9 Expert Tips for Packing Extra Light

Travelling Light

Leave those worldly possessions behind and enjoy the simplicity and freedom that comes with travelling light. Photo: FreshSplash/Getty Images

Imagine travelling around the world for a full year with a single carry-on bag. Well, that’s exactly what Diane Redfern did. The B.C.-based founder of Connecting Solo Travel Network (CSTN), the online research and resource centre for single and solo travelling, has been travelling light her entire globe-trotting life.

Before retiring in 2017, Redfern took an average of two or three trips a year for over 40 years, so she knows a thing or two about packing – whether it’s for a hiking trip or a cruise with formal dining.

These days, more and more people are opting for the carry-on method of travelling – something flight attendants have been doing for years. With many airlines charging extra fees for checked baggage, it makes sense. Plus, you eliminate the wait at jam-packed airports when you land, bypass any extra cab fees for handling, and there’s no chance your luggage will go missing. But best of all, you’re in control.

As the famous guidebook writer and U.S.-based world traveller Rick Steves says, “In your travels you’ll meet two kinds of tourists – those who pack light and those who wish they had.”

If you simply can’t imagine going on a vacation for two weeks with a single carry-on, try and think of it as an opportunity to take a holiday from all your stuff. Leave those worldly possessions behind and enjoy the simplicity and freedom that comes with travelling light.

“As a general rule, any travelling wardrobe should be comfortable, versatile, mixable and washable, made with deep, closable pockets and capable of doing double duty,” says Diane.

Here, Diane’s tips for packing light.


1. First, set your priorities. 

Know the kind of trip you’re taking and pack accordingly. (For example, a biking trip through Ireland will call for different clothes than a culinary trip to New York City.) And remember, you can always buy yourself out of a jam if you need something you didn’t bring.

Photo: Les and Dave Jacobs/Getty Images


2. Bring only lightweight, washable fabrics you can launder in your hotel room sink.

3. Wear your heaviest and bulkiest pieces of clothing on the plane.

4. Take only clothes that can do double duty.

For example, a sarong can double as a towel, beach cover-up, dressing gown or a beach blanket.

5. Roll, don’t fold clothes.

“This separates each item, you can see more than if they’re piled on top of each other, plus it helps to prevent creasing,” says Diane.

6. Bring no more than two pairs of shoes.

“Too many shoes is probably the biggest mistake most people make,” according to Diane. One super comfy walking shoe and one other shoe that can double as a slightly dressy option is your best bet.

Photo: Michael Blann/Getty Images


7. Keep colours neutral so your travel wardrobe is easily mixed and matched.

Some people only pack black and white to make it easy.

8. Always leave room for these small, must-have items that can save the day.

These include travel clothesline, travel-size laundry detergent, mini flashlight, earplugs, and a one-size-fits-all sink stopper so you know you’ll be able to do laundry (which you do every night before bed so undies and socks etc. are dry by morning.)

Photo: Peter Dazeley/Getty Images

9. Tuck socks and underwear into shoes or around the edge of the suitcase and in the tiny spaces where nothing else will fit.

“Travelling light is very doable,” insists Diane. “You really can live and feel comfortable wearing the same clothes day after day. That’s because you’re constantly seeing new places and new people so it feels like you’re wearing new clothes. I never felt like I was wearing the same old dowdy thing when I was travelling.”

A version of this story was published on Feb. 7, 2018.