How to Pack Light for an International Trip

How to Pack Light for an International Trip

Are you planning an international trip? Before you buy the ticket, decide if you are going to check your luggage or carry it on. Consider these questions: How long is the trip? Is it for work or pleasure? What is the weather forecast? What activities do you have scheduled? Know what you need before choosing the suitcase. Whatever you’re circumstances, you can pack light for your international trip if you follow some of our tips.


Luggage Allowance

Traveling with a carry-on can save you money, but read the luggage allowance before you book. Some small inter-European airlines charge for hand luggage. Also, the size requirements for international flights are different than European ones. If you are flying to the United States, but have a layover in Europe, you may have to follow the smaller size restrictions. If you go over in size or weight, you could be charged at the airport.


Here are some examples of different size restrictions by airlines:

 British Airways-56 cm x 45 cm x 25 cm

American Airlines-56 cm x 36 cm x 23 cm

 Iberia-56 cm x 45 cm x 25 cm

 Ryanair-55 cm x 40 cm x 20 cm

 Norwegian Air-55 cm x 40 cm x 23 cm

 Air France-55 cm x 35 cm x 25 cm

 Emirates Airlines-55 cm x 38 cm x 20 cm


Which Type of Suitcase Should You Use?

Do you want a case with wheels? Hard or soft material? Would you prefer a backpack or a duffel bag?

Here’s a good hard shell set we like: 


How to Pack Light for an International Trip
Aerolite ABS Hard Shell 3 Piece Suitcase Luggage Set – 2 x 21″ Hand Cabin Luggage + 1 x Large 29″ Hold Check in Luggage Suitcase Charcoal


Do you prefer a soft case? We travel almost exclusively with Samsonite. Try this:


How to Pack Light for an International Trip
Samsonite Base Boost Upright Underseater Hand Luggage 45 cm, 26 Black


Some prefer a duffel bag. We have used Thule in the past and love the quality.


How to Pack Light for an International Trip
Thule Subterra Carry-On 40L Reisetasche

 If you want to use a backpack, try:


How to Pack Light for an International Trip
Cabin Max Backpack Flight Approved Carry On Bag Massive 44 litre Travel Hand Luggage 55x40x20 cm

There are also hybrid options – like a backpack with wheels. They may be heavier than a tradition backpack, but the handle could save you from back pain.


How to Pack Light for an International Trip
Samsonite Paradiver Light Duffle Backpack with wheels, 55 cm, 51 L, Jeans Blue

If you buy a black suitcase, add a colorful tag or ribbon, so you can find it on the luggage belt. 


Choosing What to Pack

You’ll be surprised how much you can fit in a carry-on. Many people pack a lot of outfits and then wear the same thing every day.  What types of clothes do you need? Are you visiting churches? You can’t wear shorts or a sleeveless top in the Vatican. Do you need a business outfit or a fancy dress for a nice restaurant? 


 Look at travel capsule wardrobes on Pinterest, which show mix-and-match outfits. Think about layering your clothes for different looks and weather conditions. A simple black dress can be worn with a top for a casual look or dressed up with a shawl and scarf for the theater. Some clothing companies sell wrinkle-free travel clothes. Others have reversible dresses and skirts that can be turned inside-out for an entirely different look. The key is versatility. 


 A good wrap will keep you warm on the plane and allow you to dress up an outfit.


How to Pack Light for an International Trip
HappyLuxe Travel Wrap and Blanket, Eco Friendly Accessories for Women, and Men

Travel clothes can cost more but are usually of better quality. Do you need a jacket? Check out BauBax. Traditional and comfortable clothes are your best options. 


On social media, many travelers ask what they should wear in places like Morocco. You should be yourself, but avoid attracting negative attention. Google the country you plan to visit to see what the locals wear. If you look like a tourist, thieves will notice you.


What to Pack for Women

  • Two pairs of shoes (good for walking)
  • If you bring a pair of sandals, make sure they can dress up or down.
  • Pajamas
  • Four-five pairs of underwear (you can wash them in the sink if you are going on a longer trip)
  • One extra bra
  • Three pairs of socks 
  • Two pairs of pants 
  • Four tops
  • A dress
  • One or two skirts
  • A cardigan or wrap
  • A swimsuit 
  • A raincoat
  • Toiletries


Men can mix and match t-shirts, polos, or oxfords with shorts and pants as well as fleece and a jacket. Again, wrinkle-free clothes are a good choice.


Buying Clothes Abroad

Don’t fill your suitcase; save room for souvenirs! Rather than buying a replica of the Eiffel Tower or Statue of Liberty, buy a new purse, shirt, dress, or scarf instead. You’ll remember your trip every time you wear them.


 Are you visiting the U.S. and love Ralph Lauren? Tommy Hilfiger? Adidas? These brands are much cheaper in the States – especially in shops like Marshall’s or T.J. Maxx. (A Ralph Lauren women’s coat for $60!) Brands like Levi’s, Columbia, Northface, Calvin Klein, and Nike have discount factory outlets. Look for one close to your accommodations.


How to Pack

There are many options when it comes to packing. Air compression bags, packing cubes, and rolling clothes are some. Compression bags are great for shrinking clothes but can make them heavy. See if the airline has weight restrictions. Rolling is also a good option and keeps clothes from getting too wrinkly. Packing cubes help organize your suitcase and hold a surprising amount of clothes. This is our favorite method. Some sets have a large cube, which may be too big for a carry-on, but great for storing your out-of-season wardrobe. 


How to Pack Light for an International Trip
G4Free 6pcs Packing Cubes Value Set for Travel Once you use them, you’ll never go back!


Check out our YouTube channel for some great videos. Whichever method you choose, put your heaviest items on the bottom. 



It’s important to bring only what you need. You can buy toiletries for very little money when you get to your destination. Your hotel will provide soap, shampoo, and lotion. You can also ask if they have deodorant, toothpaste, an iron, and hairdryer. If you forget your charger or adapter, ask at reception. People leave theirs all the time. Before you buy something, ask the front desk if they have what you need. 


When you travel with hand luggage, you avoid a lot of worry and aggravation because your bag won’t get damaged or lost. Finally, you save so much time when arriving and leaving the airport that it’s worth it to learn how to pack light. Now that your suitcase is ready, read about navigating American airports here.






July 2020
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