Baby Boomer Travel, Over 50 Travel, Travel Tips

Travel Light

At the point, we are in most peoples lives our age we have accumulated a lot of stuff. Travel light wasn’t in our vocabulary. We tend to like our comforts and for a while, we carried a lot of those comforts with us when we traveled. But it was a trip through Italy not that long ago, that we realized we were no longer cut out for hauling large suitcases full of all of those comforts, PLUS carry-ons. After Timo threw his back out trying to wrestle the luggage on to trains, we knew something had to change. We are learning to travel light. Who says we can’t still learn new tricks. We’re baby boomers, we can do anything. Here are our packing tips.

Sizing Down

After the last trip to Italy, it was apparent we need to travel light. We carefully went through our suitcases when we arrived home to see what things we had hauled with us, but really never even used. Honestly, it far too much stuff. Like the blowdryer……never did use it and if I really needed one, every place we stayed in, had one. Electric toothbrushes…….they actually weigh quite a bit and you need to take the charger. No need.

What Can You Live Without?

When traveling I have always despised doing laundry. I always took enough clothes to last through the whole trip. That is a lot of stuff. We didn’t travel light. Think about how much you need to take for just a two-week trip. I got to thinking about it, we almost always stay in at least a couple of AirBNBs and that means we can almost always at least have a washing machine. Besides, at this point in our lives, we are rarely out late into the night, so it would be easy to do a load of wash in the evening or even first thing in the morning.

As odd as it might sound I needed help in trying to figure out how to pack light, so I did my research. How do the kids pack for international travel with only a carry on?

What Do You Really Need to Pack?

Everyone is different. What one person will be able to go without, another will not. So feel free to adjust.

Our most recent trip to Portugal was our first opportunity to try this out. We each had a smaller suitcase, we had 1 carry on and a backpack between us. Timo is tall at almost 6’2″, so his clothes are pretty big. His feet are giant, and shoes are heavy. I will give you a list of what each of us took. We even needed clothing to get moderately dressed up.

Timo’s Suitcase

  • 1 Dress Sport Coat
  • 1 Dress Slacks
  • 1 White Dress Shirt
  • 1 Tie
  • 1 Dress Belt
  • 2 Casual Pants (1 pair lower legs zipped off and then they were shorts)
  • 4 Casual Button-Down Shirts
  • 1 Long Sleeved Tee Shirt
  • 1 Plain White Tee Shirt
  • 2 Pair Socks (could go casual or a little dressier)
  • 1 Pajama Bottoms
  • 1 Tee Shirt
  • 1 Pair Shoes
  • 1 Pair Flip Flops
  • 1 Swimming Trunks
  • 1 Wind Breaker
  • 5 Undergarments
  • Pillow (full size, right off our bed)

Rebecca’s Suitcase

  • 1 Long Skirt
  • 6 Shirts
  • 2 Pair Pants
  • 2 Pajamas
  • 1 Pair Dress Shoes
  • 1 Pair Sandals
  • 1 Windbreaker
  • 1 Sweater
  • 9 Undergarments
  • 1 Curling Iron
  • 1 Toiletries Kit
  • 1 Bathing Suit
  • 1 Stiff Hat
  • 1 Pillow

Carry On Bag (items not easily replaced if lost)

  • Camera with additional zoom in case
  • Vitamins
  • Essential Oils (I carry a lot & never leave home without them)
  • Jewelry
  • 2 Down Jackets
  • International Outlet Adapter Set

Backpack  (items we would need during flight)

  • 2 Neck Pillows
  • 2 Headsets
  • 2 Water Bottles
  • Snacks
  • 2 iPads

Plus we had the clothing we wore on the plane. Additional shirt, pants, shoes, etc.

The Right Tools

The first thing we did was to find the lightest suitcase we could. Our new suitcases are smaller than our previous, somewhere between a carry on and a full-size suitcase (not the humungous ones). They weigh just 4.5 lbs empty. We didn’t spend a lot and just picked them up at Marshalls.

Packing Folders

In my research trying to figure out how would I fit all of Timo’s clothes into our new small suitcase, I found garment folders. They are amazing!! I purchased ours from Amazon. I got 2 sets. My husband needed the larger of the folders because of the size of his clothes. All of his clothes, pants, shirts, dress slacks, dress shirt, swimming trunks, long sleeved tee shirt, regular tee & pajama bottoms fit neatly into just 2 18″ packing folders. Each 18″ folder was rendered to 3-4″ thick. Those packing folders fit snuggly, side by side on the bottom of the suitcase. That gave us a good 4-5″ on top of that. His one dress sports jacket was folded neatly below the packing folders.

gomex packing folder

Packing Cubes

I also discovered packing cubes. Also purchased from Amazon, they come in a variety of sizes. Packing cubes are great for keeping all the smaller stuff organized. They are soft nylon, so they can be tucked and squished around other items in your suitcase. We had one each for socks, tee shirt & undergarments. We also had an additional one that held clothespins, multiple outlet cube, corkscrew, etc.

packing tubes

Don’t Forget Your Pillow

We like to sleep with our pillows, so always take them, at least for now. May have to give them up if we ever figure out how to shrink down to just carryons. We use compression bags to minimize their size. They work great, taking out all the air and making them a quarter of their actual size. Even took my pillow that way when I did a short 4-day trip and only carried a carryon & backpack on to the plane.

travel pillow

Plastic Bags

We use a lot of plastic baggies. We used to take those vitamin boxes, one for each week. Gave that up, they are big and bulky taking up just as much space when empty. We switched to little vitamin bags. Prepped all the vitamins for each morning & night. Stuffed them into a baggie with our names on it. So much lighter and takes up far less space, they can be smooshed into small spaces.


Being more organized was an important part of our new sleeker, smaller and lighter packing. All those cords for iPads, cell phones & whatever other small cords you may need can become a snarled up mess. We got a small folder that holds all of that stuff. It lies flat and easily slips into a backpack.


Finally all of that toiletry stuff. First off, we purchased a bunch of small bottles of various sizes (3 oz or less, TSA approved) and tiny jars. We put shampoos, conditioners or whatever other liquids into the little bottles. Taking only as much as we needed for the length of our trip. Even my facial stuff and makeup, instead of taking the whole bottle of under eye primer, I just put a few dollops into a teeny tiny jar. I found a toiletries kit that lies flat too. Plenty of room for all of our stuff in their tiny containers.

When it came to repacking before leaving one destination to another, it was so easy. There were just a couple packing folders, a packing cube or two each, toiletries bag, shoes and my hat & our pillows that went into the suitcases. Honestly, we could have stuffed a lot more in there, but no reason too. We had everything we needed. We were able to travel light.

It really can be done. Our trip was not the least bit negatively affected, in fact considering no ones back went out, it was amazing.


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