Ahh, the holidays.
As much as we look forward to snuggling up by the fire, meals with family, and the celebratory air that surrounds this time of year, there remains a perennial downside: travel. Specifically plane travel on some of the busiest and most notoriously bad-weather days of the year.
For me, having not lived in the same time zone as my family since I was 18, planes, trains and automobiles are just as much a part of the holidays as reindeer cookies, holiday sweaters and The Hanukkah Song.
After years of lost bags, aching shoulders and still not bringing the right number of socks, I got serious about packing lightly and have never looked back. Below are seven incredible benefits to traveling lightly AND super useful tips to get you started packing light a minimalist today!
WHY it's so much better to travel lightly:
1. It's an inherently better travel experience. Less to manage. Lighter. Faster. Better.
2. Checking bags is expensive and a waste of time. Standing at the baggage carousel for 30 minutes when you've finally landed in your destination is rotten. Paying $50 for that privilege is insane.
3. Make sure you and your stuff end up in the same place. As anyone whose ever had a tight connection in O'Hare or LAX or Denver over the holidays can attest, the chances of your checked bag and your body ending up in the same location at the same time is highly unlikely. Sure, it stinks to end up at your destination without your bag, even worse is to say, spend the night on the floor of LaGuardia without even a toothbrush or extra layer to keep you comfortable.
4. You have your hands free for kids (or pets). Let's be honest, traveling as an individual is enough of a challenge over the holidays. The added task of keeping small humans (or animals) packed, fed and generally content is made infinitely easier when you have both hands available. This means crying kids can be soothed and butts can be wiped all without having to constantly drop and adjust the bags you'd otherwise be holding.
5. You can find everything. No more doing the "oh shit which pocket/pouch/bag is my boarding pass in" dance. Fewer items all contained in one organized space makes everything instantly accessible.
6. It's an instant upgrade. Instead of paying $149 for a few more inches of legroom, you can immediately gain a foot of space by placing your small duffel or backpack in the overhead compartment, leaving your feet free to stretch out. Or, since it is the holidays, you could even choose to be ultra-generous by easily fitting your bag under your feet, leaving space for the single parents traveling with kids or all the noobs who haven't yet figured out the joys of traveling light.
"The ease of traveling lightly is as much a psychic experience as it is a physical one."
7. You have the mental space to be present. Holiday travel is hard: airports are full, the days are dark, expectations loom. The ease of traveling lightly is as much a psychic experience as it is a physical one. Time slows when you have less to manage or keep track.
You're convinced? Awesome, now let's dig into:
How to Pack Light for the Holidays
Let your container be your guide. I've found that no matter the size of the bag I choose, I end up filling it. So choose a small duffel or medium sized backpack and, as Tim Gunn would say, make it work.
Choose a palette of durable basics. This is the key to any attempt at packing lightly. Bringing a whole new outfit for everyday of a trip adds up when you're gone for longer than a night or two. Instead, selecting a couple classic pieces with can be worn multiple times and layered with each other means you can get away with packing less.
Be super strategic about specialty clothing. On holiday trips it's common to have special events. Whether that be a holiday cocktail party, family religious services or a New Year's Day brunch, these events can call for a more specific style of dress. Pick out an outfit whose components can be worn separately and more casually or put together again for normal days.
Eliminate as many pairs of shoes as you can. Shoes are space killers. A pair of men's athletic shoes or women's boots can take up half a small carry-on. Wear your bulkiest shoes on the plane and commit to bringing no more than one additional pair. I tend to wear a comfortable pair of leather boots and use them for every single occasion.
Create a travel toiletry kit. It surprises me just how many people opt to check their bags so that they can bring full-sized toiletries with them. Purchasing a few refillable containers is inexpensive and quickly checking to see that their filled before each trip takes just a minute. Invest the $5 and 10 minutes now to set up your travel systems and you'll save that time and money multiple times over on your very first non-checked bag.
Plan on doing laundry while you're there instead of bringing multiples. If you're staying with family or at an airbnb, chances are you'll have access to full laundry facilities -- use them! Even if you're staying in a hotel you can easily wash socks, underwear, exercise clothes and base layers in a bathroom sink or shower.
Borrow from your hosts. Now this might not work for everyone, but if you're lucky enough to have relatives who are your size and not afraid of cooties, this can be huge. For me, I borrow my mom's running shoes if it turns out that I want to run in the Polar Vortex streets of Chicago or (much more likely) so I can take a class taught by one of my very talented siblings. In the past I've borrowed a super heavy winter from my little sister (when I still lived in California and didn't own one) and pjs from my older sister.
How do you save space when you travel? Please share below!