Top 10 Tips To Pack Lighter Luggage
By Diana Laskaris
In these days of extra charges for check-in baggage and long waits at the luggage carousels, not to mention the ever present possibility that your bags and you will not end up in the same place at the same time, we often try to lighten up our packing and go with just a carry-on whenever possible. Now, I've seen some people with a carry-on bag that looks about as light as a lead anchor, so while size counts, so does heft. And remember, you'll likely be having to lug that bag around with you at least through the airport, perhaps a variety of other places as well if you're going on a multi-destination trip. You need your essentials and want to be comfortable, but there are things you can do (and not do) that will make it possible for you to travel even on a multi-destination trip using just a carry-on bag. Click here to read my top 10 tips to do just that.
10. Take the right bag. If you travel a lot, chances are you probably have a lot of travel bags from which to choose. Even so, things have changed quite a bit in the luggage industry lately. More bags are "featherweight" or super light, providing more room with less heft. Also, there are increasingly tricky ways to get more space to pack without adding more size to the bag. Make sure that any bag you take meets the current criteria for carry-on luggage, usually 22" x 14" x 9" maximum size and somewhere around 20 pounds or so. While you can choose a traditionally-shaped bag, consider also a duffle style bag. There are many that come with wheels (an option we still like for its convenience) and they provide soft sides, which can adjust easily to the conditions around them when stowed. Often you are also allowed a personal item, such as a briefcase, purse or laptop case. This one will need to be able to fit under your seat, so make sure it's not too big so it doesn't take away all of your limited leg room. If you are planning to purchase a lot of souvenirs or check your bag on the way home, consider taking a light, foldable duffle or gym bag that you can put in your baggage on the way to your destination, then use as your carry-on bag for the way home if you plan to check your bag or put your smaller personal item into and use as your new personal item. I like my Swiss Gear Zurich 22" wheeled Duffel that I got from Target for about $75.
9. Consider your trip's purpose. If you are traveling on business and going to see the same people over and over, you will need to dress appropriately and maximize your business clothes. Two suits with multiple blouses or shirts and ties is better than five suits. One suit is better than two, but it depends on the length of your trip. Remember, if you are not seeing the same people each meeting, they will have no idea what you wore the day before. You can minimize your "fun" clothing on a business trip into the bare minimum. If you only have one free day, don't pack five outfits for lounging around. You'll be working most of the time, remember? Conversely, if you're going on a vacation for fun or have little work time planned, one dress up outfit or one work outfit will be enough. You don't need a suit unless business etiquette dictates it so just bring dress slacks and a nice shirt or blouse and you'll be fine.
8. Remember where you're going. Are you going somewhere that is remote or to a large, industrialized city? Unless you are going to a rural village with few inhabitants and no electricity or something like that, you will likely be able to pick up many of the items that you would ordinarily use on your trip, such as toothpaste, deodorant, hair gel, razors and other toiletries. If you are staying at a reasonable hotel, most of them now provide such amenities as hair dryers, shampoo, soap or bath gel, shaving cream, skin lotion, ironing boards and so on. If you know where you're staying in advance, check out the website and see what is provided. If you aren't sure, when you get there, check out your room and if there's something you need, ask for it. Many hotels have items on hand and are happy to provide them for free or for a small fee. This even includes such tech items as ethernet cables and adapters for your computer and electronic devices. And remember, if you're in a city, even if it's away from home, there are people living their lives in that city who have the same needs as you do - everyday! There are likely to be convenience stores at which you can purchase whatever you need.
7. Purchase souvenirs that you can use. I love getting t-shirts when I travel. Whether for business or pleasure, whenever I am in a new place, I love to see a little bit of it every time I wear one. Maybe you are the same way. Or maybe you're more of a clothes horse and love shopping as part of your travel experience. If so, pack a few less items and head to the shops when you're on your trip. You can get a memory of what you experienced and have plenty of room to pack them on the way home. I was once in Singapore on a business trip. I had no idea what to bring because I knew it would be very hot and did not have any particularly suitable clothing. So, when I got there (now, mind you, Singapore is one of the best places to shop in the world - which I didn't even know at the time) I simply went to a shopping center and purchased a couple of very nice blouses to go with my dress slacks for my meetings. I still have those blouses many years later and they bring a smile to my face remembering Singapore every time I wear them.
6. Ease up on the shoes. No matter how many pairs you have at home, shoes are heavy and bulky and that affects your packing. Make sure you maximize your clothing choices by selecting things that will go with one pair of working or dress shoes and one pair of comfy walking shoes. Some of us love to have a different pair of shoes with every outfit. But that's just not practical when you're trying to pack a light bag. If you can manage to wear all your dress clothes with a pair of black shoes and can get away with casual loafers or sneakers for your pleasurable time of travel, that's great. If you're heading to a beach destination and are desperate for a pair of beach slippers, think about where you're going. Chances are you'd be able to pick them up there and have a souvenir (see number 7) of the place as well. A pair beach sandals that say Hawaii or Jamaica is sure to make you feel good when you put them on at home.
5. Wash or clean and re-use. Just because you're traveling for 14 days doesn't mean you need 14 pair of underwear. And pretty much anywhere you stay is going to have some form of soap and water available. If you want to be sure about the soap, take a travel size bottle or packet of high efficiency laundry detergent with you. Use it to wash out your underwear, socks, t-shirts, bras, etc. You shouldn't need more than a week's worth of anything, often three or four of each is more than enough. If you're going somewhere very cold, one pair of long underwear should be sufficient. If you're going somewhere warm or beachy, one swimsuit is enough. Many hotels also offer quick cleaning services both for dry cleaning and laundry. Take advantage of them if you're on business. You can often get things like shirts and jackets turned around in a minimum of time and they have the advantage of making you look and feel fresh as a daisy.
4. Wear the bulky stuff. Whenever possible, wear the heaviest, bulkiest items when you go on your way. This is usually things like tennis shoes, sweater, bulky jacket or coat. That way you have them when you need them, but they don't take up all that space in your bag. You don't want to be stuck trying to shove ayour bag into an overhead compartment only to find that it's too "puffy" to fit. Also, while most of the time you're only allowed one carry-on and one personal item, airlines don't seem to consider your coat and shoes in that equation. If you get cold on the plane, as some people often do, feel free to layer yourself comfortably in the event that your temperature varies. It's difficult to know exactly what conditions will be like on the plane, but you won't want to be stuck wearing a heavy sweater alone in the event that it gets warm on the flight. If you are taking a train or driving, the same holds true. And before putting on those bulky items, be sure you really need them in the first place.
3. Check the weather at your destination. One of the best strategies to use in advance is to check the weather history and forecast of your destination. If you're going somewhere in August that has historically been hot and the forecast is that it will again be hot, chances are, it will be hot. You won't need that "just in case" sweater or parka. Some places are more unpredictable regarding issues like rain. In that event, take one of the super small folding umbrellas or even better a light rain jacket or poncho. Some of them come in neat little packages that weigh little and take up barely any room. Remember points number 8 and number 7 - you might find a fun souvenir you can use in the event that you suddenly find yourself in need. Many hotels in rainy or unpredictable weather destinations also have umbrellas and other conveniences available for the use of their guests.
2. Taper your toiletries. To some extent, we've had to do this already with most air travel limiting your "liquids and gels" to small travel size (under 3 oz.) containers. You can minimize even more by considering what you will actually use regularly and what is unnecessary. For example, if you are used to taking a big hair brush with you, go to a local drugstore and see if they have a similar model in a smaller size. The typical "vent" style brush in 1/2 size is just as functional and considerably less bulky than its full size counterpart. Consider taking one color of lipstick or one scent of aftershave. Gold Bond and some others now make a hand sanitizer that has lotion in it, so it can serve both to clean and moisturize your hands.
1. Ship it home. Whether for business or pleasure, you are likely to find that while you have consumed some of your items during the trip, you're going to be taking home others. Whether information from a trade show, samples of products, notebooks from meetings on business trips or gifts and souvenirs from a lovely vacation, you don't have to lug around all that stuff. If what you've got is heavy, bulky or otherwise inconvenient, consider shipping it rather than carrying it back. When you make purchases in commercial venues, such as department stores and shops catering to visitors, very often shipping options will be readily available. Make sure that you ask if such service is offered, especially when purchasing a big or fragile item. Even if such is not available from the place of purchase, you will likely be able to find a postal service, FedEx or other international courier service that you can use to ship your items home or to the intended recipient of a gift or business items. Your hotel may even be able to provide you with the service, and if not, they will likely be able to direct you to the nearest post office or delivery service.
If you like to travel but don't always like to lug heavy bags around, these are just a few of the ideas I've used to lighten the load and make going from one destination to another on a multi-stop trip much easier. Remember that you are likely to have to tote around everything you have with you at one point or another, whether on a train, plane, ship or automobile. The lighter you pack the easier it will be for you to zip around with ease. Please let me know if you have any other ideas for packing light. I'd love to hear from you!