How To Make Luggage Lighter: 10 Minimalist Travel Tips To Reduce Baggage Weight For A Lighter Suitcase

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Written by Ashley Hardaway on

Ashley Hardaway is a Washington, D.C.–based travel writer and the author of Ukraine (Other Places Publishing's Guide).

Find out how to make your luggage lighter by whittling down its contents and packing more efficiently. With these packing tips, your bag will shrink down to a far more manageable size and weight—without leaving behind any precious cargo.

We know ... luggage weight limits on airplanes can be frustrating. But they’re there for a really important reason: to protect baggage handlers who transport your checked suitcase from the check-in desk to the plane. If you’re checking a bag, you’ll need to keep things under 40 or 50 pounds, depending on the airline. While that may seem impossible, we’ll let you in on a little secret: There’s nothing quite like losing the bulk of that heavy, overstuffed suitcase and experiencing the freedom that comes with traveling light. So say goodbye to your chronic overpacking days!


It's easier than you think to reduce the weight of your suitcase. Here’s how to make your suitcase lighter without giving up the things you need on the road.

1. Choose the Right Bag

Picking the right kind of bag for your trip is the first step to packing light. Do you usually travel to cities where your bag will only see paved roads and backs of taxis? If so, a rolling suitcase might be your best option—the Tarmac XE 2-Wheel International Carry On is a great option.

If your travels take you on motorcycle trips dirt roads or into crowded buses, a lightweight backpack like a Tour Travel Pack should be your go-to luggage.

Either way, be sure to pick a lightweight model that won’t add bulk. The Tarmac XE weighs just 5 lbs 12 oz and you'll need to reduce your packing list to fit its slim 35 liters. The Tour 55L, on the other hand, only weighs 4 lbs 16 oz and has an expanded capacity of 62 liters—it can easily hold all of the clothes and travel accessories of a minimalist backpacker. Minimalist on-the-go travelers may prefer a super-light daypack-like bag, while those sure they want to pack a full checked bag can opt for the Cargo Hauler XT Wheeled Duffel 90L, which weighs 8 lbs 4 oz and is big enough at 96 liters to fit enough for a traveling family, if you reduce the weight and pack with a plan.

2. Lose the Bulky Wallet

Before you leave, clean out your wallet of all useless junk (old receipts, grocery store cards, business cards, random foreign currency from past travels) and leave anything you don’t need (additional credit cards, for example) at home.

Consider getting a slim wallet organizer instead, which can securely hold money, credit cards, and your passport while making them easily accessible.

3. Pack a Tablet Rather Than a Computer

Packing a tablet rather than a laptop can save you space and reduce weight while ensuring that you still have access to your email if you need to do a little work on the road. Plus, it’s nice to have a bigger screen around than your phone for watching TV shows or movies on the go.

4. Ditch the Bulky Travel Books

Hitting the road without a guidebook is a thrilling concept to some. To others, it’s a logistical nightmare. If you’re not a fan of traveling to a new city without a destination guide, consider loading up your tablet with eBook versions of popular travel guides. Download travel books to your heart’s content without adding to the weight of your luggage!

5. Use a Packable Tote Instead of a Heavy One

We totally get the allure of having a chic leather or canvas tote to schlep your things around, but you should replace your heavy tote or shoulder bag with an ultra-lightweight one bag. It can save a ton of weight! The Packable Tote, for instance, weighs just 6 oz—you can easily throw it into your checked bag if you’re not using it at the airport or on the plane.

6. Buy Toiletries When You Arrive

If you’re traveling with another person for over a week or by yourself for more than two, consider buying toiletries at your destination. The money you save by not checking your bag far exceeds the cost of buying shampoo at your destination. Plus, exploring the products offered in foreign destinations can be a fun cultural experience. Did you know that you can buy bread-scented shampoo in Russia? If you’re worried about going product-less while you locate a drugstore, bring travel-size products that can last you a few days.

7. Choose the Right Shoes

Few things add weight and bulk to a suitcase more easily than shoes. If you’re traveling somewhere cold, wear your heavier boots during the journey there rather than placing them in your bag. For warmer leisure travel, find a pair of comfortable-but-stylish walking shoes and some versatile flats. If you must pack heels, choose one pair that can complement any outfit, and remember: heels and cobblestone streets don’t mix. Then throw these items in a lightweight shoe sac so you can keep your other items from getting dirty, but without adding any extra weight to your bag.

8. Pack for Your Itinerary, Not for Your Destination

Before filling your suitcase, think about your travel plans and pack accordingly. Hitting the beach for one day? Only bring one swimsuit. Going out for a single fancy dinner? No need to pack three dresses or dress shirts. Being realistic in your clothing choices is one of the best ways to reduce the weight of your bag. After all, the joy of traveling is in meeting new people—and we bet no one is going to notice (or care) if you’re wearing the same outfit twice. And if you're truly concerned about repeating outfits, consider packing a light scarf or jewelry so you can simply jazz up your outfits in different ways.

9. Roll Your Clothes

Okay, so it doesn’t always save weight, but there’s road-tested value in this space-saving hack. By compressing your clothes by rolling clothes tightly, you can conserve a lot of room—meaning you may be able to get away with a lightweight carry-on rather than a big checked bag. Rolling clothes will not make your bag heavier—unless you pack more because of all of the space you saved! So be careful of overpacking. Instead of rolling to save space, roll clothes so that you can downside to a carry-on bag and enjoy a bag that weighs a lot less.

Unfortunately, clothes tend to shift during travel, meaning what started as an organized bag is often a cluttered mess upon arrival. To avoid the resorting process, invest in a Pack-It Starter Set. These ingenious little bags compartmentalize your rolled and folded clothes, ensuring sure your bag stays organized. If you're too worried about wrinkling your clothes to roll them, consider using a compression cube—this will not add much weight to your bag but will allow you to fit more in less space. With travel packing cubes, no longer will you have to worry about your clean clothes getting mixed up with your dirty ones or your shoes rubbing all over your white shirt. Freedom!

10. Embrace Your Natural Hair

Packing a hairdryer, hair curler, and a straightener can easily add 10 pounds to your bag. If you're hoping to reduce the weight of your bag, consider embracing your natural wave during your time away. If this idea is mortifying to you, consider asking your travel companions to share the responsibility of packing pluggable items with you. You bring the hairdryer, and they can bring the straightener. Sharing is caring!

Hopefully, these expert minimalist tips will get you thinking about how you can make your luggage a little lighter on your next trip. Remember, packing cubes are your friends when organizing, and stick to a reduced-weight packing list to ensure you bring everything you need. We’re so excited for you to embark on your journey as a minimalist traveler. Bon voyage!

Frequently Asked Questions

Does rolling your clothes make your bag lighter?

If you’re trying to learn how to make luggage lighter when traveling, consider the different ways you can pack. Rolling your clothes won’t make them weigh less, so they won’t make your luggage lighter. However, it can save space, allowing you to pack much more in your suitcase, which means carrying fewer pieces of luggage and ultimately reducing your load.

When you pack more effectively by rolling your clothes or using packing cubes, you can take a lighter suitcase or carry-on instead of a heavy suitcase, making it easier to navigate busy airports.

Is it better to use a backpack or a suitcase for lighter travel?

Whether you use a backpack or suitcase for lighter travel is a matter of personal preference. However, if you want to learn how to reduce baggage weight, backpacks are usually the way to go because they’re much lighter than suitcases and easier to carry.

On the other hand, rolling suitcases make it easier to take your luggage with you because you can roll them around. However, consider a backpack for day trips and light travel days because you can keep it on your back, where its weight is evenly distributed.

What items should I leave out of my luggage to make it lighter?

Your clothes are the most essential items you should pack in your suitcase. But we understand the need to pack for different occasions, weather, and activities. If you want to know how to make your luggage lighter, think about the heaviest items you normally pack and try to leave them out. Some examples include books, laptops, hair care products, toiletries, and anything else you can buy when you reach your destination.

How can I avoid overpacking and keep my luggage weight under control?

The best way to avoid overpacking is to make a list of all your essentials. Consider the activities you’ll be doing, such as going to the beach, walking around the town, hiking, etc., and make a list accordingly.

Making a list of the items you need using a travel app or a traditional pen and paper can help you avoid packing unnecessary items, like shoes for every day of the week. For instance, If you only plan to go on a walking tour once and spend the rest of your vacation at a resort, you probably only need one pair of walking shoes. When packing for a trip, less is always more.