If you’ve ever had the experience of having to sit on your suitcase to get it closed, or you couldn’t get that last thing in it, even though it was as small as could be, then this is for you.
In this post, we’ll look at the things you can do to make it easy to pack all the things for your trip, from those as small as cotton swabs to larger items such as laptops and bulky clothes.
Ready? Then let’s get packing for your trip! 🙂
Know the rules of the Transportation Security Administration
Given the stringent regulations regarding what you can and can’t put in your luggage, especially your carry on bag, and the additional fees that have been incorporated by the airlines, the best thing to do is to know what all the rules and fees are before you begin packing.
This way, you won’t waste any time or energy, or be surprised or upset when you check in.
To find out what is and isn’t allowed in your luggage, visit the Travelers section of the TSA website, especially that for the 3-1-1 rule for carrying liquids and gels in carry-on bags, including shampoo, mouthwash, etc.
The 3-1-1 rule is this: all liquids/gels in 3.4 oz/100 ml max-sized containers, in 1 clear, quart-sized, zipper-locked plastic bag, 1 bag per passenger.
This will help prevent you from having to forfeit any of your items at, or take longer than necessary to get through, airport security.
(I’ve never had an issue with the liquids/gels, but when packing for one trip, I’d forgotten to take my Swiss Army multi-tool out of my carry-on suitcase.
It was confiscated and I was devastated, because it had been a gift. If you’re going to bring something like this on your trip, put it in your checked luggage.)
Unless you absolutely have to bring a laptop, I recommend leaving it at home. Lightweight as it may be, it’s still heavier than a tablet or no computer at all. Plus, security personnel will make you turn it on, and if yours takes a while to boot up or the battery is dead and you need to plug it in, you’ll spend that much more time going through security.
To find out airline baggage fees, including those for additional bags, overweight bags, and oversized bags, visit the Airline Baggage Fees Chart at here. If you need to cull down on the amount of things you pack, seeing the extra fees you might have to pay might do the trick!
Make Lists of the Things You Need and Want to Bring Before Packing
Lugging around a lot of luggage is cumbersome, not to mention heavy. Traveling light makes a huge difference for general travel comfort as well as for your back and shoulders.
I like to travel as light as possible, so I create a spreadsheet to help me map out where I’ll be traveling, how many days I’ll be there, and what I’ll need each day that I’m there. Lists are for clothing, shoes, accessories, toiletries, meds, electronics , and media/entertainment.
Once I’ve put down everything that I want to bring, I start culling down the items on the lists, especially for clothes. I determine which pieces can be worn two to three times before needing to go in the laundry, and which are best for mixing and matching for multiple outfits.
Shoes take up a lot of room, so I only bring two to three pairs max: a comfy pair for lots of walking, a pair of nicer casual shoes or boots for going out, and a pair of heels if I know I’m going to a dressy affair.
Not only does having these lists help with packing for the trip, it helps with packing for the return home, too, to ensure you don’t leave anything behind.
Even though I check my hotel room thoroughly before I leave, there have been a couple of times when I stayed at friends’ homes and forgotten something, such as a pair of earrings that I really like.
When you use lists, you bring what you need and leave nothing behind except old and new friends.
Pack Only What Is Appropriate and Necessary
When I first started traveling, I used “just in case” to justify packing more than what was required for my trip, such as several guide books, three or four jackets, etc. But I stopped soon thereafter, because it just got tedious (and again, heavy)
Not only does packing just-in-case items add weight to luggage or an extra suitcase altogether, these days it can also mean extra baggage and/or overweight bag fees.
My recommendation: Leave the just-in-case things at home. While it’s true that opportunities for activities beyond what you have planned can come up, it’s also likely that there is a shop where you can buy what you need.
(This happened on my first trip to France, when a friend invited me along to his best friend’s family’s summer house in Plan de la Tour in Provence. Because I hadn’t packed for being poolside, I bought a new maillot in Paris. That was fun!)
The things you’ll need depend on where you’re going, but my rule of thumb is to multitask as many of your things as possible.
- Pack clothes that can be dressed up or down with small accessories, such as jet black jeans and a crisp white blouse, with or without a fancy scarf, nice jewelry, and heels.
- Use a nice backpack for both packing things and as a purse, instead of bringing a separate one.
- Use a smartphone or tablet that lets you talk, email, surf the Web, take pictures, and listen to music instead of a phone, laptop, camera. and MP3 player. (Load Skype, Google Talk, or a similar app on your tablet to talk for free.)
Here are some additional things to consider when you’re packing:
- Buy some of what you’ll need when you get there, e.g. non-essential toiletries.
- Leave things such as a hair dryer and iron at home; most hotels will have them for you.
- Pack fewer clothes and just do laundry, especially if you’re planning an extended-stay trip. Most hotels can direct you to a good nearby laundromat and dry cleaner, and the nominal cost is worth the price of lighter luggage and no extra travel fees.
- Use expandable luggage. If you tend to buy a lot of souvenirs, this will save you from having to buy a new piece of luggage (and pay an extra bag fee) to accommodate them or having to ship them back home.
Roll Your Clothes and Use Space-Saver Bags
When the space-saver bags first came out, I did an experiment to see if what I saw on the commercials was really true. (Yeah, I do stuff like this.)
First I packed as many folded clothes as I could in a carry-on suitcase. Then I emptied and repacked it with the clothes rolled up; there was room for more, so I added more clothes. I emptied and repacked the case again, this time with the larger amount of clothes rolled and packed in space-saver bags. Much more room.
I tell you this not so you can pack more things (although you can), but to demonstrate that you can pack the things that you need in either a smaller suitcase or fewer suitcases.
Note: When I say space-saver bags, I mean the kind that does NOT require a vacuum cleaner to get the air out, but the kind where you “roll” the bag and press the air out.
Unless you have a physical condition and can’t roll the air out, this is the type of space-saver bag I recommend.
Even if you’ll be staying in a hotel or with someone who has a vacuum, why go through the hassles of having to get the vacuum and then having to disconnect and reconnect the hose?