These days, it seems like it’s getting harder and harder to pack for a flight. Some airlines, like United, are even charging for carryons if you pick the basic economy fare.
So what do you do?
Here are some quick tips for packing light.
Decide in advance what is coming with you.
Need a laptop? Need a change of clothes? That’s fine, but make sure you plan out what you need. It makes it easier to evaluate what goes where and decide what you actually need if you run out of space. I usually put everything out on the bed before I ever put anything into a suitcase.
What do you absolutely need to take with you? Of course, the basics are what I pack first (toiletries, underwear, etc). But do you really need shampoo and conditioner? Do you really need your entire bottle of face wash for a week away? Probably not.
Pro tip: I usually go to Neiman Marcus or Sephora and ask for samples of products I like. Samples are small, take up no space and you can throw out the small bottles when you’re done.
I have one rule when it comes to shoes. 1 pair for every purpose: gym shoes, comfortable walking shoes, flip flops and a pair of heels. I try to avoid more than this. Of course there are exceptions like ski trips, etc but I usually check a bag on those to have room for my skis and boots.
Pick the right suitcase/bag.
In these stingy times with the airlines, make sure your luggage actually meets the criteria to be considers a “carry-on” size if you absolutely don’t want to check a bag. For example, here are Delta’s restrictions and United’s.
Personally, I usually travel with a small suitcase and a small bag. I travel with my Delsey Chatelet 21 inch which doesn’t always fit on the regional jets, but I’ve accepted that it’ll be gate-checked on occasion (gate checking is usually free). Max travels with his Bluesmart, which also doesn’t always fit on small regional jets but they are both small enough to travel with for several weeks without checking your bag 99% of the time.
Leave room at the top.
I always leave a little extra space at the top of the suitcase or bag before I close it because inevitably, I end up shoving something in there at the end, like a sweatshirt. This helps, especially when you’re at the airport and realize you had to buy a souvenir for a friend.
Leaving room at the top is also incredibly useful for easily and efficiently pulling items out of your bag on the plane. The worst thing is when you start pulling out all your stuff just to get to your ipad. Here’s a bag to help with that if you’re that guy on the plane.
Bring a small personal item.
I usually put my laptop at the top of my suitcase (as mentioned above). If I need it, I’ll be able to easily slide it out of the suitcase onboard. Therefore, I don’t need a huge personal item. I usually try to pack a small crossbody bag or backpack to keep my wallet, water bottle, scarf, noise-cancelling headphones and kindle. I also put my face cream and hand lotion handy since I obsessively use them.
At the end of the day, less is more! Remember, most of what you need is available in many metropolitan areas around the world. It’s never the end of the day if you forget toothpaste or other amenities. Packing smart, packing light is a great way to enjoy your vacation without needing to worry about all your “stuff”.