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Don't Burden Yourself on Vacation, Pack Light

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When I was backpacking through Europe and staying in hostels, I met a 56-year-old woman who was traveling around the world. Eileen related to me the story of how she started her trip with three suitcases and a carry-on. The three suitcases were too much for her to maneuver in planes, trains, buses, airports and stations. Three weeks into her trip, she had purchased a small backpack and had discarded 80 percent of the stuff she started with.

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Though this story is exceptional because Eileen was traveling around the world, a trip that she expected to last a year, and she started with an oppressive amount of luggage, the lesson learned can be taken to heart by the traveler in all of us whether we're going to San Francisco for the weekend or to New Dehli for a few weeks. Packing light enables you to easily maneuver yourself and your belongings through all the mazes of airports, train stations and bus stations.

How do you go about packing light' Well, packing light requires a special mindset when you are packing. First, you may want to start with a goal in mind. For example, you may want to fit everything required for a trip in a small piece of checked luggage or go one step further and aim for carry-on sized luggage only. Also, you really ought to save some space in that luggage for any souvenirs that you want to bring home.

After you have selected your desired luggage size, start planning and laying out all the clothes, toiletries and personal items that you think you'll need. You may want to check the weather report for your destination so you'll know the types of clothes you'll need. Once you have everything spread out on your bed, go through each item and determine if it is essential. If an item is not absolutely essential, leave it behind.

Determine the precise number of outfits that you'll need and don't pack a single piece of clothing more. Try to coordinate your clothing so that you can reuse items, such as pants, jeans or skirts, multiple times. Your goal is to be comfortable, not necessarily to look great.

If you are going on a trip that is more than one week, take one week's worth of clothing and then washing it while on your trip. Going to the laundromat in a foreign country is a great way to become acquainted with the culture. View it as an opportunity, not a hassle. Alternatively, you may be able to wash some items in the sink at your hotel.

Remember that you are going on vacation, so is it really necessary to bring your laptop or your PDA. Aren't you going on vacation to get away from all that. You'll likely be able to access an Internet cafe at your destination, another perfect opportunity to learn more about the local culture. If you're an avid reader, pick one book to bring and when you're done swap it with someone that you meet in your hotel, another opportunity to extend yourself beyond your normal preferred reading.

The reason that you are traveling is to relax, to explore another location, to expand your horizons and to connect with the culture and people of your destination. Laundromats, Internet cafes and book swapping are all excellent ways to fulfill the purpose of travel.

Don't be oppressed by large and heavy luggage that restricts your movement like a ball and chain clamped to your ankle. Eileen was a lot happier without her blow-dryer and you will be too. Free yourself to really get out there and enjoy your vacation.
About the Author

Jed Clark is a travel writer, photographer and long-time San Francisco resident. For more travel tips and information about San Francisco destinations, attractions and neighborhoods, visit

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