How to Pack Light: 15 Pro Tips For Traveling Light

Traveling light makes a big difference when you’re on the road. But it takes some practice to get good at it. Here are 15 tips on how to pack light that should help.

People who travel a lot often extol the virtues of “traveling light.” There’s less to carry, less to lose, and less to worry about! Done well, you can even bid farewell to hold luggage and save money on flights.

Yet packing light is easier said than done. Like downsizing to a smaller home, you have to be incredibly picky about what you bring. Moreover, when you don’t travel often, it’s hard to know what you really need. It’s tempting to pack for every eventuality.

Want some expert tips to help with the process? After living and traveling out of a small backpack for the last six years, here are 15 of my favorite hacks for how to pack light.

1. Pack Versatile Clothing

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Rule number one is packing versatile clothing suitable for the different things you’ll be doing. For example, when I travel, I basically live in one pair of travel shorts that are dark (more on this next), durable, fast-drying, and comfy. I can wear them for almost everything I want to do.

That’s the goal. Make it your mission to get the best bang for your buck from everything you pack. If it’s only suitable for X, Y, or Z, leave it behind. But if it’s adequate for X, Y, and Z, bring it along.

2. Pack Darker Clothing

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Dark-colored clothing is better when traveling light – especially in hot countries. Remember: you won’t have much to wear. Unless you want to do lots of laundry, you’ll probably wear the same items multiple times without washing them. Dark colors don’t show dirt, sweat, and stains as badly, making it easier to justify wearing them in public again!

3. Go to Warm Places

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What you pack depends on where you’re going. If the goal is to travel light, pick somewhere warm to explore. It’s a quick and easy way to reduce what’s on your packing list. In places like the Caribbean, for example, you won’t need any coats, hats, hoodies, or bulky shoes. Pack some sandals and a swimsuit, and you’re basically sorted!

4. Take Smart, Comfortable Shoes

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Shoes take up lots of space, so try to limit how many pairs you bring. Instead of packing formal shoes for meals out, sneakers for sightseeing, shoes for hiking, and sandals for beach days, why not pack one pair of smart, dark-colored, comfy walking shoes and some flip-flops? Those two options should serve almost any purpose.

5. Don’t Pack for Potentialities

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Whenever you pack for a trip, you might find yourself asking “what ifs.” For example, “What if it pours with rain?” or “What if there’s a cold day?” or “What if my phone charger breaks, and I need a spare?”

The chance of these things happening could be small, but you feel like packing for them, just in case. Avoid that mentality. Make the goal to use absolutely everything in your suitcase/backpack, knowing you can almost always find/buy anything you need in the countries you visit.

6. If It’s a Maybe, It’s a No

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This tip leads on from the last. Basically, a key part of traveling light is to be certain you’ll use whatever you take. That means there’s no room for maybes! If there’s a book you might read, don’t take it. If there’s an outfit or item you might wear, don’t bring it. This rule of thumb should significantly reduce how much you’re trying to squeeze into a suitcase.

7. Avoid Dead Space

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Make the most of every nook in your suitcase or backpack – including those created by what you pack. Your shoes are a good example. Before putting them in, why not place things like toiletries, chargers, and/or rolled up socks inside each one? It’ll save space, stop your shoes from losing their shape, and protect whatever valuables you put inside them.

8. Make Everything Match

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Another tip when packing clothes is to make sure every garment looks good with the others. For example, every T-shirt should go well (e.g., the color palette matches) with the shorts you bring. This will maximize the number of possible outfits you bring without having to take lots of clothes. It also makes deciding what to wear every day a breeze…

9. Only Pack Basic Toiletries

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A toothbrush, toothpaste, a stick of deodorant, soap, and a travel-sized bottle of shampoo. If I was trying to pack light, that’s probably the maximum number of toiletries I’d take. I may even leave the soap and shampoo at home – most hotels and Airbnbs make them available to guests anyway, making them unnecessary.

10. Be Ruthless

An image showing a man learning how to pack a suit in a suitcase.
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If you want the smallest and lightest possible suitcase/backpack, you have to be ruthless! Assemble everything you want to take, then reduce it by half. You’d be amazed by how little you need when traveling – especially in hot countries. Don’t forget how adaptable humans are, either. It might seem a ludicrously small amount to pack, but you’ll make do.

11. Take a Smaller Suitcase

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A truism among travelers is that you’ll fill whatever bag you bring. So, the most effective strategy for packing light is to give yourself no other choice! Using a small suitcase or backpack imposes a limit on how much you can take. Suddenly, being ruthless is the only option.

Keep airline size limits in mind, too. A 40L suitcase/backpack is usually (make sure you check) small enough to pass as hand luggage.

12. Roll Your Clothes Tightly

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Don’t fold your clothes before putting them into your suitcase. Roll them instead. Done right, it’ll save space and prevent wrinkles. Here’s a good video showing how to do the Ranger Roll, which is one way to do this really effectively. Pro tip: roll your clothes as tightly as possible, working hard to avoid wrinkles. Fewer wrinkles mean more spatial savings.

13. Vacuum Seal Your Clothes

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Having rolled your clothes, try putting them in zip-lock bags. You might have T-shirts in one bag, for example, underwear in another, and pants in a third. Once inside, you can zip each bag almost entirely shut, squeeze out the air, and then zip the final bit to seal them. You’ll end up with a “vacuum-sealed” effect that makes everything much less bulky.

14. Wear Bulky Items in Transit

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Want to maximize the space in your case? Don’t pack bulky and heavy items, such as coats, jeans, and boots, when in transit (e.g., catching a flight). Wear them instead. You may not look as stylish as you want to, and it might feel too hot in the airport terminal, but it’s an effective way to reduce how much you’re squeezing into a suitcase.

15. Don’t Pack a (Normal) Towel

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Whether for the beach or bathroom, standard towels are big, bulky, and often unnecessary. Hotels and Airbnbs provide them, and you can usually rent one from hostels (you might want to confirm this beforehand). If you do want to pack a towel, consider taking a sarong or a travel towel instead. Sarongs are multi-functional and travel towels are considerably smaller and lighter.


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Author: Danny Newman

Title: Writer and Content Creator

Expertise: Travel, Digital Nomadry, Outdoors, Blogging

Danny Newman is a writer, content creator, and digital nomad from the UK. He founded the travel and lifestyle blog What’s Danny Doing, a popular resource for people seeking more adventure, self-discovery, and purpose. A nationally syndicated writer, Danny’s work features in dozens of online publications, including and news sites across the US.