Traveling without luggage can be adventurous to say the least. To just take off without all of those things you usually have to bring – or think you have to bring – can be a way of traveling that you may only dream of – and then, only in your wildest dreams.
Yet traveling free of baggage can make your trip more happy-go-lucky. Plus you can save money with basic economy tickets and stop worrying about whether you meet baggage restrictions.
So though we’re probably just as reluctant to travel without bags as you are, we’ve put together several tips on how to do so.
Tip 1. Try Escaping the Baggage Mindset
Before you can get bags off your back, you may have to get them off your mind. For mentally we’ve so hard-wired baggage to travel that we often say “I’m packing my bags.” or “My bags are packed.” figuratively just to express our enthusiasm for going on a trip. And when we return, we say “I’m bagged” to let everyone know how pooped we are, as if our baggage got the best of us in the end.
So the next time you reach for your suitcase upon booking a trip, do the unthinkable: Ask yourself “Do I really need this bag?”
The question should just pop right out when you open a bag. (Incidentally, if out pops a mound of dirty clothes from your last trip – an unequivocal laundry lapse – the decision not to take that bag should be as simple as an open and shut case.) If “yes” is the answer though, then the follow-ups are “How can I make it as light as possible?” and “How can I make it the only one?” (For one bag tends to lead to another, and another, and….yes bags breed bags!)
If you’re not asking these questions, it may be because, busy as you are, you’re not yet fully considering ways of eliminating, or at least reducing, bags. To take a tiny example, more and more hotels offer an array of personal hygiene amenities – even cosmetics – that can enable you to at least do without your toiletries bag.
Tip 2. Let a Travel Wardrobe Valet Service Do the Heavylifting
With a service like DUFL, you pack once more and then never again. DUFL stores your wardrobe and then packs and ships a suitcase of clothes from it that you select for your trip with their proprietary smartphone app. Here’s how the service works once you sign up:
Step 1. You pack a DUFL bag with a travel wardrobe that you can use for all kinds of trips from island vacations to tramping around Europe to business missions, and then have DUFL pick it up.
Step 2. DUFL photographs your travel wardrobe, inventories it, and stores it for you in a bricks and mortar place and in an online virtual closet.
Step 3. When you’re ready to travel, schedule your trip with DUFL on their app, and then use the app to select the clothes that you want for your trip from your virtual closet.
Step 4. DUFL packs the clothes that you’ve requested into a DUFL suitcase, and ships it to you at your destination.
Step 5. At the end of your trip, pile your dirty clothes into the DUFL and arrange for a pickup. DUFL retrieves your bag, cleans all of your clothing, and then puts it back into your travel wardrobe until you need it again.
DUFL has a monthly subscription fee plus a flat fee for each round-trip baggage shipment. You also have to sign a contract with them. So this is a service that’s probably better for frequent travelers. Furthermore, since you’re relying on someone else to pack and deliver your bag, you might want to have a Plan B in the rare event something doesn’t quite go as expected.
Tip 3. Wear Multi-Functional Clothes And Travel As Easily As Your Look Does
Multi-functional dress wear lets you fly light and change your look on the fly. For women it’s often a single, reconfigurable outfit, but for men it usually means mixing and matching a few pieces of clothing some of which have multiple functions.
A kind of origami of travel wear, it lets you change your look from casual to more formal with a pull here, a push there, a snap, a flip, a reverse, a fold, and so on.
It’s versatile clothing that can replace a bunch of separate outfits that you might spend hours picking and packing, burn a ton of energy lugging around in suitcases, and that you may never end up wearing anyway. Some multi-functional clothing comes with its own travel tote and some you have to pack, which you can easily do into a personal item.
Click on the video below, which we found posted on YouTube by Neli štrukelj, to see just one example of multi-functional dress wear.
There are other examples of multi-functional clothing for women travelers as well. The Kameleon dress, for instance, lets you change your look as quickly as a chameleon changes color to suit its environs. Or you could try the Unique Travel Set, which has a kickstarter campaign going on, and was recently featured on the BBC Travel Show.
For men, multi-functional clothing usually involves a few items of clothing that are convertible or reversible and that can straddle a style line between, say, beach casual and dressy for dinner. For example, you can buy a stylish t-shirt and pair it with convertible pants. So if you want to go to the beach, you just zip the legs off the pants, converting them to shorts, and put them on with the t-shirt; and, if you want to dine out later on, all you do is zip the pants legs back on. See “Looking Sharp – Dave’s Travel Clothes for the Guys.”
Tip 4. Purchase What You Need for Your Trip As You Travel
Make your trip a moveable feast by buying what you need as you travel. If you’re inclined to dismiss this idea as one that costs extra and takes up scarce time, tours that combine shopping with sightseeing might make you reconsider.
If you’re off to Paris, France, for instance, you can book a private walking shopping tour in which a local guide whisks you to boutiques and department stores in a popular sightseeing area like Le Marais where you can learn about the historic neighborhood while adding some distinctly French style to your wardrobe. Since your clothing size and preferences are provided to the stores you’ll be visiting ahead of time, they’ll have selections ready and waiting for you. “Fabulous You Paris” is just one company that offers such services, charging from 100 euros and up for a two-hour tour, depending on the type you arrange.
Whether you’re a fashionista or not, this can be a great way to build a stylish international wardrobe that you might otherwise never have a chance to assemble even using the internet.
Indeed, you might arrange your armoire into sections of clothes based on each city in which you bought them and each one where you plan to travel to for more. (e.g., your Hong Kong nights section – (wink) – might hold silk dresses.) Your armoire can become a sort of travelogue reminding you of good trips gone by and inspiring you to take even grander ones.
If you have to justify any extra expense of this strategy, you can always think of it as killing two birds with one stone: Sightseeing and filling gaps in your wardrobe. Or, if you’re visiting a place where the currency conversion rate is in your favor, then it’s a well-deserved shopping spree at a discount. Furthermore, clothing in foreign countries can cost less, despite value-added taxes, be more stylish, and be of equal or greater quality than clothing purchased in the U.S.
If you prefer a more serendipitous and cheaper experience though, then make your own hit list of stores, especially second-hand ones like the Salvation Army, and flea markets at your destination and start your shopping as soon as your plane lands.
Shipping home what you buy involves still extra expense and paperwork too. (You could consider donating what you buy to a local branch of a national or international charity at the end of your trip, but unless you give to an IRS-approved one, your donation probably will not be tax deductible.) Furthermore, if you buy clothing abroad, you may have to do clothing size conversions, and may run into the problem of size inequivalence as well. (e.g., large size suit jackets in Tokyo will typically be smaller than their large size counterparts in New York.)
Tip 5. Rent the Local Costume
You rent a place to stay, a car, and other things when you travel so why not rent your clothes as well?
If you’re going abroad, you can rent clothing that is traditionally worn by the denizens of your destination.
This practice follows the venerable concept of doing as the locals do, and has benefits like allowing you to be more comfortable in a difficult climate or where there are customs like sitting on tatami mats. For instance, you can rent a yukata in Japan, and wear it as you sightsee or visit friends there.
It’s especially nice for visiting temples, where lightness of being is everything.
Since it’s a casual cotton kimono it’s probably one of the best pieces of clothing to wear in Tokyo in the summertime, which can easily get as hot as Godzilla’s breath. (Incidentally, even if the conventions of modern workaday Tokyo mean that many of the Japanese that you see will be wearing business suits instead of kimonos, they’ll respect you for wearing one as long as you do so properly. And you can bet that when they return from work, they slip right into their yukatas, after a relaxing bath of course.)
You can often rent other types of clothing for your vacation as well.
The concept of a universal clothes library with branches throughout the world from which travelers can check out clothes as they would check out library books is an appealing one.
For example, if you’re off to Paris, France (Again you’re off to Paris; well, you can never get enough of a great city.), ElssCollection has a program called “empty suitcase” that will enable you to rent a different designer outfit each day of your stay so “you can travel light in the city of light,” as this particular service advertises.
And if you want to rent clothes from U.S. based companies, you can try ones like Rent the Runway or StyleLend. One upcoming service to watch for is called Unpack, which intends to deliver full suitcases of rental clothing and accessories to travelers at their destinations.
Tip 6. 3D Print Some of Your Clothing at Your Destination
For years many travelers have enjoyed visiting Hong Kong and London in part to have their clothing made by some of the best tailors in the world.
But we may soon look forward to going to these cities and others for a fashion forward vacation in which we wear bespoke clothing that was freshly 3D printed.
The idea that you can send your physical dimensions and clothing tastes electronically to a professional 3D clothing maker in a city where you’ll be vacationing and have a complete wardrobe for your trip printed and delivered to your hotel room is becoming less far fetched due to advances in 3D printed clothing and the sheer persistence of this idea.
In the meantime, you can at least purchase svelte blazers for your trip that are 3D printed by Ministry of Supply, a highly innovative clothing firm with stores in several U.S. cities. Just ninety minutes is all it takes the company to print one. And the blazers have performance features like body-mapped ventilation and articulation for enhanced breathability and fluidity of movement; moisture wicking to keep you dry; and, wrinkle resistance for neatness.
Best of all, they apparently fit so well that putting one on is said to be like getting a warm hug!
So if you’re visiting a city like Boston, you can put in an order with Ministry of Supply to print some blazers for you there, relieving you of having to bring this part of your wardrobe. Or Ministry of Supply can ship them to you if you’re traveling elsewhere. (Despite the quickness of the printing process, it does take about 3-5 days for the company to fulfill an order.)
Some advocates of 3D printed travel clothing like Janne Kyttanen, a digital sculptor, go even further, envisioning a world without baggage in which travelers download a file of code that contains everything they need for their trip that they then print out at their hotel or the airport in which they land.
Ideally, 3D printed travel clothing will enhance our trips not only because it frees us of luggage, but because it will make us look good and have qualities that complement our skin and activities.
One can imagine, for instance, island vacationers being able to routinely 3D print bathing suits for themselves at their beach hotels that are stylish; have the fit and feel of skin; and, that offer other desirable qualities such as shark repellent designs, sunlight filtering for a full body tan without lotion, and micro massaging points to prevent swimmers’ cramp.
The 3D printing of travel clothing and accessories surely promises to give even The Man in The White Suit a run for his money.
Tip 7. Spin Cycle: Wash, Rinse, Dry. Repeat!
If nothing in this grab bag of ideas has grabbed you so far, then you could always pack a couple of sets of clothing into a personal item and just use the laundry services of your hotel to enable you to wear them on a rotational basis for your entire trip. But if you tire of doing so, then supplement your ultra-minimalist travel wardrobe by renting a suit or two.
Whether you’re able to pirouette about the globe with a sleek carry-on, or you plod about it like a pack animal, it’s good to know that when you want to cast off the yoke of luggage entirely you’ve got some interesting options.
And as incentives for flying without bags increase at the same time that disincentives for taking them pile up, more and more travelers will want to take the plane and leave the luggage.
Also, the number, quality, and cost effectiveness of services that are willing to help them do so will increase as well.
While we’ve focused here mostly on ways of reducing clothing that you bring on your trip, some of the same ideas can be used to travel free of stuff like golf clubs, laptop computers, and other things that we often lug around the world. For example, a service like Luggage Free will ship pretty much anything you want for your trip, including bikes, golf clubs, and skis. This service will even ship your luggage to your state room when you’re taking a cruise.
So if you’re ready to travel without bags, do so between now and the end of this October, and then tell us all about it in the comments. You could win a $50 CheapOair gift card.