How to Travel Light

From avoiding long check-in and security lines to saving hundreds of dollars in baggage fees, there are many perks for traveling light. Here are some tips on how to master this fine art of the frequent traveler, and how to avoid packing like the photo on the right. It’s not the smartest way to pack, exactly.

Make everything fit in a carry-on
The best rule of thumb when packing light is to try to fit everything into a regular carry-on bag. Not only will you save on baggage fees, but it will also be easier to handle around the airport (you might need to run to your plane), and you will bypass check-in and security lines smoothly. Liberating? We though so.

Roll your clothes
A great way of saving space in your luggage is to roll your clothes. And those socks? Sneak them into your shoes instead. You will be amazed at how much more space you have when packing this way.

Checked Luggage: How to Protect It

Leave bulky items (towels, jackets) behind
Unless you are going skiing to the French Alps or on an expedition to the Arctic, those bulky jackets are best left at home. Rather, bring thermals and layers that won’t take much space in your luggage, yet will still keep you warm. Heading to the Caribbean instead? Leave those towels and bath robes at home. That hip hotel will have them for you to borrow.

Bring a big purse or “personal item” (bag) with you
The idea is not to stuff this purse or bag to the top, but rather, have extra space for things you might wish to buy at your destination. Most airlines allow a carry-on plus a “personal item” (little backpack, laptop case, purse) inside the cabin free of charge. As a woman though, I always get away with my carry-on and an extra-large “designer purse” because hey, it is a “personal item” after all. So bring it (yes, man purses apply)!

Do not bring a bag full of toiletries
We think they are important, but in the end, we might find our room full of free samples anyway. Thus, bringing a small toothpaste, facial moisturizer, and shower gel should suffice, as some of these may double their uses (body lotion, shampoo?). Think you need too many “essentials”? In this case, you are most likely staying at a fancy hotel, which will provide you with these and perhaps even more, anyway.

Still need space? Wear the layers!
Still running out of space, even after all these tips? Wear layers. By layers, I mean wearing multiple tops – and bottoms – on top of each other. I was pushed to do this in Fes, Morocco, when my carry-on was way too heavy for the low-cost airline’s standards. What did I do? I wore about three sweaters, a jacket, my skirt and jeans underneath it all at once (see photo above). It worked!

(All photos courtesy of Maria Laborde)


About the Author

Completely enamored with the Middle East and Africa, Maria Laborde is a twenty-something budget traveler that has lived, studied and traveled extensively throughout the region. Through tales, tips, travel guides and everything in between, she shares her knowledge and love for the Arab world on Art of Backpacking and her niche blog Travel The Middle Moreover, Maria is also Editor-in-Chief of, where she shares her experiences and advice after traveling to more than 20 countries across 4 continents.


Published: January 23, 2012