One Bag Travel: A How-to Guide
Onebagging may seem like a stretch for some travelers, but it’s doable! Save time, money, and space with these simple tricks that’ll make you a pro at single bag travel.
One of the most stressful (and fun!) parts of getting ready for a trip is the process of packing. Hitting that sweet spot of having exactly what you need without going overboard is a hard balance to hit, but it can be done. And done with one, single bag. Once you enter the world of single bag travel, you’ll never want to travel with more than one bag again.
Whether you’re heading out for a weekend or weeks on end, you can pack for it all in just one bag. How do I know? Because I once packed for a 56-day work trip halfway across the world in one, single 19-inch duffel bag—computer, snacks, clothes, shoes, medicine, the whole shebang.
1. Choose the right bag for your trip
First things first, you’re going to need to make sure you’re starting with the right bag. Before you even think about size, you’re going to want to think about how you’ll be using your bag once you get where you are going.
Making several stops, hiking uphill, navigating a bunch of stairs, or walking around lots? You’ll be better off with a smaller, lighter bag like the Caldera Travel Pack 45L, which has both backpack straps and a hip strap (to take the load off your back).
Staying in one place and don’t plan on having to carry your bag
around much? Opt for something like the larger Global
Companion 65L. Just
heading out on a
? Then you can pack it
all in something small and easy like the
or the colorful
2. Embrace the art of a mix-and-match wardrobe and layering
Mixing, matching, and layering are your friends when onebagging. While we all want to look our absolute best when we travel, you don’t have to pack a suitcase full of one-off outfits to get the job done. Choose clothes that are easy to mix and match, like patterns with coordinated solids. Find shirts that can easily go from day-to-night, outfits that are jazzed up in a cinch with a stylish jacket or by swapping out travel sneakers for dressier shoes. If your trip has multiple temperatures—even better! Pack things that can be re-worn as insulating underlayers, and a jacket or coat that can do double duty in casual or more upscale situations. Plan to wear shoes that don’t just look cool but are comfortable, too—and then get them their own shoe packing cube so you’re not afraid to squish everything close in your single bag.
3. Lay out your options and roll your clothes
Once you’ve nailed down your options, lay them out on the floor or on the bed. Organize them by how you would wear them, grouping together all of the pieces that go together so you can see how many combinations you can get out of each item, after all, we over pack because we want options. Make sure you have enough variety in your options for the type of activities on your trip. Going camping? You probably won’t miss the skirt. Have a fancy dinner reservation? Make sure to pack those heels or dressy flats. Use the rolling method to pack your single bag or suitcase. Love it or hate it, rolling actually does save precious space.
4. Organize with packing cubes
Another space-saver (and lifesaver for one bag travel, if you ask me) are packing cubes. These are a great way to organize the mix-and-match outfits you’ve created, either by tops and bottom or combinations. There are many ways to effectively use packing cubes for onebagging—by type of clothes or by outfits. Using them is also a great way to take stock of what you’re packing. Do you really need six bathing suits for a weekend trip, or five pairs of jeans? Packing cubes are also useful for packing non-clothing items like shoes, accessories, documents, toiletries, and more—and you can even use them at home when you aren’t traveling.
5. Wait and buy some things when you get to your destination
A key tip for packing lighter and fitting everything into one bag is knowing that you don’t have to bring everything with you. Some things can be purchased at your destination, and depending where you are going they might even be cheaper. Some examples include toiletries, sunscreen, swimsuits, flip flops, shirts, and coverups.
6. Pack an empty day bag
One hack that not many people take advantage of is packing an empty, small day bag or waist bag into your main bag. This is especially helpful for anyone with lots of stops, legs, or layovers in their travel journey. These are great because you have the option to use them if you need them and they don’t take up much space if you don’t. They’re also great to have for outings, hikes, or bringing back any extra souvenirs you pick up along the way.
7. Be realistic
Prioritizing what goes into your packing cubes is the best way to slim down your suitcase. The number one reason people bring bigger bags and more luggage than they need is because they aren’t realistic about what they’ll actually need or use on their trip. Trust us, it’s better to overuse than underuse. As we’ve already discussed, if you need something in a pinch, chances are it’ll be available wherever you are going, and yes, you can do laundry on the road. Plus, anything you pick up also doubles as a bonus souvenir! It’s a win-win.
Now that you’ve got all the tips to pack a small, lighter, single bag trip, the challenge is on! See just how long you can travel out of just one bag . We dare you! At the very least, you’ll save on baggage fees .
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By Katherine Alex Beaven on December 11, 2019
Katherine Alex Beaven is a U.S.-based writer with an uncanny knack for spotting stray cats. Road trips, train journeys, and eating local food are her favorite ways to explore both new and old destinations. Follow her adventures on Instagram @alex_keight.