Skip to main content /TRAVEL /TRAVEL

Know-It-All: Packing light

By Jamie Allen
CNN Interactive Senior Writer

(CNN) -- You're just going to have to face it.

If you want to travel light and finally enjoy a vacation free of sore muscles caused by lugging leaden luggage from here to Timbuktu, you must learn to leave certain things at home.

And, along with the kitchen sink, those things you leave behind are going to be things you think you need, but you really don't need -- things like your third-favorite pair of shoes, or that really cool outfit that you might or might not wear, or that three-pound hair dryer.

"Overpacking is one of people's biggest (travel) problems," says Caroline Haberfeld, executive editor of Fodor's travel publications. "I think people have separation anxiety from their clothing -- like one piece of clothing is going to make or break their vacation."

Haberfeld says if you want to pack light, the place to start is in your head -- come to grips with the fact that you don't need three outfits per day. And plan to wear everything -- everything -- that you pack.

adviser archive
Get tips on dozens of travel topics from the scrollbox below

"Don't pack clothes because you like them; only pack clothes you will wear," she says.

Haberfeld recommends planning ahead. Make a list of things you'd like to bring, then edit that list down to half its length (at least). To help cut down on clothes, Haberfeld says to:

  • choose like-colors to mix and match
  • pick either black shoes or brown shoes to wear throughout the trip, otherwise you'll have to bring matching accessories (belts, purses, etc.), creating twice the weight
  • quit day-dreaming that your vacation will be a fashion show

"People get tired of looking at themselves in the same outfit," Haberfeld says. "But they don't really need to change."

Haberfeld recommends you bring, at the most, three pairs of shoes, wearing the heaviest pair on the plane.

And another thing: Why are you bringing economy-sized bottles of shampoo and conditioner? Unless you plan to do some serious bathing while you're gone, you can get by with the much lighter travel-sized variety.

"You should keep a travel kit that's already packed of travel-sized things -- Q-tips, toothpaste, moisturizer -- then you don't have to run around doing it all the time. That's how you forget things," Haberfeld says.

Beauty appliances and comfort clothes are another weighty issue, but they don't need to be. Haberfeld recommends calling the hotel where you are staying and ask if they provide:

  • hair dryers
  • irons
  • robes
  • slippers

If they do, those are four things you don't have to bring.

Another idea that might help you get into the mentality of light packing: Pretend you'll be backpacking, carrying every item with you for the entire trip.

Robert Levy is familiar with this. The Atlanta-based traveler has backpacked around the world. He sees packing as a chance for travelers to come to grips with their bare necessities.

"Overpacking is one of people's biggest travel problems. I think people have separation anxiety from their clothing."
-- Caroline Haberfeld, executive editor of Fodor's travel publications

For instance, "You only need one pair of jeans," Levy says. This comes from a guy who spent a good deal of time away from the comforts of a Laundromat. Vacationers on a week-long trip, with or without the benefits of a hotel laundry, can get by with one pair, as well. Jeans are jeans, after all.

Other tips from Levy, which echo Haberfeld's advice:

• "Anything you can put on your body, you do ... and you just pack the rest."

• "You always wear your boots and pack your sandals."

• "I wouldn't bring shampoo; I'd bring a bar of soap. I wouldn't bring shaving cream; I'd just use a bar of soap."

• "You really only need a half or a third of what you think you need. If you've got six pairs of shorts you can easily halve that."

The bottom line: Let go of your wants, get in touch with your true needs. Part of the fun of traveling is freeing the habits of home, and it all starts with the stuff you don't pack in your suitcase.


Note: Pages will open in a new browser window
External sites are not endorsed by CNN Interactive.



Back to the top