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Tips for Packing Light

We’ve all been warned of the new charges airlines are charging for whatever they can think of — checked baggage, primo seats (in Coach!) and food. I’ve even heard that some airlines are thinking about charging for water. So what’s a savvy traveler to do?  You can grin and bare it, or you can find ways to cut corners and conserve.

Here are some tips for packing light on your next flight:

Packing clothes

The truth is, many of us overpack and don’t wear everything we pack, so the obvious tip is simply to pack less. But it’s always great to have extras with you in case your trip is extended, the weather changes unexpectedly or for unplanned activities requiring a specific dress code. So, while the goal is to pack lighter, you still have to employ a strategy.

•    Go with one or two basic wardrobe colors and use colorful shirts, scarves and accessories to brighten them up. Just make sure that your pieces go together so you can mix and match.

•    Pack separates that create multiple outfits.

•    Wear bulky items like jackets, sweaters and heavy shoes on the plane. Sometimes you can use the little closet at the front of the plane to store it.

•    Try not to pack more than two pair of shoes. Choose one pair for evening and one pair of comfortable shoes for exercising and site seeing.

Keep clothes clean on the road

If you still want to pack lightly for longer trips, consider taking advantage of your hotel’s laundry services or facilities. Another tip is to travel with light-weight and quick-drying

Efficient packing

•    Roll your clothes, which can create more room in your luggage for more clothes.

•    Use vacuum bags for sweaters — they flatten very well.

•    Pack clothes in large Ziploc bags. You can squeeze out the extra air and protect.

•    Use packing cubes.

Ship it

•    Send your luggage using UPS or FedEx to your hotel 10 days before you get there. It’s a little risky and you have to send items you don’t need in the interim but it could be worth it not having to deal with airport hassles.

•    Ship items you purchase during your trip.
Odds and Ends

•    Combine when you can. Pack all-in-one body wash/shampoo/shave gel and SPF moisturizers you can use on your face and body, or buy toiletries at your destination.  If you must bring toiletries, bring trial size versions or ration out what you need and transport in travel bottles.

•    If you’re going on a trip for pleasure, wait until you get to the airport to buy your reading material. 

•    If you have a second home or cabin, leave toiletries there, so you don’t have to tote them back and forth.

•    If you’re traveling for the holidays, buy your gifts at your destination.

Follow a plan

•    Think about your previous trips and weed out any items that you didn’t use.

•    Lay out your clothes a week before your trip and pare it back as much as possible.

•    Set out everything think you need and then eliminate any duplicates or “convenience” items you can go without for a few days.


•    Buy expandable carry-on rolling luggage.

•    A regular-sized backpack counts as a personal item but holds a lot compared to a purse or carry-on tote.  Just slip your handbag inside the backpack, or stuff it with socks in your carry-on.

•    The lighter your suitcase, the more you can take without hitting the overweight fee.

Hopefully this guide will be helpful and of course, save you money!


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  1. Patty Smith on Oct 19, 2011 8:25:38 PM:

    I don't like to travel just because of toting around luggage. I have a suitcase with zippers to expand it on your way home. This way you can bring home souvenirs. I also have mailed things back home too, like you mention. Why do airlines make things so difficult?

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