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Whether you’re traveling light to make things easier, or you’re trying to save money on baggage fees, learning to fly with minimal items is a great skill to build. Even if you’re traveling abroad, you’ll find that you don’t need nearly as many clothing items or accessories as you think you do, and in the long run, packing light will make things simpler and more enjoyable during your entire trip.

Need help cutting down on your overstuffed bag? Here are a few travel packing tips you can employ to go light without sacrificing your essentials.

1. Invest in a Solid Backpack

 Guy With Backpack

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First things first: if you’re learning to travel with the bare minimum, you’ll need to have baggage that fits your goal. Find a backpack that will work with every airline’s free carry-on policy. This will allow you to rely on one bag for every flight, and if you purchase a good one, it will make packing light easy. No more extra baggage fees or last-minute checked luggage!

If you want the best travel backpack, focus on finding one with lots of pockets, a firm shape, and padded shoulder straps that won’t hurt as you carry everything around for hours. The more compartments it has, the easier it will be to organize your belongings. Also, go with a backpack that will hold up for years. Durability might raise the price tag, but you don’t want to end up stranded with a broken backpack halfway through your vacation. Osprey and The NorthFace are good places to begin your hunt.

2. Plan Your Outfits Out in Advance


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A huge aspect of traveling light is learning to be strategic with your attire. Layers are an absolute must, so start by taking your favorite items out of your closet and learning how to mix and match them effectively. A weekend trip should really only require three outfits, and if you reuse a pair of pants and only bring one jacket, you should be able to make everything fit in a small suitcase or backpack without struggling.

Whenever I travel, I lay out all of my clothing on my bed and label my outfits by the dates I will wear them. This might sound excessive, but by looking at all the items spread out before I shove them in my luggage, I’m able to think clearly about how I will utilize my travel wardrobe and whether or not I can nix any unnecessary items. Each time you start to put a piece of clothing in your bag, ask yourself, “Will I really wear this?”

 3.  Be Selective with Your Footwear

 Adidas Hammock

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Shoes take up a lot of space, especially when you’re only using one small bag. When it comes to traveling light, you need to be very purposeful with your footwear selections. Wear the bulkiest shoes you’re bringing to the airport to save space (i.e. boots and sneakers), then shove your smaller shoes like sandals and flip flops in your luggage. Try to structure your outfits around your shoes so that one or two pairs match everything you’re bringing.

My recommendation? There are only three pairs of shoes you ever need to travel with unless you’re facing extreme climates or going to a special event.

  • A pair of uber-comfy, casual tennis shoes. My Adidas have been everywhere from Vegas to Disney World with me, and I never leave home without them. I know I can rely on them to keep my feet feeling good, even after miles of walking, and they look good with pretty much every outfit I pack.
  • Flip flops. You never know when you’ll encounter a shower or pool that calls for a cheap pair of shoes you can slip on and wear near water. I can’t tell you how many times I regretted leaving my flip flops at home, so now I always shove them at the bottom of my bag.
  • Hiking shoes. Obviously, not every trip will call for these, but if you’re planning on going somewhere with lots of nature, you’ll want a pair of shoes that can take on rocks, unmarked paths, and water. I invested in a sturdy pair of Merrell boots years ago and have certainly gotten my wear out of them.

4. Minimize Your Morning and Nighttime Routines


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I’ll admit that I’m often guilty of packing too many facial and hair products that I don’t really need to use. Before you start stuffing your bathroom bag with your favorite items, think about how you can simplify your usual routines and bring the fewest number of products. Can you go without your face serum for three days? Do you actually require two types of hairspray? Chances are, you don’t need most of what you want to pack, including all of your makeup and beauty items. This might seem like a sacrifice, but you’ll find it’s easier than you think to cut down on your usual routines.

 5. Purchase a Luggage Scale


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Here’s the thing: you might think you packed your backpack lightly, but when you finally put it on your shoulders and start to travel, it might be significantly heavier than you assumed it would be. That’s why it’s smart to actually weigh your bag with a scale before departing for your adventure. A good rule of thumb is to keep your backpack’s weight at about 10 percent of your body weight. So, if you weigh around 150 pounds, your backpack really shouldn’t exceed 15 to 20 pounds in order to feel comfortable on your back.

The Bottom Line:

Traveling light isn’t about making sacrifices. It’s about learning what you truly need to make it through a trip and what can be left at home. By carefully planning your outfits, relying on one or two pairs of shoes, and cutting down on your bathroom products, you’ll find that you can live with far fewer items than you think you can.