This post will explore three options for never checking luggage again. Some of them are extreme; all of them are effective.
In my next post, I’ll detail what I (and some friends) pack in carry-on. Some are surprising and hilarious.
Given that I spend 100+ days of the year traveling, and that I’ve been to 40+ countries, I’ve tested just about everything.
Hauling a five-piece Samsonite set around the planet is hell on earth. I watched a friend do this up and down dozens of subway and hotel staircases in Europe for three weeks, and — while I laughed a lot, especially when he resorted to just dragging or throwing his bags down stairs — I’d like to save you the breakdown. Trip enjoyment is inversely proportionate to the amount of crap (re: distractions) you bring with you.
So, how to avoid checked luggage altogether?
We’ll cover three different options, in descending order of craziness. I promise that something in this post will work for every one of you, even if partially:
– Using “urban caching” for travel purposes
– Mailing instead of checking (and some Steve Jobs-ian quirks)
– Ultralight packing
Many of these suggestions have been given to me by readers over the years, so thank you!
I try and bring such gifts full circle by collecting hundreds of tips, testing them, and publishing the winners.
So here we go…
I was first introduced to the idea of “urban caching” by my friend Jason DeFillippo.
Remember the first Jason Bourne movie, when various agents are “activated” to kill Jason? One of them lands in Rome, where he accesses a hidden locker that contains everything he needs: a few passports, a gun, ammo, cash in small denominations, etc. That is an example of a single “cache.” (Yes, I’m somewhat obsessed with Jason Bourne)
Doomsday preppers (not derogatory) will often have multiple caches at various distances from a “bug out” departure point like a home or office. In the case of disaster — tornado, terrorism, zombies, Sharknado, etc. — they can set off walking empty-handed, if needed, and find everything they need waiting for them. Here’s a good intro to this controversial craft.
But how the hell do you apply this to regular travel? Ah, that’s where things get fun.
Let’s say that you’re flying to the same two cities 50-80% of the time, as I do. When I land in New York City, this is what I find already placed in my hotel room:
It is a trunk that contains almost everything I could need for a week. Believe it or not, it was provided and stenciled at no cost by the hotel. All I had to do was ask. (More tips on travel negotiating in the second half of this post)
I refer to this as “travel caching.”
I’ll explain how this can cost less than checking luggage, but let’s look at some key goodies first:
– One (1) winter jacket – I usually live in SF, where it is typically warmer most of the year.
– Cans of lentils and beans, pre-salted and spiced – I dislike waiting 30 minutes for $30 breakfasts. I use Amazon Prime to order Jyoti Dal Makhani or Westbrae organic lentils, having them mailed directly to the hotel. I eat directly out of the cans.
– Can opener and spoon
– Surge pocket multitool (do NOT put this in carry-on bags). No such thing as too many multitools.
– Jug of unflavored or vanilla whey protein, generally Bluebonnet or BioTrust. I find that whey in the mornings prevents me from getting sick when shifting time zones. It also helps me hit my “30 grams within 30 minutes” rule from The 4-Hour Body.
- L-lysine for immune support (especially after early or late flights), magnesium/ZMA and melatonin for sleep and jetlag.
Lacrosse balls for rolling out my feet, upper back, chest, and forearms.
– Jiu-jitsu gi for getting my ass mercilessly kicked at the Marcelo Garcia Jiu-Jitsu academy.
– Four (4) collared shirts – I often travel to NYC for business or media.
– Four (4) decent t-shirts, including two V-neck t-shirts (I know, I know), that can used for lounging or casual dinners, etc.
– Socks and undies for one week.
– Two (2) pairs of dress shoes, one (1) pair athletic shoes, one (1) pair hiking boots for upstate adventures.
The best part: When I check out, I give a bag of dirty clothes to the front desk, they have it all cleaned and put back in my trunk, folded and pretty… ready for my next arrival! They charge it to the same credit card I have on file for rooms. Doubly cool: Since I stay there so often, they don’t charge me the in-house extortion prices. They take it down the street to an inexpensive clean-and-press laundry joint.
No packing, no checking, no unpacking, no cleaning. It’s magical.
So, how can this possibly save you money and sanity?
1) To check an equivalent amount of stuff would usually cost $30+, so $60+ roundtrip.
2) The clothing isn’t new clothing. Most of us have MUCH more clothing than we need. I simply leave one week’s worth of less-used stuff in NYC. No purchase necessary.
3) Two WEEKS worth of lentils, beans, and whey protein cost about the same as 2-4 DAYS of room service breakfasts. It’s also a ton faster. Waiting around makes Tim cray-cray.
4) If you stay in a hotel often enough, you can simply ask: “Do you have a trunk or something I could store a week’s worth of clothing in? That way, I wouldn’t have to pack so much when I come here.” The above trunk was given to me this way, but you can also buy one for $60 or so on Amazon, the equivalent of one trip’s baggage fees. Then ask the staff (who you should know by now) if you could store a week’s worth of clothing in the storage room, basement, or security office. This can also be arranged with many people on Airbnb.
And if your hotel or host won’t play ball, guess what? Startups can save you. Consider using MakeSpace or its close cousins, which one 4-Hour Workweek reader uses to live like James Bond, all while vagabonding around the planet. Pretty cool, right?
And that, ladies and gentlemen, is travel caching. It’s a game-changer.
Mailing Instead of Checking
This is exactly what it sounds like.
Dean Jackson of the I Love Marketing podcast is the person who — for me — turned it into an art form.
The benefit of mailing versus caching: it’s not limited to your most frequent 2-3 destinations. It can be used anywhere, but it’s most often used domestically.
Not unlike Steve Jobs and his “uniform,” Dean literally wears the same outfit EVERY day: black t-shirt, tan shorts, orange Chuck Taylor shoes, and a black cap when cold. He doesn’t want to expend a single calorie making decisions related to fashion, which I respect tremendously. I’m a huge proponent of the choice-minimal lifestyle and rules to reduce overwhelm.
In his words via text, here’s how his packing and mailing works. Comments in brackets are mine:
“As you know, I wear the same thing every day…Black shirt, tan shorts…so I have my assistant keep a carry-on bag constantly packed for 7 days [TIM: It’s a bag with 7 days worth of “uniforms”]. I use mesh laundry bags with a zipper to put together 7 “Day Packs” with a black shirt/underwear/socks [TIM: You can also use gallon-sized Ziploc bags]. Every day while traveling, I unzip a fresh new pack. When I return, she washes and repacks everything, and restocks my travel-only shaving kit with everything I need.
I have separate chargers, shoes, melatonin, etc., so I never have to pack…and she can ship my bag ahead of me without me having to do anything. Plus, she packs a pre-filled return FedEx shipping label for me, so I can — when I’m leaving — have a bellman come get my bag and take it to the business center to ship back.
That whole rig fits in a carry-on sized bag….7 Day Packs, 3 pairs of shorts, orange Chuck Taylors, charging cords, shaving kit…but that all gets shipped. Then my actual carry on is a Tumi laptop bag with Macbook, iPad, journal, passport, wallet. Using the Tumi, I don’t have to take out my laptop for x-rays, plus it’s beautiful leather with just the right pocket config.
It’s pretty light travel.”
Even if you never want to mail your bags ahead, there is one point you shouldn’t miss: It’s smart to have a travel-only toiletry kit that is never unpacked.
Keep one set of toothbrushes, toothpaste, etc. at home on the counters and shelves, and have a separate packed kit that is exclusively for travel.
This alone has saved me a ton of headache and last minute “Where is the closest CVS? I forgot my dental floss”-type nonsense.
Which brings us to the question of carry-on…
I’ll be expanding on this greatly, but, to start, please read one of my previously viral posts, “How to Travel the World with 10 Pounds or Less (Plus: How to Negotiate Convertibles and Luxury Treehouses).”
You’ll notice my “BIT” (Buy It There) method of travel seems to contradict the travel caching above, but they’re actually complementary.
BIT is ideal for traveling to places you’ve never been, or that you seldom visit. If it’s a third-world country where your currency is strong, all the better. Travel caching is for your 2-3 most frequently visited locations.
To get you in the mood for the above “10 pounds” post, here’s your first ultralight travel purchase: Exofficio underwear.
Do you like this type of post? If so, please let me know in the comments.
Please also share your own tips!
If it seems you dig it, I’ll detail (at least) the following in my next post:
- My latest findings in ultralight packing
- My must-have carry-on items and subscription services
- Tools recommended to me by elite military and hedgefund managers
- My favorite bags
- Apps and other tricks that get me from home to gate in less than 20 minutes
Until then, start thinking up destinations.
The Tim Ferriss Show is one of the most popular podcasts in the world with more than 900 million downloads. It has been selected for "Best of Apple Podcasts" three times, it is often the #1 interview podcast across all of Apple Podcasts, and it's been ranked #1 out of 400,000+ podcasts on many occasions. To listen to any of the past episodes for free, check out this page.
Comment Rules: Remember what Fonzie was like? Cool. That’s how we’re gonna be — cool. Critical is fine, but if you’re rude, we’ll delete your stuff. Please do not put your URL in the comment text and please use your PERSONAL name or initials and not your business name, as the latter comes off like spam. Have fun and thanks for adding to the conversation! (Thanks to Brian Oberkirch for the inspiration.)
279 Replies to “How to Never Check Luggage Again”
Tim, as a fellow international traveller, I rather devoured your post.
After over literally a thousand flights in my life, my biggest travel tip is this.
Pack two days in advance.
Yeah not very sexy, BUT invaluable. I still (rarely) don’t follows my own advice and regret it.
– you’re human you left everything to the last day.
– preparation before travel is stressful, especially if you’re not used to it.
– the last day for travel is always jammed packed busy.
– you’ve got two full days to mull over what you are taking
-chance to remove items (I can buy underwear cheap in China!)
-chance to add items ( I almost forgot my camera!)
– chance to focus on saying goodbye to friends
– did you pay the credit card bill?
– you can repack only better this time
– you can leisurely check to make sure you have important things/passport etc.
I’m serious. This is the single greatest thing you can do.
I could go on…
Love it, Tim! Brilliant, as usual! 🙂
Really enjoying your new mail outs Tim , they are the only ones worth reading .
So I travel a lot for work and always dread packing for those trips , caching sounds like a fantastic way to take the woes out of business travel . I always stay in the same hotels and usually take the same things too.
Great tips mate , looking forward to your next inbox tips.
Really helpful. I haven’t “had” to think about packing extra-efficiency until recentlyl. First because of all the new bag restrictions and my fear that my carry-on will get rejected at the gate for exceeding standards by an inch or so. AND for the first time in my career, I will be going to Texas to work and coming home on the weekends for 3 months straight. So the cache idea is great! I could cache it where I’ll be working in TX if the hotel won’t let me do it. My aunt had a funny idea for optimizing: When she was ready to get rid of a piece of clothing, she figured it had one more use in it, so she’d pack it for travel and then throw it away rather than cleaning it. Old clothes gone and suitcase gets lighter and lighter. My own fave trick is for tourist travel is to pack light and have a big time combing thrift stores for new stuff. Great souvenirs, and cheap too. Have done this all over the world.
Tim…have always loved you since I read TFHWW years ago! Would love to know more about:
– Latest findings in ultralight packing
– Must-have carry-on items and subscription services
– Favorite bags
– Apps and other tricks that get me from home to gate in less than 20 minutes
– Tips for female travelers who might need to pack more toiletries, etc.
Why underwear? Has no practical purpose?
These email posts are great Tim, please keep them up. Have been a fan since the 4-Hour Work Week. As I’m sure you are aware, New Zealander’s are great travellers and due to the distance we have to go to get anywhere we often go for long periods (months is not unusual). Traveling light with a small backpack or wheelly bag is pretty much essential and makes the world of difference to the entire experience and gives me a great feeling of freedom. I can travel almost indefinitely on around 14kg. Travel caching is something I have used on occasion if I am returning to a particular city.
Great travel advice. Only I need uniforms to travel, which take up loads of space,I’d be doing this.
Hi Tim! Thanks for the helpful info. I’ve done a lot of traveling over the years and can tell you it is a pain in the ass dragging a suitcase, laptop bag and hanging bag around with you when traveling. Will definitely use these tips next time I travel. Great stuff!
I use Amazon Prime to ship redundant items the first time. Free shipping. I find a “Cache Site” after arriving. It tickles the spyboy in me.
Some of the items I keep in my spots:
-Safety deposit boxes in other locals
-Burner Phones I can hook to my google voice number
-Cloud back-ups (I use google drive) that are synced in real time
-Storage Locker with all crucial elements to Start-over if I must
-extra Social security Cards/Driver’s Licenses (Yeah, I know-“illegal”)
-Paper contact list
I find, for my own peace of mind, that a monthly review of an action plan of Bad-Case-Scenarios (natural disaster, break-ups, violent living situation, loss of all income/firing/business implodes) puts my reptilian mind at ease.
[Moderator: Link removed]
In my field I cannot wear rather same tee/short set as you described. My “only black” rule works quite well for me. All articles of clothing, as well as my shoes and bag are always black. I pack bright scarves and jewelry to add interest to my travel wardrobe. I can get 8 days of clothing in a Tumi carry -on
Good article Tim. Very good point on the “caching” as well. To expand on that I once had to fly to and spend stretches of time at a Radisson hotel in Lexington, KY. They did the same thing – store the personals in a locker for me as I was there Mon – Thurs every week for 2 years including a leather bag that was a virtual copy of my toiletries at my home and the requisite office apparel. Fantastic! Cost me nothing. Still have the same leather bag after 25 years! Of course it did help getting very “comfortable” with the assistant manager!
Thanks for these tips! With so many ideas that you’ve tried, it seems like at least one or two of these tips will work for almost every different kind of traveler. I’d love to see more posts like this.
I don’t travel as much as I’d like but my wife gets flown out to LA once or twice a year and gets tons of swag from the company. We figured out we can ask the hotel for a box to put everything in and have them ship it cheaper than we can check another bag for the flight home. And yes I’m interested in “Tools recommended to me by elite military and hedgefund managers”
Great post and I’d like to see many more like it!
I work as a management consultant, so lots of clients trips but also different firm offices. I also travel relatively often from Sydney to visit family in WA state and the UK.
For work, everything is digital, and I have a Tumi slim style backpack which always has my laptop, chargers, but also about 5 Carman’s bars [Moderator: link removed] as I face the same dilemma as you – I can’t stand waiting for hotel food and I’m a light breakfast eater anyway.
I also geoarbitrage with my colleagues, as I know who has the medicine cabinet in each office, a spare tie etc rather than carrying it with me. A family friend use to have a cache of a full business wardrobe left in a Tokyo hotel in the 80s – he was an executive in a big Japanese firm, arranged it so he could walk on the plane in SYD with a briefcase, up to NRT, change and then walk into meetings – learnt a lot from him!
Big proponent of shipping, but for me it’s using Amazon to drop ship things I’ll need (Sydney in summer is a different planet to WA state in winter). I also sue it for family gifts ( even if I’m not visiting, I send a card through the post and then something gift wrapped via Amazon).
I’ve used luggage forwarding services extensively when travelling across several continents with different climates. One trip where this was advantages for example was when I was doing business in South Africa first (needed business clothes for winter) then travelling on to SE Asia for pleasure (needed leisure clothes for hot weather). My spouse was at home – I took the clothes I needed to South Africa with me, and had him forward a bag of SE Asia appropriate clothes to my hotel for pick up when I arrived there. Upon arriving, I then had my South Africa clothes shipped back home, which my spouse was home to accept for me. Saved tons of money, time, frustration, and USELESS luggage.
Really enjoy your emails but the black font on a dark gray background (at least in Firefox) makes them really, REALLY, hard to read. Would be great if the background format or font colour could be changed.
Tim, I just wanted to take a moment and say “Thanks” for all you share. I just got your email on never checking luggage again, and I think that what you have to say is so very brilliant. I actually use the BIT concept when moving my long term residence. If I can replace it for less than it costs to ship it, it gets sold, given away, or trashed here. If not, then it is an issue of the bigger picture… can I replace everything for less than it costs for a moving truck and fuel, and hotels? Sounds redundant, but it really isn’t. Anyway, this has saved me a lot of stress over the years.
As with most everything you have presented, this too is a home run! Keep ’em coming!
I love to travel; and love to make the experience Even Better (less work involved can definitely = more fun involved and = Even Better). I am a fan, Tim. Please keep your email posts arriving in my email In Box. K.
Great post. Thanks Tim. Keep the travel subjects coming…
Great post! I loved it!
Hi Tim, great article!
A year ago, I was stuck in a snaking line with a buddy in Hong Kong’s International Airport during a business trip – we were held back for close to 1 hour. This was when I realised that everyone was just waiting in line wasting precious time just waiting to check in their clothes – this was annoying and frustrating for a guy like me who absolutely hates travel inconveniences.
This is why your thought piece on travel caching stood out for me, reading your ideas + comment section – I’m so happy that many people practice it!
I thought about how if we could have our files follow us wherever we go in the cloud, why can’t clothes be the same? If we can just take clothes out of the equation, how much more efficient can we get? With this notion I started packnada.com – your overseas wardrobe that cleans itself. It’s travel caching + full service laundry so your clothes will not only be there when you need it, but also fresh, clean and ready to go.
Love to hear your thoughts!
Yes Yes Yes. We are a family 2 adults, 2 kids who regularly travel internationally for months at a time with JUST carry on luggage. We practice BIT, ultra light packing, and caching. The Number 1 benefit: because we are not waiting at the luggage carousel, we are first at the immigration counter, straight through customs and first in the taxi queue…less tired kid tears and snappy parent queue meltdowns…Outta there and off we go!
Love the new info! Some additional tips from my extensive business and personal travel and living in multiple homes, traveling between them….
– Computing is important to me, so I have big fancy computers at each home and carry all my data on a portable hard drive. So I can just plug it in and have everything i need using one of the big computers or a laptop or a tablet I might take with me.
– My cache would contain a large monitor to use with the laptop I carry, giving me almost the productivity of being home! I stash the monitor with a friend.
– Nothing I’ve tried dries as fast as EX Officio. I have tried some other “fast drying” underwear and they dry only a little faster than cotton. Ex Officio is the real deal.
– I travel with a rolling briefcase plus a small Tumi square duffel bag that goes on top–in it I can pack for up to a week using most of the tips already given like wearing the only suit, etc. Advantage of the small duffel is that it will always fit on the plane, even when a rollaboard would not, it even fits in the overheads of small regional jets.
– I won’t include URLs but I use two kinds of services that enable me to run my life from anywhere. One is a super bill pay service called Paytrust, which lets me receive and review each bill from anyone, then pay anyone electronically or by check.–this handles everything financially. Second is a mail service called St. Brendan’s Isle that receives and forwards all mail and now even scans it if i want so I can view, save, sort, etc. online. All my mail goes to this mailbox. I also have a UPS Store type mailbox near each of my homes so I can ship mail, netflix movies, shipments of stuff I order, etc.
Enough for now… keep the blogs and comments coming!
I’ll have to check out a pair of the ExOfficio. I’ve often said “half of my suffering in life would disappear if I could just find the right pair of underwear. LOL
They are the best. Comfortable, cool and can easily be hand washed and air dried.
If you travel frequently between 2 or 3 cities you can buy an apartment in each of them. Hire an assistant and cleaning staff who rents out each apartments on Airbnb on short notice whenever you don’t need it. Place an empty closet which tenants can use in each apartment. Ask a carpenter to equip all other furniture incl. most kitchen cabinets, bathroom and shoe shelves, etc with locks which have one universal key. When you leave just lock everything. If done well this is cost neutral in the long run and you feel perfectly home in all cities.
love the light-traveling/packing tips…making life and travel simpler is always a bonus!
Well done Tim. Great post – yes, keep on posting this type of info please.
FYI – Pilots at a well known UK Airline have all pitched in some money to buy bikes etc that they have dropped around the world at hotels they stay in. When they are in town they grab said bike and ride – great to get their body clock back in shape and to ensure they look after themselves (as we all know, sitting sedentary isn’t good for anyone).
Love the Post
Awesome stuff Tim!
Really interested in these types of posts!
I think you can deconstruct this travel process even further. I am often gone for a week and travel with just a Tumi weekender. It will hold two pair of paints 4 shirts, three tee shirts, gym shorts, one pair of tennis shoes and other associated items need for hygenene etc… I will wear my sport/suit coat
and carry an extra sport/suitcoat ifnecessary – including winter coat. I travel with an iPad mini that still will fit in my bag. Ties, excersie band and some paper work can also be included. If I am gone for more than one week I carry a Tumi back pack. I will steam all my clothes in the hotel shower.
Tim, I use my company’s shipping department to send my rollerblades/helmet/padding forward when I travel. It’s like $12 and no hassle on either end – or inbetween. I was surprised to read about exofficcio at the very end.. I travel with two pairs of Exofficcio underpants, for any distance. They wear like iron, and rinse/dry in the sink, overnight (or in 1 hour)
I’d like to see the rest of the tips for sure.
I travel regularly teaching an internal martial art called I Liq Chuan, and I just spent three weeks in Europe living out of medium size assault pack that clocked in at 9.1kg and it meant a lot of hand washing. LOL
If I could get that down to just ten pounds… that would be awesome.
I never review anything but just wanted to let you know, I really enjoy your blog and podcast. Keep up the good work.
I’ve enjoyed reading how to travel with 10 lbs or less in the past. This has some great new ideas. Speaking as someone who took a carry on bag for a month in Peru that included glaciers to rainforest, I have to say I really look forward to using the suggestions posted here.
Cool! But here’s a challenge: find one of your friends (a woman) and ask her to give a similar type of advice for light travelling, for women. Oh, I would love to see this one! It would be life changing. Thanks!
Thanks, Tim! As a lady, I’m still on the lookout for cute fold-up heels or something to pack a variety of outfits with minimal weight/space. I’ve been experimenting with roll-up running shoes.
One thing I always travel with is a few cans of sardines, and I boil eggs a few hours before I leave and freeze them. As I walk out the door, I grab them and use them to fuel up on the way or when I arrive so I don’t have to waste time or eat things I don’t want.
Love these posts, keep them coming.
When I started travelling after working for 40 years, my goal was to only carry on. In time, I realized that the maximum allowable carry on is too much and ties you down. My goal now is to take 25 – 40% of the maximum allowable carry on. I have even travelled in Canada for a month in winter with less that 40% of the allowable carry on. I carry an iPod Touch instead of a computer. It has a browser, email, offline maps, reading and travel guides in iBooks, allows me to make phone calls and Skype with a wifi connection. There are transportation apps, translation apps, music and entertainment; everything you need in a tiny package. For $5 you can get an tiny adapter for any region that allows you to recharge it, and with a small $15 backup battery you have a computer system that is about the size of a pack of cards. I have a small wardrobe of travel clothing that I only wear when travelling (a winter set and a summer set); it is quick drying with good pockets. If I find something (like the $15 merino wool zip-up sweater at Winners) that is an improvement over something in my travel wardrobe, I swap it out and wear the rejected piece at home. If travelling to cities I take only a messenger bag. If travelling in a wet climate, I have a $19, 19 L MEC pack that fits in a pocket; inside it I put an MEC dry bag that also fits in a pocket. You can travel very lightly very cheaply if you always have an eye out for travel clothes/equipment. After every trip, I record how often each item was used, and leave home the things that you think come in handy but never do. Travel light! Take your carry on and spend a whole day being a tourist where you live. If you can’t walk around and take the bus, get some food, etc. taking your stuff around with you all day in comfort, you are taking too much stuff!
This post reminds me of my little brother, who would refuse to spend any time on getting dress. In high school he started a schedule for a week of clothing; Mondays blue jeans with red tee, Tuesdays black jeans with green t-shirt; and so on. You could easily figure out the day of the week by looking at what he was wearing. LOL. Not sure if having three older sisters putting their closets upside down quite often to the conclusion of “I have nothing to wear” had something to do with it, but to me his practicality at that young age was hilarious.
Traveling to the same places sounds more like commuting, doesn’t it? This ideas for traveling/commuting are fantastic! Shyp could easily get into the category of help to travel light. There is this company in Canada, Encircled, that creates versatile clothing for women who travel often. You could wear one piece of clothing in more than 3 ways, making possible to fit everything in a backpack! 🙂
What I’ve seen more often is an excerpt of the blog post on the email that wil take you to the full version on your blog, like a personal note.
It’s always fun to hear from you. Keep them coming Tim!
I love this kind of stuff. Keep it coming. I regularly travel from the US to China for 2 weeks with only a go ruck gr1 carried on. Other co workers think it is impossible but doing laundry in the middle of the trip makes it simple.
Caching is a great idea, but here’s an optimisation tip I use…
You don’t need to have more than three of any piece of clothing in order to stay somewhere indefinitely (great if your stays are irregular lengths) – just cycle yesterday’s worn item through hotel laundry at the start of each day.
I fully agree with packing light, caching or sending luggage in advance via courier – it’s always easier to travel light. On the other hand most Airlines in Europe or even Africa -m where I currently live – don’t charge for luggage – so why not check in 20 kg (or more if you are a very frequent traveller) – it’s free!! And in Africa, there are porters everywhere – they are inexpensive and happy to earn some bugs.
For a long time I practice having a separate toiletry bag packed – ready to go… great idea too.
And here is my TIP: Most men I know carry a tin of shaving foam or shaving gel around (quite bulky). I just carry a creamy soap which works just as well – try it and it’s less bulky. I use Dove-cream bar, or Nivea cream bar. At home I stuck a mirror on the tiles in my shower so I can shave while I am showering and then wash it down, I wet my body and the hot water and steam over my face has the same effect as using a hot towel over the beard – I then rub the soap over my beard and my face is creamy as if using foam, then I shave and shower the access soap off. I find the foam or Gel is far to expensive and I am not getting much out of it. The soap is much more economical and available to buy wherever I have been in the world.
ExOfficio underwear is so unflattering. There are a bunch of other brands that have the microban or some equivalent that will actually cradle and promote your package.
I travel quite a bit and maybe some of my tips can help:
– Never use a carry on.
Carry ons (the suitcases with wheels that you can take on an air plan) come with several downsides and are best avoided altogether. They need a lot of space and can’t be cramped, you cannot put them under the seat in front of you. They only work on flat surfaces and are a nightmare if you are in the outdoors or only face stairs. Hiking backpacks are also to be avoided. Nobody wants to look like a backpacker. Get a medium sized duffle that you can carry over your shoulder and that you can put under the seat in front of you if necessary. Any man should be able to carry his own bag.
– Cut down on electronics.
I often see people that carry a DSLR, a laptop, an iPad and a phone. Far to heavy and usually not necessary. It is amazing how far you get with only a state of the art smartphone. If you really need a camera get something small like a Ricoh GR. Make sure that you can charge everything via USB and do not carry chargers.
– Wash often.
The most overlook trick to travel lightly is to wash. I carry clothing that will dry quickly. The wool t-shirts from IceBreaker for instance dry overnight. Get a soap that you can use for washing your body and your clothing like Dr. Bronners Magic Soap.
– Get it digitally.
Most travel guides and books are available online. So it surprises me that people still carry 500+ page color printed books around the world. If possible do not carry anything that is printed: tickets, books, guides, maps – see if they are available digitally.
– If you have cargo get a bag.
Never under no circumstance fall victim to the marking of the outdoor firms. You do not need special equipment to go on a 4 hour hike. And absolutely never will you need cargo pants. Pack things that you can dress up and down. And always remember that you cannot dress up a pair of cargo pants. If you have cargo get a bag. It always amazes me to go to places like New York and see tourists that look like they are on safari.
– Have a bag ready.
Always have a packed bag at home that holds all the basics including prescription drugs etc. that you need. Pack it when you come back from a trip and update it according to your experiences just made. In line with Tim’s travel caches I have several duffels in places all over the world. Thus I often do not bring anything on board, which as a plus is killing the imagination of the TSA and most airline personell.
– Get an in-ear noise canceling headphone.
Planes are loud, people are all around you. In order to shut them up invest in a pair of in-ear noise canceling headphones. Why in-ear? They are far smaller and fit in any jacket pocket.
I just moved from Australia to Europe and had to take all of my belongings with me on the plane. I inquired about mailing it to Europe, but mailing 4kg cost AUD$200+. I still brought my excess 4kg to the airport and they asked me to get rid of it…! (Sadly, I threw away my beautiful terra cotta tea pot because it weighted 1kg, but I kept my copy of the 4 Hour Body).
Now travel caching sounds like a good idea…
This is such a helpful post, travelling can become a nightmare very quickly with airports, security and the possibility of lost luggage or worse, pilfered things from your luggage. There’s a lot of ideas in here I never gave thought to, like mailing them instead of checking them. My only concern is fragile items like gifts, I have not found good luck with the postal service even when it’s marked fragile or insured… The rest of this article is great!
Great post. More like this please
I traveled in Europe for 5 months with one small bag. I chose to layer silk long underwear (which doubled as leggings), a lace petticoat (which doubled as a fancy dress), and a denim overskirt (great for hikes and durable), then just carried skivvies. Because it was winter travel, all of my tops were layered on as well. This worked beautifully, even when I needed to do wash as I could wear one of the layers while doing laundry.
For my trip last week to SF for three weeks, I packed one carry-on with layerable clothing, all from a consignment shop. I added other garments from consignment shops along the way, and then put all the garments on consignment with a SF shop when I left town. Zero return baggage.
Very cool Tim! Really enjoy your newsletters and the awesome life tips! Thank you Tim! U ROCK! 🙂
Tim, nice to hear from you! One tip, could you change the ‘colour’ background on your posts. The dark grey colour, means I can’t read the text on the mobile.
Otherwise, look forward to more posts!
Thanks for sharing! Great ideas!
Awesome. I hate travelling with a lot of junk!
Minor contribution to the thread… Try Somerset shave oil instead of something bulkier for your shaving needs. 3 drops per shave is enough. http://goo.gl/aEWtnR
this was great, headed to nepal in october so twas super applicable…lookin forward to upcoming posts!
Tim, great article.
Having spent a few months travelling solo off my motorbike, living out of two small panniers- I have to say I get somewhat of a rush out of planning my minimalist packing.
ExOfficio underwear is good no question, but you must try Icebreaker. All their stuff is exceptional. I literally only take two pairs of their underwear with me (one on, one spare). Super comfortable, no smell, easy wash-dry and long lasting.
Awesome post as usual. i am usually a ‘buy it there’ guy but this urban caching thing is quite interesting. I travel primarily in SE Asia and hotels there are super accommodating so it should be a no-brainer. Yes!
I loved the email newsletter! Looking forward to your next one.
Tremendously clever strategy dude. I love the idea of setting up a travel cache before you arrive.
We just travel light. We carry some luggage, but go minimalist. Other than our clothes, and flip flops, we do 2 lap tops, and 2 tablets. That’s it.
After 39 months of circling the globe we learned to let go more and more each trip.
We’re doing Fiji – here now – to Bali, to Bangkok, to NYC JFK in a few months. Gotta travel light when doing that type of globe trotting, to remain sane.
Thanks for sharing.
Didn’t think about travel caching! Really great idea Tim. I’m definately looking forward to seeing your updated version of ultra-light travel packing! I have been dragging around to much luggage lately.
Any chance of a female version of the packing post Tim please?
I month traveller, yearly, long haul 🙂
Great post! I’d love to hear more travel light tips, especially for travel with little kids. I used to be able to pack very lightly but I feel like a pack-mule now that I travel with my 3 and 5 year-olds. Any advice from/for parents?
You got to have one of these when off the beaten track. A portable washing machine none the less http://www.thescrubba.com
Great post Tim, thanks!
I love all these ideas. More please. Though to be honest I sometimes wish there was a female version of you.
I would love to know your airline tips for cheap travel!
If not mentioned before, Only travel in lightweight merino wool clothes, weather it´s a suit a t-shirt, or training gear. Check brands like Icebreaker, Smartwool, Arcteryx etc… A new world will open up for you. The world of odeur free clothing.
Hi Tim: Love this post, I travel to the same 2 cities every 2 months, will definitely try caching! Hey, can you give this some thought: I’m trying to incorporate minimalism and love the idea of a uniform, but feel this is even more challenging as a young, professional woman. For example, I read a recent article on how to create a timeless, simple wardrobe that included a leather dress and a two-tone tunic as essential pieces. I don’t really think a leather dress makes sense if I try to pair down to 7-14 outfits. I also feel like I can’t get away with the ‘forever-young’ style of cargo pants and 2-3 rotating T-shirts, I feel like I need to look moderately attractive to keep my mojo moving at work. Can you tap into your team of experts to focus on a minimalist/uniform style wardrobe with a special focus on women? Thanks for all the good info!
Awesome, I have been waiting for you to share your info in this kind of forum. I use your suggestions to complement and/or validate what I am doing. Thanks,
Where can I find out more about BIT traveling? I’ve considered it several times, but I hate, hate, hate shopping so I’d much rather pack what I have instead of spending time and effort shopping 1.) for something I already own or can borrow in 2.) a strange store to which I’ve never been on 3.) sometimes limited time while in a locale.
Am I misunderstanding something or is it more or less personal preference?
Thanks Tim! I love posts of yours that make me aware of ideas I’ve never considered before. Traveling can be such a headache, but these tips should alleviate some of that…
Ditch the can goods and whey protein. Use soylent.me instead. Really, this is an absolute no-brainer.
Love the travel caching idea! Thank you.
Anybody have any suggestions for minimal packing for middle east climate?
Great Post. really enjoyed the travel caching idea.
Love this (it was reading your earlier travel stuff that got me hooked on you). My husband and I have gone all over the world with only light carryons, and I have two words for the ladies: “silk” and “cashmere.” They come in all weights, price-ranges, and styles, can be layered for super warmth or ‘de-layered’ for hot weather, weigh almost nothing, and fold down to nothing.
Loved the post and especially the Bourne references…my presonal favorite is pulling the side of the door off a car to reveal the secret cache stash.
I just wanted to add for “upstate adventures” and camping adventures involving water you can buy camping towels on amazon (drylite) for $20. They pack small and wring dry. Awesome for home too because you can wash in the sink or shower.
I love this kind of shit… lets hear more and share the rest of the details you mentioned
I only travel with a duffle bag anyway and try to stay at places with laundry facilities either in the hotel and or nearby, but yes I’ve had to start caching my favorite toothpaste and toothbrush.
Love it! I extrapolate these principles to many other areas of my life, e.g., I keep a separate “cache” of cleaning supplies in every room of the house, so I don’t have to keep trotting up and down the stairs to get them when I need them. Keep it coming!
The post in my email doesn’t have the Monday night Q & A info. Where can I find it?
If I travel to USA and have reservation in a hotel will they receive an order I make from Amazon if I have not still arrived? How should I proceede? If I just arrived who will receive it? How do I have to write the address? c/o someone? Thanks.
I like BB’s comment about the “traveler exchange”. I also want to weigh in for the Ex Officio underwear. I use them almost exclusively. I typically take 3 pair for anything but overnight because sometimes washing and hanging to dry overnight doesn’t work (e.g. if I get in really late). Thanks for the guidance.
Great post. I tried to convince my wife that all we *really* “need” is passports, tickets, and a credit card. These enable travel, everything else is weight. She did’t agree, and packed 8 woolly sweaters for a 7 day trip to somewhere hot.
Just curious why you go to Marcela Garcia academy for BJJ when you’re in NYC (as opposed to, e.g., Renzo Gracie’s). I have no interest in either, but some of the guys I train with also train with Renzo, so I kind of assumed he was the best.
I have one rule about luggage: I want to be able to get in and out of taxis, busses, motorcycles, boats and more at a moment’s notice. The best thing I ever did for myself was to get LASIK. My toiletries are cut in half just for dropping the contact lens solution, and–here it is!–what used to be my contact lens cases now make excellent containers for two weeks of shave cream and hair gel, or melatonin and vitamin D, or ear plugs…
Go Ultra-Light! I just spent the last 8 days backpacking the High Sierra Trail in CA with a 25 lb pack. I saw a couple of guys with packs less than 10 lbs. They were flying! had bigger smiles, more laughs, and more miles.
In your emailing, edit your template so that the top logo graphic actually links to this post. I kept wanting to click through to read it on the web (and comment), but really the only link you have to this post in your email is a tiny “Read More” at the very bottom. If you move or add a link to the web at the top you’ll get more folks sharing it on social media and interacting with it.
Totally agreed and thank you. I’ll have both the logo and the blog post title link to the post. Good advice I shall implement!
Great tips Tim! The Tumi range of bags mentioned by Dean I find looks great but is heavier (and pricier!!) than a lot of other great brands. Obviously the more you travel to a particular hotel the more likely they are to help you out with storage but will definitely consider this for future trips for those items you just can’t carry on with you!
I left that comment already on FB.. but I’ll repeat 🙂
As you were wondering, i’d especially appreciate the following in depth posts:
– My latest findings in ultralight packing
– My must-have carry-on items and subscription services
These would also probably appeal to your worldwide and not only USA based readers the most. I often find several tips and tricks to be irrelevant, as I do not live in the USA. Oh and if you want to appeal to your sexy female readers even more… Get a pro-traveling business girl-pal to write a guest blog entry 😉 if you don’t have any… I volunteer… But i’d love to get more tips from other traveling (business and vacation) chicks
Loved the post! But this seems awesome for men – not sure if would work as neatly for women (well, me at least). The toiletries kill me! 😀
Keep these coming!
I was worried about this myself , but I’m trying lush cosmetics and skin care this time….they package shampoos, body wash, moisturizers etc into hockey puck size “cakes” in tins. All natural. Haven’t tested it yet but looks pretty good and air Carry on friendly.
I’m visiting Milwaukee for the last week of October. I’m accepting a first place award for a film I made for The National Veterans Creative Arts Festival. The festival organizers are flying me out there for a week. They’ve even ask that I bring certain pieces of clothing to wear for an opening musical number and presentation (I can’t sing, but they insisted).
I decided to challenge myself and go with no luggage. I figured if the men and women of the military can go for weeks and months with only a bag of personal items, then I can go a week without a bag. I’ve decided to video the whole thing and share the adventure.
I’ve traveled with only one carry-on before so I won’t be too out of my comfort zone. I’ll be trying some new things.
Swapping out toothbrush and toothpaste for a cinnamon stick to be used like people in India. Google tooth cleaning twig.
Swapping out balaclava/buff, bandana and daypack for a 3ftX3ft kerchief and knowledge of folding it in various ways.
Swapping out 1 pair of long thermal underwear leggings for 1 pair of merino wool cycling thigh-to-calf warmers.
Swapping out deodorant and foot spray for a finger spray bottle of rubbing alcohol.
Bringing no soap, towel, etc. Using hotel’s.
Love this type of post. Quick to read with lots of great tips. I also love that you used the “word” cray-cray … one of my favs!
I’m challenging myself to packing only a
Carry on bag for a month in thailand. I never wear even
A third of the stuff I typically take traveling so I’m streamlining it.
After that I need a financial makeover! Keep up the emails.
Hannah you can do it!! The washable garments , travel nylons and multipurpose shoes are the key. I even wore a sport coat on the plane since I had to have for an event and it went in the bag. Tube system and rolling is great as well!! Todd
Dude, I figured you would have been far past a blue belt by now! Would love to catch a roll with you someday on the road.
You asked us to comment if we like these types of posts….first of all welcome back. Enjoy your posts and your alternative way of looking at things. This post is the reason I read not delete your blog posts in my email. Tips, alternatives and links to the things that work not BS advertising that fails in real world. Because of you I was able to travel to Thailand for 10 days with a backpack…best part was coming home and having a beer in my hand in NYC while others were still stuck in customs and waiting on luggage…GOES card and a backpack make that possible! Thanks Tim!
Excellent ideas, especially the simple but perfect food ideas. I find it a little hard to read with the very dark background ad black letters, but maybe its just me. Thanks!!
Hahaha, that travel caching is genius! I personally always travel with just a 30 litre backpack and so I never have to check in a bag. I travel for years with this and it’s all I ever need. It’s not to be cool and say look how light I travel, it’s simply from my 17 years travelling experience that you find what is useful and what isn’t. And travelling with less makes life a lot easier!
I think there were a couple things missing here:
– Checking baggage is often the cheapest (and sometimes only) way to get items into a foreign country. Example, I live in Myanmar and luggage avoids taxes, bribes, lost shipments etc. Sometimes checking is a great option!
– Air freight can be used and picked up at the airport before or after arrival. Sometimes it is much more convenient. Example import licensing and shipping can take months. If you need to bring lots of stuff but don’t want to wait, just bring your body on the first flight and pick up half a dozen trunks when convenient.
– Have you tried any of the online services like luggagefree.com?
You had me at ‘lentils and beans’ . . . ❤️
Great ideas here, certainly going to use some of them. My current travel style is quite the opposite and it has advantages too. I travel basically full time since I don’t have a house of my own. I stay 1 to 3 months in the same place and I like to have the stuff that I need with me. Caching isn’t always an option since I go to new places. Mailing stuff has too many disadvantages for me too (for one, I often don’t know where I’m going the next month). Instead, I have a large OGIO bag, it has solid wheels and can take a lot of stuff inside. To avoid overweight I bring an empty strong flexible bag and just before check-in I load stuff into it. I either take it as hand luggage or check it in (often I have 2 check-in bags allowance). At arrival I load everything back into the OGIO bag for easy transport. Obviously this isn’t for backpack style travel. If you can just load the bag in a taxi and don’t have to take it upstairs more than a few times it works perfectly.
A hotel keeps your trunk and inserts clean laundry? You are paying big bucks for that hotel.
As a mere mortal, my take on this is to stash weather-wear and duplicate stuff at my father’s house. I live in SF for now but have a whole set of warm coats, hats, mittens, and boots at my dad’s place outside Boston. I also keep duplicate toiletries there. If I don’t ship a box or bag to wherever I’m going, I simply stop at my dad’s house and pick up stuff or have him ship it.
Another tactic is to wear only gray and black (and I don’t even look great in black). It makes life easier. What I need to get is super-light foldable running shoes.
Here’s a photo journal of what I packed for 4 months of backpacking in SE Asia – total weight was 14.2 pounds. https://medium.com/onceamonth-updates/jordan-bishops-onceamonth-may-2014-c48702c75d9e