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Remember when your mother carried a big purse and could magically produce whatever you needed at a moment’s notice? Band-aid? No problem. Hair comb? Here you go. Change for the gumball machine…bing. You skipped along carefree without worry about losing something valuable or being slowed down by a heavy bag. That’s the feeling I want when I travel. I don’t want a nursemaid at my beck and call. I do want the lightness of moving about freely without the weight, bulkiness, and mental burden of keeping an eye on stuff.

Last week I traveled for five days with only a laptop bag and a small over-the-shoulder. It was tight and the bags still felt a bit heavy, but I never had to check a bag (even when traveling on a smaller jet with limited overhead space) and it was easy to get from place to place without bulky wheeled luggage. It felt great.

After talking with Crystal about her plans to travel worldwide with just a backpack, I wondered how I might travel lighter yet. I’m thinking about ideas and looking forward to seeing her final packing list. Meanwhile, here are a few tips I’ve learned.

1. Mix-n-match. To save space, limit shoes. I pack running shoes and wear the only pair of business/casual shoes I’ll take. That means I need to take clothes that go with those shoes. Brown shoes? All outfits have a brown theme. I wear one outfit and take one more (or if it’s a short trip, just an extra top).

2. Layer. Check the temperature for your destination before you leave, of course. And if it will be cold or varied (air-conditioned indoors with hot outdoor transitions), I take light layers, wearing anything bulky on the plane. In this way I have a couple of options or I can layer up for warmth.

3. Focus. I used to take several books and some work-related reading on the plane in order to have options depending on my mood or mental capacity. That’s a lot of weight and space. First, focus on the purpose of your travel and the amount of time you’ll realistically have for leisure reading or extra work. Take only a minimal amount and if you’re taking your laptop, consider adding specific digital documents you might want.

4. Enjoy. There were so many benefits of traveling lighter. I wasn’t all sweaty by the time I got to my gate. I never worried about whether there would be overhead space. I never had to wait for my luggage (especially important during tight connections). My luggage never gets lost! I didn’t spend a lot of time getting ready each day (there’s not a lot of choices to dwell over). And upon return, unpacking and doing laundry was a snap.

I’m still learning. But these have been helpful strategies for me. I’d love to hear your thoughts on traveling light.

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