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4 Reasons to Always Travel Light, With 5 Tips to Get Started

Oct. 12, 2016
7 min read
4 Reasons to Always Travel Light, With 5 Tips to Get Started
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We've all seen those articles about how to pack or travel light, where a few pairs of pants, some shirts, undergarments and some other essentials are all you need. But why minimize your packing? And what do you really gain by going carry-on only when traveling? From saving money to saving your back, here are four reasons to keep that suitcase light and not trapped somewhere in the belly of the plane.

You'll Save Big on Baggage Fees

While we've seen some absolutely fantastic fares to Europe on low-cost carriers like Norwegian and WOW Air, it should be noted that both budget-friendly airlines are famous for imposing strict requirements — and extra fees for carry-on and checked luggage — which can really add up. On a Norwegian flight between the US and Europe, for instance, you can expect to pay a minimum of $45 for your first checked bag and $50 for your second. Norwegian places a weight limit on carry-on luggage, depending on the type of ticket you get — its LowFare, LowFare+ and Premium fares dictate your carry-on can't weigh more than 10 kg (~22 lbs), while for Flex and PremiumFlex tickets, the limit stretches to 15 kg (~33 lbs).

US domestic low-cost carriers aren't much better when it comes to baggage fees. Both Spirit Airlines and Frontier Airlines charge for checked bags as well as carry-on luggage — in fact, the carry-on fee is actually higher than the charge for a single checked bag, with prices starting at $35 on both carriers depending on when you pay for your bags (on Spirit, for example, it's $35 if you pay while booking online and $55 if you pay when you check in at the airport). That price may seem steep, but to ensure that your bag flies with you and avoids any issues with ground handling, it might be worth the cost simply for some peace of mind. Which brings us to the next reason to travel light...

Your Bag Will Always Be By Your Side

Everyone dreads that feeling of getting off a long flight, heading to the baggage carousel and waiting. And waiting. Until eventually you inquire about your bag only to find out it was accidentally put on a flight to Ulaanbaatar and may never be seen again.

Hopefully, this doesn't come as a shock, but packing light and carrying your bag onto the plane yourself is the easiest way to avoid the whole possibility of losing it. Knowing exactly where your bag’s located relieves stress and lets you get off the plane and head straight to your vacation, or your next connection, without any hassle.

With a carry-on, you'll be able to exit the plane and start your vacation with ease. Image courtesy of Shutterstock.
By traveling light, you'll be able to exit the plane and start your vacation with ease. Image courtesy of Shutterstock.

To be fair, the airlines are making serious efforts to improve the way checked bags are handled and tracked. But even with advances in technology and tracking, the only way to be 100% certain that your bag makes it with you is to carry it on the plane yourself.

A couple of incidents involving foreign carriers this August help to bring this point home. ANA left thousands of bags at Tokyo Haneda Airport (HND) at the beginning of the Obon holiday season, while in Europe, KLM had a similar issue and bags were left at Amsterdam Schiphol Airport (AMS) with little notice given to customers.

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It Makes It Easier for You to Help Others

Being the good traveler that you are, especially when you're on the road with a significant other, there's a real possibility that you might need to help carry their bags, too. My wife is an efficient packer herself (I would argue she's probably even better at it than I am) but during a recent trip to Europe, I noticed she was having trouble navigating the stairs at train stations. Since I carry a backpack and use a lightweight rollaboard, it was easy for me to pick up her suitcase in my free hand and help her take it up the stairs.

During a recent trip to Bratislava with some friends, I was not prepared for the significant amount of snow on the ground and was not keeping up as we made our way to a bus stop. My buddy, also a very light packer, ran over and grabbed my suitcase with ease, helping me catch up with the rest of the group. With a large, checked bag I'm not sure he would have been able to help me.

You'll be Able to Get Around Faster When You Need To

Traveling light also gives you the ability to navigate situations quickly. In a crowded train station and need to get to the next train in a hurry? Having a heavy checked bag complicates your ability to do that, and once you get there, chances are you'll end up fighting for space for that bag, struggling to find a place to put it. A small carry-on suitcase and a lightweight backpack or bag, on the other hand, make transit so much easier.

So, how should you pack light? Here are five easy tips to help lighten your suitcase and make your travel experience a little more pleasant.

Decide What You Really Need to Bring

I used to be someone who packed for every possibility while traveling, but over time I learned that this just isn't sustainable. There's no way to pack for everything and really no reason to do so. Instead, stick to just the essentials for your day-to-day activities.

Layer Your Clothing

Light rain jackets are great for adding another layer on a chilly night. A light sweater is a good item to carry as well.

Keep That Personal Carry-On Item Light

I love to read and Amazon's Kindle has been a great way to reduce the number of books I'm carrying when I travel. I always ask myself whether or not I need to bring my laptop; unless I'm going to be working on the road, I usually leave it at home. I also carry a DSLR camera, but with recent advances in mirrorless technology, I've considered downsizing to decrease the weight.

Are you a big reader? Consider getting an Amazon Kindle to lighten your load. Image courtesy of Shutterstock.
Do you usually travel with a bunch of books? Consider getting an Amazon Kindle to lighten your load. Image courtesy of Shutterstock.

Remember: You Can Always Do Your Laundry on the Road

This is one of those points where people usually say that hotel laundry is expensive — and they wouldn't be wrong. But spending a couple of hours one evening at a laundromat is worth it when you realize you only have to pack a week's worth of clothes to spend three on the road. If you're staying in an Airbnb, you may even have access to a washer and dryer in the unit, meaning you can do your laundry like you would at home.

Forget Your Toothpaste? Just Buy it There

Are you a dry shampoo user or do you need a specific hair product? You can find most major brands in major urban areas around the world, so instead of packing these items, just buy the smallest size when you arrive. I love getting out and shopping in a foreign country — it's a crash course in the language, the culture and the way of life. Instead of packing some of the heavier basics, focus on the things you know you can't always find — like aspirin without a prescription in Europe.

Bottom Line

When traveling light, it all comes down to giving a little more thought to how and what you pack. Putting a little extra time in on the front of your trip can end up saving you money — and headaches — during your travels and help make that vacation feel like an actual vacation.

Do you have any secrets for traveling light? Share them with us, below.

Featured image by Packing light. Image courtesy of Shutterstock.