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16 Travelers Share the One Thing That Helped Them to Finally Pack Light

16 travelers share the one thing that helped them finally pack light

If you’ve been struggling to pack light, you may not have found and mastered your one thing yet.

Just one thing?

Yep! It turns out that for many travelers, there tends to be one big thing that really moves the needle towards being able to finally pack light (ok, maybe 2).

That one thing could be taking less of one type of item, or it could be learning a lesson that guides the entire packing process.

16 Travelers Learned to Pack Light After Doing/Learning One Thing

Or, sometimes it was two things…

Here’s what 16 travelers in the HPLWorld Community had to say:

1 – Reducing toiletries and not taking items to cover every possible eventuality.

-Sheryl S.

2 – Letting go of the ‘must pack for every eventuality’ mindset.

I do still struggle a bit with this one because I am into a wide range of things, all with associated gear, any or all of which I might want to do or need to give some attention to while I’m away, including: hiking & camping, music-making, fitness & strength training, knitting & crochet, outdoor swimming, running sourdough baking!

If a trip is single-purpose (eg hiking) or short then it’s easy – I just focus on the relevant gear, but if it’s a longer time and more multi-purpose that’s when I’ll struggle a bit! Clothing and toiletries are basically the easy part as with merino wool and versatile items I can now pack pretty much everything I’ll need for 3 weeks + into a tiny bag. It’s the additional things like resistance bands, wetsuits, musical instruments and sleeping bags that are more problematic!

-Diana W.

3 – Knowing I’d never have to wait on my luggage again, like when I’d checked it.

Finding clothes I can hand wash & they dry overnight. Getting to know myself and only taking what I know for sure I’m going to wear.

-Suzanne F.

4 – Changing my mindset from maximising how much I could stuff into my bag to minimising how much I actually need to take.

(Having to wait for missing bags that didn’t make it onto the same plane as us helped too 😅).

Oh – and getting a kindle 😄 I used to be so afraid of running out of something to read that I’d pack a stack of books – and then I’d end up buying even more books at my destination 😝

-Annemette H.

5 – One of my biggest lessons was that no one notices if you wear the same thing every day!

So I don’t even focus on outfit variations, I just pack fairly boring, neutral clothing along with 1-2 scarves and a statement necklace.

-Gwen S.

6 – All of the above!

Really, toiletries was an issue for me. My hair alone is a problem. The good thing is, now that it is longer, I throw it into a pony or bun. I am hopefully going to Scotland and Portugal this May. Flying Ryan Air or EasyJet will challenge me to packing light! 🤞🏼

-Ellen P.

7 – Choosing lighter / fast drying clothes and minimizing toiletries has been helpful. ☺️

Still looking for the perfect ultralight bag!

-Michelle O.

8 – Stop packing “what if” clothing items.

I still take a few “what if” items but it’s more along the lines of a sink stopper and maybe a door stopper. I also have learned to combine items. No longer travel with dish liquid and a stain stick. But have a small container of Dawn dish liquid that will work for both.


On my honeymoon, I took 2 large suitcases plus a carryon and my purse. 🤷🏻‍♀️ We traveled by train. We honeymooned in the late fall/early winter. Had a sweater for everyday. Yup— every picture (almost) is me in my black overcoat. Could have packed one sweater and no one would have known the difference. 🤣🤣

-Kimberly C.

9 – Re-think shoes.

More is not always better.


10 – Learning which items are better rolled, versus folded, versus stuffed and which packing cubes work best.

(I have a heap of them, some I love better than other ones). As a quite plus-sized person I have big clothing, so getting it right is key!

-Deadhead Scotland

11 – Limiting shoes.

It’s painful! I have worked out my 2 must-haves, but in my heart, I always want to bring more 😂.

-Tracy H.

12 – Eliminating the miscellaneous items that always used to find their way into my bag!

I rarely travel to any place that isn’t “civilized” so I can always buy something if I don’t have it with me.

-Lori W.

13 – I had to get over bringing my favorites of everything.

I happen to be a Tom Bihn bag junkie and it’s always a struggle not to bring two or three bags simply because I love them. Picking between a synapse 19 and a 25 (two different sized backpacks from my brand of choice), for instance, is a struggle even though one of them is usually a better fit for the trip based on what I need to pack. I love the color of both!

And then I have to figure out if I’m bringing a side effect or a sidekick and force myself not to bring both (smaller, crossbody bags). And all my small pouches seem to wander into the packing pile. It takes serious work every time to cut back on unnecessary bags which I would put things in just to put something in. Ridiculous, I know!

-Marit E.

14 – Take less than you need and only take clothes that can be mixed and matched with every other item.

I spent three weeks in the UK before the pandemic hit and I had 6 shirts, 3 bottoms and a dress. I combined them in multiple ways and honestly never got bored with my wardrobe. I was by myself so nobody knew and in all my pictures I was wearing a jacket so nobody would even have noticed if I wore the same thing every day.

In most situations, laundry is an option, even if it’s in your hotel room sink.

-Jessica F.

15 – I learned to let go, from head to toe (literally!).

I used to spend a lot of time (and products) on my hair to get it to look just right.  On vacations, my hair would be exposed to the elements–wind, sea spray–and ironically, it looked better than at home, probably because it looked more natural.  I’ve now learned to embrace my locks, and it makes packing toiletries so much easier!  

And down to the toes, I used to travel with more pairs of shoes, but they take up so much space!  I’ve learned to let go of the need to have shoes that are perfectly suited for my travel outfits.  I can do two pairs easily, and I’ve even done a couple short trips with only 1 pair of shoes!

-Rosaleen T.

16 – Minimizing my toiletries!

Huge for me. I learned in The Packing class. So helpful! Game changer! Thank you, Brooke! 😊😊😊

-Melissa C.

What was one thing that you had to learn or do in order to finally pack light? Share in the comments!

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16 travelers share how they finally packed lightThe one big thing that helped these 16 travelers finally pack light!

Written by Brooke

I run the show at Her Packing List and love packing ultralight. In fact, I once traveled for 3 entire weeks with just the contents of a well-packed 12L handbag. When I'm not obsessing over luggage weight, I'm planning adventures or just snuggling with my pet rabbit, Sherlock Bunz.

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Reader Interactions


  1. Christina says

    1. Take a smaller bag. I seem to fill my bag no matter what size it is.
    2. Take out everything I’m planning on bringing ahead of time, but don’t actually put it in the bag until just before. I can forget what I’ve already packed if I do it too early.

  2. Net Lamb says

    For me, discovering merino wool helped me step up my travel-light game! I just finished a challenge to wear one black merino wool swing dress for 100 days straight (with washing of course) That dress will be a main component of my cool/cold weather travel wardrobe going forward!!

  3. Boo307 says

    My moment of truth came as a result of walking the Milford Track. We were given a day pack to put our items for the five day walk. So I put in: the sleeping sheet they gave us, pajamas, toiletries, dry clothes and shoes to change into at the end of the day and that was it. I realized that was about all I ever needed.

    Recently for a week in Iceland in April I took nine items of clothing and only wore six items. My hotel had a towel warmer so anything I washed was dry the next morning. My Tom Bihn Synapse 25 was all I needed.

    For my next trip I will see if I can get everything in my Synapse 19 and then transfer it to the Synapse 25, so for once I will have room for; my purse or picnic items or souvenirs.

  4. Candice says

    Coming back from a trip and realizing I only used about half of what I brought. That was the lightbulb moment for me, but it was actually many years ago. Since then, I’ve been challenging myself to pack lighter and lighter simply for how much faster and easier it makes traveling. I still check a bag occasionally (when it makes sense and my partner and I share it), but nothing beats that feeling of breezing past the long line of people waiting to check with only my backpack. At the moment, I can manage to pack a little backpack for weekends/3-day trips, a small-ish duffle for a week, and a regulation size carry-on for anything longer.
    My new challenge: 8 days in Athens + 6 days in London in September! I really want to push myself on this upcoming trip to try and get really small. It would be nice to have room for a few souvenirs.

  5. Cheri .Pedersen says

    A huge packing Gamechanger for me was with each apparel purchase,
    even above and beyond travel, I mindfully chose packable, lightweight, easily dried materials.
    A majority of my closet now is ready to travel.
    I am still waiting for that perfect carry on bag 🙂

  6. Gabriella says

    Baggage fees. The amount you have to pay just to check in bags for the airline was one of two reasons I decided to learn to pack lighter and do carry on only. I’ve learnt so much over the years that I now know that I can pack a week’s worth of outfits and still remain under 8kg.

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