Monday, February 20, 2012

Travelling Light: Part Two

The last time we flew down to Brisbane to visit grandparents I stood and laughed at our luggage.   We had the same amount for the four of us that I used to travel with on my own.   

Two converse travel experiences taught me the benefit of not taking everything I could possibly imagine needing on a holiday.

First, we went to Melbourne, in winter, when our eldest was about 21 months old.  We struggled to stay under our weight limit, and struggled to manage our two big suitcases, big duffle bag, stroller, two decent size carry on bags plus the baby.   We didn’t really use a lot of what we packed.

Then, a little under a year later, my eldest and I flew to Brisbane with my mum for four days and only took carry on luggage.  Mum checked in a small suitcase, which meant I was able to buy a couple of things while we were down there, but all I actually needed to take for me and my 2-year-old was a small bag and a medium-size backpack.  The backpack was just for our jumpers and a snack for the plane.   

I can assure you, that second experience was far better than the first, and it challenged me to think about what I pack. 

In the last ten years we have probably averaged 2 ½ trips a year, mostly by plane, and I have gone from needing a huge suitcase to fitting everything for a week away in a good sized handbag.  It’s incredibly freeing to get off a plane and just walk out, without having to stop at the baggage carousel.  It’s also so much easier to get from the airport to wherever you’re going with two young kids and minimal luggage.  I hate flying to start with, so not having to lug big bags around makes it far more relaxing. 

I still take far too much with me, but here’s a few lessons I’ve learnt about packing light:

1. Do some research and found out where you can wash.  The number of outfits I pack now is based on how often I can get to a washing machine.  Laundromats aren’t cheap, but the biggest cost is the dryer.  Cut drying costs by doing one cycle through the dryer and hanging out the clothes in your room to finish drying overnight.  Pack clothes that won’t take as long to dry. 
2. Choose clothes that take up less space.  
3. If you’re concerned about being bored by only three or four outfits for a week or two, take things that all go together so that you can mix and match.  Two weeks isn’t really that long to be wearing the same few things. 
4. Take as few shoes as you can get away with. Shoes are bulky.  
5. Take less toiletries.  You don’t need a huge bottle of shampoo if you are only going to wash your hair twice while you are gone.  Don’t take spares of anything, either.  Most places have shops if you happen to run out.  
6. Take less entertainment.  You are going on holidays!  Spend the time chatting with your travelling partners or the people you’re visiting!  Take in the sights!  Take one book and then find a secondhand bookshop to exchange it at if you do end up needing another one.   Take one less toy for the kids.  My experience is that they rarely play with what you take and instead find new and exciting things at the destination, or they want to play games like I Spy.    
7. Find accommodation that provides linen, including towels.  
8. After you’ve packed everything, take something out.  

What are your tips for not over-packing?


  1. The number one tip I have come across on the net is to buy a small bag. That way you CAN'T overpack.

    When Andre and I go to Europe for 6 weeks+ in April, we are taking one bag each (plus my handbag). Mine is carry-on size; Andre's might scrape in under carry-on size depending on how much he crams in it and the airline's specific requirements, but we're not counting on it. Mine is 38 litres, Andre's is 50. People I've mentioned it to look at me like I'm crazy. But I've done a lot of reading on it and I think it will be fine.

  2. We have also bought microfibre travel towels. They are physically smaller, it's true, but still absorbent enough and pack down very small. When rolled up, mine takes up the same amount of space as a tea-towel would rolled up. I am not going to go off buying special quick-dry, packs-down-tiny clothing, as many people online suggest, for a 7 week trip though. If we were travelling for a year then I would definitely think about it.

  3. I don't think you're crazy. What are you doing about things like phone and camera chargers? I always find they take up far too much room.

    I personally would buy really lightweight clothing, especially for the quick drying factor. I figure I can still wear the clothes after I come home. That's the one thing that I would have done differently when we went to NZ. I took lots of bits and pieces of warm clothes that I already had, or stuff that I could use later, so I could layer up, when when I got there and was cold for two whole weeks, I realised I would have been better off buying some specific clothes for the trip and taken a lot less with me.

  4. Our chargers are small, they won't pose any problems. The biggest problem will be the camera and additional lens. I've bought a neoprene cover for the camera (instead of taking the whole big camera bag) which I'm hoping will fit in one of our backpacks (probably Andre's). If worst comes to worst I know for a fact it fits in my handbag (I purposely bought one big enough to fit the camera) so I can carry it in that on the plane if it won't fit into one of our backpacks. In fact I know my handbag fits the camera, the second lens, a water bottle, my phone and my wallet. It makes it heavy, but if I have to, it will fit. On the plane I'm not walking around carrying it anyway so it doesn't matter if it's heavy! I also need to buy a neoprene cover for the second lens.