Repeat after me: traveling light is very important. Why, especially if your destination allows you to check bags for free, is it worth the effort to pack light? Packing light can be the difference between a great vacation and a lot of bag schlepping.  When you bring more bags you limit your ability to experience your destination like a local. Have you ever tried packing on to a crowded bus loaded down with bags? It’s not a simple or safe idea. And, of course, the less you bring, the more flexible you can be with your plans. Here are a few of my top tips for lightening your load.

Organize Your Travel

A simple, but often overlooked, truth is that you can’t pack effectively until you know what you’re packing for. Ask yourself what activities you will really want to participate in, how you’ll be getting around, and what you will realistically want to carry. If you will be taking public transit, think about what you can move quickly and keep safe.

In most cases, one bag should be the goal. If you need a personal item, I recommend choosing a bag that can slip securely over the handle of your roller bag or one that zips on, like these options from Deuter and Osprey.

Once you’ve selected a great bag, think about the best way to organize it. I’m a huge fan of packing cubes that offer compression features, like the ones made by Grand Trunk (currently available at DBO). These are a great way to fit a little more in your bag. As a bonus, they’ll also keep your items organized and easy to access on the road. Alternatively, try rolling items and organizing them by category into gallon size zip top bags.

Bring Items That Do Double Duty

Look for items that fill multiple needs. If you plan your wardrobe right, there is no reason to bring two wardrobes for day and night. I’m a huge fan of sleek technical pants and relaxed dresses from brands like Prana, that are comfortable for all day wear, but can be dressed up for dinner. Rather than bring multiple jackets, I try to stick with a lightweight rain jacket for most destinations. It hardly takes up any room and since it’s also windproof, it keeps me plenty warm in most conditions.

Match Your Items

Lay out the items that you’re thinking of bringing and nix anything that doesn’t match the rest of your clothing. When you can mix and match your outfit options increase exponentially. A couple of well chosen accessories are an excellent way to avoid outfit fatigue.

Follow the Rule of Threes

When it comes to packing light three is the magic number. It’s the right amount of items to have for wash one, wear one, dry one, convenience. Follow this rule for shirts, socks, and underwear, and bring a little powder detergent and a Scrubba bag, and you’ll reap benefits in the form of a fantastically light bag. Picking clothing in quick drying technical materials will make this even easier.

Only Bring It If You Can’t Buy It

It’s good to be prepared, but the world is not as unfamiliar of a place as you might think. It’s easy to weigh down your bag with toiletries, food, and things that you “might need”, but pretty much anything that you leave at home can be purchased at your destination. I’d rather make a quick stop for an essential that I left behind, than lug something around that I never wind up using.

Get Tough

Do you really need it? Does it fill a purpose that nothing else in your bag can? Will your trip really be better because you brought it with you? If you can’t answer “yes” to these questions, leave it behind.

Get Better Every Time

These tips will get you a great start with packing light, but experience is an excellent teacher. When you return from your travels, take note of what you wound up using and what stayed in the bag. Use your insights to lighten up your bag on your next excursion.

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