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Traveling is great, packing not so much

Packing! Or, do I really need that? 15 tips for lighter luggage

I am not a packing expert.

In fact, my family would say I can be a packing disaster. Witness the time three of us went to England for two weeks, and we had – yes, I admit – SIX suitcases. Heavy suitcases. Enough suitcases to make school children in Bath, England take OUR picture. Yikes!

I’m learning though.

This time, I tried several strategies that worked, and I’d like to pass them on to you. I’m sure they’re not unique to me, but they were helpful, nonetheless.

  1. Stay in one color group. For instance, all the clothing I packed for myself was navy and white. Navy shorts, white shorts, navy skirt, white sweater, etc. You know the drill. It worked like a charm. The only problem that arose was the day I needed to do laundry and had only white items left to wear – white shorts and a white shirt it is! Fortunately, I had also packed one colorful scarf, so I could wear that.

  2. Consider, of course, where you’re going and what the weather will be like. But also consider how you’ll be travelling. Since this last trip included six or seven train trips, I knew we’d have to schlep our bags ourselves, and I wanted to make sure we could, without too much angst. Although we have large, hard-sided luggage that we love for cruises, this trip called for the smaller, lighter, more easily-wheeled Hartmann bags that each of us could manage and even lift into overhead compartments.

  3. Will you be able to do laundry? If so, you need outfits to cover until your first laundry opportunity, and not much else.

  4. If you opt for the monochrome look like I suggested in item 1, consider, as I did, one colorful scarf, top or sweater that will give some variety. I really enjoyed the option of adding color to outfits.

  5. Make sure you have the minimum of something warm to wear and something for wet weather, even if you wind up bringing it home unused. We generally take rain jackets and a travel umbrella, and wear on the plane something we can use as a sweater or jacket (depending on destination) later on.

  6. The exceptions to #5 are leaving somewhere hot and going somewhere really cold or the reverse. If you are leaving somewhere cold and going somewhere hot, consider just leaving warm clothes in your car at the airport, or with whoever will be picking you up. That way you don’t have to carry them, and you’ll be prepared when you land in frigid temperatures. If you’re leaving somewhere hot (or hot-ish) and going somewhere cold, if you can bear to, wear or carry your warmest outerwear. It frees up luggage space and generally can be accommodated in airline overhead compartments. At least you should do this with a warm sweater or other semi-outerware.

  7. In that same vein, you should wear on the airplane the biggest shoes you are taking, unless they are heels! Being monochromatic enables you to pack a pair of shoes that’s fun, if they fit the color scheme. For instance, this time I had four pairs along – seems excessive, I know, but they were light. One was Toms, so packable and cute, one was Crocs (for the shower, beach and relaxing mode), one was a cute navy sandal and one was my everyday sneakers. Voila! I wore the sneakers, and the others took up little space and weight.

  8. Don’t be afraid to wear the same things twice or even more. Very few people who see you will know this, even those you are traveling with. In fact, having just a few clothes works in your favor – your travel companions will not notice at all what you’re wearing after they’ve seen the same item twice.

  9. An exception and caveat to #8 … make sure you don’t stink! Pack deodorant and use it, especially if you are interested in making your outfits last longer between washes. No need to offend to be frugal with your packing.

  10. Everyone says it, so I will as well. Roll. Roll. Roll. You can fit a LOT more in that way, and it’s easier to use, as well. You’ll be surprised how much your suitcase can hold when the clothes (and everything else that can) is rolled.

  11. Packing cubes have revolutionized my packing. These amazing things (mine come from eBags) allow you to roll your clothes, pack them with like items in the cubes, and then just throw the cubes into your suitcase. I don’t like to completely unpack at our destination (no matter how long we’ll be there) so the cubes also allow me to have a storage system of sorts for using the clothing on vacation. Pretty handy. They come in all kinds of shapes and sizes. I find the big ones great for everyday wear, and the medium the best for specialty items – bathing suits and coverups, raingear and umbrellas, workout gear.

  12. In that same vein, remember to pack things together that will be used together – ie. We have a waterproof pouch for our phones, etc. for when we swim. That gets put in the swimsuit cube. Likewise the umbrella with the rain gear. And, though I generally put socks together for both of us in their own bag, I put our workout socks with our shorts, tees and my sports bra. You get the idea. Try to think how you’ll use each item you pack.

  13. Make a list, and stick to it. Keep said list in your travel notebook. This will help in several ways. You will have it to check the next time you travel, and you can annotate it in terms of what was helpful and not. Also, if you’d happen to lose a piece of luggage, you would be able to reconstruct what was inside for compensation. Best of all, a list that you stick to helps you avoid the “But that top looks so good with …” extra items you might be tempted to pack.

  14. Add some plastic bags of all sizes to the bottom of your luggage. I bring 2 Target bags (for laundry), and about 10 Ziploc bags of all sizes along. You will be amazed at what you will find to use these for, and how happy you will be that you have them along. The small snack bags are, for some reason, my favorite. I rarely fail to use whatever I’ve packed. The same for bag clips. They don’t weigh much or take up much space, but are very helpful to have.

  15. At the end of your trip take a fearless evaluation of what you took. What didn’t get used? If it’s a clothing item, consider taking one less next time. If it’s an essential (like rain gear) that you were fortunate enough not to have to use, keep it in. The next time you travel, you will bless yourself. Even though the items might not be the same, you will know you took X number of shorts, tops, shoes, etc. It will save you time and angst later.

I didn’t realize I had so many packing tips in me until I started to write this blog! However, all are ideas I’ve actually used to make my luggage lighter, and ones I intend to use again.

Please consider sharing your best tips to make luggage lighter below, and follow us on facebook (Twotogo), Twitter (Two_to_go), Pinterest (Twotogo) and our blog,

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