Packing Tips : 8 Common Travel Items Your Smartphone Can Replace

The key to packing light is to be able to think outside the box and find ways to lighten your load before you travel.  Thanks to smartphone technology and trillions of available apps it’s easier than ever to replace some of the bulky or heavy gadgets you’re used to packing in your suitcase, with something that only takes up room on your device.

I’m not suggesting becoming a slave to technology on vacation, but there’s no denying that smartphones can definitely come in handy when trying to free up some precious space in your luggage.  Whether you’re trying to pack everything in a carry-on bag, or you just want to save a few pennies on overweight bag fees, these packing tips will show you what items to ditch in favor of your smartphone.

packing tips for smartphone

Leave your camera home - snap pics with your smartphone

 photo by vernieman

1.  Camera/Video Camera  Everyone wants great vacation photos and special moments captured on video. But unless you’re a professional travel photographer, you don’t really need the big bulky camera with multiple lenses and full-size tripod do you? Smartphone cameras have come a long way and they actually take awesome photos – some even do panoramic shots.  Take your photos with your smartphone, download apps like Camera+ or Vignette which have filters or attach an Olloclip (only for iPhone) to kick pics up a notch.  And since many smartphones have video capability, you can leave the camcorder home too.

2.  Flashlight.  Many adventure travelers and especially single ladies traveling solo carry a flashlight.  It just makes good sense, for safety. Rather than packing an actual flashlight – download a flashlight app on your phone.

3.  Guidebooks.  No denying those travel tomes are chock full of helpful information.  And some even have pretty pictures. But they come at a price.  Most reputable guidebook publishers now have downloadable versions that only take up space on your phone, not in your luggage.  And that also makes them easier to cart around on a daily basis.

4. Translation Dictionary.  Traveling to a foreign destination where you don’t speak the language?  A translation dictionary is a must. Rather than packing one in book form, use the Google translation app.  It even speaks the language, which no book can do and it translates 50 languages.

5.  GPS.  Sure you can rent a GPS when you rent a car, but I know many people who pull the one they own from their car at home, load it with maps and take it along on their vacation.  Rather than doing that, just use Google Maps on your smartphone.  Though maps and navigation aren’t available for every country, the list of countries covered is impressive.

6.  Alarm Clock. Believe it or not, not all hotels will provide an alarm clock and many prefer to travel with their own travel version. Downloading one on your phone is a good alternative.

7.  Journal. Who doesn’t enjoy taking notes and recording special moments in a travelogue to refer back to year after year? Rather than pack an actual journal, apps like Evernote or TripJournal allow you to take notes with the added bonus of attaching photos and integrating with other apps and social media.

8.  Travel documents.  Though they really aren’t heavy or take up too much space in luggage, it’s still a good idea to organize travel documents in one easy spot as opposed to having a bunch of paperwork flying about. Apps like Dropbox and TripIt are perfect for saving important itinerary docs and even copies of your passport or credit cards if you should need access in a pinch.

So what did I miss? How do you use your smartphone to help you with packing light?

Ready to take packing light to the next level? Click here to see how I can help you become a carry-on traveler!


  • User Gravatar
    Sandy @ You May Be Wandering
    January 8th, 2013

    Great tips! Thanks for sharing!!

    Anytime Sandy! Glad you found them helpful :)

  • User Gravatar
    Beth Hanson, CanalBargeCruises.com
    January 8th, 2013

    Hi Robin,

    Great article! I love the suggested apps as they make such a difference. FYI, I have a password lock on my iPhone so people can’t access it if I happen to lose it.

    Happy travels, Beth

    That’s a great tip Beth! I think Apple has an app that can help locate your phone if it’s lost or stolen.

  • User Gravatar
    January 9th, 2013

    Hi – the link for the pack about carry-on is an error in it (a / where the . should be for .net). The correct link is: http://mymelange.net/services/.....sultations

    Thanks for alerting me Chris. It’s nice to have an editor sometimes ;)

  • User Gravatar
    January 9th, 2013

    I love Google Translate but the only issue with it is that you need an internet connection to make any use of it. I’m unable to get my phone unlocked so that I can use local sim cards and I can’t always find wifi at times when I need to translate something.

    My phone definitely replaces an alarm clock (I don’t trust ones in hotels anyway), flashlight and GPS (again, needs an internet connection) though.

    Thanks for popping by Melissa. I take my regular phone and switch to an International plan. Hopefully a few years from now getting a good Internet connection will standard.
    Melissa recently posted..In Seoul with No ClothesMy Profile

  • User Gravatar
    January 11th, 2013

    My problem with using smart phones heavily during travel is that they don’t hold a charge for very long. Especially if I’m using mine all day. My battery is only a few months old and my phone is dead by the afternoon if I use it a lot! Plus, I’ve had a lot of trouble finding places to charge up (to be fair I’ve been camping a lot which probably isn’t the norm for most travelers!).

    I hear you Jill! It’s a constant struggle. I’ve resorted to just carrying my charger with me in hopes I can hit a coffee shop or stop for lunch and charge up a bit. So far, I’ve had pretty good luck. You may also try buying and carrying a spare battery.
    Jill recently posted..From the Hip FridayMy Profile

  • User Gravatar
    January 11th, 2013

    Thanks, I’m an iPhone traveler and I love these brilliant packing tips!

    Glad you liked them Sonya ;) I’m an iPhone traveler too.
    Sonya recently posted..Exploring London By BikeMy Profile

  • User Gravatar
    Sedona Arizona
    January 18th, 2013

    I’ll admit I was really skeptical about that headline. Not against technology particularly smartphones but I really doubted if carrying something that lightweight and small could make more luggage room. Well, your tips are simply amazing! Embarrassing as it may sound, this is the first time I’ve heard about downloading a flashlight app.

  • User Gravatar
    January 28th, 2013

    I’ve found my iphone so useful, I’ve used it for all of the above – especially for directions!

    Thanks for weighing in Sofia. I just wish the battery life was a little better.

  • User Gravatar
    March 5th, 2013

    I still can’t figure out how much data and therefore $$$$ using my iPhone will cost. I’m traveling to Russia and it will sure be handy but I’m so worried about the $$$$($$$$$$$….)

    Sounds like a question for your cell phone provider Roseann.

  • User Gravatar
    March 5th, 2013

    Some great tips, Robin. Thanks for sharing!

    My pleasure Debbie :)

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