My insider-tip for more enjoyable travel is simple: Pack light.

There’s nothing like having to be responsible for only carry-on bag and a backpack or day bag. I can’t imagine trying to navigate flights, taxis, trains, or hotel check-ins with more luggage than that. Believe it or not, I once traveled for five weeks with only two small bags. I survived.

When I tell people this (especially women), they often gasp in disbelief. That’s when I ask how many pairs of shoes they take with them. Shyly, they tell me four or five pairs. I rarely travel with more than two. The bulkiest ones I wear in-flight. The lighter ones get packed with other items tucked inside each shoe to conserve space.

But this is just the start to packing light. Bringing only a carry-on for any trip is easier than you might think. That’s right, ladies, with the right packing strategy, you, too, can travel with only carry-on luggage. You, too, can experience true travel freedom.

What to bring

The first step to packing light is cutting way down on what you think you need. It might help to lay out everything you want to bring, then cut it in half (or more). You’re likely not traveling to impress anyone, so the fancy clothes can stay at home.

Think multipurpose

When considering which clothes to pack, the key is choosing multipurpose pieces that are wrinkle-free, pack down small, and can be mixed and matched. For example, long ago I gave up bringing jeans with me on trips. Why? I found they take up too much space in a bag to be worthwhile.

Viewfinder Tip: Leave the souvenir-shopping for the end of your journey and purchase a checkable duffel bag in which you can put souvenirs and gifts for the flight home.

Instead, I bring lightweight travel pants in black and/or khaki. These pants have lots of pockets, and I can wear them right out of my bag without having to iron them. Choosing an easy-to-match color like black or khaki allows you to wear the pants with a variety of outfits and in a variety of settings. I also like pants with zippers on the pockets, so my stuff doesn’t fall out.

For shirts and jackets, think layers. A few well-chosen short- and long-sleeve shirts (depending on your destination’s weather) can mix and match for a variety of looks and functions.

There are a number of clothing brands that have lines made especially for the travel market. This list includes brands such as Royal Robbins, ExOfficio, Kuhl, and Columbia Sportswear. The difference between travel clothes and your average duds? They usually pack small and dry quickly—which is a bonus if you’re doing laundry on the road.

Compression sacks

Once you’ve chosen the items you’re going to bring with you, the trick is getting them to fit in your luggage.

My secret weapon? Compression sacks. These are large, plastic Ziploc-like bags in which you put your clothes. Once you fill the bags, you zip up the open end and roll it to squeeze out the air. This process compresses your clothes down to about one-third of their normal size. I don’t travel anywhere without at least one of these.

Once I’ve compressed my stuff into one of these sacks, I place the sack in the bottom of my luggage and layer other items on top of it and around it.

Packing cubes help organize items in your luggage

 

Organizers

To keep my electronics organized, I use padded packing cubes. Sea to Summit carries a variety of sizes and colors of these cubes. I usually have one cube for electronics and another cube for power cords, SD cards, camera batteries, and a flashlight. These cubes are great to keep things from going everywhere. They also help me know exactly where to find something when I need it.

Packing cubes also are great to organize socks and underwear. Tom Bihn has a wide variety of packing cube options for these kinds of items. And if you have clothes that need to stay free from wrinkles, put them in a packing folder, such as those from Eagle Creek.

The bottom line: Unless you need a wide range of outfits for a business trip or you’re traveling to multiple destinations with varying weather conditions, packing doesn’t have to be challenging. All of us women likely can get away with packing lighter. Give it a try!

What’s your secret packing tip?