I’m not going to claim to be an expert on packing or travel….BUT, I do travel a heck of a lot, and always…always without checking my baggage. In the past, I’ve had
a few a lot of problems with lost bags, and ruined vacation outfits…which is obviously very stressful, and costly. I’ve finally had enough, and whether it’s a two-week European vacay*, or a weekend getaway, carry-on only is the only way I’ll travel. If you want to know how to travel light, without the hassles (and extra fees) that come with checking your bag, read on for my tips!
1. Good Luggage is Key
There’s a reason why this is tip #1. Good luggage can make a huge difference! For the past 8 (or so) years, I’ve traveled with my trusty green Heys carry-on everywhere. And when I say everywhere, I mean everywhere! Places it’s been: Kyrgyzstan (2 times), Kazakhstan (3 times), Paris (3 times), London (2 times), Italy (3 times), Spain (1 time), Moscow (1 time), New York (4 times), Houston (bajillion times), Cuba (2 times), Mexico (1 time), Mont Tremblant (1 time), Quebec and Montreal (2 times), Las Vegas (2 times), LA (1 time)…shall I keep going? My luggage has never let me down, through the cobbles of Red Square, and through the millions of stairs in Paris subway tunnels - it was always, always reliably sturdy and light.
Good luggage will expand when you need it to, will keep your clothes safe and neat, is easy to wheel around, is light, easy to maneuver and to spot. It doesn’t even have to be expensive. Granted, I am pretty biased towards Heys luggage (which is hella solid, affordable, and proudly Canadian!). After 8 years of using my cute green suitcase, I finally had to retire it - simply out of vanity (as it’s still in great condition). I wanted a prettier, newer set, and this Journey Spinner** will hopefully do the job just as well, while looking sleek and stylish.
Lucky for you, Heys is actually giving away a trip worth $5000!!! So if you want to take that new luggage out for a spin, make sure to enter here: http://www.facebook.com/HeysIntl?sk=app_250354528351779
2. Think Your Outfits Through
Now that we have the luggage covered, on to the actual packing. One of the major mistakes that people make when packing is…throwing everything in, thinking that they might need it. Well, in today’s world of baggage fees, and lost luggage, that tactic just won’t do. Before each trip, I carefully chart out the number of days, and the number of outfits per day that I’ll be needing. Something casual during the day, and something fancier for dinners usually does the trick. With that said, I still find room in my carry-on to fit everything in – be it a two-week European getaway, or an all-inclusive stay in the Caribbean. How? By thinking through each and every garment I bring, and packing it neatly.
Here are some rules I follow when packing: Tops: 5 tops per 1 week, including at least 1 black and 1 white (or grey) for layering Bottoms: 3 bottoms per 1 week, including a pair of jeans worn on the plane (never packed, as it’s very heavy and takes up a lot of room). I usually include a pair of shorts, and a skirt, but it’s up to you. Dresses: 3-4 dresses per 1 week, including dresses that you can dress up or down Outerwear: depending on the weather, bring one versatile topper that goes with everything. In the summer, you can get away with a cardi, and in the winter, bring an actual coat and wear it on the plane. Accessories: pashmina (or breezy scarf that can work as a blanket/hair wrap), 2 belts (one worn on the plane), tights (if needed), jewelry (packed inside an evening clutch), a pair of light sock/slippers for the hotel room floor, bathing suit Undergarments: 1 pair of undies per day, but if you don’t mind doing laundry on vacation, then you can probably get away with 3-4 per week.
3. Think Your Airport Outfit Through
This point is very important if you are planning to travel with no checked baggage. When dressing for the airport, I usually try to put on the heaviest/bulkiest items that probably would take up too much precious room in my carry-on, and would keep me nice and warm on the plane. That consists of a pair of jeans (saves lots of luggage room), a chunky sweater (it gets chilly on planes), boots (the ones that also go with dresses), a jacket (if it gets cold wherever you’re going), and a large pashmina (which you can use as an extra blanket on the plane). Try not to wear too much jewelry, unless you like to be frisked by customs officials, and always…ALWAYS wear socks! Taking off your shoes and walking through the metal detector barefoot won’t be as much of a gross chore if you have socks on, I promise.
4. Don’t Bring Too Many Pairs of Shoes
Shoes are always a touchy subject for the ladies. I’ve traveled with girls that couldn’t leave their house with less than 5 pairs of shoes for a weekend trip! Bringing so many pairs usually results in idle shoes strewn all over the hotel room, never worn once. So unless we are talking sandals or flip-flops, the less pairs your bring, the lighter the load for you, and you can still look cute! Key here is versatility.
Last time I went to Europe, I brought 2 pairs of shoes with me. One pair of super comfy high-heels that could be worn day or night, and a pair of flat sandals for long treks (and the beach). Usually, I don’t exceed 3 pairs of shoes per trip, but if it’s especially tough for you to part with your fave foot candy (yikes…that sounded kinda gross), make sure to wear the heaviest pair on the plane (obviously not if that shoe is a stiletto or something else equally uncomfortable – common sense, people). And to maximize the space, roll some socks and stuff those shoes full, so no empty space goes unused.
5. Keep it Organized
Organization is so important. I’m not saying you should go all Monica on your luggage. But, a little thought can save you a lot of hassle later on. Here are some of my organizational tips that I use on my trips: - Use packing cubes. They don’t take up much room, but will keep your things nice, neat, and yes, organized. And when it’s time to unpack, you just have to stuff those cubes into hotel drawers – and you’re done. I got a few sets of those bad boys for Christmas a couple of years ago, and can’t imagine travelling without them! - Keep your jewelry and small accessories packed away in a clutch or a small bag, and throw in a couple of zip lock bags in there, to keep your necklaces from tangling. - Things that wrinkle easily should be packed at the bottom of your luggage, with less wrinkle-prone items on top. And though some experts will tell you that you get more room by rolling your stuff, personally, I prefer to lay things flat instead – less wrinkles as a result. -Once your shoes are stuffed with socks (or other items), place those bad boys into shoe bags, so that the rest of your clothing doesn’t get soiled by dirty soles. - If you travel with a carry-on luggage only, bring a large light purse with you. I usually bring my Longchamp tote, put a smaller purse/bag inside, with my passport and other items inside the smaller purse. And since the tote is nice and roomy, I also put my toiletries in a clear bag inside the tote, along with some reading materials for the plane, and my camera. When all is said and done, I don’t have to check any luggage at all! Bon Voyage!
So what about you? Do you have any packing tips? Share them in the comments.
*This carry-on policy will not apply for my upcoming wedding. A girl’s gotta bring her wedding tchotchkes, and other crap…but otherwise, carry-on only is the only way for me to fly!
**Journey Spinner luggage in this story was kindly provided by Heys Luggage International.