How to pack smarter lighter and faster

Packing for a short trip can be challenging and exciting. But Packing for long-term can be a nightmare and annoying. You need planning!

I travel with carry-on only whenever possible, and I love minimal packing. Not only it does save money by avoiding checked bag fees, but it takes less time spent at the airport since you skip baggage claim and makes your travelling easier when you have lighter stuff to lug around.

Here are some of some packing tips to pack smarter, lighter and faster for your next travel. You don't need anything more than to carry on.



How to pack smarter lighter and faster

One of the best ways to decide what you want to take with you on a trip, and what you want to leave at home, is to just lay out everything in front of you. With this, you have a big picture view on what you want to take with you, what you can leave behind, and maybe what you need a little bit more of. To really keep things minimal, and cut everything in half. So when you have it all laid out, it's a lot easier to see all that and notice the patterns you have going on in your selections.

Look at everything in front of you and try to cut it in half. Just take out one item, after item, after item and pretty soon you'll notice that you make it a lot more minimal. The last thing you want to do is to have an overweight pack and be that person in the airport rummaging through everything trying to save space - to either fit your bag in as a carry-on or trying to take even more things out so that you can properly check your bag based on the airline regulation. With everything in front of you, it becomes easier to pick an organisation style that's going to work for you. So here are a couple that has worked.


How to pack smarter lighter and faster

Something that you use very often - say your phone. Makes sense to have that in a quick-access pocket on your bag or luggage, maybe even your pocket. Or, like a fanny pack or a sling. You don't want to have that thing, you know, in your bag in a packing cube in another pouch. It doesn't just make sense, so really think through your items. If there's a jacket that's going to be warm for the most part, the second leg of your trip is maybe a little bit colder - put that jacket way at the bottom of your bag, stuff it out of the way. Out of sight, out of mind. You save a lot more room for things that you want quick access to.

You can sort by item type. It's good to keep light products with one another. So if you keep your socks with your underwear, it just makes sense. You keep your long sleeve shirt with your sweatshirt with your jacket, keep that warm stuff compartmentalised in itself, maybe even a scarf or some gloves in there too. That'll help you think through the organisation if you think in themes of item types.

Consider putting items that are used in conjunction together with each other. For instance, if you're heading to dinner maybe there's a separate cube or compartment where you keep all your clothing. Whereas if you're going to the gym, there's a spot in your pack for all of that as well. This is kind of like the item-based approach, however, it's different in the fact that it's contextual. So it's more about the activity that you're going to be doing with that gear versus holding like things with one another. So again, those are three ways that have worked for us in how to organise things, your mileage may vary.


How to pack smarter lighter and faster

Think about storing everything in your bag within packing cubes or pouches, that keeps things a lot more organised overall. Even a plastic grocery bag or a Ziplock bag can work wonders if you have it laying around your house; you don't even have to buy anything new. This helps with the previous tip and keeps things neat and very easy to access. We recommend strong and lightweight packing cubes, especially if there is compression technology. 

Packing cubes and pouches come in many different sizes and allow you to cater specific items to put inside. Grab a smaller packing cube for socks and underwear. A larger cube for pants, jackets, and sweaters. Or medium-size cubes to compartmentalise complete outfits. 

We've typically found that rolling clothing saves the most space within a cube. And the cube can take care of the rest, and really hold its shape and make it a lot easier to pack and organise in your bag. It's kind of like Tetris, it's fun. Small pouches are also good for organising your tech gear, your toiletries, and any small medicines or small things that you need to carry with you when you're on the road.

Use packing cubes and organisers of different colours. This will help you create mental models in your head so you know where things are within your pack just by remembering those couple of colours in your head.


How to pack smarter lighter and faster

Take an inventory of what you've packed and really look for things that can serve multiple purposes. For instance, a coat, especially a lighter weight compressible one can double as a pillow when you're on the road if you're in a pinch.

Take inventory of your cables. The less you bring with you, overall, the better it's going to be. So look for small, tiny little conversion pieces. For instance, if you have a small USBC to USB adapter, it's a lot better than taking two giant cords with you.

Better to pack lighter weight overall. If you're a photographer, consider bringing zoom lenses instead of lenses with a fixed focal length. And that's going to save a lot of space and add versatility, especially if you're trying to travel lightweight and minimally.

Pick up a woollen buff. It's one of our favourite lightweight and multi-functional items that you can bring with you on the road. You can use it as a scarf as I have here, you can also use it as a hat. You take this, you twist it, you fold it over itself, and boom! You've got a little skull cap. Also, you can use it as a face mask to block the light if you want to take a short sleep, especially during the day. And then you do not have to have a dedicated sleeping mask. And that's a plus - two for one.

Despite all the paring down and minimizing, sometimes it's good to have some redundancy if an item or a piece of clothing is really important to you. And that's a very personal choice. But if you're in more of a remote area and it's for a long duration, you might want to think about that a little bit more. If you're in a city centre where you have easy access to things, that's not as big of a deal.


How to pack smarter, lighter and faster

Get some optimal clothing for travel like Merino wool shirt, socks, underwear etc. so you definitely love it and integrated it into your everyday life even when not travelling. It's nature's magic fabric - soft, comfortable, and antimicrobial - which means it doesn't stink as much when you're on the road. Plus, when you bring a Merino tee instead of a couple cotton tees, you can save space and weight in your pack and potentially avoid excess in your baggage fees if you have to check bags or carry them on and they weigh too much. 

When you were on the road for long you tend to have enough of your clothing. I would probably suggest cut that in half again for the next time for a lighter backpack. With two of everything it is simple to wear one thing and wash another one, and leave it to dry while you're out for the day from your hostel, hotel, Airbnb etc. You can wear Merino many days before it requires a wash, especially if it's from a quality brand. Its anti-microbial properties and multi-climate usage, you really can’t go wrong. And from a cost perspective, if it's from a quality brand, Merino is that expensive. But it's justifiable if you want to carry less, wear things for longer between washes, and seriously, you love this stuff.

Nobody cares if you're wearing the same thing day after day, especially when you're travelling. And even if they do notice, it's likely that they won't care as long as you don't smell super bad. And that's what's great about Merino - it stays fresh for a lot longer.


How to pack smarter, lighter and faster

Between long flights and unplanned adventures, there's going to be times where you're not going to be able to shower and you're going to be a little bit grimier than usual. You also like to have, like, pack fresheners within your bags and your luggage. Although there are a ton of recommendations out there to carry along dryer sheets, I personally found that wooden cedar chips are the best option, especially if you like that scent. The smell will last longer than the dryer sheet while you're on the road. Also, we just prefer the scent of something natural instead of something super synthetic. Some people also like to carry essential oils with them - lavender oil or potpourri sashays as well - and that's totally fine; your mileage may vary based on the scents that you prefer. When you're on the road your bag and your luggage is pretty much your constant in your life. It's basically your home, so why not try to keep that fresh?

it's a natural deterrent for bugs and critters that like to get into your bag and chomp away at your clothes and things like that, especially Merino wool. So if you keep the cedar in there it can help deter those little critters from chomping away at your stuff.


How to pack smarter, lighter and faster

So you know how to keep your bag fresh, well, how about keeping yourself fresh when you're on the road or on a long trip? Dry Shampoo bars can do wonders, but you might want to try them out ahead of time to see how they work with your hair. They have a small form factor so they don't take up too much space. They're highly concentrated and they typically last quite a long time.

They are multi-purpose when you're on the road. So use it for shampoo, soaking your body, you can even use it for washing dishes or laundry if you're in a pinch, depending on the soap that you choose. Solid sunscreen and solid bug repellent, they worked great. The sunscreen was sort of like rolling deodorant all over yourself.

And the best part- They're a solid - which means it's easy to get through TSA's (Travel security Administration) liquid restrictions in airports around the world. Concentrated liquid soap counts against your liquid allowance. And when you're going through TSA, you're getting on an aeroplane, some of the pressure changes, and there's always - even if you're just walking around, like your neighbourhood - there's always a chance that whatever tube or bottle that you have that liquid soap may bust open and spill around the contents of what's in your luggage or your bag. Even if you're going on a short weekend trip I'd still recommend bringing a shampoo bar or liquid soap along with you. It doesn't take up a lot of space and you'll be glad to have it when you need it, especially if you're on some unexpected delays.

A more fragrant shampoo bar can actually do a great job at keeping your pack fresh in addition, or in place of, those cedar wooden chips that we used to keep clothing fresh.


How to pack smarter, lighter and faster

If you're going one bag travelling - either with a backpack or some luggage - it's good to have a smaller, packable, compressible bag you can always keep with you and use it when you get to your destination. So whether it's a packable day pack, a tote bag, or a reusable grocery bag.

Just bring one pair on your trip and use it as you are about to go out. If you're cafe hopping and doing the digital nomad thing, maybe you have a packable day pack and can use it with a padded laptop sleeve to hold your tech gear - keyboard, mouse, laptop, things that you need at the coffee shop to work for the day. If you're out for a hike or exploring the city maybe bring your phone, a battery pack for charging, a map, some snacks, and water. It's great to have that stuff with you, and all the essentials with you when you don't have to carry around your giant luggage or your massive one-bag travel backpack.

We all have been out there in their destinations, we love to take home some memorable souvenirs for our friends and our family, but our luggage is full or hefty enough. Well if you have a packable pack you can just take that out, unfold it, put your souvenirs in there and use that as your personal item when you're flying home, depending on your airline. You don't have to check a bag, you don't have to ship anything, and then you are just good to go, friends and family will love it and thrilled.


How to pack smarter, lighter and faster

Having close all your necessary items in the flight with you is an underestimated perk and enjoyable journey. If you're using a packing cube and a pouch method inside of your bag, consider making those packing cubes a sling or some type of fancy pack instead. Slings come in many different sizes and they're perfect for the road because they can hold just about the right amount of stuff you want to carry with you on a small excursion. It's basically a fanny pack (a small pouch on a belt) with a larger strap that you can wear as messenger style. At the very least, keep that pouch accessible at the top of your pack so you can grab it as needed.

Some examples of what you can bring along as your essentials in flight are the following ideas: water, drinks, and snacks. An eye mask and earplugs to help you sleep, USB cable, headphones, your phone, and a cord to plug into the seat monitor in front of you for charging. 

A notepad and pen for any wild ideas that come to you in the air, plus you'll like having that pen when it comes time to fill out the customs forms before you arrive at your destination if you are going to a different country rather than your own. Get creative, you can definitely put a lot of stuff in here. I personally like putting everything that is in my pockets inside of the sling. That way when I get to the airport checkpoint, go through security, instead of emptying your pockets, taking everything off, you just already have it in your sling. Pop that through security and you are good to go.


How to pack smarter, lighter and faster

A little bit of planning will help you save some cash while you're on the road.

Starting with food. Eating on the road - especially in transit - is usually inconvenient, unhealthy, and expensive. On a plane trip you need to wait for specific times to eat, and if it's a short enough flight you may not even be able to eat at all. Always good to prepare and bring some snacks along with you like nuts, trail mix, and protein bars seem to do really well on the road. For optimal packing, I recommend high calorie, high density, and low weight non-perishable foods. You'll get the most bang for your buck this way, and generally the space and weight to usage ratio is great.

Being prepared. Try to buy beforehand all of your electronic cords and adapters with electronic cords, international converters, SIM cards, and cables are great. Oftentimes, products sold at airports or more generally touristy areas are overly expensive and cheaply made. Take some time to think through your needs on the road. Your wallet will thank you.

Loading offline content: Consider loading up your content at home locally on your devices before you leave for your trips - whether it's an eBook on your Kindle or your iPad or video content, movies, Tv shows, etc. Load all that up at home. (“Downloading Netflix shows from the app” That whole thing is life-changing). In flight and at a hotel, internet speeds can be quite low or vary according to the geography of that area. In the worst case scenario, you'll be charged for either megabytes or gigabytes of bandwidth that you've used.

International calling plans. International phone plans or temporary data plans with SIM cards that have a bandwidth cap. There are a ton of different ways to plan and save money - these are just four examples.

Be sure to bring your own empty water bottle through TSA security checkpoint, fill it up with water after you get through, and that's going to save you at least three bucks every trip.


How to pack smarter, lighter and faster

However, at the end of the day, it's all about you - your travel style, and what uniquely fits into your lifestyle. With all of this, the best advice I can give is to practice your trip beforehand. Loading up and unpacking everything in your bag a week before you leave. Take it to work with you. Only use the items that are inside for an entire week or two, maybe even a month. At the end of the week, take a look back at what you used a lot, what you didn't use. Try to cut some of the clutter out of your life, add things in, iterate and test, you'll definitely thank yourself for it.

Be mindful of what you buy. You probably don't need to go out and buy that shiny new thing every couple of months. Starting with what you have and slowly upgrading with high-quality items that have high durability and last a long time, is one of the best ways to go about things.


The simpler the look, the fewer pieces you’ll need to bring. For the most part, everything you bring should go together. All the tops should go with any bottom. The outer layers should match all the pieces they’ll go over. The more minimal the colour palette, the more easily everything with goes with everything else. Stick to neutrals with one or two colours as accents and choose one colour (usually brown or black) for all of your accessories. Do remember that it’s all about accessories. Those simple pieces you’re bringing can go from day to night with a shoe change and the addition of some jewellery. A white top and slim jeans can go with a cute sneaker during the day for seeing the sights and you can throw on a cute flat or sandal with a heel for dinner.

I’ve heard from many clients that they feel an urge to go shopping for new things just before a trip. They feel like they don’t have what they need or that what they have isn’t good enough. However, a trip is not the time to try out new looks. Even though you may feel a bit boring by keeping it simple and tried-and-true, it's better than feeling self-conscious about something you’re not sure really works. Do remember that you can reuse your clothes. In fact, I generally assume that I’ll wear everything I bring at least twice. If everything goes together, that means there are lots of possible combinations. A loose rule I use is to bring as many clothing items (not shoes, accessories, or outerwear) as there are days in my trip, plus or minus a layer or two.

Four days- Four items (two tops, two bottoms). Six days - Six items - (maybe 3 tops, 2 bottoms, and a dress). Ten days - You get the idea… Don’t pack last minute. I know no one really means to pack at the last minute, but somehow it just happens. When at all possible, plan ahead. Count the number of days you’ll be gone, check the weather, look at what activities are scheduled, and note how many outfits you’ll need for dressy occasions. Do keep a toiletry bag packed at all times. Even if you just travel a few times a year, this is worth it. It’s many fewer things to worry about forgetting and you can just grab it and go.

Thanks for reading this out, we would love to know your favourite travel tips in the comments below.
10 TIPS - HOW TO PACK SMARTER, LIGHTER AND FASTER 10 TIPS - HOW TO PACK SMARTER, LIGHTER AND FASTER Reviewed by Sanjeev Sharma on March 15, 2019 Rating: 5

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