The following guest post about downsizing luggage was submitted by Marissa. See all of our downsizing stories in one place!
I used to be a heavy packer. Really heavy. I’d spend a week in the Dominican Republic, wearing a bathing suit or sundress pretty much every day and still bring a suitcase large enough for a family of four on the same trip.
I thought I needed to bring every summer outfit in my wardrobe, packing multiple options for each day – something to throw on before breakfast, something to wear to the beach or pool, and a separate outfit for the evening’s dinner or entertainment. Not to mention over-packing footwear and underwear.
Hand-washing in a hotel sink? Forget it! I was bringing enough clothes to wear something fresh for each activity I’d do on that trip. The bag was heavy, cumbersome, and I wound up packing a bunch of stuff I didn’t need or end up using, just to fill the bag. When I got home, I’d have absolutely tons of laundry to wash.
Experimenting with Packing Lighter
I slowly started downsizing my luggage as time went on, realizing that I could repeat outfits while on vacation. I wound up with a rolling suitcase that was much smaller than my family-sized monstrosity, but it was still too big. I often needed help to lift it, and that’s not a feeling I enjoy.
Then I spent three weeks in British Columbia with family. It was my first time flying alone and I was terrified that my luggage would get lost. I only brought a backpack. There had been a heat wave the week before I went, so it was easy to pack light. But when I got there, the weather returned to normal (a cooler, wet summer) and I had only t-shirts. My fix? I went with my cousin to the thrift shop and bought a second-hand sweater. Problem solved!
But this wasn’t the end of my evolution. The backpack worked for a family visit in another province with a pretty even climate, but I wasn’t fully converted yet. What if I needed to have casual and fancy clothes on the same trip? Hiking boots and high heels?
>>See how HPL’s Brooke traveled ultra light with just a 12 liter bag.
The Trip That Sealed the Deal
In 2014, my husband and I took a 14-week trip to Europe. We visited 8 countries and experienced a wide variety of climates – from cold and very wet Ireland in early March to sweltering Lisbon in June. We thought that there was no way we could pack only a small backpack, and we didn’t want to carry a heavy 60L backpack each. So, we each brought a 30L daypack and a carry-on size rolling suitcase, which we considered “light” given the length of the trip.
Big mistake. We regretted this decision less than halfway through the trip. Europe’s cobbled streets made maneuvering the rolling bags incredibly difficult, and the hilly cities we visited in Spain and Portugal made them a considerable burden. And despite the different seasons and climates, I still didn’t wear everything that I’d packed!
I resolved to only carry a daypack from then on, which was easy to do on a road trip or when camping near my home in Toronto, Canada. But how would I make it work for international travel?
>>Check out our daypack reviews here.
Downsizing to a 30L Daypack
Fast-forward to 2016, and I found myself on my way to Europe for two weeks with my husband and our respective mothers, each with only a 30L daypack – in winter! We’d booked a cheap flight to Lisbon and another to Tuscany, and had convinced our moms that the $100+ it cost to check one bag each way was simply not worth it. This was great motivation to pack light, and we were all happy that we’d done so.
I focused on choosing basic cotton pieces, lightweight boots, and (with some hesitation) left my DSLR behind. I finally had come up with the ideal multi-climate packing system! Solid, dark-colored basics could be dressed up or down and layered according to the day’s forecast, and a pair of earrings and a nice watch made all the difference when visiting a fashion-focused city like Florence.
>>Read more about why layering is key for packing light.
The benefits of traveling with a simple daypack are many. No waiting at the luggage carousel, no worries that your stuff will be lost, and no issues when you arrive in the wee hours of the morning and can’t check in to your Airbnb for 6 hours. Just head into town and bring all of your stuff with you! You have complete freedom of movement and don’t feel tied down by your belongings. It’s much easier to have a positive travel experience when you have a level of flexibility and can be spontaneous.
Next stop, Tokyo and Mount Fuji in August. Again, I’ll be packing for two very different travel scenarios — city and mountain climbing — but you can bet I’ll only be carrying my trusty daypack!
About the author: Marissa is originally from a small town near Niagara Falls, Canada. She’s always enjoyed traveling but after a few years spent living and working in Toronto (self-proclaimed “most multicultural city in the world”) she developed an itch to start globe-trotting even more. After some long-term travel, she’s temporarily settled in South Korea, where she teaches English and lives with her husband and their dog. You can check out her adventures at Ben and Marissa Do, or on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.