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Should I Pack That?! Pros and Cons of Packing Light

Whenever I hear the phrase ‘pack light,’ I am reminded of something my dad learned in the military – ‘pack light, freeze at night.’  So, which one is most accurate and helpful when gearing up for your trip?  While I am generally guided by the second phrase, deciding exactly what to pack depends on both the traveler and the destination.

First, consider your own stamina and what kind of luggage you will be most comfortable transporting.  Keep in mind your comfort level may vary depending on the location of your lodging and the length of your stay.  For example, more luggage may be easier to manage if staying in one place the whole time vs. changing places every 2-3 nights.  I have found luggage with wheels to be beneficial in almost all cases, but others prefer backpacks when moving around a lot.

Regarding location, try to gauge ahead of time if you will have to transport your luggage off and on ferries, trains, or buses or carry your suitcase up several flights of stairs.  Also, pay attention to whether your anticipated modes of transportation have weight limits for luggage.  If you’re planning a fly-in safari, for example, you might not be able to bring a full-size suitcase on the plane, so you’ll have to make other arrangements.   

Finally, consider your destination.  It’s important to pack items that will prepare you for the local weather and any activities you have planned.  If you’re headed to the Amazon, you can ditch the sweater, and if you’re going sea kayaking in the winter, you probably don’t want to wear jeans.  Also, don’t forget to check on local regulations.  For instance, some guided hikes in New Zealand require weather-proof pants to participate, while some churches in Italy require shoulders to be covered to enter. 

Below are some final thoughts to help you prepare for an amazing trip –  

Pro Tips:

  • If you wish to pack as light as possible, pick at least one place to stay with laundry facilities on site.       
  • Don’t forget to leave space in your suitcase or pack an extra foldable bag for souvenirs.
  • Use a backpack as your carry-on.  It can be used for hiking trips, in-country flights, day excursions, etc.  Plus, airlines don’t typically make you check a backpack at the gate the way they often do with carry-on suitcases when the overhead compartments are full, so there’s less risk of your valuables being lost. 

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