There are so many gadgets for traveling light - but are they all needed? Can you use other things you already have at home to travel light on a budget?
A friend asked me if packing light is expensive. My answer is, "It most definitely can be, but it doesn't have to be expensive."
From clothing, to bags, to technology - the moment they use the word light in the promotion of these products, you can be guaranteed the price doubles!! That may be a slight exaggeration, but there is an ounce of truth in it.
So my goal here is to show you that there are options out there to help you travel light on a budget.
The cost of travel gear can add up. Here I have a mix of specialist clothing and just what I have in my normal wardrobe.
Reducing the cost of expensive travel clothing.
Watch out for sales.
I always look out for sales and discount promos. While I buy good quality clothing I'm always waiting for them to go on sale - In the early days I had a shopping list of what I needed. I kept an eye out on the stores that sold these things, and pounced once I knew the sale was on.
Look for budget friendly options.
Yes, you could buy the $200 rain poncho, or you could buy a $14 one. Yes, the expensive one might be more robust and have more bells and whistles - but that's a lot of money if you're trying to travel on a budget.
Look at what items you need to get and decide whether a cheaper version will pretty much do the same job.
Borrow travel clothing and gadgets.
I've borrowed off friends and family, and I've lent stuff out too. There's no reason why we all need a European plug adapter when we go to Europe once in a blue moon (remember, I live in NZ!)
My favourite is sharing tropical clothing with my sister. If you've ever been to NZ you'll know it's not always very tropical - so clothing for the Pacific Islands gets worn very infrequently at home.
Use what you've got.
Have a look at your wardrobe and see what lighter options you've already got. You already wear these clothes, so you know you're comfortable in them.
When they need replacing, then you can think about replacing them with a lighter option.
High Street fashion shops also have light clothing. They just don't label them as such. There are beautiful light fabrics that make for gorgeous travel clothing.
I find that if I wear my nice top out at night for a few hours, it doesn't need washing after each wear. I just air it out.
What's in your wardrobe that you could already travel with?
Reducing the cost of technology.
I was listening to a podcast the other day about a photographer who walked the Camino de Santiago. He carried 5kg of camera and video gear - yes, I did gasp out loud when I heard that comment!
Consequent walks he has done, he now just carries his phone. The quality of photos that a phone can take has improved exponentially over the years. (Now it's all the photographers amongst you to gasp!!!).
I can imagine that a photographer would miss the zoom technology. But it's something you have to literally weigh up.
I travel with just the earphones that came with my phone. Yes, they dangle and can be annoying, but I'd be paranoid about losing Bluetooth earphones.
Reducing the cost of in-flight gadgets.
Travel pillows, sleep masks, noise cancelling headphones.
All these things can be borrowed, bought on sale, or replaced with something else.
I carry 30g silk scarves that make a lovely sleep mask. I use simple ear plugs to reduce the noise. And I wrap my puffer jacket around my neck as a neck support.
I use what I've got and make do with that which saves me a lot of money and extra weight.
A simple scarf can be used for so many other uses.
Things you can take from home.
Safety pins are great for:
- safe-guard for securing your money-belt to your clothing
- pinning things together when broken
- hanging things off your bag for drying (think hiking), or a travel pillow
Long shoe laces are great for:
- Using as a clothesline - thread the shoelace thru the armholes
- Securing rolled up clothing or bag items to reduce the space they take.
Rubber-bands or hair-ties are great for:
- also wrapping things up tighter
- Adding a knot to you tee shirt, long top or skirt to add a bit of style
Plastic plates and cups from home are perfectly fine as travel extras. They are light and pretty unbreakable.
I used my kids plastic cereal bowl as a dinner/breakfast plate. I could cut on it easily. They take up very little room if you put things inside them like a scarf. The cup is also great if you have breakables that you need to protect while on the move.
Using a hair-tie to add a knot in a top.
More things you can take from home.
A plastic container with a lid is a brilliant asset when traveling.
- You can use it to keep things together or store items in your bag.
- You can use them to buy takeaway food.
- You can eat from it.
- You can carry food for the day.
Zip-lock bags are incredibly useful for:
- Carrying snacks
- Keeping charging leads and plugs together
- Storing wet or dirty clothing
- Separating shoes
- A large bag can be used as a hand-washing bag - just half fill it with water, add your laundry soap, and then wash items one at a time.
- As a shower-proof dry-bag to keep valuables and passport dry - this won't work for a complete dunking in the water like if I was kayaking - but then I find that these places I hire from often have drybags you can borrow - or I leave my valuables in the hotel safe.
Do you need to buy special travel containers?
The problem with buying those travel sets of containers to go in your liquid bag, is that they're often too big. You might only need 50ml of shampoo but the bottle is 90ml. Many of my face creams or ointments only need the capacity for 10 or 20g.
Start collecting little jars, bottles and containers.
You might not know how you're going to use them yet but they will come in handy one day.
I was getting frustrated with my earplugs and earphones getting in a hell of a tangled mess in my bag. Plus I didn't like the idea that things that were going in my ears were potentially not very clean. I found a plastic jar that I had collected and now they are easy to find and kept clean.
So I collect medicine bottles, containers that gifts come in, and small food jars.
What do you want for your birthday?
In our house, the question is more specific - What light travel thing do you want for your birthday?!!!
Presents are a good opportunity to get something you really need. You can suggest a present that fits your birthday present budget, or they can buy you a voucher.
Most importantly, you're getting something you actually need and will put to great use.
Whatever occasions you buy presents for - anniversaries, birthdays, christmas, graduation, congratulations - you can make it something you have on your packing light list.
Save your money for travelling.
The less money you spend on gadgets, the more you can spend on travel is my philosophy.
My bag is full of "that will do the trick" items.
There are definitely ways to reduce the amount of money you spend on travel gadgets.
Next time you look at buying something, ask yourself:
- Could I borrow someone else's?
- Would something I have at home do the same job?
I hope these packing tips help you with reducing your travel gear and reducing the cost of travel.
Happy light travels!