In my early days of traveling, I lived by the motto, “The airline lets me check a bag for free, so I’m checking a bag!” It didn’t matter if it was a weekend in Vegas or a trip to the Seychelles. I was the bag lady with a checked bag, a carry-on and a personal item — anything the airline allowed.
Until I wasn’t.
Even with 30 countries under my belt, I don’t have a traumatic, “The airline lost my bag and I was in Brazil with just the clothes on my back” story that has unfortunately become too common of a travel nightmare. Instead, I just began to feel weighed down trying to pack my entire wardrobe in a suitcase for every trip. My old ways of traveling were just no longer effective.
Checking in was a Hassle: Even if you have the airport fast track upgrades including Clear or TSA PreCheck, there is still a cutoff time for when your bag needs to be checked in order to board the flight with you. Arriving at the airport two hours in advance isn’t just a suggestion, it’s almost essential to make sure your bags don’t spend the night in Chicago while you’re in Miami.
Overpacking Leads to Too Many Options: On a girls trip to Puerto Rico, I realized I was getting ready slower than everyone else. That’s because I packed so many different clothes that when it came time to leave our villa, I was bombarded with options. But when you have four girls shooting you daggers fordoing your makeup late because you couldn’t decide what to wear, you learn to clean up your act pretty quickly. Now, I select outfits and try them on before packing and it streamlines the getting ready process.
Airline Fees for Checking a Bag Are High: Rising checked bag fees can now cost just as much as a flight. According to reports, airport drop-off fees are up by as much as 50 percent. Not to mention, if you have a connecting flight, having to recheck your bag before getting on the second leg of your journey can be complicated and stressful.
Packed Crowds at Baggage Claim: At the end of a long trip, there’s nothing more freeing than skipping baggage claim. It’s also nice to avoid the horror of not seeing your luggage on the conveyor belt at all and having to squeeze into the small airline office with other passengers to figure out where your luggage is.
These days, I’m the girl that can spend nearly two weeks in South Africa with just a carry-on and personal bag and encourages everyone else to do so as well. After a family trip to Italy where we had to have two cars just to accommodate our luggage, I’ve now mastered the art of packing everything I need in a carry-on. Here’s how you can too.
Maximize the Space of Your Personal Item
Depending on the trip, you might want to leave the Louis Vuitton Neverfull tote bag (which has become a staple in airports) at home. Instead, opt for a bag that you can fill up with essentials and all the items you couldn’t squeeze into your carry-on.
Invest in Compression Bags
If you’re the kind of girl who likes options in her wardrobe when traveling, then this tip is for you. When it comes down to reducing the volume of clothing, compression bags are the winner. This tip is especially helpful in the winter or when traveling to colder climates where you tend to have bulkier items to pack. A bonus is compression bags work great as a laundry sack for dirty clothes and keeping those items separate from your clean clothes.
Be Strategic With Your Shoe Selection
Let’s have a Girl, be real moment when it comes to packing shoes. Now sis, you rotate the same three to four pairs of shoes at home and now all of a sudden on vacation you need to carry 10 pairs to go with every outfit for three days? No, you do not. Shoes are the bulkiest items in your suitcase and in addition to being awkward to pack they are heavy. Instead, I pack one pair of athletic shoes, a neutral color heel that can go with anything, and depending on the climate, one pair of boots or sandals.
The Shopper Girl
If you’re a shopper and plan on returning with souvenirs and keepsakes, you can always pack an empty foldable bag in your suitcase (or buy one when you’re traveling) to accommodate any new purchases. A bonus is that it will save you on checked bag fees for at least one leg of the flight.
Utilize Every Nook and Cranny
This is my favorite travel light hack! Remember those sneakers you brought? They’ve now become the perfect compartment to stuff travel-size toiletries that you’ll probably toss at the end of the trip anyway. Anything with a pocket or opening can be used as storage space. All is fair in packing light.