Is luggage free travel possible? Going baggage-less may seem terrifying for the obsessive packer, but jumping from destination to destination without anything but the clothes on your back can be gloriously liberating. So much so that it is actually the preferred way of traveling for some people.
When you think about it, the appeal here is easy to see. Luggage-free travel allows you to move fast, spontaneously and undefined by your possessions.
Without stuff to carry around, it’s just you, the world, and the many possibilities that lay ahead. The Japanese swear on the benefits of minimalist living, so why shouldn’t this philosophy influence the way we travel as well?
No matter what your reasons are, luggage-free travel may appeal to you. Perhaps you’re a traveler looking for new ways to travel or someone deeply spiritual looking to break free from the bondage of material things.
Or maybe you’ve had enough of exorbitant baggage fees and worrying about luggage restrictions. Air travel without luggage is considerably cheaper!
But how does one go about traveling without bringing anything? Is traveling without luggage possible?
Does baggage-free travel really mean you can’t bring anything with you (not even a toothbrush)?
How does the practice fare compared to traditional traveling – is it more convenient, or are you just setting yourself up for a massive headache? Here’s everything you need to know.
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The many types of luggage-free travel
While luggage-free travel means bringing absolutely nothing for most people, the practice actually differs among travelers. Some travelers, especially the braver ones, don’t flinch at the idea of zero luggage travel. Others take a milder approach and bring bare essentials in their pockets or a day bag.
Whether taking a few items or none, luggage-free travel should be rooted in absolute minimalism. In this way, luggage-free travel is must not be likened to simply packing smart.
While packing smart offers you the privilege of traveling with a few extras, luggage-free travel encourages bringing none. You should only travel with the hair on your head or just enough for you to get by.
Here are the most common types of luggage-free traveling:
In this type of luggage-free travel, you travel with only the most crucial essentials like your passport, mobile phone, wallet, and the clothes on your back. It’s one of the most radical forms of baggage-free traveling.
Taking this route requires the most commitment, but once you get the hang of it, you’ll find that it’s easy to do. Zero-luggage travel is excellent for travelers whose primary goal of traveling is to explore, collect experiences, and have more intimate interactions with locals.
With hardly anything to tide you over, you’ll be left with your wits. This may mean having to connect with locals to borrow or buy items.
Globetrotter Jonathan Yevin is famous for traveling to a long list of countries with nothing but a passport, credit card, toothbrush, and a couple of hundred bucks. While his travel stories are aspirational, one cannot help but be intimidated by them. Can anyone try zero-luggage travel? The truth is, not just anyone can.
Because of the radical nature of this type of traveling, it is usually not advised for non-seasoned travelers.
Those traveling with zero luggage will encounter a slew of challenges, and hygiene usually tops this list, especially if you’re heading to a hotter destination.
The less-radical version of zero-luggage traveling. If you’re wondering how to travel without checked luggage, this is the best way to do so. Pocket-only travel allows you to carry more stuff, but only if they fit in your pockets. Travelers who go this route usually don outfits with multiple pockets and storage spaces like cargo pants and vests.
While others bring only essential stuff, other pocket-only aficionados can fit an entire backpack’s worth of items into their pockets.
In other words, with jackets, vests, and pants stuffed with items, they’re technically lugging a more wearable backpack. However, unlike bags, these pockets are emptied of items in the day to allow the traveler to move about more freely.
Some travelers may ask, “If you’re already sort of bringing a backpack with so much stuff in your pockets, why is this considered luggage-free traveling?” Pocket-only traveling affords more freedom in not having something extra on your back or shoulder.
And while pockets afford more space than zero-luggage traveling, they still limit the items a traveler can bring.
Day-bag only travel
This is the easiest to do, even for non-seasoned travelers. With day-bag traveling, you’ll need to fit everything in one single, tiny day pack. While this may ruin the definition of luggage-free traveling, day bag traveling may be interpreted as travel without checking luggage – ergo, luggage-free.
The practice only requires that you walk around with a tiny day bag filled with everything you need. This may include a change of clothes, a few toiletries, and some medicines.
What challenges will you encounter?
Traveling with less may be liberating, but it doesn’t come without difficulties. Here’s how luggage free travel may challenge you.
1. Say goodbye to little luxuries.
The most obvious about the difficulties you’ll encounter in luggage-free travel is not being able to access a lot of the stuff that makes traveling more comfortable and convenient.
You’ll have to leave your 8-step skincare products at home, and that Kindle you plan on reading on the plane needs to stay behind. You may have to think twice about bringing a travel camera, and that funky travel outfit you’ve always wanted to wear during winter needs to be eschewed in favor of more versatile options.
Luggage free travel requires you to commit to a minimalist life, but don’t you fret. You’ll get way more in terms of experience!
2. Hygiene may be an issue
Not packing deodorant, soap, and a change of clothes when you need them most may wreak havoc on your hygiene. This is especially true if you’re visiting warmer destinations. Luggage-free travel requires that you only wear the clothes on your back (or perhaps just one change of clothes).
The only toiletries you’ll be able to use are those that you borrow or buy. If you don’t have enough space in your pockets or a day bag to bring them around, you’ll have to leave them behind after using them.
If you’re traveling for an extended period, hygiene becomes more and more of an issue. Other travelers can get around this by personally washing their clothes and hanging them to dry in their hotel and hostel. You may be able to do this only if you layered clothes as you’ll have something to wear while your laundry is hanging to dry.
3. You’re limited to destinations with consistent weather
The difficulties of luggage free travel become more apparent when visiting countries with erratic weather or jumping between countries with different climates. With almost no change of clothes, it can be challenging to deal with sudden weather changes.
Luggage free travel Japan, for example, may present challenges as the climate varies significantly from north to south. If you’re not prepared to buy or borrow gear, luggage free travel is not for you.
4. You may raise suspicions
Your lack of luggage may raise suspicions among government officials and travelers alike. Jonathan Yevin, who traveled Latin America in zero luggage mode, told a story about how he was questioned by immigration agents, particularly about how he intends to wash his clothes when it may lead him to ‘run around the country naked’.
However, these are just suspicions, so know that there’s nothing legally wrong with luggage-free traveling, and you won’t be breaking any rules.
How to travel without luggage
1. Make the most of technology
In this case, it’s your mobile phone. Consider your smartphone to be your most valuable travel buddy in luggage free travel. From storing boarding passes to keeping important documents, your smartphone will replace most of the items you bring with you on your trip.
Before your journey, download helpful travel apps to make your trip more convenient and comfortable.
For booking accommodations, download Booking, HostelWorld, VRBO, or HotelTonight. TripIt allows you to organize your itineraries in one place, while Timeshifter enables you to optimize your sleep and fend off jet lag.
2. Choose practical and versatile clothes
Luggage free travel requires that you only bring with you one pair of shoes or sandals – the one you’ll be wearing on the day of your flight. With that said, your choice of footwear is very important.
With your destination’s terrain in mind, select shoes that will efficiently protect your feet from the elements. Remember, most travel requires a lot of walking, so make sure your choice is comfortable as well.
- Zhuanglin Quick Drying Water Shoes are exceptionally lightweight and great for walking and running.
- Teva sandals are extremely durable and dry quickly after getting wet.
- Skechers walking shoes, especially those with Go Walk technology, offer outstanding comfort if you plan on walking for hours.
- Merrel’s shoes are a great option for rough terrain, thanks to their high-performance rubber soles and superior breathability.
In the same respect, you’ll also want to find clothes that are versatile enough to wear for any occasion.
TACVASEN’s convertible shirt can transform into a long-sleeved and a short-sleeved shirt so you can quickly adapt to the weather. It comes with a breathable back slit, multiple pockets, and a breathable mesh lining.
3. Buy or borrow
If you’re traveling with bare essentials, you’ll quickly discover the need for several items along your travel. Where do you get an umbrella when it’s raining? How do you fend off the cold when you’re donning a summer outfit? Baggage-free travelers will have to buy or borrow certain items to make their travels more comfortable.
Luckily, the world is full of shops and stores where you can get everything you need. You can grab a pair of flip-flops when you’re heading to a beach, hit the thrift shop for a warm hoodie or some summer shorts, or ease a headache with a trip to the pharmacy.
It’s no surprise that money is essential to the baggage-free traveler, who will mostly rely on currency to make up for his lack of items.
Travelers not looking to splurge can borrow instead. Ask a fellow traveler for some toothpaste or hit up a friend in the area to borrow a jacket. Borrowing items is a great way to form new friendships and strike up a conversation.
4. Choose travel gear with pockets
If your travel is pocket-only, you’ll need strategically located pockets to lug around your items. Thankfully, you’ll find an almost endless selection of brilliant travel gear with spacious pockets for your accessories.
Some companies, like ScotteVest, for example, specialize in developing this type of gear. Here are some of the best travel clothing for pocket-only travelers
- SCOTTeVEST Women’s Travel Hoodie: This sleek sweatshirt features 18 pockets to hold everything you need including documents, gadgets, electronics, and other accessories.
- OCHENTA Men’s Casual Military Cargo Pants: These cotton cargo pants come with eight pockets: four at the side, two at the back, and two hand pockets. They’re made from ripstock fabric, so they’re super durable and comfortable.
- HYOUT Travel Jacket: While it’s mainly used for fly fishing, this cotton-polyester vest does a great job in keeping your valuables safe. It comes with 16 pockets (three of which are spacious enough to hold sizeable items).
5. Layer or pack extra clothes (if you can)
Zero-luggage travel will have you traveling with only the clothes on your back. In this case, you may want to consider layering.
A zero-luggage traveler may want to consider wearing a vest, a long-sleeved shirt, and t-shirt underneath it. Men will want to wear boxers under their pants so they don’t feel as ‘naked’ when it’s time to launder them.
If you’re a pocket or day bag traveler, consider bringing an extra pair of socks, underwear, and a spare t-shirt. You can use these spare clothes once it’s time to give your current clothing a rub down.
See Related: Best Rental Cars That You Can Take Out of State
6. Mail souvenirs or extra gear
Airline luggage fees can be very expensive, so many of today’s travelers try to save money by mailing their stuff to their destination instead.
Those who are traveling from warm climates to cold climates, for example, can ship their warm clothing to their first cool destination. This requires that you make a pre-arrangement with the hotel that you plan to stay at in that location.
Similarly, going luggage free doesn’t mean that you can no longer buy souvenirs as you won’t be able to carry them. If an item interests you so much that you want to take it home, hit the local post office and mail the item home.
A lot of people wonder, “Can my luggage travel without me?”
Remember, you can’t use an airline service to send your stuff to a destination without you in it. Regulations prohibit an airline from transporting luggage without its passenger across international borders.