Despite the good behavior, I have to admit that traveling with a baby is annoying. You see, my husband and I were always proud to travel light. Even before the days of exorbitant fees for checked bags we rarely checked luggage. For short trips, we usually used one small, roller bag for BOTH of us. However, with a baby comes stuff. Diapers. A car seat. The baby himself. We usually check luggage now if only because we don’t have enough arms to make it through the airport. Still, we manage to pack a lot lighter than most of the crowds in the “family and medical liquids” security lane. (I’m guessing a lot of these families don’t worry about getting housesitters since I doubt they have much left at home.)
Packing light makes traveling easier and more enjoyable. Not only don’t you have to pay those bag fees, but you don’t get a backache hauling mounds of luggage through unfamiliar terrain. Plus, you can use that extra space for bringing back treasures from your trip!
For those, like @spicymeatball who may be at a loss for how to pack light I’m sharing some of my tips. Today I’ll share tips for grown-ups (mostly women...it's what I know). These are the tips I’ve followed for years and continue to do today. Then, I’ll follow up with some tips for packing light (or at least lighter) with a baby.
Packing Light: For You
- Plan to layer. Having a bunch of clothes that you can layer together provides greater wardrobe flexibility and helps keep you prepared for unexpected warm/cold spells. The weight of the layers will depend on the time of year and destination. For a winter trip in the mountains your heaviest layer may be a wool sweater and your lightest layer may be a t-shirt. For a summer trip to the beach your heaviest layer may be a cotton cardigan and your lightest layer may be a tank top (and of course your swimsuit).
- Color-coordinate everything. Put all your clothes in a pile. If anything doesn’t match everything else eliminate it. Include any workout clothes or pajamas that may sneak in for double duty. Color-coordination allows you to take full advantage of your layering potential (see item 1).
- Bring only one of each piece of clothing. It you want to bring a skirt, bring one versatile one. Bring one pair of jeans. Bring one cardigan and so on. You gain more versatility through using your space for different types of items rather than different colors of the same item.
- Choose pieces that don't easily wrinkle or show spills/stains. For a long trip be prepared to rinse a few things in the sink or find a laundry.
- Choose clothes that you can dress up or down with accessories. Jewelry, scarves, and make-up take up a lot less space than a whole different outfit.
- Ballet flats are your friends. I love shoes and have many fun heels, but heels take up valuable packing space. If I’m going to a wedding or something else where I really need to dress up I’ll bring them; otherwise, I don’t bother. Ballet flats can dress up enough to go to a nice restaurant or theater and they pack flat. (Or, if you wear them in the airport, they slip off easily for security.)
- Bring a dressy purse that fits inside your casual purse. A large purse is nice because it can carry a book and snacks on the plane or whatever you need for a day of sight-seeing. However, when dressing things up with accessories (per item 5) a large bag tends to scream casual. Choose a clutch or other evening bag that fits into your large purse. It saves space in your luggage and helps organize your larger bag.
- Wear your bulkiest items on the plane. If you are traveling between places with dramatically different climates this may not be practical, but to the extent possible wear your heaviest items on the plane to save the space in your bag. This includes the shoes. (Do remember that you'll have to take them off for security screening. If those chunky, buckle-up boots take 15 minutes to put on and off they’re best left at home.)
- Take advantage of your destination. Sure, if you are going to an isolated resort things may be unavailable or overpriced, so you have to bring everything. On the other hand, if you will be in civilization you may be able to get what you need at your locations. Staying at a hotel? Check to see what they provide from hairdryers to toothbrushes. Staying with friends or family? See what you can borrow. You may find that you don’t need to pack that giant beach towel.
- Don’t bring unnecessary bulk. If you are carrying on all your bags you already have to limit your liquids to the 3-1-1 rule. However, once resigned to checking luggage many people just throw in their economy-sized shampoo bottle. If you check your luggage you can have bottles over 3 ounces, but try to keep the size appropriate to the length of your stay.
Bonus tip: Pack an extra bag. Packing light is about not burdening yourself with belongings from home, but it shouldn’t prevent you from picking up fabulous finds that will remind you of your journey. If you don’t have enough space in your existing bag(s), you’ll be thankful to have a lightweight duffle packed away just in case.