We all know that overpacking is a “travel don't”, but that's easier said than done. Have you ever considered the money you could save by packing light?
The savings are fairly obvious at the airport when packing light is the difference between paying for a checked bag and avoiding that fee. However, there are other unexpected ways that a large suitcase or extra bag can cost you money.
And packing light is just a better way to travel.
What does “packing light” mean?
For me, “packing light” means one carry-on suitcase and one small backpack per person. Most airlines allow these two items at no extra cost.
I've found that we don't need any more clothing and other personal items than that. School-age kids can usually wear a small backpack and roll a small suitcase without help.
One carry-on suitcase and one small backpack have become my family's standard for road trips too. We might pack additional specialty items or food in a bin or cooler, but nobody needs to pack more clothing and personal items for a road trip than an airplane trip.
Honestly, I'm still tempted to overpack on every trip. However, limiting our luggage has helped me simplify my packing. And I've never come home from a trip wishing I had packed more stuff.
Related: 8 Tips for Packing Light
Save money on airline fees
Most airlines charge $25 or more per checked bag. I've seen fees as high as $70 per checked bag on major U.S. airlines. Many travelers get around this fee by limiting their luggage to what they can carry onto the plane for no extra charge.
Read your airlines’ luggage requirements before you start packing your bags. Some international airlines are very strict about the size of your carry-on bag. Other airlines may not allow a personal bag.
When my sister‘s family flew from the United States to Amsterdam to Morocco, their second airline did not allow them to bring their backpacks onto the plane with their carry-on bags. To avoid fees, they bought lightweight nylon day packs that take almost no space in a suitcase and packed them into the carry-ons between flights.
These colorful backpacks are so easy and versatile that I bought the same packs for my family on Amazon.com – a different color for each person – and our other sister bought them for her family for about $15-20 per bag. We have used them on every trip in the past 3+ years and they are still like new.
Click the button below to see our New Outlander Lightweight Packable Backpacks on Amazon.com.
It's easier to use public transportation
When we need to get ourselves and our luggage from the airport to our hotel or vice versa, we always consider public transportation. It’s usually a convenient and inexpensive option.
Most big cities have a train or subway station at the airport. Packing light makes it a lot easier to use public transportation to/from the airport without feeling conspicuous or taking too much space. Other riders often have bags too.
We flew into Paris' Orly Airport and needed to get from there to Gare du Nord to catch our train to London. We researched several transportation options before the trip and decided that public transportation would be the fastest and most affordable option.
Limiting our luggage to one small suitcase and one small backpack per person made it easier for our family to board the Paris Metro without taking up too much space or feeling too conspicuous in an unfamiliar city. Packing light also made it easy for every member of our family to carry their own luggage through the airport and the huge Gare du Nord transportation hub.
Save money on taxis or Uber
Taxi or Uber or Lyft are usually my first choice when we need a ride to or from the airport. A private car is more convenient and feels safer after dark. It doesn’t necessarily cost more for my family of four to fill a taxi than to ride public transportation.
The four of us barely fit into one of London’s traditional black taxis with our luggage. If we had packed one suitcase more, we would have had to split up and pay for two cabs.
Uber and Lyft charge more when you request a larger vehicle, such as a minivan or SUV that seats more than four people and has room for luggage too. If you have a small family and pack light, you may be able to squeeze into a standard vehicle for a lower cost. Larger families might avoid ordering two vehicles if they have less luggage.
Save money on fuel
Packing light will also save you money on road trips. Less weight in the car means that you’ll spend less money on fuel. Furthermore, your family may not need to invest in a larger vehicle or exterior luggage racks if you can pack less.
Save money on clothes and gear
Planning a trip often triggers the urge to buy new clothing, shoes, or gear for the trip. However, when I'm limited to 2-3 changes of clothing and one extra pair of shoes in a small suitcase, that also limits what I “need” to buy.
Packing light is convenient
Packing light is not only less expensive; it's more convenient. Big suitcases are heavy and awkward. They take a lot of space in a taxi or hotel room. Rolling an oversized suitcase through an unfamiliar city makes me feel like I'm wearing a sign that says “Look at me! I'm not from here.”
For two weeks in London and Paris, we really had to scrutinize what shoes, clothing, accessories, personal grooming, entertainment, and technology went into those two bags. We also had to be careful about the souvenirs we purchased along the way because we had to get them home!
Careful planning and light packing paid off. We transferred from car to plane to subway to train to taxi without feeling weighed down by our bags. My children (ages 13 and 11) carried/rolled all their own luggage all the time with no problem.
Packing light is not just less expensive, it’s an easier way to travel. I want to help you save money so that your family can travel more often.