Why You Should Travel Light

Most of us have been there, lugging too much stuff through an airport, then arriving at our destination wondering why we brought so many damn things! Years ago, it made economic sense to overpack, since checked bags were typically included in the airfare. But these days, even if a checked bag is included in your airfare, like on an overseas flight, you may want to think carefully about what you bring. Here are some reasons why you should travel light.

Avoid waiting here for your luggage to appear!
Avoid waiting here for your luggage to appear!

Checked Bags Typically Cost Money 

Major airlines in the US have now raised their checked baggage fees to upwards of $60 roundtrip. An additional $60 USD round trip for a checked bag can greatly increase a plane ticket. Many airlines in the US allow you to gate check for free if the bag isn’t obviously oversized. There simply isn’t enough room in the cabin if it’s a full flight.

You Can Buy It At Your Destination 

I like to be prepared for everything and I hate waste, because waste costs money. With that said, if you’re spending $60 on a checked bag so you can pack oversized shampoo bottles or other toiletries, you might be spending too much. Pour toiletries into smaller 3 ounce bottles that fit in a clear plastic bag, suitable for carry on. Or re-purchase that item at your destination. $15 worth of toiletries is cheaper than $60.

Lugging Around Too Much Stuff Sucks 

We love flying Ryanair in Europe (obviously not for customer service or comfort) but because it can sometimes be dirt cheap to fly. We recently bought plane tickets to Manchester from Dublin for €20 each ($28 USD)…round-trip! And in January we flew to Madrid from Dublin round-trip for €67 each ($100 USD). On shorter getaways we don’t pay for a checked bag. Ryanair’s limited carry on allowance has made us re-think the way we pack. We only pack the things we really need and along with saving money, this makes it easier to get around.

boarding - Ryan air

Pay for the Smaller Checked Bag on Discount Airlines

When we fly Ryanair for a trip longer than four days, we’ll pay €30 ($42 USD) for one 15 kg (33 pound) checked bag to split. A large lightweight backpack can maximize 15 kg of weight. We don’t pay the extra €20 for the 20 kg checked bag not only because we save money, but because we’ve realized we usually don’t need the extra weight. Pack a portable luggage scale so you don’t have any pricey surprises at the airport or have to scramble to throw layers of clothing on (we’ve seen this!).

Bell at the airport with her Backpack

Easier to Use Public Transport Which Saves Money 

European cities generally have great public transport connecting airports to city centers, within cities and between cities. Taxis can be expensive and if you’ve packed too much stuff, you may find yourself into a situation where you’ll be relying on taxis more than necessary. If you’ve been on a crowded subway during rush hour with too much baggage (we’ve done it too!), you know it’s a lousy and frustrating experience. The less stuff you can manage, the less of a headache catching trains, buses and subways will be.

Travel Underweight If You’re going to Shop 

If you’re going to Southeast Asia, Mediterranean Europe or certain American cities, you may want to pack less than usual. Asia can offer great value in clothing and other items, and so can countries like Spain, Portugal, Italy and Greece. If you’re traveling to Scandinavia on a budget though, you may want to bring everything you need, as those countries are generally expensive.

Reduce Your Carbon Footprint 

Hardcore environmentalists might advocate not getting on a plane at all, but we love traveling and we’re not that extreme. As mentioned previously, waste not only costs money but has an environmental impact. If everyone travels around a bit lighter we collectively put less strain on resources.

This post isn’t sponsored by Ryanair, and they make additional money off checked baggage anyway. They just generally dominate the discount airline market in Dublin. We’ve flown other deeply discounted carriers from other European cities like EasyJetNorwegian Air AirAsia in Malaysia, and Tiger Air in Australia and found them to be an efficient and affordable way to get around, and they save you additional money and hassle by making you think about what you really need to pack on your travels.

Alex & Bell try to pack light, but we still hop on board!
Alex & Bell try to pack light, but we still hop on board!

What are your thoughts on packing? Do you pack light or do you overpack? Share your tips or concerns in the comments!



  • Alex&Bell

    Alex and Bell originally met while solo traveling after finishing university in 2002, in Brugge, Belgium. Alex grew up in the USA and Bell hails from Australia. During our nearly 20 year marriage we've lived around the world, including spending six years living in the Netherlands and Ireland. We have traveled to nearly 70 countries and enjoy giving readers authentic and quality travel tips. Alex is an award winning travel journalist and travel planner, who also freelances for other outlets. Bell is an award winning PhD scientist who currently works for a non-profit lung cancer advocacy research organization called Lungevity. Happy travels and if you have any questions leave a comment or drop an email!

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8 thoughts on “Why You Should Travel Light

  1. I agree, better to pack light and take the discount fare and go to lots of interesting places. It is the toilet bag with all those bottles and jars and you need all those things if you are going for one night or one week. I am always on the look out for small packed items of make-up remover etc.

    1. Thank you for the great comment! Yes many of us need several little toiletries whether if it’s for 1 night or 1 week. So as you said, the key is finding compact items that fill fit into the clear plastic bag for security screening. Cheers!

  2. My biggest problem is clothes… I always have that “but what if I want to wear this” moment and am so indecisive! But it is always good to pack light, and you are completely right about carrying around luggage on the bus – totally sucks!! Especially for long bus rides!

    1. Haha, it can be hard to get out of that “but what if I want to wear this” mentality, but generally it’s important to do so! What’s also tricky is if temperatures will be fluctuating between hot and cold at your destination. Or if the weather will be very cold since you need bulkier clothing than if you’re going to a beach destination. But if you’re heading to a cold place you’ll sweat less so you can wear the same pants or sweater for a few days in a row. So just choose your favorite stuff and avoid having to stand with a big pile of belongings on a crammed bus! 🙂

      1. Great tips! We’ve also done many budget flights with WixzAir lately. I’ve found the key is layers for my packing – leggings, long tunics or simple lightweight dresses, a scarf and cardigan. I also use Space Saver bags or larger sealable plastic bags so my stuff takes up less space. I’ve found i can easily live out of a small backpack for 3-4 days! 🙂

        1. Thanks for the great tips ‘My Traveling Joys!’ We keep meaning to pick up those vacuum seal bags and always seem to forget. That’s an awesome tip- and something that will condense people’s stuff even more in a small carry on bag and can help prevent people from needing to pay for a checked bag!

  3. I can’t travel light. It’s not possible for me because every time I go home, there should be something that I should bring back home. Chocolates, shirts and many more.

    1. Hi Ben, thanks for commenting! Indeed travelling light definitely isn’t for everyone and it depends on the trip. If you’re doing a package holiday or a trip where you won’t be using public transport, it’s not as important…But if you want room in your suitcase to bring home lots of great souvenirs/chocolates for friends and family, it’s a good idea to have space available when you get there! 🙂

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