how to travel light tips for frugal packing

How To Travel Light

I want to share with you today my top tips on how to travel light. As somebody who travels A LOT with both work and my leisure pursuits, I have become rather adept and quick at packing a small suitcase in just a few minutes. It was as I was packing in a hurry for yet another trip up to Manchester last week that I realised that this has become ‘a thing’ for me and I can now pack without thinking too much about it.

Gone are the days when I would worry about forgetting something, write reams of lists, and panic pack loads of extras ‘just in case’.

Now I know how to travel light it is unlikely I will board a plane or take a long road trip with an extra large suitcase unless totally necessary.


How To Travel Light

1. Pack with consideration

This means, pack only what you actually know you will need and do not pack ‘just in case’.

2. One of each

Except for underwear you only need to pack one of each item of clothing. I usually pack one pair of skinny jeans, a top, cardigan, dress, leggings, and pjs. (OK, if I’m going longer than a couple of days I might up the number of tops and add an extra dress. But you get the idea. It’s minimal).

3. No more than 2 pairs of shoes

And wear one of those pairs. You need one for day and travel and one for evening or easy-going moments. For warmer climates I wear a pair of trainers and pack sandals. For colder weather I wear usually stick to trainers and boots.

4. Double up on usage

I nearly always pack my trusty sarong which doubles up as an extra scarf, blanket, towel or even a pillow when bunched up. Pick items that can get several uses out of them.

5. Think capsule wardrobe

Choose colours that are simple and will match no matter the combination. If you are not keen on the one of each option, then at least choose your clothes around a similar colour story so you can mix and match throughout your travels. I mostly wear black, white and blue with the occasional red thrown in when I’m feeling adventurous.

6. Accessorise!

Pack a small handful of snazzy jewellery to dress up your simple capsule wardrobe.

7. Keep toiletries to a minimum

I only pack the basics such as my toothbrush, can’t-live-without cleanser, moisturiser and hair creme. Otherwise most hotels you stay at will provide shampoo and shower gel. If you do forget toothbrush and toothpaste you can either buy it there or your hotel might have a stash.

I receive a lot of beauty samples from events and will often save them up for my travel case. For any products I cannot do without I decant into small transparent travel bottles.

Any products that can double up are top of the list. For instance, a small pot of coconut oil can be used as moisturiser, lip balm, hair mask, conditioner, heel softener and more.

Laptop Club with Coffee

8. Pack a tablet or lightweight laptop

As I work on the road all the time I cannot go anywhere without my MacBook Air, it’s as light as my iPad mini and allows me to keep working. If I’m taking a proper break then I’ll just stick to the iPad mini for all my entertainment needs such as reading, journalling and watching films on the plane.

9.Pack a mini bag of laundry soap

They sell these all over Thailand at the 7Eleven but in the UK I just decant some hand washing powder into a ziploc bag. Hotels charge a fortune to do laundry and it’s super easy to freshen up your clothes in the bathroom and dry over the bath.

I use to travel with a portable clothes line which hooked onto the ends of my bunk beds in my hostelling days. It has sooooooo many other uses including creating a makeshift privacy curtain when paired with my sarong.

10. Choose a travel towel

If you are staying in places that don’t provide towels it is worth investing in a travel towel. They pack down super small, they are fast drying and easy to store. They aren’t always as absorbent as traditional towels but they do the job.

11. Use storage options

I love using storage bags or packing cubes to keep my belongings neat within my luggage. Alternatively use a bunch of different size ziplock bags to keep your belongings neat.

12. Choose small luggage

If you have a smaller suitcase or bag to start with it will be physically impossible to overpack. Over time I’ve realised that if I have a big suitcase I WILL fill it. My current carry-on sized suitcase in a hard shell option from Primark with wheels.

13. Avoid top-loaders

On my first couple of backpacking trips I used a top-loading backpack which I do NOT recommend. Not only is it impractical for finding your belongings but it’s not really conducive to packing practically and using every gap possible. I’d always pick either a suitcase or backpack that is side opening so you can see everything as you pack.

14. Buy local

Not only is it an opportunity to go shopping but you don’t need to stress about being unprepared. Most destinations will have shops and supermarkets for you to pick up anything you don’t take or forget. Every time I go to Thailand (which has been rather frequent) I don’t bother buying new flip-flops until I get there.

15. Multi-use gadgets

Take just one multi-country adaptor to save space and add a portable charger for your day bag.

16. If in doubt, halve it

And if you do worry you might have over-packed, lay out all your packed belongings on the bed and take away half of the clothes before re-packing. Yep.


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Image credit: Drew Coffman