Travel Lighter and Avoid Checked-In Luggage

When I was 19 years old, I took a flight on (the now extinct) Northwest Airlines.  As a travel newbie, I loosely packed my belongings into the safe-haven of my huge family-sized suitcase. My camera, clothes and several albums of personal photos (these were pre-digital days) were all stowed away in the checked-in luggage.  Upon completion of the return leg of my trip from Tokyo back to Hong Kong, I stood waiting at the baggage carousel.

My luggage never showed up.

I lost my camera and other belongings – but more painfully, I lost photos that could never be replaced.

Painful lessons learned, I now try to avoid checking in baggage for fear of losing personal items and also to avoid ever-increasing luggage fees charged by airlines. On top of that, the wait at the luggage pickup can be downright frustrating.

Stowing all of your belongings in a carry-on for a two week vacation isn’t nearly as easy as it sounds. Combined with the strict weight limitations many foreign carriers impose, advanced planning is certainly needed. Here are some tips I have learned from years of domestic and international flights for light and efficient packing.

1) Bring washable and quick drying garments

Washing your undergarments and other light clothes can save you a couple of pounds in the luggage. If your itinerary includes staying at a hotel for a night or more, that’s the perfect opportunity to wash dirty garments and set them aside for drying. Just make sure to bring a small two or three ounce bottle of Woolite and you’ll be all set.

There are a ton of travel clothing options that are designed for quick drying and are perfect for in-travel washing.  Our favorites are the following:

2) Bring throw-away items

You know that T-shirt that has been washed to the point when it changed from black to pale gray? That pair of socks that’s seen better days?  Bringing along throw-away clothes for a final wear gives your long-lived garments a magnificent send off.  Plan your clothing allotment so that once you’ve worn these clothes once or twice, you can discard them.  Your load will lighten as you progress through your trip and you might even have some extra room for souvenirs!

3) Bring only essential toiletries

Most hotels will provide at least basic shampoo and soap. Bring only what you really need. I can’t live without hair conditioner, so I carry a three ounce bottle to get me through the trip. An important point for ladies – are serums absolutely necessary? Can you use your facial moisturizer as eye lotion? Most of the time, less is really more on the road.  One of my favorite brands is Paula Begoun. Their moisturizers can serve multiple roles: http://www.paulaschoice.com/category/moisturizers

Save those packets of samples that you get when you buy make-up/skincare items so you can use them on trips.

I also love Olay facial cleansing sheets. I find using one whole piece is a bit too much, so I cut these sheets in half. And the best thing is that this contributes to rule number 2 – you get to throw stuff away as you use them.

4) Create an itinerary for your wardrobe.

It’s natural to bring more clothes than you actually need for a trip. Make sure your clothing selection is versatile. Bring basic clothes in neutral tones so that pants/shorts/skirt combinations will match. And ladies, if you’re like me, you don’t always want to look utilitarian on your vacations. Climate permitting, I’ve gotten into the habit of bringing a large colorful scarf to brighten up my outfits. Not only does a scarf add colorful accents, it also serves as small blanket on flights or train rides and an extra layer of warmth if needed.

Shoes can add a huge amount of weight to luggage.  They also take up a ton of luggage space.  There are endless selections of stylish shoes that are durable, light-weight and fashionable. Flats are more comfortable to walk in and tend to weigh much less than a pair of heels. For men, one of my favorite brands light-weight shoes is Campers. They have stylish and comfortable shoes that are nearly weightless, yet super durable.

5) Zip a Dee Doo Dah! Roll with it!

The traditional packing technique involves folding your clothes and stacking them into your luggage.  This turns out to be an inefficient packing strategy.  Instead, roll your clothes tightly and pack them like sardines in Zip-Lock bags.  Rolled clothes save space and prevent wrinkles.  Plus, squeezing out the air in the Zip-Lock bags helps to save even more space and prevents clothes that might be slated for wear later from being ruffled early in the trip.

There you have it!  With a little more planning and foresight, you can avoid losing luggage, unnecessary check-in fees and hassle!

2 Comments on “Travel Lighter and Avoid Checked-In Luggage

  1. Joyce, what a great article, now why didn’t I think of zip locks before, duh! Keep the writing up!

  2. Thanks Rhea! Writing is more of a Steve’s thing. But I’ll write up something else when the inspiration strikes one day. =)

    Hope all is well with you and your family!

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