“I wish I had brought more stuff!” said no traveler ever.
Don’t you always come back from a trip resolving to pack more lightly next time? But we so often break that resolution. Part of the reason is philosophical, a lot of it is practical. Here are some tips and guidelines for avoiding the “pack mule” trap on your next trip to Ireland.
RULE #1: Don’t bring what you might need, bring what you absolutely cannot live without.
Do you find yourself adding things to your suitcase, “just in case”? The most important aspect of packing light is starting with the commitment to taking only the essentials. And if you really think about it, the essentials are a lot fewer than you might imagine. It is literally possible to take an extended trip with only one small carry-on bag. And when you examine the luggage restrictions or surcharges imposed by many airlines, your motivation to do so will certainly increase.
In the United States, we are spoiled by offers for free checked bags, liberal weight restrictions and the like, but even here, those options are dwindling. And wouldn’t you just love the freedom of operating out of one small bag for the duration of your trip? There are some techniques that can help you do that. If you have difficulty envisioning how travel trends have changed over the years, watch an old movie where people took a trip or a cruise with trunks and wardrobes and a portmanteau. Watch Titanic and think, “Would I really want to be burdened with that kind of baggage?” We’ve learned to do with a lot less than they did, and we can do even better if we try. Here are some ideas.
A good, practical way to implement Rule #1 is to ask yourself, “Will I use this every day?” If not, seriously consider leaving it behind. A formal outfit, for instance, may be important for certain business trips, but if you travel to Ireland for pleasure, it’s hardly necessary. Even at a fancy restaurant, they’ll forgive a lot because you’re a tourist and an American. Bring a tie or a fancy scarf to add some zing to an everyday outfit, and you’ve got it handled.
Even for things you use daily, consider your real needs. You certainly won’t need a large bottle of shampoo, or the giant, economy size tube of toothpaste. And you can’t carry those things in hand baggage anyway. Take travel size at most, or leave them behind entirely. Then you’ll have the opportunity for an enjoyable excursion around town, looking to buy those essentials. Use them up, or leave the excess behind when you go home.
Guidebooks are an important asset, but can be very bulky and heavy. Rick Stevesrecommends tearing out the portions you really need for where you are going and leaving the rest behind. After all, you don’t need to know the best B&B in Connemara if you’re only going to Cork and Dublin. If you purchase guidebooks or obtain tourist information after you arrive, leave it where you’re staying or on a bus or train for the next traveler. Friendly, and light.
But how do you fit enough clothes in one bag for a couple of weeks? There are several ways. For one thing, don’t change every day. You’re unlikely to see the same people day after day, and even if you do, there’s no rule that says you must appear different every day. Another option is laundry. Wash out some socks and underwear in the sink and hang them to dry while you’re out sightseeing. Many B&Bs have laundry facilities you can use, or they can guide you to a nearby laundrette. Look for options to lugging around a dozen outfits.
Another good strategy is well explained by Barbara DesChamps in her book, “It’s in the Bag-Your Custom Travel and Business Wardrobe.” Bring a few items that go together, and recombine them in different ways. A pair of black or khaki slacks can go with virtually any color of shirt or sweater, and you can add a scarf or other accessory to make it even more versatile. For women, a simple skirt can make the outfit a bit dressier You can get by with less than you think. Just get creative in your combinations.
Those clothes you do pack, will take up less space if you roll them. They’ll also be less wrinkled. Bring a pair of shorts for sleeping that can also be used as a swimsuit or workout gear.
A big coat takes up way too much room and doesn’t give you the flexibility of layers. You may be amazed at how warm you can be in a shirt, sweater, and a light jacket. If the jacket is rain resistant, it can also save you the space and weight of an umbrella.
Packing light gives you room for the souvenirs and mementos you may purchase on the way, so don’t forget to leave some space for those. Some people like a vest with pockets, or cargo pants, which can free up more room in your bag.
Remember that not only does a lot of baggage mark you as a tourist, and perhaps a target, getting by with one small bag makes you a lot more mobile. You don’t have to unpack and repack nearly so much, and when it’s time to move along, you’re ready to go. You”ll find you may have to walk a lot more with your luggage than you might have imagined, And you can carry your one bag with you on the bus, train, in a taxi, or anywhere you need to go. Plus, you can completely disregard that warning in the airport about leaving your bags unattended.
Packing light means taking along only what is absolutely essential. You’ll enjoy the freedom and peace of mind of traveling light, as well as the savings in time and money. Best of all, you’ll avoid that regret at the end of the trip over carrying too much.