A miracle happened last summer, little me (the Queen of overpacking) spent 3.5 weeks travelling through Italy and Croatia with a backpack that weighed less than 10kgs and fit as hand luggage on Ryan Air, Vueling and Wizz Air. Quite amazing for someone who has always been an over packer.
If you’re going to travel on a budget, you need to cheat the system to keep your costs down, and sometimes the brutal charges that budget airlines add on just to check a bag in on your very, very cheap flight can end up costing you the same as your bargain basement flight. Which misses the point entirely and well, just means you’ve got to be resourceful.
Firstly, I confess I used to be the queen of over packing. I have hauled massive suitcases of more than three times what I need to travel with over the course of my previous travels. This took time, effort and tips from traveller friends.
Firstly the Back Pack
…get a good one. I took a recommendation from my more travelled friends and invested in a 38L Kathmandu lite haul back pack. Nifty thing, it unzips all the way around like a suitcase, no top loading or diving to find things. With a hidden laptop pocket it doubled up for documents and flat laundry detergent sheets (more on that below).
2. Be Ruthless
Now be ruthless, remember that last summer holiday you took where you didn’t wear half the clothes you took? Right. So pack half. Then pack less than that.
It’s doable. My 10kg consisted of;
- One pair of running shorts, one denim pair and one fabric pair.
- One sports bra and two small pairs of sports socks
- Two dresses – always cotton, if you’re somewhere hot sweating in polyester is hell
- Two playsuits – they take up less space than shorts and top combos.
- One hoody
- One pair of jersey or cotton floaty trousers
- 4-5 light vests or tops and one nice one for night.
- Floaty cotton kimono – such a good essential for covering shoulders in temples, cathedrals, churches and keeping a chill off at night.
- One thing I wish I had taken was a long skirt, I shuffled into the Vatican pulling my dress down to cover my knees, only to be unable to hold it down while inside and taking pictures like a gawking tourist (sorry!)
- One pair of trainers (worn to travel, as they were the heaviest footwear), one pair of rubber flip flops, one pair of flat leather sandals. I also packed a pair of Converse but never wore them – could have saved a tiny bit more weight if I’d left them behind.
- Numerous bikinis and underwear. Bikinis are underwear too right?!
- Kindle, 2 USB port charge plug, charging cables, x2 battery packs and x1 lipstick charger, large padlock.
- Refillable travel sized toiletries and make up – topped up along the way where needed
3. Packing Cells.
A travellers best friend, a revelation in organising even for the non-organised people. One for shorts and tees, a small one for chargers and cables, one for undies… I mean you could go to town. I didn’t have one loose thing in my bag, just makes finding things faster and easier. I organise for a living, so you can imagine how happy packing cells make me….
4. Roll Up, Roll Up
Don’t forget to roll up your clothes, a well known space saver trick, even when shoving clothes into packing cells. Works a treat, plus you can see everything you have.
5. Wash on the Road
You can wash clothes on the road you know? I know, crazy idea. I found some paper thin non-bio laundry detergent sheets, they’re flat so they fit into the laptop compartment in my backpack. They dissolve in water and work for both hand washing or in a washing machine. Having tried both, they did the trick. I didn’t exactly spill red wine all over myself and need to wash it out though, so I can’t tell you how decent they are for proper stains. Just washed my smalls, so I stayed civilised.
Packing light is a dream. If you’re travelling for 2-4 weeks you can get away with a small pack like mine. If you’re off hiking the Himalayas or the Jungles of Peru or taking a skiing trip then it might be a little bit harder to achieve without a bigger bag, of course…
Here’s the bonus for me, having done it successfully it’s turned around how I view everything I own in my own home too, I’m always now stripping my stuff down. There’s something delightful about living like a turtle, with enough in a relatively light back pack to live for weeks. You’ll be trying to turn your home minimal too!