We’ve all seen those haggard travelers weighted down by too many bags. They are the ones with anxious expressions as they worry about leaving something behind and whether they’ll get through security in time to catch their flights. If they don’t check their bags (and sometimes even when they do), they’re also the ones holding up the lines for everyone else!
4 Reasons to carry less stuff
For many travelers, traveling light is an essential skill that results in a productive travel experience with less stress.
- Less stuff means greater mobility. You can move through the airport better than those who are weighed down with too much baggage. You can get through security more quickly (and with less scrutiny) and even breeze through your destination airport by skipping baggage claim.
- Less stuff means better flexibility. If you check your luggage, you’re at the mercy of airline staff if you have to deal with a delay or missed connections. Keeping your luggage with you means you can switch to other flights more easily and you can sell your airplane seat by volunteering to get bumped off full flights.
- Less stuff means greater savings. If you don’t check your luggage, you can eliminate checked bag fees (at least until they figure out how to charge us for our carry-ons!). You don’t have to rent carts or pay porters and you’re more likely to be able to use public transportation rather than limos or taxis. You can even walk.
- Less stuff means a better environment. Carrying less stuff when you travel has long-term benefits for our global environment. Less vehicle usage and lighter fuel usage means less pollution in the air.
6 Steps to carry less stuff
Travelers have been experimenting with ways to carry less stuff for as long as people have been traveling. Some travelers are able to take it to an extreme, putting everything they need for months of travel in a simple, light backpack.
Regardless if you are traveling solo or with a bunch of people, there are a number of things you can do to carry less stuff:
- Ship it ahead. This is especially helpful during the holiday season when shipping gifts ahead is likely the only way they’ll arrive in one piece, but it’s also true for other trips. Know you’ll need a favorite movie or game (or cereal, diapers, pillow) when you get there? Ship it ahead of time. If you’re staying at a hotel, call the hotel to let them know a box will be arriving in your name and they’ll set it aside for you. That’s true of vacation rentals as well, and shipping ahead works great when you’re staying with family or friends. Kids love seeing their favorite things when they arrive. Plus, you can ship it all back home when you’re ready to return.
- Pick the right bag. To avoid dragging a small trailer behind you, find the right bag for your kind of travel. You’ll want one that is lightweight and super sturdy. Those with non rigid structures conform better to the contents and are easier to stuff into overhead bins and under bus seats. Wheels are helpful, but wheels AND straps to convert it to a backpack are even better. Also, be sure it’s correctly sized for the overhead bin.
- Use what’s available. Hotels often provide common toiletries to guests, including soap, shampoo, conditioner, and more. A quick check when you make the reservation will tell you what should be available. If you ask nicely, they can usually provide other items as well: razors, toothbrushes, etc. You’ve paid for the room, so use the amenities instead of hauling those items.
- Buy it there. Other places have great stores too. Left your jacket at home? People get cold and wet in other countries too. So buy what you discover you need when you arrive.
- Don’t be afraid to do a little laundry. If it means packing less, then it’s worth it. Many hotels have laundry facilities, and rental homes do as well. If you don’t believe you’ll have laundry soap when you arrive, pack a small zippered plastic bag of the stuff or buy a little when you arrive..
- When in doubt, leave it behind. If you’re thinking you may not want that dinner jacket or those heels, put them back in the closet. Sure, you’ll have to wear the same shoes to dinner that you wore at the museum, but isn’t your back’s health worth it? Plus, in a worst case scenario, you can buy it there (see step 4) and ship it back home (see step 1).
The bottom line is that traveling light is better for you, for your body, and for everyone else. You waste less physical energy when you’re hauling less stuff. So you’re more alert, more rested, and better able to move safely through the world.
Damian Tysdal is the founder of CoverTrip, and is a licensed agent for travel insurance (MA 1883287). He believes travel insurance should be easier to understand, and started the first travel insurance blog in 2006.