A few years ago, Scott and I decided we were done with checking bags. No matter how long or short, no matter how far or near, we gave up checking bags. This has included a 25 day trip to Thailand and a 3 week trip to Italy where we stopped on the way home for a Friday wedding in New York and then flew home the next day for a Saturday wedding in California. I don’t say this to brag. Rather to give a few examples that it isn’t always easy to travel lightly, but it can be done.
This works for us now but it’s important to remember that we don’t have any health conditions that require liquids or creams and we don’t have any children, which I hear causes you to need a few more things on a trip 🙂 … So while this may work for us today, I know that in the future things may be different. But regardless of whether we check a bag or not, we have been forced to learn how to pack more efficiently and there are many lessons to be learned from simplifying.
1. Most often, you can get whatever you need wherever you are going.
Of course there are always exceptions, such as traveling to a remote village, but more often than not you can get what you need at your destination. When going on trips, I tend to not want to spend the time blow drying and styling my hair so I often wear it wavy, which requires products. Or if we are going on a longer trip, the travel size toothpastes are not large enough. But instead of bringing these things along, we have actually had a lot of fun buying these products in other places, especially if they happen to be in another language! Instead of it being an inconvenience, it has actually turned into something that we look forward to. We find the local drug store and look for a fun unique product. But if you don’t have time for that, you can pick up a lot of necessities at the airport as well.
One backpack each for our Thailand trip
2. You can wash most things in the sink and let them dry over night.
There is this idea that you need a different item for each day of the trip, especially when it comes to certain undergarments, but when the length of your trip starts to increase, so does the space used in your suitcase. I usually pack a little laundry detergent (or find some when I am out there) and do wash in the bathroom sink if I am running low on any specific item.
Bring quick drying items to make it easier!
3. A bathing suit is not just a bathing suit…
And a scarf is not just a scarf. You can use a certain item in many different ways. My husband only brings one pair of workout shorts and generally works out in his board shorts the rest of the time. I usually bring a lightweight oversized scarf (like the one below I got in Thailand) and use it as a blanket on the plane, as a beach cover up during the day and as a tool to keep me warm at night.
Beach cover up & a scarf!
4. The less you have, the easier everything is!
Carrying your bag out of your house, to the airport, through security and then to wherever you are staying are all obviously way easier when your bag is lighter and less bulky, but really everything is easier when you have fewer things. Packing (which I know many people dread) is so much easier and at the end of the trip the bag practically packs itself. Now, I know people may think packing lighter means you wear the same 3 things over and over but that doesn’t have to be the case. In fact on a 9 day trip to Hawaii, I wore a different suit each day (the art of combining tops and bottoms) and a different outfit each night (thankfully sun dresses are small). But given that I knew I had one outfit for each night, I just packed it in my bag as soon as I wore it, so by the end of the trip, all I had to do was put in my toiletries and remaining bathing suits. This allowed Scott and I to enjoy a nice poolside lunch 30 minutes before leaving for the airport rather than packing up in our room.
Enjoying the outdoors on our last few moments in Hawaii
5. You rarely NEED something you forgot.
I just got back from a trip where I forgot my favorite workout shorts. They are the perfect item because you can wear them over a suit where you might want to hike then swim, they are lightweight for warm weather activities and if they get wet, they dry very quickly. I had packed a pair of crops (as I knew I would likely try to work out each day so it made sense to have two options) and I was completely fine. I had to wash them a few times while we were there and on those days, I just modified my workout to an ocean swim! I was bummed when I realized I didn’t have them but in the end I didn’t miss them AT ALL and in fact it forced me be more creative! Oh and if it is something you really do need, refer to lesson 1 :).