Over the past ten years, I can literally count on my fingers the number of times I’ve checked a bag. It all started in 2005 when I went to Spain with my parents after Business School.
I packed a carry-on with an outfit and some toiletries for the flight and checked a large suitcase for our 2 week trip full of my cutest outfits with all the shoes and accessories to match. We arrived at baggage claim with our group and I waited and waited, no bag.
They eventually found my bag and had it sent to us in Madrid, five, yes FIVE, days later. When it finally came, I noticed a stain on the front of the bag. The small bottle of oil that I’d packed seemed to have burst at some point while my luggage was in transit. There was oil everywhere and made it nearly impossible to wear any of the clothing that was in my suitcase so I literally went to Zara every day to by a new outfit. Hey, I was in Spain and Zara was super cheap there, or at least it was back then.
While it wasn’t funny then, I still laugh when I think about how my luggage went to Tel Aviv. Shoot, I still haven’t made it to Israel and have no idea how it ended up there. With all that said, since then I’ve learned how to pack light so worrying whether or not my luggage is going to make it when I do is now all but irrelevant.
There are many different tricks and tips but here’s what I do…
Lay everything out into outfits. Doing this helps to visualize what you plan to wear so you don’t end up bringing more than you need.
Limit it to one outfit for each day. The only exception is I always pack an extra nice dress for a fancy dinner or in case something comes up because you just never know.
Rolling is key! Everything from tops, to jeans, to dresses gets rolled. Small pieces will either go into one of the zippered pockets or will be squeezed into the small spaces around the perimeter of the bag.
Keep shoes to a minimum. I try not to bring more than 3 pairs plus a pair of flip flops to wear in the hotel room. Shoes always get packed in their dust bags, if they have one, if not, I wrap them in plastic grocery bags. If I’m going someplace cold I usually wear my riding boots on the plane and pack a pair of leather ankle boots and a black pump. To keep things simple, I try to stick with one color group, usually black. During the summer, I’ll bring a strappy high heel sandal, wedge sandal, and a flat sandal. There’s rarely a need to bring anything more than that. Guys have it pretty easy, they rarely will need more than 2 pairs.
Sneakers and closed toes shoes offer extra space. You can always stuff things inside to take up less space, think a plastic storage bag or a small jewelry pouch like this one. Stuff the bag/pouch right inside of your shoe or boot.
Full size toiletries are a no-no! Go to the drug store to get basic travel size items or purchase the reusable plastic bottles. If staying at a reputable hotel brand, you don’t have to worry about things like toothpaste or shower gel, because they will provide you with as much as you need. If it’s skincare or make-up related, I usually go to my favorite department store and have them pull together sample sizes of my foundation, facial cleanser, moisturizer, perfume, even teeny tiny mascara, etc. They often have small containers or even deluxe samples and all you have to do is just ask.
Reading materials. Depending on how long the flight is I’ll bring a book and several magazines. I usually put these on the outside pocket so in case my bag is a little too full to fit in the overhead, I can simply remove those items.
Electronics. I usually pack these items in their own small bag to keep them all together. The essentials are phone and laptop cords, external phone battery, and earbuds. When traveling abroad, my must haves are a personal wi-fi hotspot (I highly recommend Skyroam, and you’ll get $20 off with my referral link) and this international converter (I actually take it with me everywhere. This converter is very compact and is nothing short of amazing. You can literally plug everything into it and it even has a micro USB connected to it to charge your camera or external phone battery.
Snacks. I usually just grab something at the airport, again depending on the length of the flight and stuff it in my personal item. If you have time grab something at the grocery store before to save a few dollars.
Dirty Clothes. Pack a few plastic grocery bags and/or storage bags to keep them separate.
Personal Item. Don’t forget most airlines also let you bring a personal item which usually consists of a large handbag or a laptop bag, for me it’s like a bonus bag. I try not to pack it too much to save room to bring back stuff like souvenirs. I’ve only had my personal item weighed once so if you have weight restrictions on your chosen airline it would make sense to put your heavier pieces in this bag. You can always purchase a luggage scale so there are no surprises at check-in.
I’d love to hear from you. What are some of your favorite tricks to pack light?
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5 thoughts on “My Secret to Packing Light”
Great advice! If I ever get to travel again (post baby) I’ll definitely use your tips.
Leggings are great for space saving and plan on wearing jeans twice
Good tips… as a man, I travel only with cabin bag, dont bring extra cloths, or pants, just do the mathematics on mix a match.
Great post! I also pack a pair of jeans and a long sleev sweater just in case their is a shift in the weather! I hate being cold! I also pack a small umbrella that stays in my carry on bag!
I just purchased a Skyroam device. Thanks for the tips and link!