There's something liberating about travelling light. Without a ton of stuff dragging behind you like a ball and chain, it's easier to get around, and makes trips through the airport much less of a hassle. The problem is that, while it sounds easy ("just take less stuff"), it's often much more of a challenge than you think. I try to travel in nothing larger than a carry-on, regardless of where I go (the further away, the harder I try). Here are a few things I try to keep in mind when packing for a new adventure:
Use multi-purpose items.
If I could only suggest one thing, this would be it. Can a dress be worn as a skirt? Do you really need pajamas for every night? Use each item creatively and choose things that all go together so you can mix and match while on the road. This rule is especially true for the ever-present but necessary packing fiend... SHOES. They take up a massive amount of space, so wear your bulkiest pair on the plane and only take the absolute bare minimum. I never pack heels or anything fancy while travelling, as they simply aren't used often enough to justify the space they take up. I just make it work with a pair of flats and a swingy dress (which can double as a tunic or skirt).
Be that person. Most of my travel photos are in one of about three or four outfits - and I have no qualms about it. It saves space and reduces stress by limiting your options, just like a capsule wardrobe. Is what to wear really what you want to think about before going on your next adventure?
Take advantage of laundry options.
In a recent episode of the Cortex podcast, CGP Grey from Youtube and Myke Hurley of Relay FM discussed the pros and cons of different laundry options for longer-term travelling. Myke spent an embarrassing amount (his words) of money on getting his clothes cleaned via his hotel's laundry service, and I believe him. It can get ridiculous. There are, however, tons of other options out there, from laundromats, pick-up laundry services, and the age-old sink washing techniques. While in China, where washers were scarce and dryers literally don't exist, we did resort to sink washing and made it just fine (ok, yes, it's tedious and not my first choice, but it was cheap and got us through two weeks abroad in a carry-on each).
Be economical with your clothes.
Our sink washing experience taught us quickly about the value of conservation when it comes to clothes. We tried to be wise and use as few of our items daily as we needed. Every evening, after a long day exploring and sweating, we showered and went straight to bed - birthday suit style. This cut our usage of clothing literally in half, and was actually a lot more comfortable in the hot-and-humid Chinese summer.
Don't not take things you do need.
Rephrased, I'm saying: Don't limit yourself so much that you're caught without something essential. While there are lots of things that can be bought upon arrival if it turns out you need them, medicine is one thing you may not want to take for granted. Depending on where you're headed, medicine you're used to may not be available, and the last thing you want to do while travelling is go to the doctor. Also, don't forget things like a voltage converter, passports, tickets, etc. I usually have my clothes, shoes, and toiletries in my carry-on and my purse/backpack holds any electronics and important documents. Take what you need, just not more than you need.
Do you have any minimal packing tips to share? I would love to start the conversation - Comment below if you'd like to pitch in!