Tips to pack light & avoid excess baggage fees
Some people think packing is an arduous task…
Others like doing it to get excited for their upcoming trip.
Frankly, I am kind of one of those in-between people.
Whichever category you belong to, I think you’ll agree that finding out your luggage is overweight at the check-in counter is extremely frustrating.
Packing can be tricky business, especially if you don’t have a fixed itinerary—and for a nomad like me, that’s pretty much all the time. How and what you pack pretty much determines the comfort and freedom you enjoy during the journey.
Having a packing list ready can help, but besides those essentials, it’s best to travel light.
I’ve listed some of the tips I’ve learned (most of them the hard way!) to help make your travel experience super smooth.
1. It all starts with the luggage
“Now get 40% off on … luggage”
We’ve all been tempted to fall for this; heck, we do go for sale items a lot of the time. When it comes to luggage, however, I’ve grown to question why many pieces are on sale. More often than not, the ones with huge discounts tend to be heavier suitcases.
I speak from experience here. My parents bought a suitcase that had a 30% discount, only to find that it weighed a lot more than the one I already had that was exactly the same size. This doesn’t happen all the time of course, but it’s better to be on the lookout.
So make sure you look for lightweight luggage if you are looking to buy a new suitcase.
Saving money is definitely important, so I recommend buying luggage sets instead of individual pieces. In most cases, the set of carry-on + mid-size + large-size suitcase will be heavily discounted. This leads me to my next tip…
Try to get yourself a 26” and use its expansion capabilities instead of getting a 30”+ suitcase.
How does that help?
Well, it’s usually in our nature to stuff our suitcases till they’re completely full. If you have a 26 or 27” that’s expanded, there’s much less likelihood of going over the weight limit, even if you pack it completely. (This is dependent upon what you are taking, of course)
Buying a set also gives you the flexibility to switch bags based on the trip’s duration!
If you have a really nice suitcase already, then you just need to make use of a luggage scale. Digital scales these days are super accurate and spending a few bucks on one can save you a lot in the long run.
2. Take versatile items
Dental floss, coconut oil, and others can be used for multiple situations. Dental floss is a neat item; it can be used to tie things together or hang your clothes. Similarly, coconut oil doubles as a moisturizer and hair gel too. These are pretty handy, especially for women, but do remember to keep them sealed.
Rubber bands are another handy packing item. They’re practically weightless and can be used for many things, like compression socks or clothes, keeping your stationery from moving around in your bag, etc.
Is your blanket heavy? Do you only have bulky towels? Just use a sarong. This is one of the most versatile items out there, especially for women.
3. Develop a “carry on only” mentality
Try to avoid check-in baggage in the first place. As you get more and more efficient with the way you pack, you’ll find that you utilize your space better, and your carry-on suitcase all of a sudden feels large enough for that 4-day trip.
If you are heading out on a longer trip and really need a large bag, take a backpack as your carry-on instead of a suitcase. This way you can explore your destination more easily.
4. Quick dry clothing
You know those quick-dry hiking socks you only use on skiing trips? Well, quick-dry items have many other uses. Quick-dry socks and underwear are pretty awesome to have since you can wash and dry them in just a couple of hours.
Skip cotton wherever you can.
Quick-dry fabrics that work in both warm and cold temperatures are great. This material wicks moisture away, meaning your clothes also won’t develop odor, even when you are doing things at a brisk pace. You can easily get socks, underwear, and some thermal wear that will fit the bill.
A quick tip, if you are a guy and are traveling through some beachy locations, buy a pair of boardshorts instead of packing many ordinary shorts. These are super light and tend to dry minutes after you get out of the water. Similarly, swimwear for women is practically weightless and super useful.
If you don’t want to invest in this kind of clothing right now . . . No problem! Most places have laundry machines and dryers, so . . .
5. Pack less & do your laundry!
It’s 2018 folks!
Unless you’re headed to some remote part of the planet, you’ll find most things you need at your destination. If you think you need x-amount of stuff, take 3/4 or 1/2 of that.
Trust me, when your friend calls in the middle of your trip and asks you to bring something back for them, you will be glad you packed less.
Whatever generation you belong to, jeans still work and can be worn multiple times. Packing just 1 pair should suffice for most trips.
Try to pack for 5-7 days at the most and you can always do laundry after that for the remainder of your trip!
6. Reduce the number of electronics & wires
Traveling can be an exhilarating experience that really allows you to grow as a person. Sometimes, though, you don’t get the full experience because you spend half the trip staring at a screen. Why not cut down on the number of electronic devices you take with you?
It’s always healthier to stare at a snow-capped mountain range or a flower-filled valley with your own eyes rather than through a lens.
Besides, when you’re in a new city or country, you can use the opportunity to talk to people around you. Learn where the best bars are from the locals instead of google. You might even make some new friends along the way, which won’t happen if you ask your phone.
Looking for a restaurant with a good vibe? Looking to make friends? Ask around, talk to people around you.
There are scenarios where wires may be a necessity, but they are just a pain to carry around if you ask me.
Assuming you have a phone, tablet, and a laptop, like me, you might have anywhere between 1-3 charging cables, depending on whether you use similar brands or not.
Mix an Apple phone and an android tablet and you’ve got a recipe for a tangled cable nightmare.
You typically have two options in this scenario. One is to not bring all of the devices and the other is to skip the charger plugs and use a powerbank. Decent capacity chargers can hold multiple charges for your tablet, phone and, in some cases, your laptop. This also gives you some more packing room.
Try to go wireless as much as possible in terms of charging and even headphones, since they are cross-compatible most of the time.
Manage this and you can sneak in an extra book or two for a long flight!
7. Stay organized
Once you’ve decided to take less or just bring your carry-on, make sure you stay organized in order to maximize the space you have. Packing cubes are one way to do this. The way you pack your clothes (i.e. rolling vs folding) can also impact how much space you have.
You’ll be surprised how much can actually fit in a 21” suitcase.
Watch out, though. Packing in a super organized fashion before you are used to skipping your large suitcase, for instance, can put you in a vicious cycle where you pack efficiently… get more room… fill the space subconsciously… and go overweight again! Ugh.
Make sure that doesn’t happen! (This is one that I learned the hard way.) Don’t let your organization fool you into forgetting weight restrictions. Otherwise, organize away!
Staying organized and gaining that extra space can also be helpful when you change your travel plans.
It’s not uncommon to make friends and decide to stay longer or go somewhere else together. Meet new people, tag along to new destinations, and explore different things.
A trip where you started out in Australia and ended up in Ireland can be pretty good fun! And if you packed light at the start of your trip, you can easily have room for some winter clothes when you get up north.
With these 7 tips, I think you should be all set to have a pleasant experience both in the airport and during your trip. If you have other tips that you think I should add, please leave a comment below!