Don’t you hate when you get your luggage back and it looks like it’s been tied to the landing gear and dragged down the runway? And that’s if you’re lucky enough to get it back at all. That’s why I always carry on, even if I’m gone for two or three weeks at a time. I do this not only to save my luggage, but also because time is valuable and I don’t want to spend mine waiting in baggage claim. Do you? It may seem impossible, but if you’re strategic in how you pack, you really don’t need to bring luggage the size of a Buick on your next vacation.
So what’s the secret to packing for a long trip without the benefit of Mary Poppins’ magic handbag? Seven simple steps and a few key products.
1. Get Some Good Luggage
Not all luggage is created equal. That’s why it’s important to find a piece that helps you maximize space while keeping you organized. I travel with the Rimowa Limbo 22″ and absolutely love it! It’s extremely durable, has two compression dividers to help you pack more in a small space, and glides so easily it can actually get away from you if you’re not careful. Plus, it’s zipperless which makes it waterproof and tamper resistant (which was a must when I was looking for my new suitcase.) The higher price point gets you a five year warranty and sturdy construction from a company that’s been making top quality luggage for over 100 years.
My other suitcase is a SwissGear Sion and it’s a carry-on champ! This suitcase fits an ungodly amount of stuff despite its small size. I once packed winter clothes for two weeks along with three massive photo albums and still had space for souvenirs! It’s all I used for the past 12+ years until my recent Rimowa upgrade. Not bad for a $99 carry-on!
2. Plan What to Bring
It all starts with a packing list. This isn’t just for Type A travelers like myself, it’s a good habit for anyone to get into. A list helps organize your thoughts so you know how much you really need to bring, as well as what little things you don’t want to forget. Because there’s nothing worse than getting to your hotel and realizing you forgot your phone charger at home. Face palm!
I recommend downloading Packpoint to help you develop a customized list based on your destination, weather, and activities. You can find that and other helpful travel apps here.
Once you have a list of what you need to bring, it’s time to plan your outfits. Here you’ll find neutrals are your new best friend. With them, you can mix and match to create different looks without packing too much. For instance, bring a couple neutral cardigans that can be worn with multiple shirts. Have two pairs of shoes – one that goes with browns and one that goes with blacks. Try to choose your basics in colors and patterns that can worn different ways. Once you have those down, you can jazz up your outfit with jewelry, scarves, or other pops of color.
3. Fight the Urge to Overpack (the carry on key!)
It’s easy for things to snowball. Suddenly you’ve packed 14 outfits and every piece of jewelry you own for a 7 day vacation. I get it, options are always nice. But do you really need to bring every sweater you own “just in case”? Probably not. Instead, lay out everything you think you need to bring and cut it by half. *Gasp* Half?!? Yes, half. Be ruthless. Trust me, your back will thank me later.
Keep in mind that the more you pack, the more you have to carry through the airport and lift into the overhead bin. Plus, packing to capacity leaves little to no room for souvenirs or clothing you may want to purchase while on vacation (and isn’t that one of the best parts of travel?!?) Remember, less is always more.
4. Use Packing Cubes or Compression Bags
This is a great way to pack a lot into a little space (and it helps keep you organized too… bonus!) For trips that last up to two weeks I use my Eagle Creek Packing Cubes. These breathable, pliable cubes not only organize my clothing, but my cords and toiletries as well. They even have a Clean Dirty Cube that’s waterproof on one side to help you separate dirty clothes or wet swimsuits while traveling. Brilliant! Insider Tip- It helps to roll your clothes so you can fit more, as well as easily see what you have to wear without unpacking everything.
On longer trips when I really need to maximize space, I use my Travelon Compression Bags. These things are pure magic! They easily take a stack of clothing and make it half it’s size by either using a vacuum or simply rolling the air out (which is what I do.) They’re easy to use, well-built, and will help you pack twice as much in half the space.
5. Utilize the Space You Have
Remember Tetris? Same concept. Use every inch of capacity you have available to you. Stuff socks inside your shoes, wrap hair ties around your brush, roll underwear inside your bra… you get the picture. Don’t let any usable space go to waste (this is where creativity comes in handy!)
If you’re using the SwissGear suitcase I mentioned above, don’t squander the bottom area near the wheels. It’s easily overlooked but a great spot for socks, a pair of shoes, or a rolled sweatshirt.
6. Wear What Takes Up the Most Room
I’m not saying you should be like the guys who decided to wear everything in their suitcase to avoid baggage fees (and no, one of them was not Joey Tribbiani.) But you should wear what would take up the most room in your bag. Dying to show off your new boots on your next vacation? Wear those beauties on the plane so they don’t take up half your suitcase. Headed somewhere you might catch a chill? Outfit yourself in a coat on the plane (you can always put it in the overhead bin once you get to your seat). This will free up a lot of space in your bag for everything else you need to bring.
7. Carry a Decent Sized “Personal Item”
Most airlines allow you a carry on suitcase and one personal item (typically a purse.) But why bring a small handbag when you can bring a larger satchel that still fits under the seat in front of you?
I always pack a smaller purse to use when I’m traveling, and then utilize my “personal item” with a larger bag to hold additional necessities like a jacket, electronics, or my make-up and liquids (which are then easier to pull out at security checkpoints). My new favorite is the Go Anywhere Carry-On by Vera Bradley because it holds so much, has several pockets and compartments to keep me organized, and easily fits under the seat in front of me.
Then for a purse, I pack my Beach Backsack by Vera Bradley. I’m obsessed with this when traveling because it barely takes up any space in my suitcase, is secure since pick-pocketers can’t access the main compartment while I’m wearing it, and it’s super lightweight so it doesn’t burden me. That lightness comes in handy when I’m lugging around my DSLR camera and an extra lens!
And there you have it! Seven simple things to help you always carry on when you travel. Say goodbye to oversized luggage and hello to breezing off the plane with your belongings in hand!
Products mentioned in this post include: