How To Really Travel Light (and Lightly on the Earth)

How To Really Travel Light (and Lightly on the Earth)

Adele Peters
Jul 26, 2010

If you're flying this summer, you can keep your carbon footprint down by packing less stuff. We're firm believers in traveling with no more than a carry-on bag whenever possible, anyway; it's much easier to lug up and down subways and through airports, not to mention comforting to know the airlines can't lose your luggage or charge you more for extra bags. By making sure your bag weighs as little as possible, you'll help cut down on the amount of fuel used on the flight. American Airlines says that every pound shed from the plane saves 14,000 gallons of fuel over a year. Read on for our tips on packing light.

1. Start with the right bag. If you have a bigger bag, you'll tend to fill it up (just like apartments tend to fill up no matter their size, and no matter how little you started out with). Pick a bag that's just big enough to hold what you need. Since you'll be carrying it on, it doesn't have to be as strong as something that would go through luggage handling, and it can be much more lightweight. Check out some options in our roundup of eco-friendly luggage.
2. Bring things that can serve multiple purposes. If your smartphone can check email, leave the laptop behind (or just forget about email); if it takes decent photos, consider leaving the camera behind, too. If you use a mild shampoo, it can double as body wash, cutting down on an extra bottle. Bring a pair of shoes that will work in any situation you plan to encounter.
3. Plan to wear clothes multiple times. Of course, the amount of clothes you'll need will depend on the length of your trip and the different kinds of weather you're expecting. But it's entirely possible to bring lightweight, quick-drying clothes that can easily be washed in the sink at night and worn again the next day. Check out ExOfficio's undies, for example: "17 countries. Six weeks. One pair of underwear." Possibly a little extreme, but a good demonstration that you don't technically need to bring that much along. If the weather's good for wearing jeans, consider just wearing one pair the whole time; good denim isn't really supposed to be washed, anyway, so it's fine to just keep wearing it over and over.
4. Plan in advance what you can get at your destination. If you're staying at a hotel, call to see if they'll have toiletries beyond the standard shampoo and soap. If you want a hairdryer, check on that. If you're staying with friends, think about what you might be able to borrow. For longer stays in one place, plan to stop in a store when you get there to pick up the things you'll be using there.

What are your favorite ways to travel light? Let us know in the comments.

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