How to Travel Without Checking Your Bags
I’m the kind of person who will load ten grocery bags on each arm just so I don’t have to make two trips to and from the car. I’ll balance five bath towels on one arm and two sets of sheets on the other, with a blanket tucked under my chin, just so I don’t have to make two trips to and from the laundry room. I’ll awkwardly clutch three beverage bottles in each hand and clumsily drop them on the table just so I don’t have to make two trips to and from the fridge. I’ll… well you get the idea.
Why that second trip is such a hassle I don’t know, but it’s simply one I don’t have time for. So the idea of checking bags at the airport and having to make a trip down to baggage claim to pick up my luggage after what was no doubt a prolonged and uncomfortable flight is simply not going to happen. I don’t care if I’m traveling for an entire week – I will fit all seven days worth of clothes and necessities into the standard regulation size carry-on and personal item.
While regulations may differ slightly depending on the airline and the type of plane, the maximum size of a carry-on is usually 45 linear inches (22” long x 14” wide x 9” tall) and the maximum size of a personal item is usually 36 linear inches (something like a briefcase or laptop bag). So that’s a grand total of 81 linear inches of space to work with. Definitely doable. Here are some tips for how you can pack for a week-long trip without checking your bags.
Make a List
Write down every single thing you want to have with you on the trip – even the little things like dental floss and phone chargers. Then go back and see if there’s anything you can cross off and do without for the week – maybe you can simply use the hotel’s lotion instead of bringing your own. Now you can start to see how you might group items together and where in your luggage they might fit. This way you won’t end up shoving items at the last minute into random places in your bags where they don’t fit.
Bring Outfits Not Options
This is probably the most important rule when it comes to packing. Whether you’re traveling for business or pleasure, you likely have a pretty good idea of what you’ll be doing on your trip so decide ahead of time what you’ll wear each day and then pack those clothes only. If it’s a business trip, your days will probably start pretty early so you won’t have time to sit around debating what to wear anyway, and if it’s a vacation, wouldn’t you rather spend more time seeing the sights than standing in front of the mirror?
Forget the New, Stick With the Old
When it comes to the small things you’ll be taking with you – like socks, underwear, night wear, exercise clothes, etc. – bring the stuff that’s a little more worn. Not stuff that’s falling apart at the seams, but stuff you wouldn’t mind parting with. Then, instead of collecting it in a dirty clothes bag during your trip, simply toss it. The extra space in your luggage will be just enough to carry back any souvenirs you picked up.
Bag it Up
I’ve tried using those space saving bags before (the kind that shrink a stack of clothes down to a pancake after you squeeze all the air out) but I actually found them more cumbersome than anything else. They were usually bigger than what I needed and I never could quite get my stack down to a pancake size. What I’ve found to work is simple grocery bags. I place each “group” of clothing (socks and underwear, nightclothes and gym clothes, tops and sweaters, etc.) into separate bags, tie them nice and snug, and then fit them into my luggage in any direction that works. For example, I could stack the bags on their sides instead of simply laying them flat.
Use Every Pocket
Most carry-on luggage or personal items come with various pockets on the inside and/or outside of the suitcase and these storage areas shouldn’t go unused. In fact, they’re a great place to put your toiletries. Place all your liquid items into one quart-size plastic bag and all your non-liquid items into another one. Then flatten the bags out and slide them into the pockets. You could also use these areas for electronics like cameras or cell phone chargers.
Wear Bulky Items
If you need to bring a blazer or bulky sweater, or if like me you never go anywhere without your running shoes, wear those items instead of packing them. They’ll take up valuable space in your luggage that you could use for other necessities.
While it may take a bit of planning to fit everything you need into two bags, it’s a lot better than waiting for 20 minutes at the baggage claim trying to decipher your black suitcase from everyone else’s or better yet finding out that the airline lost your luggage.
What are some of your favorite “travel light” tips?
TSA Rules and Regulations
Click here for a list of prohibited items in carry-on luggage.