I’ve always been a pretty light packer. When I travel solo, I can fit my belongings into one travel backpack. I generally bring a few pairs of jeans, a few tops, and two pairs of shoes max — no matter how long I’m traveling. I prefer having less stuff on my back than three extra dresses that I probably won’t wear crumpled at the bottom of it. When traveling the world, who wants to be weighed down by extra stuff?
Now with my son in the picture, I suddenly had new questions to consider. How many diapers should I pack? What about his many toys and toiletries? And should I pack his whole wardrobe in preparation for the inevitable outfit changes each day? While I don’t mind wearing a t-shirt twice, I didn’t want our son to be stuck wearing the same food-spattered onesies multiple times.
On a recent trip to Chile, though, Ben and I decided to commit to packing one suitcase for the three of us. After all, who wants to lug around tons of gear — from the streets of Santiago to the hills of Valparaiso to the mountains of Patagonia? And we did it! Traveling light really did make our trip so much better. Wondering how we did it? Here are my secrets revealed!
Stock up on quick-dry and convertible clothing
I remember the first time I used a quick-drying towel while traveling: the fabric dried almost immediately, making it easy to wash, and then it folded super small into my backpack. While preparing for our trip to Chile, I found quick-drying shirts for Ben, me, and our son, which saved us tons of space and laundry time.
I also bought some convertible pants, which could be worn as either pants or shorts — depending on how you zipped them. I was able to wear them as pants while hiking in chilly Patagonia. Then, in humid Santiago, I just zipped off the bottom half and wore them as shorts. Convertible clothes are great because they’re major space savers, work double-time in varying weathers, and even offer some much needed variety. In fact, in my keepsake travel collage, I don’t look like I’m wearing the same exact outfit each day!
Give yourself strict limitations
For this trip, I allotted us each a section of the suitcase: I had a quarter, Ben had a quarter, and we saved a whole half for our son. With his many clothes, books, and sippy cups, it made sense to give the little guy more space.
Knowing the amount of space we each had before I even began packing changed the way I sorted through my clothing. With each item, I asked myself, a) do I need this? and b) will it fit in my quarter? These questions helped remind me that I didn’t need to take my second favorite sweater. In the end, my quarter of the suitcase held everything I needed.
Layer, layer, layer
I’ll wear my jeans quite a few times before I retire them to the wash. When I travel, I’m even more forgiving, and if a piece of clothing isn’t visibly dirty, I’m happy to wear it day after day. Layers are crucial in helping me mix and match clothing. I can get a whole bunch of combinations from just a few items. For example, a cardigan can be worn over a t-shirt or long-sleeve shirt and a sarong can be worn as a dress over a tanktop or as bathing suit cover-up. When I pack with layers in mind, I end up utilizing the clothing I’ve brought much more efficiently.
I know this isn’t the most exciting suggestion, but if you can spend an hour here and there washing your clothing, you can get away with packing so much less. Ben and I stayed in a few Airbnbs with laundry machines, making it super easy to do our laundry at night. In Santiago, we also dropped off our laundry at a laundromat, which washed, dried, and folded all of our clothing for about $5. If only we could take that laundromat home with us…
Remember your backpack!
When packing light, my backpack is my lifeline. For our trip to Chile, it’s where I packed all of the necessities that wouldn’t fit into my luggage and that I thought I’d need on the plane. Your backpack is where you can store your journals for writing, the 10 extra diapers you’ve decided to bring on the plane — just in case, and your better-than-a-phone camera for capturing photos for the scrapbook you’ll put together after your trip.
With only one suitcase and our little one in tow, Ben and I had a great time in Chile — exploring cities and beaches and enjoying our amazing adventure together — without being bogged down by heavy luggage. Now that I know we can pack light, the options are endless! I wonder where our suitcase will take us next.
What are some of your packing tips?