Packing light for one bag travel is not difficult.  It just takes a little planning.

overstuffed suitcase

What a mess!Here are some tips and tricks I’ve learned – sometimes the hard way – when you’re packing light for one bag travel.  It’s easier than you think.

First of all, stick with just one bag. Then, do everything possible to avoid checking that bag. You want one bag travel.  It can be a challenge but totally worth the effort.

Travel light. Live light. Spread the light. Be the light. – Yogi Bhajan Click To Tweet

Believe it or not, all you really need for the vast majority of trips is a well packed carry-on. Your bag cannot be lost if you check it.  You’ll save money on potential baggage fees, you’ll be less likely to over-pack and you’ll breeze through the airport while others linger at the baggage claim squinting at luggage and looking worried.

A good way to start is the old adage: Lay out what you think you’ll need then eliminate half.

When packing light, roll, don’t fold

You’ve heard it all before; roll, don’t fold. It’s true. Try it. When you roll your clothes they take up much less room in your suitcase. The bonus is that they wrinkle a lot less than if you folded them.

Packing light by rolling clothes

Roll, don’t fold your clothing

In my never ending quest to maximize space in my carry-on, I recently discovered space saver compression bags. These are bags of thicker plastic where you place your clothing. You then squeeze out the air, zip the bag closed, roll it up and place it in your bag. It is perfect for condensing your clothing virtually doubling the available space in your suitcase.  The only drawback is that you will be tempted to over pack because suddenly you have all this extra space.  There are several brands on the market now but here is one I liked.

When you get back from a trip, make a note of what you didn't wear. This will avoid packing it unnecessarily next time. Robert Powell Click To Tweet

Shoes, Shoes, Shoes: the enemy of one bag travel

Really think about your shoes. They are the bulky culprits that take up lots of space and cause you to overpack when you’re trying to pack light.

• Do you have a pair that can do double duty as comfortable walking shoe AND casual evening wear?
• Can your running shoes double as comfortable walking shoes?

Packing shoes is a challenge when going for one bag travel

Get shoes that can be used for various occasions. OK, maybe sneakers don’t go with a wedding dress, but you get the picture.

Bottom line, when you’re packing light, strive to pack as few shoes as possible.

Keep your shoes from dirtying your clothing by putting them in a shower cap. Any old cap will do. The free shower cap amenities available in some hotels are ideal.
Put your socks in your shoes. They will fill up the small space that otherwise goes empty.

Consider wearing your bulkiest clothes and shoes on the plane if weather appropriate.

He who would travel happily must travel light. – Antoine de Saint-Exupéry Click To Tweet

Use travel cubes. They will keep your clothes organized and separate; for example, pants/skirts in the larger one, tops/shirts in medium and underwear in the smaller one. Having your clothes organized in this way will help you reach what you want quickly and not have to dig all over your suitcase. No need to spend a lot on packing cubes, just about any brand will do the job. If a cube is not completely full, I sometimes fill it up with toiletries in a Ziploc bag. And as long as we’re on the subject of Ziploc bags…

The Wonders of Ziploc Bags (Yes, I actually wrote that sentence.)

Ziploc bags are indispensable on a trip. They are useful in many ways:
• Store toiletries that may spill. It’s a lot easier to find what you need in a clear bag.  Also easier to run them through airport security.
Avoid the hotel laundry at all cost and you will probably save a small fortune as a result. Put some laundry detergent into a Ziploc and rinse out your undergarments yourself.
• Keep hunger at bay while travelling by storing favorite snacks in a Ziploc. Airport food is expensive and not very interesting.
• If you are traveling overseas, store your home currency in a Ziploc to keep it separate from the local currency.  You won’t need your home currency until you get back home anyway.
• Expect to travel near water like a lake or the beach? Keep a Ziploc on hand to store and protect stuff you don’t want to get wet; phone, camera, food, important documents.
• Wet swimsuits, dirty laundry…the list is limited only by your imagination.
(and no, I don’t sell Ziploc bags on the side)

Envision the number of days you will be out, what will the weather be and what you will be doing; beach?…upscale restaurants?…long city walks?…hike? If you really only anticipate one day at the beach, don’t bring three swimsuits.

Mix and Match

Pack mix and match outfits so the same articles can be worn several times on different days.

Strive for a colors scheme that is easy to match and accessorize; black, white, blue. Better yet, pack clothing in different shades of one color only like black/grey and then accessorize with a bright color scarf.

“Just in case” is the curse of packing. – Alexandra Potter Click To Tweet

Pack quick-drying undergarments and wash them out at night. You won’t need to pack as many pieces.

With a few common sense tips packing light is no longer a challenge.

What is your best tip for packing light for one bag travel?


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  1. Great tips, Talek. Thank you. I’d like to suggest choosing the right bag, preferably something around 40 litres. I recently downsized from a 54-litre bag to the Osprey Farpoint 40 which is 38 litres in the S-M torso size. It’s perfect, forcing me to adopt packing strategies resulting in shaving a few kilograms off the packed weight of my bag. On my last trip of 2.5 months I discovered that a packed weight of 8 kilograms is comfortable, for me, in a travel backpack. It also meant my bag passed for carry on with regional carriers (Qantas, Air New Zealand and Jetstar) with their 7-kg carry-on limits on all nine flights within Australia, New Zealand and SE Asia.

    1. Thank you, Anne. Yes, choosing the right bag is critical. Thanks for your suggestion. BTW, we have something in common. I too love eating at reasonably priced local restaurants with names I cannot pronounce. Even better, get a menu in a language you don’t understand, point at something you don’t recognize and see what you get.

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