my boyfriend charged up for me, and he also downloaded some choice titles for me to read) instead of the paperback book. I did take my coach notes and a notebook, though in retrospect I would have survived without the notebook as I made plenty of notes on the printouts. Pen, always useful. From my purse I included $40 cash, my debit card, and my driver’s license. I pre-printed my boarding pass and checked in online so I stuffed that in the bag too.

And of course I had to pack my healthiest meal of the day, so I scooped a few servings of my Shakeology into a zipper bag and tossed that in on top. My toothbrush went in after I had brushed my teeth the morning of my flight, and the same went for my deodorant. Naturally, I also packed a phone charger and Kindle charger, and my boyfriend loaned me a portable battery which came in very handy!

Tips to pack light and travel with a carry on - roll everything and be ruthless in your decisions about what to pack!
All packed up and ready to go, the morning of my flight!











All told, I packed roughly 25 things for my trip, and it was the exact correct amount of clothing. I wore everything once, except one pair of undies and my sports bra. I am getting much better at packing. I also read two books on the Kindle and got a decent way through a third one! Good call on the Kindle.

Tell Me About Your Travels

Where have you gone lately? What are your favorite packing tips and tricks? I have caught the travel bug, so I need everything you can teach me!

2 thoughts on “Packing tips for traveling light

  1. Packing clothing items I can wear more than once helps a lot, as well as packing things that will dry quickly after I wash them. I went on a 10-day trip recently with 1 pair of jeans, 1 pair capris, 1 knee-length skirt, 1 sundress, 2 tank tops, 2 t-shirts, 1 long-sleeve shirt, 3 pairs of (sockless) shoes, 1 pair of running shorts, 1 exercise top, 1 sports bra, 1 soft light jacket, 1 light waterproof jacket and 1 pair of socks that could go under my barefoot running shoes for the cave tour we took (cold feet are not my thing). I also took my swimming suit, but ended up not needing it. All the tops and my running gear were washed at least once on the trip. I pay close attention to what I actually wore when I get home and rethink the next trip. I sleep in my running shorts and a t-shirt if I need pajamas. I take dark colors so stains don’t show, and also so everything goes with everything else. The three pairs of shoes are flip flops, running shoes and black flats. This combination of stuff took me from a city to camping in a state park to another city, where we went out with friends, with no problems. We drove so I didn’t have to worry about the airlines, but I keep my travel bag packed, including toiletries, for flying. I’ve got a Rick Steves backpack that has served me well for a couple years now. Oh, and I love my Kindle! I read four books on this last trip, but only had to take the one device. And my phone is an Android, so only one charger needed. 🙂

    1. Those are AWESOME tips!! I didn’t think to mention that quick-dry clothing is a good tip. I know my sister was hand washing her clothes when she studied abroad in Spain, and she learned very quickly that jeans take FOREVER to dry 🙂

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