Everyone thought I was either brave or crazy, maybe both, when I decided to travel through Europe this summer with a 25 L backpack weighing only 6 kg, but it was one of the best decisions I made and here's why:
- Stairs, stairs and more stairs. If you've ever travelled through Europe you'll know that there are often several flights of stairs to climb if you ever want to get, well anywhere.
- Summer time. It's pretty easy to travel light when you're visiting a warm climate. I packed two dresses, three pairs of pants, four shirts, and a pair of pyjamas, plus my laptop, book, and toiletries.
- Ease of movement. When you're travelling on your own, or with a tour group (I've done both on this trip) you often have to be really quick on your feet--running for the last train, rushing to get through a crowded square, beating the crowd through customs or getting out of a potentially sticky situation. Ease of movement is important when you're an independent traveller... you don't have anyone else you can count on.
- Save money. When you don't have much space to put stuff, you can't really buy it. I have seen a few things that I would have otherwise bought but I couldn't due to limited space. Rather than seeing it as a missed opportunity, I just avoid the shopping areas altogether and check out everything else the city has to offer... especially by way of food.
- Reduced waiting times. Goodbye waiting at the baggage carousel, wondering if your bag has made it half way across the world. I just take my bag as carry-on and hop straight off my flight and make my way through customs.
It's not always going to be easy to travel light, and you will have to repack your bag at least every couple of days to make room for everything, but here are some tips to make things easier:
- Roll up your clothes, you'll be surprised how much space you will save.
- Remember to only take toiletries less than 100 ml for all international flights (this also significantly reduces the weight of your pack).
- Put the things you will use the least at the bottom of your bag. It took me about a week to remember to put my toiletries and pyjamas at the top of the bag for easy access.
- Pack things you're willing to leave behind. I am willing to leave behind all of the clothes I packed if I find something better to replace them with. This also helps refresh your wardrobe, as wearing the same few outfits for weeks on end can get a little tiresome.
- Check the carry-on weight limit of your airline. I had some flights with 10 kg limits, but some were only 7 kg so I had to stick to the lower limit or risk paying for it, literally.
- Check the banned substances list--no batteries, toiletries over 100 ml, tweezers, nail files, razors, etc. can be in your carry-on.
- Hand wash your clothes. Unfortunately a lot of European hotels don't really support washing in the hand basin but I highly recommend finding a way. If I am staying somewhere for more than one night I will get the hand soap or travel wash out and give my clothes a quick wash. It saves time and money at the laundromat and if you only have a few outfits, you will be washing every couple of days.
- Re-wear your clothes. Okay, this one is a little trickier when you've had a big day on the town sweating your little armpits out, but you can quite easily wear your pants at least twice. This also saves on hand washing.