One of my main goals when traveling (especially when my little one is traveling with me) is to carry as little as possible.
I'm sure you'd agree, that there is nothing more frustrating than heading on a journey packed like a horse and count kilos at the check-in counter hoping not to get over the limit.
Packing light might sound like mission impossible, but it's not - you just have to have a right strategy and be prepared to leave something behind.
Let me share with you my thoughts about packing light which save me lots of time and I hope will save yours too.
This is one of my most important rule, especially when going to countries with temperature differences or when I don't have time to re-pack my suitcase and from +25 C° get straight to -19 C°.
How to: Choose 2-3 basic outfits for warm temperatures, depending on the length of the stay. Let's say a t-shirt and a skirt. And than start adding to the outfit warmer clothes - a woolen cardigan, a pair of tights, a light tank top to wear underneath the t-shirt. In this case you already have 2 outfits to wear and you will be on a safe side in warm or in cold climate. Same goes for dresses, jeans or shorts. I also like to think my outfits through, so I always try to have all the items match each other in style and color.
Tip: For cold temperatures thermo linen is great. It's light and very warm as well as ergonomical. Merino wool clothes are also a wonderful choice.
Reduce and evaluate
Don't I know how important it is to take that particular pair of shoes because it matches this particular purse and a t-shirt. But think twice (three times!!) before clothes land in your suitcase.
How to: To travel light you will have to evaluate between essentials and "nice to have". Essentials are your basics. All the rest can stay home. Write a list of things you are planning to take. Than read through it and cross out the ones you think could be left behind (instead of 4 pair of shoes you can travel with 3 or even 2 etc.). Than put the list aside and go through it again in a couple of hours. Like this you will reduce impulse packing strategy into a thought through one. Sounds snobby, but your back will "thank you" after all.
And don't forget about things which can go small - like a backpack which folds into a small pocket (like this one from Ikea or these from Muji) or a raincoat poncho which fits into your wallet (like this one).
Some items are easier to purchase at your destination point than to carry them with you. Diapers, washing powder, towels or shampoo could easily be purchased in almost every country (with some exceptions of course). I try to pack enough to last for the first 2 days. But always inform yourself - you don't want to be looking for a toothpaste or tampons first thing arriving in Namibia.
This is not exactly about lightness, but it could be if you follow the step number 2. You might find it ridiculous, but when folding right you win space (no,stop! Not for fitting in something else. We travel light, remember?!). Proper folding saves time and nerves, especially if during your travels you need to change several locations.
How to: Use special garment cases. I picked up this strategy from asian travelers. You can get these at Muji for example. Ikea Family Travel collection is a good budget option. All you need to do is to stack all things of one kind and place them inside the case. You can also label them (I don't). At the end your suitcase or backpack will look like Lego, but at the same time you will not have to dig and re-fold and to squeeze. You simply take the case with items you need out and put it back without messing all the other things.
Rolling is also a good idea - you can always roll a couple shirts and stack them on the sides to use up all the space.
Oh, and don't forget to stack your shoes with socks and underwear to save space.
Choosing your luggage
Choosing a proper luggage is important, because it is the nutshell you'll be traveling with. I prefer traveling with suitcase. After years of backpacking I decided that I'm too old for this stuff and switched to the rolling option. And may I tell you that I never looked back! One carry on and one suitcase 80 L when I travel with kid, 40 L when alone - this is my limit. Everything else stays home. The only extra piece of luggage I always have on me is one backpack with camera equipment (but recently I try to fit the whole backpack into the carry on).
How to: Try to keep your hands as empty as possible and try to eliminate extra pieces - no unnecessary small bags or clothes - try to fit everything inside your belongings.
I also bought a suitcase which opens on both sides and not only from the top - this gives me a better overview. Usually I pack one side for me and one side for my baby girl, so things don't get mixed.
Of course there are times when you can't avoid taking a backpack - tracking in the Himalayas with suitcase wouldn't do you any good. But in most of the cases suitcase is an easier and lighter version, because it can be rolled. And when backpack in unavoidable get a backpack with a front load opportunity - again for a better overview.
Keep track of your things
If I want to travel light I always keep a track of my things - I follow the rule "one piece in one piece out". This means that before getting something I try to get rid of something. Following this rule two pairs of old sneakers found their new home in New Zealand and a nice wall calender came back home with us. Fair trade.
Traveling with kids
The above mentioned rules also apply when traveling with kids.
How to: As I already wrote I share one large suitacse with my little one - everyone gets a half and that's it. What I also take on family travels is 1 stroller (we have the one from BabyZen) and Ergobaby carrier. We chose the stroller which folds compact and could be taken on board, which means you can take it inside the plane.
After following these simple rules a couple of times, you will become a professional in packing and traveling light, I'm sure.
I'm also looking forward to reading your "light travel" strategies.