Traveling light is the new mantra of the modern traveler. The ultimate objective when packing for a trip today is to stuff as much essentials in as small a space as possible. And for longer vacations that require more space for your wardrobe, luggage companies now provide suitcases in a range of ultra-lightweight models. Surely, current airline policies governing baggage weight and size have contributed to this trend, but so has the need for speed and mobility in and around airports and across destinations. Granted, a few first class passengers still insist on porters to haul their expensive leather trunks; for the rest of us, however, practicality still trumps luxury. So whether you’re heading off for a weekend in the beach or a month in Europe, here are five basic steps to avoid packer’s remorse:
Choose lighter luggage. Leather may be fashionable, but it’s heavy and more susceptible to damage in airport conveyor belts and taxi trunks. Ultra-lightweight bags not only give you that needed allowance at the airline counter, they are also more durable. Polycarbonate hard cases are perfect as check-in luggage as they protect their contents well, while flexible water-resistant canvass or nylon bags are ideal as hand carry or overnight luggage. An extra collapsible bag that can be stored in your luggage is critical if you intend to do last minute shopping.
Edit your wardrobe. Over-packing not only robs you of that extra space for new purchases, it also makes you run the risk of paying for overweight luggage. The trick is to visualize what you intend to wear on a day-to-day basis and pack accordingly. For clothes you haven’t worn in a while, make sure they still fit or aren’t damaged, otherwise you’re just wasting space. Checking on the local weather also ensures you only bring what you will actually wear. And unless you’re the type to be followed by paparazzi, being too fashionable isn’t necessary. But don’t dress like a backpacker either. Go for versatile items that can be easily paired with each other and in colors or materials that don’t get dirty or crease too easily. When in doubt, dark jeans, a cashmere scarf, navy blazer and leather loafers will get you through most situations without looking either too overdressed or underdressed. Bear in mind that except for the most remote places in the planet, you can always shop for that extra item you need.
Pack cautiously. Wise packing takes practice and learning from mistakes in the past. Even worse than packing the wrong clothes is damaging the ones you take along. Stains can be avoided by putting all liquids in a separate and tightly sealed kit. Expensive clothes can be preserved with garment bags, and shoes should always be kept in bags with socks stuffed inside to keep them in their original shape and from soiling the rest of clothes. Organizing similar items like innerwear, shirts, electronic cables and chargers in separate containers (sometimes called packing cubes) makes them easier to locate when unpacking and keeps everything neat and in place if and when airport security decides to have you open your luggage.
Plan for the worst. In the event of lost luggage in transit—and it does happen—make sure to pack enough clothes and especially fresh underwear in your carry-on bag to last you a couple of days (the usual time before lost bags are delivered). Even more important than clothes, be sure to pack all essential electronics and documents in your handcarry. Although the objective is to travel light and breeze through airport security, the risk of arriving at your destination without the bare essentials is simply not worth the convenience. An insurance policy on your luggage is also a good idea.
Don’t underestimate your carry-on. The risk of losing luggage isn’t the only reason why you should take packing your carry-on bag seriously, long-haul flights also require taking along with you certain items that can help relieve the stress off sitting in a pressurized cabin for extended hours. Few realize that a transcontinental flight with the necessary layovers can take up to an entire day to complete. Unless you’re flying first class where pajamas and generous amenity kits are often provided, I suggest packing an extra set of comfortable clothes that you can change into at the start of the flight and your own set of toiletries to keep you feeling refreshed before and after sleep.
Pack light, but pack wise.
By DAVID CELDRAN