How to Pack Light (Packing One Carry-On Each)
I am sometimes asked how to pack light – especially on an itinerary where you will be moving and changing locations frequently. The benefits of packing light cannot be underestimated. In fact, it can mean the difference between an enjoyable vacation and a miserable one! You will never meet anyone who says, “I wish I had packed heavier” when they return from a journey. Rick Steves, the European travel guru, only allows the members of his escorted tours to bring one carry-on piece of luggage per person…even when the tour is three weeks long!
But can it really be done? Yes, and I recommend that you give it a try. I’ve done it myself, and schlepped all over Europe with my family, packing one carry-on each for a month.
Why Do I Recommend Packing Light?
1. You can move quickly from place to place.
You’ll have no worries about big suitcases and where you can fit your luggage on the train, bus or taxi. A lot of European hotels have no elevator, so lugging heavy bags up and down stairs can be quite a challenge.
2. Having too much luggage “marks” you as a typical tourist.
Con artists figure you’re an unseasoned traveler, and you’re more likely to become the target of pick-pockets or scam artists, especially in big tourist cities.
3. You’ll save time and energy.
Save time by not having to wait around at luggage carousels in strange airports. Instead, you can be off and starting your adventure while everyone else stands around waiting for their bags to arrive (sometimes for hours!).
4. You’re less likely to lose your luggage.
Although the number of bags lost in transit has decreased over the years, there is still a possibility that your luggage might not arrive at your final destination. This likelihood increases if you have a connecting flight. With only carry-on bags, you won’t have to worry about lost luggage.
5. Doing a little laundry along the way is typically very simple.
Most hotels offer this service, which includes picking up and returning your laundry to your room.
Here are my tips on how to pack light (packing one carry-on each) for your next trip:
Spread out everything you’d like to bring on the living room floor. Pick up each item one at a time and ask yourself, “Will I really use this enough to justify carrying it over the Swiss Alps?” (or wherever you’re heading). When in doubt, leave it out.
Don’t pack for the worst-case scenario. Instead, pack for the best-case scenario, and buy your way out of any jams along the journey. If you’re likely to encounter chilly weather, bring a lightweight rain jacket, then layer a long-sleeved shirt and sweater beneath it. Buy a cheap umbrella from one of the many street vendors who “miraculously” appear when the drops start to fall. If you think an item only MIGHT come in handy, it should stay home.
Pack exactly the same whether you’re traveling for one week or one month. Rather than taking a whole month’s supply of toiletries, take enough to get started, and replace them along the way. Believe it or not, Europeans use toothpaste, lotion, hair gel, soap and even deodorant! It’s fun to go into a general store and stock up on local brands in a foreign country. Indeed, it’s part of the adventure!
Invest in a good quality piece of luggage that fits your needs. Rick Steves offers a few options in his travel store at www.ricksteves.com/travelstore that are carry-on sized, and that come with or without wheels. If you are able to carry your bag on your back, that’s an excellent option. Suitcases on wheels don’t get along with cobblestone streets very well. So weed out the unnecessary, pack your bag, then take a walk around the block a few times to get a good idea of what you will be dealing with. You will thank me later!