How To Travel Light For A One Week Overseas Trip

Today I'm leaving for a fabulous week in Barcelona, and as usual, I'm traveling light. I'll have everything I need in a single backpack. When you travel, less is more. By that, I mean that having to carry less offers me the freedom to do more. While everyone else is standing around a luggage carousel, my vacation is already started.

Sure, I'm not the first person to figure this out. But it's still amazing to me how much unneeded junk people bring with them, and the negative effect that has on their travel. I take very little, but I'm always working on ways to make that even less!

Packing light

It might seem like very little, I'm actually taking a lot with me. In addition to the clothes I'll wear on the plane, I'm taking three pairs of pants, four shirts, four pairs of socks, four changes of underwear, dress shoes, and gadgets. And it all fits!

Okay, so it's a lot for that bag, but is it really enough when I'm going to be gone for 8 days? I say, yes! I've chosen three pants and shirts that all match well together, but which are all different, so that different combinations can make as many outfits as possible, and I can be properly dressed for any situation. If I were anticipating a formal event, I would wear a suit or sportcoat on the flight, but I know I won't be needing any such thing on this trip.

Making it fit

Well... I made a video to demonstrate. Watch for yourself!


My iPhone is indispensible when I travel because it also has maps, dictionaries, and other useful apps that can help you out. And I just can't imagine flying anywhere without my iPad, which is loaded up with Italian books and movies, so I can continue my study while I'm away. These two devices have have a profound effect on my comfort when traveling.

One of the many advantages to Apple products is that they all use the same electrical adapters, and the adapters are... well... adaptable! Thanks to Apple's World Traveler Adapter Kit, you can snap on the plug connector for the country to which you're traveling, and charge everything with a single charger.

And speaking of the crazy power connections of the world, you don't want to bring them all when you're packing light, so I just click over to Wikipedia's page about power plugs and sockets, and figure out which one I will need for my destination.


Since I will only have a carry-on item, there is no way the airline can lose my luggage. And if something gets broken I have only myself to blame. It's also lightweight, so I can carry it with me for a long time without getting tired. While most people will rush immediately from the airport to the hotel to dump their luggage, I can take my time and do whatever I want.

Possibly one of the best things about traveling light is that you increase your personal safety. In addition to being uncomfortable, carrying large luggage also marks you as an obvious tourist, and therefore an easy victim. (Especially in Barcelona, the pickpocketing capital of the world.) With a small backpack, I will stand out less.

In crowded places, I can easily turn it around and wear it backward to ensure that no one is digging in it behind my back. And as long as I'm wearing it, there's really not much chance of it getting stolen.

And while I'm talking about security, there's one more thing I do to travel light: ditch the wallet. Seriously. All I need is an ATM card, a credit card, and my passport. That's it. And those things will be somewhere that a pickpocket can't reach them, whether it's a hidden pocket, just the inside pocket of a sportcoat, or in the safe at the hotel. In a crowd, you can't stop the pickpocket — I'm not going to make it easy for him. And as a bonus, it's much more comfortable when I sit.

Well, that's how I travel light. What about you? What are your secrets?

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  • Cool video! I like the stop-animation to show how you fold everything!I also made a video back in 2008 about packing to travel for a week. I've got more on my bed, but I am big on using my pockets and anything I can find to squeeze things into!I have to admit I don't fold things particularly efficiently, so you do that way better than I do! One major difference is I bring everything I need without relying on things waiting for me - I don't see a towel or toiletries in your pack, so I presume you'll be staying at hotels? You'd spend more by buying a towel/shampoo etc. for a week if you were staying at hostels or couchsurfers.Apple are not at all universal - their unique cable is relatively expensive and it's about time they took on mini-USB as a direct means of charging/file transfer! On the plus side you will find it everywhere though, if it breaks. But my replacement cost me several times what any standard cable ever would cost.Is Barcelona the pickpocketing capital of the world?? I lived there for several months and that's the first I've ever heard of it... Anyway, good tips and I hope you have fun!

  • I don't rely on anything waiting for me. Rather, I travel with the expectation that I will have to buy a few things when I arrive.With regard to the toiletries you noted as missing, I do take a toothbrush, toothpaste, and deodorant, but those go into a separate clear plastic bag, for inspection by the TSA, thanks to my country's ignorant security policies.And regardless of where I choose to stay, I would never pack a towel. In fact, you probably also notice I'm missing swimwear for the beach. Things like that will be very easy to find at my destination, and their cost is an easy trade-off for my travel comfort. Anyway, useful things make great souvenirs.

  • That's superb, and I absolutely agree with the "pack light" school of thought. I've noticed that as people travel more and more, they pack less and less and less.This is a bit more than your carry-on, but they're also traveling indefinitely (months or a year at a time, etc.): there are people who survive just out of a single backpack for very extended periods of time (they're called...backpackers! :D ). That's precisely how it should be done, presuming you're not staying very long in any single location.How do you deal with your passport? I've heard that you should ALWAYS (even regardless of the local laws that might require you to carry it at all times) make a photocopy of it and keep THAT on you all the time and keep your passport in the hotel safe or your locker at the hostel.Cheers,

  • With regard to the passport, I have a scanned copy which I emailed to myself. Email is easy to access world-wide, in case something happens.I do keep the original with me, but not where it's easily accessed. One doesn't really get asked for a passport very often, so it's not a big deal.

  • as a woman, I must admit that I can not do without a lot of things for the bodycare. Instead of working on my vanity, I solved the problem by starting to collect the small free samples of creams, shower gels, perfumes, etc.. and to preserve them for my travels. :-)
    I also usually bring with me a poket-size raincoat. In some situations it has been very useful.
    Barcelona is wonderful, enjoy yourself!

  • I thought the pickpoketing capital was Naples ;-)

  • I pretty much follow Rick Steve's advice ( He has traveled Europe for 30 some years.

  • Rick Steves has a lot of really good advice on his website. There are a few items with which I disagree, but he's certainly got the benefit of a lot of experience.However, it's important to remember that everyone is different. His advice (while good) is only perfect for him. The biggest thing I find lacking in his advice is to pack for, and prepare for, the type of lifestyle that fits you. For example, beach bums probably don't need to bring evening wear... but others do.

  • I've already had several attempts made to pick my pockets here! Amazing.

  • I keep a poncho in my city bag (go bag/ whatever you call it) yet ironically, I don't bring one when I travel. I don't even know why.

  • How big is your backpack? It looks about the same size (maybe a little smaller) that the one I want to take for 2 weeks in Scotland and 2 weeks in Italy. I know I am going to have a problem because we are planning on May and the weather will be significantly different in the two countries, but I thought I might mail my cold weather stuff home from Scotland. The back pack I want to take is 1647 cubic inches (27 liters). I know it will be a stretch, but I really want to try this. I will be on the move, so wearing the same thing won't be a problem.

  • Mine isn't very big at all. In fact, I particularly bought it smaller, to force myself to carry less. And more interesting, I still feel like I took too much. I could have done without the second pair of jeans.If you pack smart, you should be fine in both places. I wouldn't worry about mailing clothes all over the world.

  • I also agree with packing light. On our family 3 day trip to Puerto Rico. We were able to each take just one carry-on bag.

  • Ultralight packing is awesome. It's amazing how few people actually "get it". I've only been packing light for a little less than a year now. I just had no idea what I was missing out on. You can get by with so much less than you think. :)

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