Planning a trip? Here’s how to slim down your suitcase

Talk to anyone who travels on a regular basis, and there’s a good chance they’ll all give you the same piece of advice: travel light.

Sticking to a single carry-on bag will cut down on the amount of time you spend waiting in airport lines, and reduce the backbreaking strain that comes from lugging a bunch of heavy suitcases around.

It’s possible to pack for an overnight or weekend trip carrying nothing but a modestly sized handbag and the clothes on your back, and even longer excursions are more enjoyable when you whittle it down.

However, sometimes packing light is easier said than done. Here’s a simple guide to help you keep your luggage to a minimum on your next journey.

Start small

Chances are, you’re going to fill up that suitcase no matter what size it is, so it’s in your best interests to invest in a smaller size right off the bat. Putting strict visual guidelines on the possibilities will put you in the minimalist mindset before you’ve even got started.

Consider your itinerary

Packing the perfect suitcase requires a good deal of advance preparation. Fortunately, you’re starting with a solid foundation: the details of your trip.

Think about where you’ll be on any given day, the activities you have planned, and the various weather possibilities. Depending on the specifics, you might be able to make some adjustments as you go along – say, investing in an inexpensive poncho should it rain on your beach vacation – and this can cut down on the number of wardrobe items that you’ll need to pack.

Start by taking stock of your itinerary. If you’re going on a cruise, for example, you may be tempted to imagine that you’ll need nothing more than a swimsuit and caftan, but the reality is likely to be quite different. You’ll want a warmer layer for the evenings, and perhaps something dressier for dinner.

Depending on the options for shore excursions, you might need anything from extra swimwear to a pair of hiking boots. Having a basic outline of your day-to-day plans will help to ensure that you’ll bring along everything you need – no more and no less.

Make a list

Once you’ve determined everything you believe you’ll need, write them all down on paper. Check them off as you load them into the suitcase.

When the list is complete, don’t be tempted to add more just because you have space – stick to the predetermined items. This will keep you from going overboard and bringing along six of the same shirts in different colors, “just in case.”

Technology is your friend

If you like to read while on vacation, you no longer have to lug around a mini-library of heavy books (or take out a small loan to purchase paperbacks in the airport).

Instead, load a few must-reads onto your Kindle or iPad, and give your muscles a well-needed rest. If you prefer the tactile experience of turning pages, rest assured that it will still be there waiting when you return home.

Dress in layers for the traveling portion of the trip

This tip is especially useful if you’re journeying from a chilly climate to a warmer one, but you can benefit from it no matter where you’re coming from. Start with a basic layer – a lightweight, semi-casual shirt or blouse paired with a comfortable pair of slacks – and cover that with a sweater or coat (or both, if necessary).

Wear well-broken in shoes with socks. If you’ll need a pair of sandals or flip-flops on the trip, they’ll take up less space in the suitcase than a bulkier set of footwear would. (You can save even more space by stuffing items like phone chargers and outlet adapters into the shoes while packing.)

Whatever you do, don’t take up valuable packing space with a heavy jacket. If it’s too warm to wear it while you’re traveling, but you think you’ll need it where you’re going, then carry it with you on the bus or plane.

Take your packed bag on a trial run

While nifty gadgets like travel scales can come in handy – especially if you’re traveling on a an airline with tight restrictions – there’s no substitute for a good old-fashioned road test.

So, once your suitcase is full, make sure you can lift it easily, without struggling. Carry it around the block. If you experience any discomfort due to the weight of the bag, then you’ll need to consider paring it down.

Traveling like a minimalist doesn’t have to be restrictive or unpleasant, despite the advance planning required.

On the contrary, you may find that it’s the best gift you’ve ever given yourself. Sticking to the basics will help you save time and effort, and ensure that you have the most hassle-free experience possible. Bon voyage!

Photo by Arnel Hasanovic