Six Strategies for Packing Light

image After reading my article on packing light, a reader recently asked how is it possible to travel to Hawaii with just carry-on luggage. I can certainly understand how that might be a mystery, especially for the first time vacationer to Hawaii. On my first and second visits to Hawaii, I way over packed. Now as a seasoned Hawaii traveler, I now know what to pack and what not to pack. So, how do I travel with just carry-ons? Here are my tried and true strategies.

1. Start with minimizing the number of shoes you bring.
Since shoes take up the most space in your luggage, make sure you minimize the number of shoes you’re bringing. Chose black and/or tan shoes that coordinate well with clothing. I usually only bring a pair of flip flops, hiking shoes, and a one or two pairs of sandals that goes with shorts, skirts, and a sundress.

2. Wear the shoes that occupy the most space on the plane to free up space in your luggage.

3. Choose a clothing color combination and stick with it. I usually select either tan, white, and/or black shorts that will coordinate with the one or two pairs of sandals I’m bringing.

4. Lay out all your clothes before you pack them. Don’t just pick a shirt from your closet and pack it directly into your luggage. Instead place your clothing on your bed before you pack anything in your case. By laying out your clothing, you can better visualize how your clothing will coordinate with each other and your shoes. You’ll be able to determine if you have any duplications or mismatches. I also try on most of the clothes I plan to take to check the fit, especially if it is in the winter and I haven’t worn my summer clothes in a while.

DSCN15195. Don’t pack a completely different outfit for each day of your vacation. Go ahead and plan to re-wear some of your clothing, underwear excluded, of course.:-) You’ll probably want to re-wear your favorite pieces anyway. I love my travel-sized Downy Wrinkle Releaser or Febreze to Go to freshen clothing that I plan to wear again. If I get a spot, I use my Shout wipes. Also, don’t forget that you can take advantage of the hotel’s laundry service or if you are staying in a condo use the washer and dryer.

6. Don’t waste space by packing clothes you don’t love. Only pack your favorite clothing – the clothes that are flattering and make you feel confident. Those are the clothes you’ll want to wear on vacation.

I hope these practical strategies will help you to pack light for your travels. Are there any other tips you’d add for how you pack light?

  1. Good tips, one other suggestion is that you should forgo any fancy clothes unless you’re specifically planning on going somewhere fancy. Hawaii is very casual… take advantage by not packing fancier clothes. πŸ™‚

  2. Hi jim – that’s a great point. Being on a Hawaii vacation is much more about being yourself and comfortable and not about dressing to impress.

  3. Great focused tips for the traveler. One other suggestion would be to take the lightest weight, least bulky clothes. Those are usually the ones you can wash and wear without touching up with an iron. Can you imagine doing that in Hawaii!!!???

  4. Hi Sharon – yes, you’ll definitely want to wear lightweight clothing – even in the winter months. And, yeah, who wants to be ironing on vacation in Hawaii? πŸ™‚

  5. @ GB – the shoes can make or break light packing! I am a total shoe hound, so I have to practice major dicipline when I pack. πŸ™‚

    On my last trip to Hawaii (Oahu and Kauai) I only packed one pair of hiking shoes, and a pair of wedged sandals to wear with my sundress. I wore my flip flops on the plane. That’s the lightest I think I’ve ever gone on shoes and I proved to myself that I could survive on just 3 pairs. πŸ™‚

  6. Curious what you do about sunscreen since it has to be packed in “checked” luggage. Is that a “purchase when you arrive” item?

    1. Dana – we usually bring at least one 3-oz tube of a high SPF sunscreen to get us through a couple days or more. If we can fit more in our quart-sized bag with our other liquids we do. We both bring a quart-sized baggie of our liquids which everyone allowed to carry on by TSA.

      There are Walmarts on all the major islands. They have a big selection of sunscreens at good prices. Another perk about the Walmarts is that they’re close to the airports.

      Even if you have to buy a sunscreen at a marked up price in the resort shop, you’ll pay bunches less than what you would do if you pay by checking luggage.

  7. I have been saving for this trip for 5 years. Reservations have been made so the hotels and flights are set. we have 10 weeks to go and (7 wk’s. 5 islands/ Nov. 23 to Jan. 10) now I am getting scared. What have I forgotten? Everything from getting a house sitter ( 2 dogs, 1 cat, a tail-less squirrel, a wing-less bat, and a blind turtle, I know too much!!)the drive plowed when it snows (it’s 1/4 mile drive), getting the generator turned on, to the detergent and sun screen. multi use clothes. Cam-corder /cables, maps, the paper work (3-ring binder) Do you have a LIST in check off style? My sweet husband says I am over thinking about it and if we forgot anything, we’ll pick it up there. I even have addresses and maps to ALL the Walgreens (great photo drop{download and go again) we are not fancy..(can’t you tell) we live in the middle of the woods already, so foul weather is under stood….but it is DECEMBER in HAWAII will it be cold so something more then a “light sweater” (I don’t have, do have windy coats/ slickers/sweat shirts & jogger pants) We are 60 yrs old and very health. (we don’t take meds, just Vitamins and the like…knock on wood!) do you have a list I could check off? I am SO GLAD I FOUND THIS SITE, I’m passing it along to fellow employees going next year…got a LIST??? thanks Kevin and Sue Ellen

    1. Sue Ellen — sounds like you are thinking ahead. You’re going to be super prepared.

      If you don’t have a sweater, you might want to bring a sweatshirt. If you get to the higher elevations you’ll need something like a sweatshirt or a breathable waterproof jacket with a hood or windbreak-like jacket anyway.

      I wrote this pre-vacation checklist that you might find to be useful.

      As far as what clothing to pack, at the bottom of the post page, you’ll see a printer icon. If you click on that you can create a printer-friendly version of this list.

      Just don’t forget to relax and enjoy Hawaii. πŸ™‚

  8. I find that a stretchy, travel knit long tank dress is indispensable in Hawaii. Doubles as a beach cover up and a dress for evening with a jacket or sweater.

  9. I love using travel space bags. They do take out the air, so you can fit more in a bag, but they also protect clothes from toiletry spills, sand, you name it. We use them regardless of if we’re checking or carrying on. My husband and I were in Italy for 17 days, and used hiking backpacks the entire time (the backpacks were light enough for me to use and small enough to fit as carry-ons). We fit about 10 days’ worth of clothes in each bag, and we had more than enough room for souveniers.

    That said, it’s MUCH harder for me to pack light when I’m going to a beach…we just bought our plane tickets for a January Hawaii vacation and I’m already trying to decide what to leave behind hahaha.

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