Why Travel Light? 10 Reasons to Pack Less

Why Travel Light? 10 Reasons to Pack Less

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From Shutterstock. Does anybody notice how long this girl’s nails are? And no wonder she can’t close her suitcase, her unmentionables are blocking the zipper’s path!

My roommate and her boyfriend recently left on a trip to Seattle, and when they came back, I was surprised at how much luggage they brought back. The trip was only about a week long, but they each carried suitcases bigger than I had ever seen before. I used to be the same way; my father likes to take everything except the television when he leaves, as he gets anxious about needing anything while away and not being able to reach it. I took after my father for a while, then, as I started traveling more and more frequently, I got annoyed at the shit that I schlepped to and fro, with many things completely unused when I returned; frequently, with me, nuisance is the mother of invention.

What is packing and traveling light?

Packing and traveling light is packing the bare essentials, essentially. Many people assume that the more time we will travel, the more things we will need to bring. This is a bit of a myth, but a 7-day trip almost always requires at least a little bit more than an overnight jaunt. Pack what you know you will need and use. Just because you want to bring something, it does not mean that it’s necessary. Traveling light should mean that your luggage weighs little to nothing.

Why Pack and Travel Light?

  • Ease – No matter how far you are traveling, and how long you are going for, a lighter suitcase translates to easier mobility. Dodging other travelers in the terminal can be done with greater maneuverability when you’re only carrying a backpack or a small, wheeled carry-on, as opposed to that lumbering family headed to Miami with what appears to be presents for the whole metropolitan area. And forget the airport, this stuff needs to get to the airport, from the airport to your accommodations, back to the airport, and back home. Packing lighter saves you all kinds of hassles.
  • Economy – Traveling light will save you money, mostly from the fees that most airlines charge for checked baggage nowadays. Domestic flights can charge up to $100 per bag, depending on the airline, to check it; even some international flights now charge for checking luggage. To make lugging the luggage around the airport easier, most people who have more bags than they can handle often rent a dolly/cart or hire a porter to assist them, costing only a little extra, but adding up nonetheless. Also, most people carrying heavy and/or multiple bags opt for the taxis, costing exponentially more than public transportation would cost.
  • Security – As my father, the man who packs everything when traveling, used to tell me, “If you want something done right, you gotta do it yourself.” Checking baggage requires me to trust the airline and its employees to get it right; I’ve learned from firsthand experience that they get it wrong just as many times. Baggage handlers often misroute baggage after someone checks it in; all it takes for the luggage to end up on the other side of the world is to be put on the wrong belt. The best way to make sure that your bag ends up where you do is to carry it yourself. Likewise, you can keep an eye on your belongings at all times while it is with you, protecting you much more from the possibility of being robbed. Also, when you handle your bags yourself from point A to point B, you ensure that no one mishandles it; in the name of efficiency, many of the baggage crew tend to hurl bags back and forth, possibly damaging your bag and items inside. Finally, there seems to be a direct correlation between the choice of cons, pickpockets, and other miscreants and the mark’s amount of luggage; a person with many bags screams the fact that they are a tourist and vulnerable to misdeeds.
  • Flexibility – When boarding a plane, as soon as you get past the cushy first class section of the plane, the aisles are quite narrow. The smaller and lighter your carry-on, the greater maneuverability you will have (plus you will not be disqualified from the right to yell at other passengers who are holding up the boarding process. With a smaller carry-on, you might be able to fit it under your seat, which almost always has guaranteed free space, unlike the overhead bins, which are first come, first served. If you do require an overhead spot to store your luggage, the smaller sizes will give you more chances of fitting in your bag with other bags, hopefully eliminating the need for the cabin crew to check your bag after all.
  • Comfort - There is a relaxing feeling, especially for anxious people such as myself, to know that everything that you are bringing with you is safely stowed in that overhead compartment, within reach at all times. Hauling heavy bags is never easy, so it is definitely never comfortable.
  • Convenience – Not checking a luggage in is quite convenient. Not only will you not have to wait (sometimes up to an hour) at the baggage carousel, but there will not need to be the hassle that sometimes appears during certain connecting flights. Although some might argue that if a flight is connecting (layover), it is more convenient if they don’t have to take a carry-on and walk it all around the airport to the connecting flight’s gate. However, most people who check baggage will have a carry-on anyway, and there are some airports in the world which require passengers to collect their baggage at the layover airport and then re-check it. If this is the case, imagine checking in baggage 4 times for one roundtrip travel, along with waiting at the baggage carousel 4 times!
  • Preparation – Packing light allows you to prepare your your belongings in less time, both before you leave for the airport and when you check out of your room to go back home. In another sense of the word, you will be prepared in the event that you decide to purchase extra souvenirs to carry back home; packing light to begin with affords you more opportunity to do so. Finally, you will be prepared in case something happens to a connecting flight, forcing you to sleep in a comped room; checked baggage may have went a different route to your intended destination, and this scenario could require that you spend a night with none of your belongings.
  • Health – This seems to be a bit of a stretch, but I am throwing it in there because most experts on the topic do. Heavy baggage requires some heavy lifting, and heavy lifting may lead to injuries, like strained muscles and herniated discs.
  • Courtesy – I know I hate being behind a person who is inefficient with their luggage handling during the boarding process. Heavy and bulky bags may force the passenger to stay in the aisle longer than others, delaying and annoying other passengers. Taking up the whole overhead bin is also impolite and may cause some grumblings among your fellow seatmate, the last person you want to offend since you need to sit with them for the next few hours.
  • Environment – Though I am pretty liberal, I am a bit too cynical to put much stock in this argument, but at least the airlines aren’t promoting it for this reason. To round off the benefits of traveling light, I felt compelled to include this. Planes weighing more (thanks to your heavy bag) require more fuel, hurting the environment. Using a cab (because of your heavy bag) leaves a larger carbon footprint than taking the public transportation. Oh, just forget this reason. 9 reasons are good enough!

Antoine de Saint-Exupery said it best:

He who would travel happily must travel light.

Christian "Krzysiek" Eilers is a twenty-something who constantly likes to look up the next flight out of JFK. His life goal is to visit every country in the world; as a young adult working full-time, he often settles on visiting the near countries of Central and South America and the Caribbean, knocking these off the list as it is less of a financial strain than Europe or Asia. Caffeine is his vice, and if he doesn't have a coffee in his hands, then it's probably a green tea. A native of New York City, when he is not traveling, he can find an abundance of cultural influences right in his own city, enough to keep him satisfied until the next country's beckon cannot be ignored any longer.

4 COMMENTS

  1. Rule #1…if you want to pack light, buy small luggage/backpack. I always want to fill up my backpack as much as possible…its my nature, so I force myself to pack lighter by carrying a smaller backpack. For the upcoming year-long RTW trip with my girlfriend, I’m carrying the Osprey Porter 46…its carry on size. That’s all I need. Awesome post, Christian!
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