JL from Australia sent us this:
I am a woman who has always travelled a lot for work and pleasure, both domestically and internationally. I do not subscribe to the throwaway line that light travel is harder for women than men. I also don’t think you have to make nearly as many compromises about standards of personal attire as some bloggers/posters seem to suggest (in various places) in order to pack lightly and travel with carry on only (noting that I live in Australia where the carry on limit is around 7 kg and is generally enforced). It just takes some proper thought and planning.
Depending on the type of travel, I use a Tom Bihn Tri-Star or a lightweight, dark coloured Rimowa Salsa Air multi-wheel cabin bag (I am not a no-wheels fanatic!). I use Tom Bihn packing cubes and I mostly fold but occasionally roll items. I never use the bundle method as it strikes me as very inefficient from an access perspective. Both my bags can be packed using my packing lists to comply with restrictive Australian and Asian carry on weight limits.
Here are some of my suggestions for reducing weight and volume without looking like a wreck on your travels! Although my perspective is a woman’s, many of these ideas are relevant for men as well.
1. Take straightening irons rather than a hair dryer. Assuming your hotel supplies even a poor quality hair dryer, you can usually fix most styling issues with irons. They are also more efficient to pack than a folding travel dryer, being long and slim in shape.
2. iPad. I can’t add anything that hasn’t already been said about how efficient, useful and versatile this device is for travellers.
3. I prefer noise isolating headphones rather than noise cancelling - significantly reduced size and weight and no charging paraphernalia.
4. 3-1-1 - based on my experience of travelling in developing countries, I don’t like to rely on being able to buy requisites at my destination so I always bring compliant containers of whatever I need. Plus that way I don’t waste time shopping for boring essentials en route. If there is a dry or solid alternative I consider substituting it for my usual product, but I generally only do this in limited circumstances (eg deodorant and some makeup). I use a combination of refillable tubes/bottles and sample sizes of my regular products and perfume, which I hoard. I think hard about how much I will need of each product and only bring a bit more than that amount.
5. Dressing up - yes you can, and why shouldn’t you? I take a stretch silk black dress that can be worn in multiple ways (some quite formal, others more casual). This type of garment really multiplies the variety of outfits that you can get out of a tightly edited packing list. It is more versatile than just adding a scarf to an otherwise casual street outfit. I also always pack a small, soft, flat clutch purse for evenings out.
6. Shoes. These are supposed to be one of the main reasons that women can’t pack lightly, but I am not sure why, because women’s shoes are usually both lighter and smaller than men’s. I think packing shoes is a bigger challenge for my husband than for me. I love shoes and own far too many pairs, but I think you can manage with three pairs in most temperate climates, assuming you don’t have specialist needs like ski boots. I wear climate-appropriate day/walking shoes on the plane and pack one dressy pair and one pair of flat sandals (again, subject to climate at destination). This number and variety of shoes generally works for me if my clothing wardrobe has been properly planned. However, I haven’t solved the dilemma of what to do about workout shoes!
7. “Hollywood tape”. This is double sided tape used to fix clothing in position. It also weighs nothing and can be used for simple, temporary garment repairs like dropped hems, lost buttons etc. It always has a place in my luggage.
8. Personal item. Your second bag, assuming it is allowed, can really be your friend in situations where you know you are pushing the weight limit with your main carry on. I like to use an unstructured slouchy handbag with a shoulder strap and a zip closure that hangs quietly out of sight over my shoulder and still looks relatively empty even when I have put my cashmere shawl, 3-1-1 bag, iPad, makeup pouch, sunglasses, reading glasses and other items in there. It never gets noticed at the gate. It is far less conspicuous than bulging exterior pockets on a MLC bag or, IMO, a more structured, purpose-designed personal item. It also looks less touristy, IMO. For men an unstructured messenger bag can work the same way.
9. Overflow bag. Sometimes just knowing you have one of these with you gives you the confidence to pack light! I use a lightweight folding nylon bag by Bric’s, which is very durable and takes up very little space and weight in my bag. If I go shopping it becomes my main carry on and I check the Tri Star/Rimowa. The possibility of needing to check your carry on bag is a good reason to go for the best quality you can afford or justify, as it is more likely to be strong enough to withstand the rigours of the baggage handlers (one hopes). This consideration eliminates a lot of cheaper, lightweight bags for me - I just don’t trust that they or their contents will survive unscathed if they are very flimsy!
10. Lists! If you are new to light travel it is very helpful to pack with a list, then to review it after you return, noting what you wore and more importantly what you didn’t wear or use, and make revisions as necessary. You will soon find you have reduced it to a master list of clothes, travel accessories, toiletries, make-up etc that works for most of your travel. I have a couple of master lists that I constantly update. Just the simple act of making a list forces you to think more carefully about what you actually need for the trip and I have found it reduces the temptation to throw in those “nice to have ” items.
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