At the end of 2009, I found myself on planes three times in a six-week period. Twice, I was flying to cold destinations and the last time, I flew to Florida during the chilliest week the state has seen in years. Each time, my goal was to not check bags.
In the winter, it’s tough to pack light when you’re traveling to cold places. I found myself trying to jam boots into my suitcase at odd angles, cushioned by extra sweatshirts and the long-sleeved tees I use for layering. Right before my second trip, I took a step back, looked at the overflowing case and called my friend in Massachusetts.
“You have a washer and dryer, right?”
“Yes,” she answered somewhat suspiciously. “Why?”
“And shampoo and conditioner?”
“Is this why you called me? To ask if I have soap?”
To be fair, she just had a baby, which was the logic behind my question. Do new mothers have time for hair washing? Do they remember to buy shampoo and detergent when they need diapers and baby wipes? And if they do, is it fair to use their supplies when a shower is a novelty and laundry is done daily thanks to spit-ups and accidents? For the sake of traveling light, I decided that it was.
I made it to Massachusetts with nothing but a backpack filled with only the necessities. Knowing that we wouldn’t be going out much, I skipped the boots and chanced it with just the sneakers on my feet. It snowed when I left but all I had to do was make it from the car to the airport. A few times over that four-day period, I threw some laundry in with hers. And yes, I used everything but her toothbrush.
It doesn’t always work out that way. Two weeks before that trip, I went to visit my dad and an old college roommate in New York. They don’t have laundry rooms and my dad and I don’t exactly have the same taste in face soap. Not only did I have to parcel out my products into three-ounce bottles, but I also had to make sure I had enough socks for the week.
I couldn’t do it in just a backpack that time, but I made a short list of necessities and followed it. By sticking with one color scheme, everything I packed matched and could be worn together. And even though I was going to be outside more, I checked the weather and took my chances with just sneakers. If snow had been in the forecast, I would have worn boots on the plane, which is what I always do with my bulkiest items to free up room in my suitcase.
By the time I flew to Florida for a wedding and to visit my mother, I felt liberated from the clunky suitcase. No need for boots, jackets or any heavy clothes — or so I thought. First, I packed three different pairs of shoes and two dress choices for the wedding. Then there were the wraps and accessories to go with the dresses. The rest of my clothes were lightweight skirts and tees that I rolled to save space.
If I had planned better, this could have been my lightest trip, even though it was the longest. I should have narrowed down the wedding attire myself instead of lugging everything along for a group opinion. Really, though, I should have listened to my mom when she warned me about the weather. All the skirts and tees could have stayed in hibernation while a select few sweats and jeans came along for the trip.
Instead, I had a suitcase stuffed with summer clothes and fancy dresses, plus one sweatshirt and pair of jeans.
Thankfully, my mother has a laundry room.
Do you have tips for traveling light? Are you a one-bag wonder that travels with only the necessities? Share your tips for lighter trips here.