Extreme Light Travel

extlighttravel

My new, super-light luggage!

A few months ago, I wrote about the contents of my carry-on (Minimalist Travel: What’s in My Suitcase). This is the only bag I travel with, whether I’m going away for one week or three months. You can read about it in detail in my earlier post, but generally it contains a packing cube of clothing, a toiletry bag, and odds and ends like guidebooks, energy bars, camera, iPod Touch, umbrella, etc. in the pockets. After years of overseas travel, I had this system down to a science.

Now that I live in England, however, I’ve been spending a lot of long weekends visiting European cities. And truth be told, my little carry-on is simply too big for these quick jaunts!

In order to maximize our travel time, my husband and I usually book a very early flight the day we arrive, and a very late flight the day we leave. Therefore, we often wind up carrying our bags for much of the first and last days. (Sure, we could leave them at the hotel, but we don’t like to “waste” time going back to get them if we have a full schedule.)

My objective, then, was to pare down my luggage to the size of a large purse. That way, I could enjoy sites, shops, restaurants, and walks without the carry-on on my back.

[EDIT: For those who have asked about my new bag (pictured above), it's available on Amazon (affiliate link).]

My strategy: for a 2-day trip, I don’t pack a change of clothes; for 3 days, it depends on the itinerary; for 4-5 days, one change. This system might not be for everyone, but it works for me. (I have no problem doing laundry in the hotel sink if necessary.)

Therefore, my packing cube contains (at most) one pair of pants, one top, pajamas, underwear, and socks. For 2-3 day trips, I skip the cube altogether, and stuff the pajamas, underwear, and socks in a large ziplock bag.

I never worry about packing shoes, since I only travel with the ones on my feet.

The contents of my toiletry bag remained much the same; however, I’ve been able to reduce it to half the size by “miniaturizing” as much as possible. I never take soap, shampoo, or conditioner, and I use travel or sample sizes of everything else.

When I arrive at the hotel, I dump the toiletry bag and clothes, and use the bag as a purse (eliminating the need to pack an additional “day” bag).

I’ve tested my new system of “extreme light travel” on a few trips now; and I’m happy to say, it’s worked like a dream!

It’s amazing how lightly you can travel if you want to. Now, if I could only pare down to what fits in my coat pockets… :-)

{If you’d like to read more about minimalist living, please consider subscribing to my RSS feed, or signing up to receive new articles by email.}

Related posts:

  1. Minimalist Inspiration from Istanbul
  2. To Drift Like Clouds and Flow Like Water
  3. My Minimalist Wedding Dress

98 comments to Extreme Light Travel

  • Meg

    That’s an awfully small bag. I can back pack it but for three months I am quite impressed you were able to make it with just that little satchel. Good luck with the coat pocket challenge. I would love to read about that! My goal for my big trip (one year) is a 75 L backpack, much different then what you have going on here. But I like the it can work.

  • mary

    It is impressive how light you can travel. Thanks for the tips. I only wished everybody would read your post about how to pack since I often notice so many travelers seem to carry their entire “house” of stuff with them!

  • Robyn

    I’m currently packing for a four-day trip, but with a baby along. I was feeling proud of myself for getting everything into our carry-ons, but now I’m wondering if there’s anything else I could do without. Guess I’ll check again!

  • Airy

    This was very inspiring to read. Having traveled so often in my life, I’ve tried my best to pack light. When I’m visiting friends for a long weekend, I usually take one small bag and I’m quite happy with that. Unfortunately, more often than not it seems, my really big trips usually entail moving – so there are times where I have to hop from one country to another with all my worldly possessions. This process has helped me prioritize my belongings and understand what I really need as opposed to what I just want. But still… it’s really difficult to manage.

    I’m planning another big trip that is coming up in a few months – I’m moving from Brazil to the United States. Once again, it is me vs. my possessions when it comes to packing. However, after reading this post and your “What’s in my suitcase” post, I’ve decided to take a new approach. Before I pack, before I even *look* at my belongings, I have sat down and made a list divided into categories such as “check in bag” “carry on bag” “toiletries” where I have listed from memory what I would imagine packing in those bags when it comes time to prepare. I listed only what I felt was necessary and I had to do this without even glancing over my belongings.

    So now, when I begin packing, I’m going to go through that list one item at a time. Whenever I encounter an item I didn’t put in my list but that I’m thinking about packing, I will set it aside to evaluate *why* I forgot about listing this item and whether or not it really is that important to have in my new life. Hopefully, this process will work for me. I’ve done the list, but I haven’t started on the second stage yet. Wish me luck. :)

  • Lolly

    This is so inspiring! I went on a one week trip last year with a small/medium suitcase and thinking back with all the lugging and pulling, it was a real pain. I cannot wait to go on another trip and see how small and light I could pack now that I’ve got the minimalist principles in check.

  • Clarissa

    I always, always, always overpack. I always, always, always regret it. It’s heavy and bulky. Reading this made me realize there is a lot I am stuffing into that suitcase that I don’t really need. Definitely glad I read this, it’s food for thought.

  • gabriella

    Can’t wait to read your book.

  • Kat

    My husband & I generally share a single duffle bag to pack when we go on a trip, and that includes packing 2-3 pairs of jeans each. I never have to worry about needing more than that. My middle daughter used to do competitive cheerleading. When we would go to 2-3 day competitions, we shared that same duffel bag (not a huge one either, just a medium sized one). All the other moms/families were amazed that we could pack so lightly. In that bag were all the clothes for both of us for the weekend, snacks/drinks to avoid overpriced hotel fare, toiletries, the rollers, hairspray & tons of makeup required for competition, etc. She carried her competition shoes & uniform in a tiny string backpack the team used for the purpose, and I carried my small purse. I was amazed that the other families packed so much. A family of 4 might have 6 large bags, tons of hanging clothes, and misc small bags. It was so nice not to have to wait on luggage carts, struggle to get so many bags into the hotel, elevator, etc. We also didn’t load up at the vendor stalls either, I would let my daughter pick one item, usually a shirt with the competition info on it that she would later wear for practices. I never needed anything myself.

  • [...] information on minimalist travel check out these posts at Zen Habits and Miss Minimalist. My efforts look pretty weak compared to these two, but you start where you are right? Share [...]

  • Dante Iscariot

    I envy your ability to take so little. When I travel I have to worry about taking my insulin, spare needles, insulin pen, my blood tester, and sugar tablets, at the minimum, aside from the regular clothes and so on.

    One quick question: In your book and in your blog you keep mentioning “packing cubes”, I don’t understand what you mean by that. What do you use, for example, to separate your categories? I’d like to adopt a similar system, I’ve bought some small draw string bags to separate my mobile phone, ipod, camera, and other bits from my medicine, but your bag looks so much neater and more easily accessible than mine. Would appreciate a little guidance. Cheers.

    • JMK

      Just go on Google and do a search for packing cubes. Virtually every travel or luggage related site will have some.
      They are just small zippered pouches (cubes/rectangles), usually with some mesh for ventilation and/or clear on one side to let you see what’s inside. I find them very useful when using an unstructured bag (knapsack or duffle bag), but when I travel with a carry on bag I just use one for toiletries and roll all my clothing. In a structured suitcase I don’t find them as big an advantage because everything seems to stay in place.

  • Tony

    Great blog. I’m a minimalist traveller, though not as minimalist as you (yet). Can you talk about the need to pack pyjamas? Our family strategy on trips is to sleep in a t-shirt. So we each have designated sleep-T-shirt that gets all wrinkled, but who cares. If I or my son and I are sleeping in dormitory style accommodations or other group sleeping arrangements, we’ll put use our swim shorts as “pyjama bottoms”. So I’m wondering given what you have cut out of your luggage, why the luxury of pyjamas?

  • [...] has enabled me to travel the world with a tiny bag, immersing myself in the local culture instead of looking (and feeling) like a [...]

  • greenleaves

    Thanks for this post! I’ve been moving countries many times and learn to live and travel lighter and lighter. Since last year I’ve been very much inspired by the minimalist community out there and although I’ve never had much “stuff” I’ve been minimizing even more. Every single item serves a purpose…and must be awesome! I have a hobby which unfortunately requires a lot of gear, mountaineering and sport climbing, but even then I try to buy the lightest gear possible. And traveling light is essential on the mountain. Every pound slows you down. I wished I could convince by boyfriend one day that he doesn’t have to change socks and shirt every single day when traveling…though, to be fair, he usually carries the luggage…Packing cubes are amazing, I’ve been using them for years now and they’re a great storage solution when you stay at friends place and you don’t want your stuff lying around everywhere.

  • Blaze

    I’m heading out in a couple of days on a cruise with several girlfriends. They’re all bringing multiple bags and can’t fathom how I intend to last 11 days with only a small carry on bag. I’m sure taking too many shoes explains a large part of the space they think they require. I’m wearing my slip on sneakers, and packing flip flops and one pair of dress shoes for all the evenings. If this were a family vacation, I’d be skipping the dress shoes.

    I’ve vowed to myself not to tease them about the amount of luggage they are taking, and perhaps just letting them see what is possible will help them rethink what’s truly necessary. It will be annoying though for me to wait through the airport line so they can all check their luggage, and then wait for them to (hopefully) show up at the other end.

  • Kizumma

    Looked up your Puma bag on Amazon and it says its no longer available. Nevertheless, I wish listed it…just in case. I tried looking for it elsewhere online but to no avail. Do have another recommendation for something similar? I absolutely LOVE your bag!!!

  • [...] to Declutter, Organize, and Simplify Your Life and it’s smart and gentle. After reading her Extreme Light Travel routine though, my little backpack is starting to look like a little much. Maybe I’ll lose [...]

  • [...] doch zu wenig. Mal sehen, wie ich es auf meinem Kurztrip nach Hamburg nächste Woche mache…Miss Minimalist hat auch ein paar Tipps zum Thema [...]

  • BCDen

    For a bag very similar in size and structure to the one Miss M has consider the following offer from Baggallini:
    http://www.amazon.com/Baggallini-Luggage-Classic-Style-Charcoal/dp/B004XGBUL0/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1389910533&sr=8-1&keywords=baggallini+hobo+tote
    I ran accross this one while looking for a similar one to the Puma.

Leave a Reply

 

 

 

You can use these HTML tags

<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>