How To Pack Light
Packing Light Means Packing Smart: When we travel, there are many points we must consider when making plans. One of the most important but usually last minute considerations is that of packing. When going on long trips, or trips overseas or where extensive traveling is necessary, excess baggage can be a major hassle and head ache. Many airlines today charge for each checked bag and charge hefty surcharges for additional bags beyond the maximum allowed. Trains are limited in the space each person has for his or her baggage. And cars can quickly become uncomfortable cramped when tins of suitcases and backpack are shoved into the trunk and back seats. So how can we help avoid some of the hassles associated with luggage? The simplest answer is to pack light. Easier said than done; however, there are some simple tips that can help you pack smart for your next trip.
- Ask yourself if it is really necessary. Do you need three extra pairs of shoes? Probably not. Instead, do what I do- wear your bulky shoes on the flight. Yes it might slow you down at security but everyone takes their shoes off these days so it really won’t add that much time to the process. Then I pack a second pair of shoes- dress shoes if I’m going to be going out during my trip or more comfortable shoes if I will be going to the beach or someplace where big bulky shoes are not appropriate. This saves me a lot of room in my suitcase for other things I will need.
- Reconsider how many changes of clothes you will need. Chances are, if you are staying in a hotel, they will have laundry services for you to use. If no such services are available, you are sure to find a Laundromat nearby. However you do it, washing your clothes while you are traveling will help reduce the number of clothes you will need to pack. When I travel for anything over a week, I will bring about 5 complete changes of clothes. I figure that I can wash them, and if need be one or two of the shirts and pants can be re-worn if they are not too dirty. I add a jacket and a tank top to the packing list to cover any extreme changes in the weather as well as a rain poncho. By washing and reusing the clothes, I can have less than a week’s worth of clothes last me for several weeks if need be.
- Skip the bathroom soaps and shampoos if you can. Packing shampoo, conditioner, lotion, and soaps can be a hassle- especially if you are flying. Unless you have to have some specialty soap or shampoo, such as for dandruff or sensitive skin, skip packing these and get them from the hotel. Another option that I have implemented many times is to simply buy the shampoo, shaving cream, and such once I arrive at my destination. Many hotels offer bathroom amenities for free and many corner drug stores sell the basics, so I rarely bother packing them in my suitcase. I have more room for other necessities this way and I can still rest assured that I will most likely be able to get some shampoo and soap once I arrive at my final destination.
- When traveling as a family, pack like you are a family. You more than likely share certain things such as shampoos and the like. Even if you don’t, long trips are the perfect time to learn to share. When my family stats to pack for a trip, I make sure we are not all packing the same things. We don’t need five bottles of shampoo for a week’s trip. One bag will sacrifice space for the bathroom necessities, another will hold and electronics we will not be using on the plane or drive ( hairdryer and razors), and another bag will give up a little room for any additional shareable items such as books and games to play in the hotel room. By implementing this method, my family has always been able to pack just about everything we need without fighting to get the suitcases zipped shut.
- One helpful piece of traveling equipment we have used for years on our family trips is the passport holder. This nifty little pouch is on a lanyard that can be worn around the neck or across the chest. It is designed to hold a passport and ID cards. I have also used it to carry a guidebook and map or my ID and money when I do not need a passport for traveling. I like the pouch because it is small and does not draw attention to me as a big day pack does. It doesn’t scream ‘tourist’ to thieves and pickpockets. I also like the set up because my valuable are close to me, No one can get to them without me seeing and my valuable are secured in the double fastened pouch with an inside zipper and outside Velcro strap. It is the peace of mind I need when traveling and also helps free up room in my bags because these valuables stay in the pouch and the pouch never leaves my person unless I am in my hotel room.
- Ziploc and vacuum seal bags can really save space in your bags! Using these bags to store your items, especially clothes, and then sucking out all the air to compress and flatten the pile as much as possible truly does save a lot of room in your suitcases. If I am going to a hotel where I know I will have access to laundry and ironing services I will definitely implement this packing technique. Yes the clothes may get a little wrinkled but hanging them up in a steamy bathroom or going over the dress clothes once with a iron after taking them out of the bag will solve the wrinkle problem. I like the bag method because not only does it help reduce the air space in your bags, thus giving you more room to pack, it is also a good way to organize the suitcase. I pack one change of clothes in each bag. That way, it is easier for me to see exactly how much I have packed.
- Learn the art of folding and rolling, it will really help save space and time! If you have to pack suits or dresses, fold them out flat in the bottom of the suitcase. Whenever I pack, I try to roll my shirts and fold my pants and shorts, folding and rolling shirts into logs helps them stack neater and more tightly into the bag. Folding bulky items like jeans and jackets takes up less room. Try to put these at the bottom or spread over the top of the other clothes to fill in ever space between the rolled up clothes. Remember to put what socks you can into the shoes you are packing. Underwear can e put into the corner and little nooks and crannies. Also don’t forget the outside zippers of the suitcase- these can hold smaller items such as guide books, hairbrush, bandanas and hats, and extra paper and pens. I am always amazed and jut how much I can fit in a decent sized suitcase this way!
- For the female traveler, leave a lot of the makeup and hair care products at home. Unless you are traveling for photo shoots or some other image heavy reason, you do not need to spend an hour every morning getting done up before you go out sightseeing. I always recommend taking just the bare necessities- one lipstick, one nail polish, any foundation or powder, and one type of perfume. You are going on vacation to have fun and look at the sights. The focus is off of you, so enjoy it and take the opportunity to unwind and relax.
- For the traveler who has kids, conservative packing can be difficult. However, try to limit the number of games and toys the kids bring. Let them have enough to keep them busy on flights and layovers or the long drive from point A to point B. But be firm that they do not need to bring the entire toy box. I recommend that for each child let them bring one game, one toy, and a few books. Johnny doesn’t need every Nintendo DS game he owns, just a few to keep him busy. Sarah doesn’t need every Barbie doll she owns, just a couple to keep her entertained. Exercising control over the kids toy count can do a great deal to help keep the family packing under control.
- A new trick I have just recently discovered is the benefit of wearing a safari vest or similar traveler’s vest. These can be especially handy on flights. With multiple zippers and pockets of varying sizes and depths, they can hold a wealth of items- purse and money, passport and ID cards, money, tickets, guidebook, maps, wallet, camera, medicines, and basic first aid can all be neatly contained in the various pouches. At the airport, simply remove the vest and run the entire thing through the x-ray scanner. When out and about sightseeing, use the vest to carry much of what you need. This will free up your hands from carrying everything, and will make you look less like a tourist without the backpack, fanny pack, or arms full of maps, guidebooks, and cameras.
As you can see, there are many tips that can be used to make the most of your seemingly limited packing space. The trick to packing light is to pack smart and think and make wise choices about what and how you pack. So keep these tips in mind the next time you start making plans for that next vacation get away. They will save you a lot of time, money, and hassle.
I would like to take this time to thank my assistant Sarah Jo Coryell for her help on making this article extra amazing.
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