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  • Writer's pictureElizabeth Perry

7 Tips for Packing Light

Packing is the essential step that always tells me a trip is right around the corner, but it can also be one of the more time-consuming things to do as you're getting ready for a trip. Lately I've been making more efforts to pack light so that there's less hassle in getting place to place with luggage. Packing light also has other benefits like less time spent packing before a trip and avoiding excess baggage fees at the airport. Here are a few tips on how to lighten it up when packing!

1. Consider packing cubes

Packing cubes are basically zip-up cube-shaped bags that help you to organize the items you pack. They come in a variety of sizes, and often have clear or mesh fabric so that you can see what's in each cube. These help to keep everything organized in your bag so you don't have to go rooting through everything to find a particular item, and can instead pull out one packing cube to find the item you need.

Packing cubes also help you pack light by putting a limit on how much you can pack in each cube, which helps keep down the number of items I pack overall. There are also compression packing cubes, which have an extra zipper to help you compress the items inside to get some extra space.

2. Make a list

Rather than going through items and packing what you think you'll need, make a list of what you'll need before you start packing and then stick to it. It's easy to come across things as you're packing and think 'Oh, I could use that, too!' If you've already made a packing list, you know what you do and don't need, so you can avoid squirrel syndrome and packing items that you won't actually use. On the off chance that you do need an additional item, you can pick it up during your trip.

3. Take advantage of the ‘personal item’

Most airlines allow travelers to take both one carry-on and one personal item onto the plane with them. If you want to pack light enough that you can go carry-on only, it’s best to take advantage of that personal item and use it as a day bag. Messenger bags, tote bags, or small backpacks work well for this, though remember that it needs to fit underneath the seat in front of you.

4. Do laundry

One of the easiest ways to pack less clothes, which are often the bulk of our luggage, is to not pack outfits for each day and simply do laundry. Many hotels offer laundry services or self-serve laundry, or you can wash a few items in the sink every few days. This takes a little extra time when traveling, but can cut down significantly on the amount of clothes you'll need to pack, especially if you’re traveling for a week or more.

It's also best to take lightweight items made of fabrics that can dry easily, in case you don't have access to a dryer. Avoid items that can take forever to dry, like jeans and denim items. Lightweight clothes will also take up less space in your bag.

5. Pack items you can mix and match

Rather than packing several different full outfits, pack essential items that you can mix and match with each other on different days. It’s also best to pack in layers so that you can simply add or remove layers to suit the weather, rather than having full outfits for different weather possibilities.

6. Consolidate your toiletries

Even if you're checking a bag, try not to bring full-size toiletry bottles. It's unlikely that you'll need that much, and they can take up a lot of extra space. You can get travel-size bottles and fill them with your favorite body wash, if it's not available in travel size. Or, consider solid versions of toiletries like shampoo. They often last longer and you don't have to worry about liquid allowances if you're packing a carry-on. Also remember that the majority of hotels provide certain toiletries like soap and shampoo, so if you don’t mind using a different brand you can often leave those at home.

7. Wear your bulkier stuff on the plane

Some items just take up more space when packing, like boots or athletic shoes, or coats and jackets if you’ll need them. Try to wear these items on the plane with you - they don’t count towards any carry-on limits, and you don’t need to try to fit them in your bag. If you have multiple pairs of shoes you’re thinking of traveling with, try to keep it to just two - one comfy walking pair, and one that can be dressed up or down, like flats or sandals - and then wear the bulkier pair.

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