Top 5 Reasons to Pack Light

There’s a time and place to pack a lot. When I go camping, I pack my car so tight with food and various conveniences that I can’t fit any friends in the back seat. 

However, there are serious benefits to packing light. “Packing light” is relative: it can mean getting down to one suitcase, sharing a checked bag, packing in a carry-on or even mastering personal item travel. In this post we'll lay out our top 5 reasons to pack light, and hopefully we'll inspire you to bring just a little less, no matter your starting point!

Arnel Hasanovic Unsplash

unsplash-logo Arnel Hasanovic


For your listening pleasure.

Nowadays, many airline tickets don’t include the price of a bag. If you can bring fewer bags (I once traveled with an additional suitcase just for shoes. Smdh.) or a smaller bag, you’ll save CASH that you can use at your destination.

Last Fall, I wanted to go to my friend’s birthday party in NOLA but cash was tight. I got round-trip airfare for under $100, but it didn’t include bags. I carefully packed my personal item with enough clothes for 4 (hot, sweaty) days. I spent the $50 I would have paid for baggage on some fun new experiences with my friends. I had everything I needed and I looked cute the whole time, thank you.

In NOLA with my personal item

Me (looking cute) and my personal item bag in NOLA. Yes, the 'No Sweat' Short Drawstring Kaftan is in my bag. 

2. Convenience

Relying on others to help with your giant bag(s) can be stressful and inconvenient. If you're able to carry a bag and you only bring what you can comfortably carry, you don’t need to worry about:

  • Whether your luggage will fit on the train, in the trunk of the rental car you’re sharing with friends, or in the overhead bin.
  • What to do with your bags pre check-in/post check-out at your hotel or Airbnb.
  • Scheduling a trip to your lodging as soon as you get in, or back to your lodging before heading to the airport. Sometimes it’s faster, cheaper, and more enjoyable (pre-flight brunch? Yes please!) to meander through a city on your arrival or departure day. 
  • Your luggage inconveniencing others. Maybe this is just a problem for me, but I feel like an ass if my luggage is taking up half the aisle at a café or more than my fair share of the overhead bin. 

Luca Bravo Unsplash

Don't even get me started on lugging bags onto public transit during rush hour. Photo by Luca Bravo on Unsplash.

Bonus: Packing just a carry-on and/or personal item means you can spend less time at the airport because you avoid the baggage drop line at departure and skip baggage claim upon arrival.

3. Generally not looking like a huge freakin’ dork (and also safety)

Trying to lug multiple suitcases, or a suitcase with a duffle on top, makes you look like a freakin’ dork. The duffle-on-the-rolly-suitcase combo is the one-two KO of travel dork-dom. It rarely works unless you’ve spent a small fortune on a specially paired set. And why is it always a shock when the duffle falls off or needs constant readjusting? Point is: no one looks cool towing a bunch of bags.

There are more practical reasons to skip towing all of your worldly possessions. Looking a mess, noisily lugging a bunch of bags also makes you a target for pickpockets (or worse). It distracts you and keeps you from being fully aware of your surroundings. Pair that with the need to pull out your phone for directions, and you’re looking pretty rob-able. This is particularly important to keep in mind for solo female travelers. Stay safe, friends!

4. There’s Less to Lose (Literally)

Airlines sometimes lose bags. Even if you don’t intend to check a bag, sometimes it’s not up to you if you’ve brought anything larger than a personal item.

If you are traveling with only a personal item, you’ve got everything you need under the seat in front of you and can forget about the possibility of waiting at SFO baggage claim while your bag’s running laps around the carousel at LGA.

Even if you can't avoid checking a bag you're still better off packing light. It’s less of a pain to replace fewer clothes vs. every pair of pants that you own and all of your cute sweaters.

5. Freedom, baby!

If you’re embarking on a multi-city trip, or flying more than one airline, there are a lot of different baggage rules to keep in mind. If you’re packing light you’re more likely to be within the rules, so you can choose the airlines and flight times that work for you vs. the airlines that work for your giant suitcase.

I recently took a 20 day international trip through seven cities. I took the smallest carry-on I could find. My trip would have cost me almost $200 more if I had to pay for a big-ass bag on each leg. Having a small carry-on also meant I could squeeze myself into little cafes or cozy up to a bar (don’t judge me) before my Airbnb check-in, and could speed around each city on my arrival and departure days without breaking a sweat. 

Cafe in Brussels

Me, cozying up in a cafe in Brussels, with my small bag tucked away under the table

Now that you’re convinced to pack light(er), do you want tips and tricks for how to do so? Sign up for our newsletter and get notified when we publish the next post in our packing hacking series!

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Top 5 Reasons to Pack Light

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