Going on a budget travel?
With creating itineraries, applying for visas and with the excitement of exploring a new place, packing ends up taking the last priority. But just like documents, we do end up checking off a list of things to pack.
While packing is an essential part of any travel, traveling light is an art!
Based on my travel (packing) experiences, I have listed few tips to pack light. We will then talk about its benefits (both monetary and non monetary).
Tips to pack light and hacks to be within the Economy flight’s ‘cabin baggage limits’ of 7 kilograms –
- First, choose the lightest bag without compromising on comfort. Invest in a good backpack, it will survive long enough to offset your investment.
- Next, target your toiletries kit. It is the heaviest and the most easiest to optimize. I was able to reduce 1 to 1.5 kilograms of weight by just optimizing the bottle sizes and quantity. Just because airlines allow 100 ml per bottle and a total of 1000 ml, that doesn’t mean you need to take it all.
a. Take travel size packs. If you cannot find smaller bottles or sachets, then pack them in your own small use and throw containers.
b. Or, buy the products 2 to 3 weeks earlier and use it until you take off for your travel.
Note: Real world scenario – I had taken a half used deodorant that said 110 ml. And on my 9th flight, an airport staff did not allow it, past the security scanner. I could not convince her in spite of giving past flight references in the same trip. I ended up throwing it in the bin. So ensure to use containers which print volumes less than 100 ml, irrespective of the quantity left inside the container.
- If you are traveling for a long duration, carry toiletries that will last only a week or two, and keep stocking up each time you enter the next country/place (if needed).This is a trade-off between your preferred brand and spending before vs. during the trip. Cost wise you might gain or lose some meager amount in the toiletries shopping. But it will surely not equal the check in baggage cost. 🙂
One of the lessons here, would be to let go of the ‘brand fussiness’, that you may have acquired from your life styles. Plus you get to try some new local brands, after which you can either appreciate that or your home products better. PS: Most hostels have free toiletries.
- Carry ONLY WHAT YOU Already USE AT HOME. Except for perfume of course. Make sure you carry a deodorant/perfume, it’s much-needed on long travel days and hikes. If you are traveling to a different weather from your’s then pack as per that weather. For instance, a moisturizer for winter or a talcum powder for summer. Or both if you are traveling to different regions across weathers.
- DO NOT carry everything that you use at home. Make some heavy (pun intended) sacrifices, like leaving your hair dryer and hair straighter or curlers at home.
If you pack these, we will call you a tourist, and then you can add a travel iron box as well!
- Next target is your medical kit. Take tablets (in limited quantities) for 5 things – cold, fever, dysentery, headache and indigestion. A band-aid and antiseptic cream/lotion. That is it!
There are medical stores in all major cities but it’s tough to figure out the compositions because they will most likely have different brands. Plus there could be a language barrier (in trying to explain to the local pharmacist) depending on your travel location. So if you are prone to falling ill or already on some medication, then take everything you normally use at home.
- In addition to the cabin baggage, most airlines allow an additional purse/sling bag or a laptop bag which is normally not measured. Put all your chargers and electronic gadgets in your shoulder bag or purse. You can add all the souvenirs like fridge magnets to this bag as your travel proceeds.
If you are not carrying a laptop, make sure to buy a sling or a shoulder bag that is not stiff.
So that the bag takes the shape of what you put and will attract less attention.
- Hold the heaviest jacket in your hand. And if you have another one (in case you are traveling to a cold place), then wear it. Hold one, wear the other.
If you have shopped too much on the way back, layer as many clothes as you can. However this is a hack for people who haven’t packed light or are not able to keep it light after a few weeks on the road.
- Wear the heaviest pair of trousers from your bag (cargo or the jeans). Leave the shorts for the beach!
I was even weighing t-shirts with my hand to guesstimate the heavier one to wear 😉
Don’t worry, after your first flight, it will be easy-peasy because you would already know the heaviest stuff in your bag. Put on your heaviest shoes as well.
- Carry minimal footwear – a pair of hiking shoes, a pair of sandals or day shoes and a pair of flip-flops. You can always buy footwear in the country you are traveling to. You need not carry backup shoes, unless you are traveling to Japan and if you are size 5 and above!
- Sleeping bag – To carry or to not to carry? Make this decision first based on the countries you are visiting. If you really need one, then buy a light and compact one, so you can hide it inside your handbag or tie it out and not catch attention (of the airline staff at check-in counters).
Your handbag should not end up looking as big as your backpack. If it does, then move the sleeping bag to your Backpack.
PS: I have never carried a sleeping bag to any of the countries I traveled so far. I do have dust allergy, for which I just carry a very thin bed spread to use in combination with the rugs/sleeping bags given.
For the hikes, you can rent it out, if you plan to go with a trek organizer/guide.
- Avoid taking printouts of bookings and itinerary, but if you have to, then keep them in your handbag/shoulder bag. In my last trip, I carried a closed file with documents and souvenirs. The file alone weighed almost 2 kilograms (due to the souvenirs). I held the file in my hand just before checking in for flights. So this was not counted against the baggage limits!
- Pack clothes enough for a week or less, unless you are traveling to Mars. You can survive easily by doing your laundry once a week. If you end up with torn or worn out clothes or have some retail therapy bouts, buy clothes in the local markets. Most backpackers do this, and there you have the reason for all those ‘loose elephant print pants’ clad travelers all over Southeast Asia.
If you don’t own one elephant print pant, you will feel like an outcast! 😉
- Before every flight, scan all your belongings and see what you can throw or leave behind for someone else to use.
Learn to shed, and be light 🙂
One for the road: Keep your packing list at the most detailed level possible. If you are too lazy, here is a list for your reference. Modify this checklist before each travel (as per the weather and the type of travel). Travel duration – 2 weeks to any!
Now let’s move on to the benefits of traveling light:
Learning humility. Of surviving with very little. Knowing how far you can stretch with little and how long. You will learn to appreciate the essentials of life. You will embrace the simplicity of being a minimalist.
You will conserve more energy to see and enjoy the place rather than worry about the shoulder or the hip-joint pain from carrying the backpack! And your body will thank you, every time you carry your luggage and wander about, for not overburdening it.
Material gain[Background score] Tada dada dadaa…ta da dada!!! Ta da dadaaa daaaa! Money Money Money… every penny!!!, it’s a traveler’s gain!
If you manage to travel in cabin baggage limits (when there are no free check-ins), you save a LOT of money, a LOT!!!!
To motivate yourself to pack light, calculate the amount of money you can save up for your next travel and write it down! If you are a traveler then you will see sense and not buy things you don’t need, to avoid baggage fees. So the saving is two-fold, the baggage fees and the money you would otherwise blow up, shopping!
Remember, even little amount of money saved could buy you an air ticket to yet another country.
For instance in my last backpacking trip, I had 9 flights which did not have free check-in baggage. So I ensured to travel light applying the tips listed. Check-in baggage cost was approximately 12 $ for each. So that saved me a total of 108$ for the 9 flights. Now imagine, if you were traveling the entire year and let’s say you take on an average, 3 flights a month, that’s 36 flights in one year and a saving of 432 dollars!! And not to forget the money you save, by not heeding to the temptation of buying attractive things, to shelve back at home.
And if that doesn’t feel like a lot of money, then please donate the amount to someone for whom it does.
Travel light and stay smart!