When you’re going on a quick trip, there’s nothing more handy than managing to pack everything you have into a single, carry-on-appropriate piece of luggage. Sure, it’s hard (sometimes really hard) to actually get everything packed in there, but once you manage it—man, it’s smooth sailing from thereon in!
The benefits of bringing less with you
With a single piece of carry-on, you avoid waiting at the baggage carousel for your luggage—but more than that, you have less to worry about overall. Only going to be there for three days? No worries; your luggage will be with you, so the airline can’t lose it and deliver it just before you depart. Got something fragile in your bag? Still not a problem! You’re the one carrying it around, so there won’t be any tossing, shaking, or squishing unless you’re really, really forgetful.
Even more helpful is everything you can do with less luggage. If you have one piece instead of two, you don’t need two hands to push a baggage cart, so it’s easy to reach into your bag for your boarding pass, or load all of your belongings into the taxi, or grab your kids by the backs of their collars and keep them from running astray at customs.
- Quick tip for travelling with kids: Bring an umbrella stroller instead of your regular one. These collapsable contraptions will leave you with a lot less to haul around, and are one less thing to worry about when you should be focusing on enjoying your trip! (Don’t own one yet? Try the Summer Infant 3D Lightweight Stroller, designed to be both sturdy and lightweight!)
Roll, roll, roll
When you’re packing light, sometimes “light” actually means “small.” I always carry a single carry-on with me, but that carry-on can be anywhere from half-empty to packed like a brick and just under airline regulation weight (read this articleto learn more about airline regulations).
So, to really pack everything in there, try these tips.
1. Pack by shape. Treat your luggage like a puzzle (but, you know, the kind that’ll fine you $25 if you complete it incorrectly). Wrap fragile items in soft materials that would be going into your luggage anyways, like scarves or sweaters, and pack like with like: square items get stacked together; funny shapes are packed tightly into zippered pockets with little wiggle room.
2. Roll your clothes! This is the one big “cheat” that everyone seems to know, but they know it for good reason — rolling works! A nice, tightly rolled shirt will arrive at your destination with minimal wrinkling, and takes up little space. Plus, rolling works well with the ridged bottom of a suitcase, so you get an extra layer of space on either side of the retractible handle tracks.
- If you’re just going for a casual day or two, skip the rolling luggage and bring a lightweight backpack to free up your hands, like the surprisingly cute Tucano Milano Italy Tu Pack 15.6″ Laptop Backpack (seriously; how did they manage to make something so cute but so affordable?) If you’re small and weak like I am, though–there’s no shame in chronic back problems–get something small and rolley, like the Travelpro Maxlite 2 20″ Soft Side 2-Wheeled Expandable Carry-On Luggage!
3. Pack versatile pieces. You’re going to have to dress yourself while you’re there, but do you really need four pairs of pants and four shirts for four days? Consider what you can and can’t re-wear: for instance, I just came home from a four-day trip, and I brought next-to-nothing for clothing. (And hey, if anyone noticed, they sure didn’t tell me!) Two pairs of pants is plenty for four outfits, and a mix of cardigans and tops (I brought two blouses and two cardigans, plus the t-shirt that I was wearing) gives you lots of options for different occasions.
4. For women’s tops, choose loose-but-dressy; for dresses, choose stylish-but-simple. A great top or dress can go everywhere from an art gallery opening to a kids’ birthday party, meaning you can bring a lot less with you — even if you’ll be gone for a while!
Buy what you can (and choose your liquids wisely)
Once you’ve got your luggage down to a minimum, figure out what you can leave at home — and make sure that all of your liquids can be carried on the plane.
Liquid restrictions were the hardest thing for me to conquer, so here’s the trick: if you’re staying for more than two small Go Travel Airport-Approved Cabin Bottles worth of shampoo and conditioner, leave them at home and buy when you get there. (A quick Google Maps search for “drugstores” in the location of your hotel will show you the easiest place to pick up some shampoo, conditioner, and body lotion in under 10 minutes!) Then, for everything else, pack only the amount that you need, and opt for solid cremes when possible.
I was surprised to find out that the CATSA (Canadian Air Transport Security Authority) is totally cool with solid products, so your cream foundations, cleansing balms, and lip balms — those aren’t going to be regulated at all. If you can opt for solids instead of liquids, do!
And lastly: consolidate everything!
Everyone nowadays carries around cords and chargers when they travel, but keep in mind that a lot of what you’re charging can be charged with the same cords. USB charging blocks are pretty much entirely interchangeable; many phones and tablets charge with the same micro USB cords; all Apple handheld devices produced over the last few years will charge with the same Lightning cord as the next.
So, take what you must, but then just… leave the duplicates at home. If the hotel will have a hairdryer, don’t bother taking yours; if you own an inflatable neck pillow, leave the foam one behind. If you can throw your shower products into a Ziploc bag, there’s no need to carry an extra cosmetics case (but man, this Tumi Journey Windsor Travel Roll one is so cute), and if you’re bringing a water bottle with you, remember to empty it out before you hit security.
Pack smart, but just don’t pack everything! I mean, you are coming home eventually, after all, and you’re probably not headed off into the middle of nowhere.
(If you are, though, you so totally shouldn’t listen to any of these “packing light” tips. You’re going to need your MREs and layers of Polar Tech to keep you safe out there in the wilderness—I don’t want my inability to carry heavy objects to be the cause of anyone’s untimely demise.)