Mar 9, 2016

Tips to packing light for travel!

Packing light is essential for a solo traveller. It is especially important if you need to be on-the-go a lot, chasing trains and changing destination every other day because the weight (or lack of it) will allow you to move faster and be less vulnerable in undesirable situations. In many big cities, navigating the crowded train stations and going up flights of stairs with a bulky luggage is something you will not enjoy. There’s just so many perks to travelling light and I’m here to share with you some tips on how I pack. 

Just to let you know, I went to Europe for 6 weeks and did the Trans-siberian for 7 weeks all with just a carry on baggage. The key is to prepare even before you open up your suitcase!

There is too much travel packing tips to share so this blog entry shall focus only on tips that directly decreases your travel load. 

1) Find the right bag

Find a carry-on bag that is lightweight and fits your travel style the best. A small bag instantly forces you to pack lesser. If you are physically fit and will be going on trains or hikes a lot, a big backpack might suit you better. I prefer to just drag. Find a carry-on bag that is lightweight, has sturdy wheels and opens up completely. I’m bias towards soft cases because they are easier to squeeze into tight spaces.
I use this bag I bought from Taobao, you can find it on Qoo10 too. It weights roughly 2.9kg (not super light unfortunately) and is 50cm x 35cm x 25 cm in dimension. It compiles with most airline's cabin baggage restrictions. When not needed, it folds into less than half of itself; very handy for someone living in a space constrained environment. The top also opens up entirely, making it easy to access your stuffs. If you’re living out of a bag for weeks, you’ll appreciate a bag that allows you to access your socks in seconds. It also has adjustment straps both inside and outside to help you secure your things in place.

The wheels of this bag is a little weak and not the best for rolling across Italy’s cobblestones but you get what you paid for. I’m still constantly on the look out for a better bag haha.


2) Understand the climate

Weather plays a big part in your travel planning. Google for the weather forecast of your destinations before hand so you can plan the right wardrobe. Overpacking is bad but having too little to wear isn’t good either. Of course you can plan to buy new clothes in your destination but I don’t like forcing myself to settle for something. So I pack what I think I’ll need in advance.
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3) Minimise clothing, choose light & plan your coordinates

You don't have to bring a month worth of clothes if you're traveling a month, you can always wash your clothes. Aim to bring less than 7 days worth of clothings. If you're not a fashionista wannabe, you can even get away with just 3 sets! I generally try to bring clothes that are light weight, doesn't wrinkle and go with most of my mobile wardrobe.

I’m sure you’ve heard this advice a thousand times already; layer your clothes. I travel mostly to temperate countries and other than my jackets and thermal inner wears, I never had the need to buy new travel clothes. And I live in Southeast Asia. 

The key is to bring clothes you can mix and match to provide the best comfort and warmth. Unless you’re going to the Antarctica or places that are sub zero degrees, the right shoes, jackets and thermal underwear should be enough. Also don’t forget things like scarves, socks, hats and gloves! Keeping your entities warm will trap a lot of body heat.

I switch things up according to the climate but here is roughly what I packed for 6 weeks in Summer Europe.
  1. 2 Regular t-shirts
  2. 1 Tank top
  3. 1 Loose crop top
  4. 2 Long tops
  5. 3 Shorts
  6. 1 Long suspender chiffon dress
  7. 1 Pinafore pants (short)
  8. 3 Long sleeved uniqlo heattech (Thermal wear)
  9. 2 Stretchy Jeans patterned tights
  10. 3 Pair translucent tights
  11. 2 Fur lined tights
  12. 2 Bras
  13. 1 Sports bra
  14. 5 pairs of Underwear
  15. 2 Lightweight scarfs
  16. 1 Uniqlo ultra light down jacket
  17. 1 Long trenchcoat jacket
  18. 3 - 4 pairs of light socks
  19. 1 Flat canvas shoe
  20. 1 Pair of Oxfords
  21. 1 Pair of black jelly ballerina flats
I know I'm not a good example because I definitely packed too many clothes ^^; In my defense, because I layer my clothes, I tend to require more pieces when I'm in cold places. Though I must sheepishly admit I packed them from a fashion standpoint instead of being practical and disciplined. But if you bring clothes that are lightweight, you can bring more! 
I made sure to bring clothes that would mix and match well together. I even draw out my coordinates to make sure every piece I'm bringing can be worn multiple ways. 


4) Minimise your jewellery and accessories



I learnt the hard way that bringing too many accessories or jewelleries are usually not worth the effort. These days, if I'm going to a cool place, I limit myself to just 2 - 3 lightweight and statement piece necklaces.

If I'm going to a cold place, I forget about jewellery altogether. After all, nobody's going to notice my necklace if I'm bundled up in my jacket the whole day. Yes, I'm sloppy. 

Alternatively, substitute with a scarf. It's a great way to add some colour and spice to your coordinate on top of keeping you warm. 

5) Toiletries & skincare, make them travel friendly

I’m an avid fan of rebottling my toiletries and skin care products for travelling. It allows me to bring more products with lesser quantities. This is what I brought for 7 weeks across Russia, Mongolia and China. 
They both go into individual A5 sized bag. You can see the size comparison to my 11” Macbook Air.

I really like using DAISO’s sauce bottles to hold my favourite toners or serum because they are soft and it’s easy to get products out. Because I use a lot of moisturiser in cold climates, I also brought a few of my Laneige’s White Plus Renew Capsule Sleeping Pack to stand in as moisturisers when i run out of them. 

Those free samples you get are also perfect for traveling. However I make it a point to try the sample products out before bringing them along. After all, you might hate them for all you know. 

I’m also a big fan of sachets. Individually wrapped sachet allows you to know exactly how much shampoo and conditioner you have and they’re especially handy for short trips. For longer trips however, I pack travel size bottles of shampoo and conditioner and use the sachets as back ups. I accidentally left my conditioner behind in Russia once and had to survive on just olive oil for the rest of my trip. While it wasn’t my favourite conditioner, it worked well enough and it’s my favourite multi-purpose product. 

Depending on where I’ll be staying, I may or may not bring a body soap. Staying in Hostels usually meant having to bring all my own toiletries and if that’s the case, I bring a small quarter of soap bar. Soap Bar is still the most convenient way to travel with because it’s solid and can last longer than liquid body cleanser. I just put it into a clear plastic bag and roll it up. Nothing fancy. 

While I usually like to be prepared for all circumstances, I wouldn’t freak out if I ran out of toothpaste. I just bring a travel sized toothpaste and buy one when I need it. In fact, you can probably buy all your toiletries there if you're not picky. 

A gentle reminder, If you're bringing the bag onto the plane remember to pack each item under 100ml and have everything (liquid, aerosol, gel, creams) within 1000ml.

6) Shrink your makeup

If you can skip the makeup, skip it. But if you can't, shrink it. 
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Repackage your liquid foundation into small travel size containers. I've been using DAISO sauce containers to hold my foundation for years and it made them so mobile! 

For eyeshadows, I like neutral quads because I can easily do my entire eye and eyebrows with them. The eyeshadow quad above is from DAISO, affordable and easy to use. And you won’t feel the pinch if you lose or break it while travelling. You can either master applying eyeshadow with your fingers or you can bring a small double ended sponge applicator .

Scrap a little of your favourite blush into a small container or an old contact lens case. The same can be done for cream blushes, powder foundation, loose powder, concealers, lipsticks or more. 

If you must bring falsies, put them into a SD card case. I can pack 3 pairs in one case. 

7) How many shoes?

I like to bring at least 2. No matter how reliable your shoes may be, you never want your only shoe to die on you in the Gobi desert. One good pair of walking shoes (I brought a platform Oxfords) and another simple canvas. However, I switch the types of shoes I wear depending on the climate and where I’ll be staying.
For summer in Europe, I also brought an extra pair of black jelly ballerina flats. They serve as my Hostel sandals but they also look respectable enough to go shopping in. 

Bottom line, find shoes that are lightweight. Wear the heaviest one while in transit. 

8) Minimise your gadgets

We’re all addicted to our gadgets and they make long train rides more productive. But as much as you possibly can, reduce the tech gadgets you’re bringing.  Not just because they add weight to your bags, but because losing them is the last thing you want on a happy journey.

office on the wheels

That said, I usually travel with a Macbook air, a smartphone, my camera and a mobile charger. I bring a Macbook so I can work on my videos but if you don’t need to do anything on a laptop, I really wouldn’t recommend lugging it along. Unless you’re sure you’ll get plenty of use out of it 
My heaviest tech equipments would be my camera. This is a personal decision but base on the different objectives of the trip, I would choose either to bring my bulky DSLR or my compact mirrorless camera. 

For long journeys that spans across multiple destinations, I choose to bring a compact mirrorless. They are easier to bring along in my day bag and I’m a little less worried someone in the hostel would steal it. 


For my 2 weeks trips to Japan, I choose to bring my DSLR along with 2 - 3 lens based on my itinerary. Going to shoot the snow monkeys in Nagano? bring a telephoto lens! Shooting cherry blossoms? I’ll need my 50mm I suppose!

Ultimately, the decision is yours. Make a decision you wouldn’t regret. If you're not a photo enthusiast, just bring your smart phone. 

9) Get a travel Adaptor with USB

I found a nifty travel adaptor that not only has the usual power socket, it also has a USB port. This meant I can leave my phone charger at home and just bring the charging cable. If your camera charges directly with a USB cable like my Sony Alpha 5000 then you can skip the camera charger too! Multi charging adaptors like these are incredibly useful and allows you to go to bed with a peace of mind knowing you’ll wake up to two charged equipments. They also lighten your load because you now carry two lesser charging device! 

Buy on Qoo10!

Another nifty tip I learnt is to charge via my laptop. If I leave my Macbook Air plugged into power and in sleep mode, anything it’s USB ports connects to will continue charging even if the lid is closed. This however, does not warrant lugging a laptop along by any means. It's more an emergency/convenience plan.  


10) Reduce the paper you bring

As much as I prefer the good old traditional paperback books, for travelling I highly recommend going digital. Smart phones these days support a wide variety of ebooks so consider a digital copy of your travel guide book instead of lugging the paper bound versions.  And with note taking apps like Evernote, it's easy to keep all your itinerary, flight details, hotel booking and more in digital format. 
Definitely check out Mobile apps that are designed to help you travel easier such as Google Maps which everyone already have.

I particularly love's mobile app. It gives me all the information I need such as the address, location map, check-in/out details, price, contact number and more. Since I book all my hostels via, keeping tab of my accommodation in one app makes life so much easier. 
I use to book pretty much all my hostels and Hotel stays the past year or so. I've stuck with them because their website is simple, intuitive and highly intelligent, If you download the app on your smartphone, all your hotel information instantly syncs to it and you have all you need to know (maps, directions, agreed price, booking number etc) at the tip of your fingers. It is super useful for long trips as you can book and store all your accommodation information in a single place.

* Just a disclaimer, I may earn some commission when you book via the search engine below. It wouldn't come from you but from & the hostee. I would really appreciate it if you do though, as it's a nice way to fund all these unbiased reviews and travel tips. But if you don't want to, of course I won't (be able) to force you to haha. Enjoy travelling!

11) Wear the bulkiest item in transit

While not exactly a tip to decrease your actual load, we all know how some airlines charges exorbitant prices for check-in baggage. So save some money by having just a carry-on baggage.

A loophole in this rule is what you wear on you doesn't count. So wear your bulky jacket and heavy boots on you when you check-in. You can always change into a lighter gear afterwards. Just don't tell anyone I suggested this =X 

Being mobile is the biggest reason why we pack light. But the biggest reward of packing light is learning to love life with less. Travelling light allows me to experience getting by with the minimal, learning to love myself and our world for what it is and being grateful for whatever I have.

Try it for your next trip, you’ll get what I mean.

1 comment:

Hanna Irla said...

Your pictures took me back to memory lane of my last visit to Portland and now I’m itching to go back again soon. Glad to see you four had a great time and huge thanks for the tips!