The Importance of Packing Light

“No one ever wished they packed heavier.”

Before heading out to Ireland, I re-packed my bag a number of times (as you can read about here). After much effort, my wife and I managed to narrow our luggage down to a carry-on and single suitcase apiece. This amount was enough to provide everything we needed while in Ireland for four and a half months, but was small enough that we could easily carry it ourselves. Fortunately so, it turned out, as we managed to get off the bus sooner than necessary and had to walk an extra mile through Dublin while carrying our stuff.

During our trip we ran into a fellow student who did not subscribe to our theory of packing light. Following him off the bus, we realized that he had 5 pieces of luggage: 2 suitcases, a gym bag, a carry-on and a guitar. How does one person manage all of this stuff? We still don’t know, as we volunteered to help carry since we were traveling to the same destination. He bravely carried all but the guitar. The carry-on was strapped around his shoulders, the gym bag was perched on top of a suitcase, and he rolled the suitcases behind him, one in each hand. While this arrangement would probably work fine on the smooth floors inside an airport, it was rather cumbersome on the uneven streets of the city. The gym bag kept falling off and getting drug on the ground, and the double suitcases were too wide and everyone had to walk around him. Not to mention the guitar, which I was carrying.

How did we do it? How did we manage to carry everything for four and a half months in a suitcase and carry-on each? I did have the advantage of not bringing my guitar along, so I automatically eliminated one item from my packing list. Otherwise, we realized that we generally wear the same clothes week to week anyway, and started with those. Instead of bringing bulky coats and a lot of extra sweaters, we packed based on the layering system (the backpacking background comes in handy sometimes!) We included a base-layer of thermals that can be worn underneath our jeans and shirts. With a sweater added on top, and a windproof rain-jacket over that, we will be toasty warm in some very cold temperatures, colder than it is likely to get while we are here. Just in case, we did add in a dressy outfit and pair of shoes to match.

There is more to packing than just clothes, though. What about all of the other stuff that we use on a daily basis? Since we were planning on finding a furnished apartment, we did not need to carry any bed linens or cooking gear. If needed, we could purchase a set of sheets upon arriving (we didn’t). We had the laptop and a couple of 3-ring binders with paper for school use, as well as the necessary plug-converters for the laptop and whatever writing instruments would be necessary. Entertainment-wise, we brought the knitting supplies that we thought would be needed during the time we were in Ireland, as well as the GPSr and Palm for GeoCaching. We threw in some books and a sketch pad for some additional entertainment. The only other things we could think that we use on a daily basis are toiletries. Just the basics: some soap, shampoo, and deodorant, q-tips, razor, toothbrush and toothpaste, a washcloth and our PackTowels. The only other items were a blanket or sleeping bag and a travel pillow for use on the plane and when traveling.

Have you ever really thought about what all you use in the course of an average day? You might be surprised how little it is. Hygiene products, clothes and some entertainment. Obviously we weren’t bringing our vehicle, we’ve seen all of our movies (and are not big TV watchers anyway), have our music saved on the laptop and will be using provided equipment to cook and eat from. Since the hairdryer would have needed a converter anyway, it was easier to purchase one after arriving here (this and the sheets were the only things we planned to purchase after arriving, and the sheets only if needed).

The small amount of stuff combined with some good packing techniques allowed us to fit everything inside our suitcases. We had enough room left-over that we managed to fit my wife’s bathrobe (which she was most thankful for), some snacks for the plane, an empty water bottle, and a spare duffel bag in case our luggage weighed too much.

Not only was our minimal luggage easy to carry while traipsing around town looking for the train station, but it came in handy a number of other times. While on the bus and the train, it was simple to find a place to store everything. The lift (elevator) was out at the hostel, so we had to carry our luggage up four flights of stairs. Repacking once we found a place to stay was a quick matter. Unpacking and moving into our flat was a quick matter that only took about 10 minutes.

If you’re getting ready to pack for a trip, here is the most useful advice that I can pass on. Take half as much as you think you will need, and twice as much money.

5 thoughts on “The Importance of Packing Light

  1. LisaNewton says:

    Your closing advice is great. I’ll definitely pack half as much but take more money, or at least, I’ll make sure I have my ATM card………….:)

    Thanks for the other great tips.

  2. Matthew says:

    Glad that you liked the advice! I’ve already been glad that I brought more money than I thought would be necessary on this study-abroad trip (and still used the ATM card!) That does include paying rent, though…

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