I just returned from a 9 day trip in Morocco. Besides attending a conference, my mission was to pack lightly, and return home lightly, without piles of tourist junk I would quickly throw away. I hiked in the Atlas Mountains, took a bus from Fez to Rabat, a train from Casablanca to Marrakesh, endless bus trips from Rabat to Mehdiah for a 3 day conference, along with some taxi rides. It was a planes, trains, and automobiles sort of trip, energized by the local atmosphere. I did this all with a 10 month old baby on my back, and one small carry-on handbag with wheels. I had no need for a local StorageMart, and if I needed something while on the road I knew I could easily buy it.
After traveling on several international flights, I noticed that the richer the travelers (people on business class), the less luggage they hauled on the plane with them. Less luggage equals less fuel usage, and certainly less hassles and haggling when on the road. And how many of us have gone on backpacking trips, only to return home with much of what we’ve packed unused? I wanted to have a “richer” experience, and by that I mean one which was easier on me, the person who’d be hauling around stuff with a baby.
Want to travel lighter this summer? I’ve compiled some tips for you, should you decide to go traveling, in the lightest possible way, with baby, or without.
1. Pack a week in advance. Carefully select the main items you want to wear for any special meetings or dates you’ll have when abroad. Check the local temperatures online to make sure what you are wearing makes sense. Rather than choose many different suits and outfits, pick separates that can be easily made “new” with a belt or a scarf. I brought 4 pairs of underwear, two pairs of pants, two tank tops, one sweater, three light dresses, and one long sleeve cotton dress shirt. Two belts and several scarves topped off the outfits.
2. Forget the disco shoes. Choose one pair of shoes that you will wear with all your outfits. It’s advised to bring a pair of flip flops for the beach, sauna, river, or shower. Or just to change out from the other shoes. Consider a pair of athletic shoes also if you plan on doing hiking.
3. Choose clothes that are light that will dry within 24 hours even in a closed hotel room. By packing fewer clothes, and ones you can wash, you can easily cut the amount of stuff you will carry in half. Hotel soap usually works fine for washing clothes. Shampoo works too.
4. Find a small carry on bag with wheels for easy transport. This is especially important if you are traveling with a baby. My baby was carried at all times, so I didn’t have extra energy for toting around backpacks.
5. Be set from the get-go that you won’t be bringing home souvenirs. The temptation was great to bring home Moroccan carpets, monk robes, leather bags and tea pots. But when you travel lightly, you cannot carry extras with you including souvenirs. I did bring home a few things that traveled well, some CDs. And at the airport out, I picked out a small dress. Support the local economy by eating out, or through entertainment and tipping.
6. No baby toys. Many people on the planes asked me why I didn’t bring baby toys. Babies tend to get bored with their own toys quickly. Airplane magazines, coffee cups, small boxes of condiments, your neighbor’s newspaper (and hair!), all make for interesting diversions for baby when traveling.
7. Don’t bring books, but a laptop, iPod or iPad worthwhile for communicating. There are plenty of books to read at hostels, and hotels. Some even better than the ones you’ll want to bring.
8. Buy local. Since we live in a global village, I knew I could buy anything the baby would need abroad including diapers and fruit. I brought 5 light and tiny outfits for her (which I also washed along the way), plus one large and one small cotton cover. I also brought her warm PJs just in case.
9. Pack the stuff you need, then repack removing half of it if you can. The lighter you go, the more fun you will have. Turn it into a game with your travel buddies to see who can travel further, with less stuff. It’s liberating.
10. Take a small cotton bag for local shopping so you don’t need plastic bags all the time, and a water bottle for refilling. One lodge I stayed at banned plastics entirely. No use in polluting other communities with your junk. Entering into a traveling lightly frame of mind my just impact the way you live when you return home.
And of course share your travel tips below so we can all tread lighter on this planet.
Image of Karin, by Tafline Laylin