How To Pack For A Trip: Ditch The Load And Go!

EdventureGirl's picture

My family has been traveling for years, and everywhere we go we meet people who want to travel. Excitedly, they list all of the places they want to see, experiences they want to have, and friends they would like to bring. Then comes the “but.” Everyone has one. Whether it is work, school, lack of funding, or simply insecurity, all wanna-be travelers have an excuse.

I’ve found that the most common reason people around the world don’t travel is their addiction to “stuff.” It’s a love/hate relationship where the afflicted wannabe traveler hates the stress of dealing with mountains of personal belongings, but can’t tear themselves away from the inexplicable comfort of hoarding all that stuff.

I must admit, I am no exception to this. As we are nearing our two year trip to Asia, my family is getting rid of almost everything we own. I’ve been amazed at how many toys, books, clothes, electronics and musical instruments I’ve collected over just the past six months of respite between trips. Getting rid of these things can be hard sometimes. Whether you want to or not, you eventually will gain an emotional tie to material items. A shirt you wore on a memorable moment, jewelry a best friend gave you, six of your favorite 2,000 page books. You get the idea! But think about it. When you’re hiking up a mountain on a dirt road in sweltering heat do you really want five hundred books, fifty outfits and all of your electronics on your back? No matter where your destination, or the length of your trip, less stuff always means less stress. Here are some tips for paring down a little before a big trip:

How To Pack For A Trip: Ditch The Load And Go!

1: Don’t pack your whole wardrobe!

Choose three everyday outfits you love, and then throw in a dinner outfit and pjs. Although this may seem limited, it’s really all you need...just enough to wear a clean outfit every day and wash every third day! Pick things that are similar and mix and match them so you have more than three options. Then, get rid of everything else! You’ll find that reducing the amount of clothing you pack will make your life much easier.

2: Think about how many electronics you really need.

Most people now have way more electronics than they need, and packing light is nigh impossible when you have an iPod, at least one computer, and a gaming device. Take only what you need, or unplug completely if you can! If possible, try to get an electronic device that will fulfill all your needs. I’ve found that the iPod Touch or a small computer is the best option, as they allow you to game, use the internet, and listen to music all on one device. 

3: Read using a Kindle, iPod Touch, or other small handheld device.

Reading is a big addiction for me. For years, I’ve struggled with bringing a small library wherever we go. I’ve ended up juggling gigantic bags full of heavy books over planes, trains, and buses. I’ve found that switching to a small iPod Touch has had great advantages! Although this adds another electronic to your bag, an iPod has a much more travel friendly weight than twenty books, and you have a near unlimited supply of downloadable reading materials! Plus, many great travel books are not available in print, but can be easily found as ebooks.

4: Lose the three bags of makeup and hair accessories.

Most people can’t leave home for more than a day without bringing along their entire bathroom! Is this really necessary? I think not. Try minimizing to what you know will not be available elsewhere, and to what is immediately essential. This is what I pack, see if it works for you too!

A small travel-sized bottle each of shampoo and conditioner.

One hairbrush (preferably small) and a few elastics.

A toothbrush, with travel sized toothpaste.


A razor.

A minimal amount of makeup (blush, lipstick, mascara, coverup).

5: Shoes, shoes, shoes...

Who needs five pairs for a few weeks? Many travelers I know have laughingly lamented their addiction to shoes. Leaving them behind will give you a lot more space in your bags, and significantly reduce weight.

But the question remains, what shoes to bring? I have found that it’s only necessary to bring one pair. Before you go on your trip it’s very important to do a little research on the climate of your destination. If it’s normally freezing cold, bring one pair of versatile waterproof boots. Usually though, close-toed sandals are the best choice. Avoid bringing heels, as they tend to just weigh you down in the end. My favorite brand of traveling shoes is Keen, as they last forever and are comfortable.

6. Get insurance.

Sure, you've pared down to the bare minimum (finally!) - but what happens if the unthinkable happens? Be sure to get travel insurance and know that you'll be ok. Your small investment will help you replace your belongings, wherever you are in the world.


No one really needs to haul a mountain of belongings, and leaving most of it behind will allow you to relax and enjoy your vacation. Next time you leave for a trip, no matter where you go, no matter how long you are gone for, try using these tips to help you pack light!



Hannah Miller is a member of the Youth Travel Blogging Mentorship Program.