After reading the blog post “How to Pack Lightly + What I Packed for 8 Days in Italy” from Abundant Life with Less, I was 100 percent sold on the idea of traveling with only one backpack each per family member. We had a trip to Folly Beach, South Carolina planned and I decided this would be the perfect time to experiment with a new way of traveling.
Getting the family onboard
My husband who already packs minimally, taking up very little room in our suitcase, and who also happens to be the one that ends up dealing with all the heavy lifting of the luggage, was one hundred percent supportive of this idea.
My eight year old daughter had some reservations, but was quickly reassured that besides her beloved stuffed cat she sleeps with at night, there was nothing we couldn’t buy if absolutely needed and also very little that we wouldn’t be ok going without for a few days.
My five year old son couldn’t care less either way.
So with the whole family on board we went for it!
What we used
We each used a backpack we already owned…nothing fancy. The kids have their kid backpacks from LL Bean, I have a Swiss Gear Laptop Backpack and my husband used his 511 backpack.
What we purchased
I purchased two things for this experiment, packing cubes and a clear toiletry bag.
I purchased Eagle Creek Compression packing cubes for the kids and I. This made a big difference for us and was 100 percent worth it. If you’re interested in these I recommend buying directly from their website instead of Amazon. At the time I purchased it was cheaper and they have an email discount code.
The clear toiletry bag I purchased was from Amazon for any liquids I was bringing on the airplane.
What we packed
We packed minimally.
Here’s what I packed for clothing for seven days in South Carolina in February. The weather can range from 40 to 80 this time of year.
A pair of jeans
A pair of leggings
2 pairs of sleep shorts
2 tanks tops
A black cardigan
1 bathing suit
1 coverup dress
A lightweight down jacket that smooshes up really small
On the plane I wore my bulkiest clothing, a pair of jeans, a tank top, a hooded sweatshirt and sneakers.
How it went
There was a positive domino effect to each of us only bringing one backpack that started from the minute we walked out our front door and continued well beyond returning.
Traveling was easier
The ease at which we moved from our home to car to bus to plane to hotel was beautiful. Usually when getting on the bus that brings us to the airport we have to stop and wait for our luggage to be loaded. This time we hopped right on. The bus driver even stopped us and jokingly said, “no luggage?” that’s suspicious”.
When the bus dropped us off at the airport there was no waiting for our luggage to be unloaded. We walked right into the airport where we paused for a minute a bit confused. We’ve never not checked a bag and it felt wrong to just walk right to security. My husband confirmed with our airline that there was no need to stop since we already had our tickets printed and we could just kept going.
Security was the only area I was a bit concerned with since we’ve never brought liquids on a plane; but I did my research, had the right size containers, put them in a clear pouch and made sure we pulled them out of the backpack. We had no issues.
I think it’s particularly adorable to note that multiple times during our travel day my daughter commented that she couldn’t believe we were doing it! That we were going to South Carolina for the week with only one backpack each. I loved that this little experiment gave her such a feeling of accomplishment.
Getting on the plane was effortless. When the plane storage was getting full we’d didn’t need to check our bags as they easily fit under the seat in front of us.
And getting off the plane was more of this. There was no stress of finding where our luggage would come out and rushing over to find it and then waiting for it. We went right to the rental car counter and were on our way.
When our rental car company offered us a free upgrade to a larger SUV we appreciatively declined as we had no need for it. We had very little luggage taking up room and it would only cost us more in gas.
Our spaces stayed cleaner
The benefits of the one backpack experiment extended even once we arrived at our hotel. With fewer things with us the hotel room stayed clean. We mostly brought clothing and we were either wearing it, or it was put away.
This less stuff advantage spilled over to our rental car too, which also stayed cleaner.
We were intentional with our purchases
Knowing whatever we purchased had to fit into our backpack, forced us to be intentional about what we brought home, in a good way. The kids each returned from vacation with a new frisbee, a bag of shells and a sticker to add to their collection. They couldn’t have been happier with these treasures. My daughter also found two free books from the library and we had plenty of room for them also. As a family we decided we’d like to start purchasing a magnet for our fridge any time we go on a trip. This easily fit into my backpack. The souvenirs we brought home ended up better because we really had to think about them and if they were going to be worth the space they would take up in our backpacks.
We gained time
When it was time to leave we easily packed up taking very little time. As I write this I’m realizing the number one thing that packing with one backpack gave us was time. We saved so much time having less stuff. Less time at the bus station, faster going through the airport, less time hauling luggage to our room, or cleaning our spaces.
Continued positive effect even upon returning home
When we returned home it was easy to bring our things inside. Unpacking was simple as it was mostly clothing. I easily unpacked everyone’s backpack by our washer and did two loads of laundry for the whole week away. Incredible.
The mindset of the one back pack travel experiment has transferred into normal life at home. For example even though we have simplified our wardrobes drastically, somehow it still feels like I’m doing never ending laundry. I realized that week on vacation that I needed even less clothing then I’m actually using. I can wear my jeans multiple times before washing them and it’s not gross. I’m a homeschool mom to older kids (no more baby blow outs or projectile spit up for me), who doesn’t leave the house some days. My clothing isn’t getting very dirty. Same thing with pajamas. I’ve reduced how much clothing I wear in a week and it’s been quite wonderful.
What is baggage?
As I wrap up this article it’s interesting to me that when searching for the “definition of baggage” I found it to have two different meanings given by Google:
1. personal belongings packed in suitcases for traveling; luggage. ”We collected our baggage before clearing customs.”
2. past experiences or long-held ideas regarded as burdens and impediments. “the emotional baggage I’m hauling around”
Honestly, when thinking about my past experiences traveling with suitcases and excess stuff, that second definition of baggage fits just as well as the first. Sure it’s my luggage but if not packed intentionally but instead with stuff I don’t actually need, it’s also a burden that’s slowing me down and an impediment to having the most amount of time and enjoyment with my family on our adventures.
To sum it up, I think this experiment was a success and something we would definitely try again. There may be times in the future when it’s necessary for us to travel with more luggage and that will be ok too, but I love knowing that if we want to travel with one backpack for each of us it’s definitely possible.
About the Author: Nikki Cox is a mommy of two striving to clear away the clutter both physical and emotional so she can live life with intention and clarity. Find her at Lovelylucidlife.com.