Packing light and efficiently is sometimes the most stressful part of vacation for some people..especially women. It is difficult to avoiding packing our entire closet and bathroom for a weekend, let alone a longer trip. We have managed to get our packing down to a science and want to share our tips with you! Granted, we don’t always pack carry-on size luggage, especially for our dive trips. However, it comes in very handy in many circumstances. We have never been disappointed the times that we decided to pack less.
Pros to packing light:
- More efficient check-in/exit process at the airport (no checked bags, faster airport exit, no baggage delays before getting through customs, etc.)
- All belongings are readily available on the plane
- No lost luggage problems
- Less body injuries and soreness from carrying around heavy baggage
- Less things to unpack when you get home!
Tip #1 Make A Packing List
One of the most important things you can do before buying organization packs, suitcases, etc. is to make a packing list. Make sure to begin with everything that you absolutely need and then include extras from there. This will help eliminate excess objects that you don’t need. You can always add more if you have enough space left over. I always make a list, sometimes months out to prepare. Typically, I have a standard list of things that I pack for every trip and add on to that.
Tip #2 Invest in a Carry-on Suitcase
Invest in a high quality carry-on size suitcase. I recommend either Heys or Samsonite, but there are plenty of other great brands out there. Ideally, the luggage should be a hard shell (cover). Polycarbonate or polyproplyene material tend to be light, yet durable. I highly recommend a bag with 360-spin wheels, multi-stage locking heights, side interior pockets, TSA-combination locks, top and side handles, and a middle zip separating compartment. The suitcase should also have two main deep compartments. Some other nice features are USB charging ports and expandability. These are not a necessity, but the expandable ones often come in handy. Be sure to check your upcoming airline carry-on baggage size limits. Not all airlines have the same height and width standards. Also, weight can be an issue. Just because everything fits, doesn’t mean it will pass clearance! We took multiple flights around Europe without our bags weighed and then at Charles De Gaulle airport, they stopped us and we almost missed our flight because they made us check it in for being overweight.
Tip #3 Invest in a Personal Bag
Invest in a stylish, organizing personal bag. My absolute favorite bag that I take on every trip is The Catalina Deluxe from Lo & Sons. It can be used for anywhere from a short weekend to a multi-week trip. I use it as my personal item on planes or as my main tote bag for the weekend. It fits perfectly under the seat or in the overhead bins. I prefer to keep my bag under the seat, so I have easy access to my things during long flights (I’m a high maintenance flier). The compartmentalization is wonderful. I always feel organized, yet stylish! The bag has the main compartment with multiple pockets on the interior, a bottom section that can fit two pairs of shoes, and two exterior pockets. I usually use one for my wallet and passports and the other opens on both sides and you can slide the suitcase handle through (see above). It makes it so easy to wheel around my suitcase and bag. I don’t have to carry anything on my shoulders. The 360 spinwheels on my suitcase make it hassle-free getting through the airports and busy streets when we’re on the go!
Another plus of the bag is that it comes in 3 sizes (small, large, tote) and 9 color options. I went with the large, natural color (organic canvas material) deluxe bag. I love that I have the option to use the shoulder strap, the top handles, or the suitcase handle sleeve. The Catalina is extremely versatile and practical. The material quality is high and I have gotten many stains on the bag that have washed right out! Make sure to air dry after cleaning.
Tip #4 Packing Cubes, Packing Cubes, Packing Cubes!
I will never travel again without using packing cubes. They have been an absolute life saver! The first time I used them was on our 3 week Europe tour. We packed everything in carry-on suitcases for the entire trip. I didn’t even have my large Catalina bag at that point. Incredibly, we were able to fit everything into that one carry-on suitcase and even fit three bottles of wine in it to bring home! None of this would have been possible without packing cubes. There is no excuse to not use them. You can find them for dirt cheap on Amazon here. Trust me, you will thank me later. Not only did it allow me to pack more, but it kept my suitcase super organized. I used one large cube for shirts and dresses, one medium for shorts and pants, one for shoes, and one for toiletries. I also purchased a Pack-It Garment Folder from Eagle Creek for nice dresses/shirts that I didn’t want to wrinkle. I bought the medium for myself and large for Gregg. The folder kept our fine material items in tip top shape! Everything else we rolled up and stuff into the cubes. We purchased a wrinkle release spray and that kept our garments fresh! This is ideal when you’re not staying at luxury hotels or you’re not sure if you’ll have iron access. There are plenty of other organizing items, but we found these to be absolutely necessary.
Tip #5 Use Travel Size Bottles
A tough part of packing is keeping the liquids to less than 3.4 ounces. I found that purchasing travel bottles helped me keep my sizes in check! I personally love the silicone squeeze bottles. they are high quality and are easier to use. However, they are more expensive than the plastic ones. My favorite brand is the GoToob silicone travel bottles. You can find a 3-pack here. If on a budget, any convenience store, Walmart, or Target will have cheaper plastic bottles in the travel size section. I also use mini spray bottles and containers for other smaller hair and bath products. Any opportunity I find to buy mini travel sizes of the products I use, I take! Try to keep all of your liquids in one clear container for TSA and customs. Every airport has different policies and it will be quicker if you have it all in one place.
At the end of the day, you’re probably still going to overpack. If you’re like me, you would rather be slightly overpacked and prepared rather than buying things overseas. I think a nice balance is key. Make sure to pack the necessities, have the proper organizing equipment, and go from there. Click on the photos below for links to my favorite travel gear!