how to travel light: top 10 tips

backpackerWho better to ask about packing tips than our Intrepid team? We’ve travelled extensively over the years and managed to refine our packing into a precision operation that saves time and space and most importantly, the weight of our backpacks…

1) Buy a waterproof toiletry bag that has a hook, so that all you have to do is take the whole bag to the bathroom and hang it on the door or the shower rail. The temptation is often to buy a pretty bag with lots of seemingly useful pockets and zips, but over time these become impractical, they break, are fiddly to get at items and they don’t fit everything.

2) Buy shampoos and other creams with a screw-top lid – instead of a flip-top or pumps. This will save you hours of cleaning up leaking bottles and you can re-fill the same screw-top bottles for years.

3) Take your mobile/cell phone – it can double as a calculator, alarm clock and torch in one, even GPS, camera and other features these days. Many people don’t take their mobile because of the call cost, but you can turn it onto flight mode so that you do not pay charges yet still use all the utilities – saves carrying separate devices.

4) Spend a little extra on your travel wardrobe and buy the UV protection, non-wrinkle and breathable fabric – common in most outdoor clothing stores. The best thing about these clothes is that they look good for longer, so you do not feel the need to do your washing as much while travelling. Ideally when you travel make your standard wardrobe 2 pair of trousers with zip-off legs, 2 t-shirts and 2 collared travel shirts – all made from this material. Then depending on your destination add the layers, like a fleece and waterproof jacket.

5) Make a packing list and keep it for future trips. Keep a spreadsheet on your computer that you can refine over the years and list all the possible items you might need to take on an overseas trip. Next time it will only 10 minutes to pack because you have an expert list already prepared.

6) Take audiobooks or e-books on holidays instead of traditional paperbacks. Forget about lugging around 3 books of 600 pages each, store your favourite trilogy as an audio file that takes up no space at all.

7) Shoes – buy good shoes. The amount of space that shoes can take up in your luggage is a real waste so take one pair. Something like Goretex shoes are breathable so keep your feet dry and warm, but also comfortable in hot temperatures. Buy a neutral colour (avoiding the temptation to be colourful) so they go with everything and look good even when you go out for the night. The only other shoes you should then need are the light-weight and very practical thongs or flip-flops.

8.) Electrical cords – plan in advance is my best advice. A lot of devices today run from kettle cords so you can get a range of international kettle cords so all you need is this one cord for all your devices that require charging. They can be a struggle to find but you can get them in your home country. Imagine taking only 1 cord instead of the usual 3-4 that you need for all your devices?

9) If you have a smart phone or iPad, download your guide book (or at least the chapters that you need), or save city info, reviews, maps and other references so you can refer to it off-line. It will save trees and space.

10) An often debated technique is folding vs. rolling your clothes. Many Intrepidites swear by the rolling method, but at the risk of starting an international debate, here’s another option to try: laying clothes flat (not even folding them unless they are trousers) is argued by some to be the most space efficient method, and leaves clothes relatively wrinkle-free.

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About the author

Sue Elliot - Like many of us, Sue contracted a serious travel bug at an early age. She's visited over 90 countries in search of a cure, but her wanderlust just seems to get worse. Thankfully at Intrepid Travel she's amongst people who understand the affliction and since 1998 Sue has enjoyed being our blog and newsletter editor. Here you'll find helpful travel advice and inspiring tales from Sue and other Intrepid travellers.

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Great travel packing tips.'

Re travel medication – make up one document of dosages etc for each medication and then remove all packaging. use rubber bands to group together different types of medication. Then store the document on your ipad. This saves so much bulk in your first aid kit.'

I try to only pack my backpack 3 quarters full at home. This means that while I’m on the road I don’t need to pay too much attention to tidy packing and I don’t need to start re-packing if I need that jumper from the bottom of the backpack.'
Jocelyn Worsfold / Reply

A sarong is invaluable. It can be a head & shoulder covering for temples, a sun-dress, a long evening skirt, a bed sheet, a dressing gown, a beach towel, a privacy screen – the possibilities are endless!'

If 2 of you are travelling together split your clothes between your bags – in case one goes missing, and always carry a set of underwear, tshirt and any essential medicines in your hand luggage. We have had the whole groups bags go missing on 2 trips due to airport problems – with no luggage for 3 days, and some of our group had left their malaria medicine in their hold luggage……….

Regarding shoes, it might be worth considering Vibram Five Fingers – – they’re little thicker than the sole and light weight, they take up almost no space. Whilst expensive in the UK (less so in the USA) the ‘trek’ models are relatively discrete to match different clothes… though it is true that the design will turn heads!'

For packing clothes I use the plastic bag method. Use the large zip-lock bags, fold tee and shirts in one, shorts and trousers in another etc. Roll to get the air out, zip and pat down flat again. Slipping the bags you want out of the backpack is easy and no wrinkles. Great for front opening backpacks.'

Another great addition is a pashmina can be used if cold especially on planes and buses as well as a black jacket, great with jeans and also over better clothes!'

Rectangular nylon zipped bags perfect to keep all folded garments together. And net drawstring bags ideal for small items like hats, scarve, socks and undies. Both available in various sizes from outdoor travel stores.

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