June 2nd marks three years since I posted the story of my first of 30 adventures in Vancouver. Since that moment, I’ve traveled to more than 53 cities and been on 53 planes. I’ve also been in cars, buses, trains, helicopters and even rode a horse. One thing I’ve learned over these three years is that I need to pack smart and light. When I traveled to Hawaii, I was gone from home for 16 days and was on five different planes. I hopped between four Islands and stayed in eight different hotels. The last thing I wanted to do was lug around a heavy suitcase from hotel to hotel or from plane to plane. I decided it was time for me to get smart and just travel with a backpack and my carry on luggage. Over the last three years, I’ve picked up some tips and today, here and now, I am going to share them with you. I hope they help you pack smarter and lighter.
Recently it has been in the news that Air Canada is starting to crack down on carry on luggage abuse by travelers. The problem began when airlines around the world started to charge for checked bags. Who wants to pay for luggage after they have just bought a plane ticket? Travelers like me started to cram as much as they could into carry on luggage and try to avoid the extra fees. This caused a big problem because not all of these carry on bags fit on board, and now it takes forever for flights to board as everyone is shoving their carry ons into the overhead bins and the last passengers to board rarely have any space available for their bags. This causes flight delays as bags are sent back to be put in the cargo hold, passengers get frustrated with the delays and quite honestly with rude travelers taking up all the space.
So how do we avoid this frustration of delays and still only travel with carry on luggage? Here are some simple tips to make sure you are traveling light, smart and won’t get the crackdown by the airline police for bringing too much with you.
Tip #1 Make Sure your carry on luggage is the right size. The “approved” size for a standard article is 23cm x 40cm x 55cm, this includes the wheels and the handles. THIS is really important because if your bag is too big it may be rejected and boom, you are now paying the checked bag fee. Another reason to have the right size luggage to start with is this is all you can carry so careful planning to make sure it all fits equals a successful packing job. There have been times when I remove the odd piece because it didn’t find and I realized it was just an extra piece of clothing “in case” I needed it. I never need it, I can always make do with what I brought.
Tip #2 Make a travel list of what you need for the length of your trip. We all know to do this but how often do we actually do it? I write out a short list of how many days I’ll be away, what types of activities I’ll be doing, and what kinds of clothes and shoes I’ll need. I always pack a clean pair of underwear and socks for each day up to 50% of the trip plus one extra. If I’m away for fourteen days I usually pack 8 pairs of socks and underwear. See Tip #10 for why.
Tip #3 Don’t pack toiletries you can get at your hotel for free. Since 9/11, the crack down on fluids in carry on bags has meant that most hotels offer complimentary toiletries beyond the normal shampoo and soap. I only pack deodorant and my travel toothbrush and small travel toothpaste. There have been times I didn’t even pack my toothbrush and toothpaste because I knew the hotel would have them available for me at no charge. Not only does this save space it saves time when you go through security. No fluids over the 100ml size will be allowed, trust me I’ve had a bottle of brand new sunscreen I forgot about in the bottom of my backpack thrown out. That was a waste of $13.
Tip #4 Pack clothes that don’t wrinkle or are very easy to iron. I’m assuming that your trip is a vacation and not for work so why do you need to pack formal clothes unless it’s you are travelling to be a part of a wedding. You are on vacation, relax enjoy yourself and let your clothes relax as well. I often pack light cotton t-shirts, shorts and one or two collared shirts. I always make sure the dressier shirts are the easy ones to iron and it’s usually the first thing I do after checking into the hotel. This way my outfit is ready whenever I need it.
Tip#5 Only pack two pairs of shoes. Shoes take up so much in luggage that I only ever travel with a max of two options. I try to wear the bigger and bulkier pair during my travel day and leave the flip flops or more casual shoes wrapped in a shower cap at the bottom of my suitcase. The shower cap is far less bulky packaging that putting your shoes in a plastic bag. Plus they are easy to clean and you can turn them inside out if you need to.
Tip #6 Roll up your clothes. This is a simple way to reduce wrinkling and conserve space. Place flat, bulky items at the bottom of the suitcase and then rolled up shirts and sweaters on top. I rarely have to iron anything I roll up as the wrinkles seem to disappear within 15 minutes of putting it on.
Tip #7 Put all your technology into your backpack and make sure everything is in its own pocket. My Mac Air, all my charger cables and everything I need to “work” while I am on the road go into my backpack. I’m a bit anal about putting various pieces of my tech in the exact same pockets each and every time I travel. This helps me to find things quickly when I need them and it also keeps them close to hand on the plane. I never need access to my socks or t-shirts while I am flying, but I often need my ear buds, a charger cable or my laptop to work on when I’m in flight. Keeping the backpack between my feet keeps the overhead clear for the bigger carry on pieces and means I don’t have to get out of my seat disrupting other passengers when I need something.
Tip #8 Wear your dressier clothes more than once. If you are going out for a fancy dinner or a concert and you want to dress up change into those clothes just before you have to and when you get back to your hotel change out of them right away. Hang them up and wear them again the next time you need to. You’ve only worn them for a couple of hours so chances are they are not dirty and you should be able to get at least one more wear out of them before they should be washed.
Tip#9 Pack clothes that are versatile and can be worn during the day or evening. Shorts and t-shirts are my usual attire, but a nice polo shirt can be worn during the day exploring around town or is perfect for dinner and a show in the evening. No changing is required at all. I usually pack some casual cargo shorts for the daytime but for nighttime I tend to wear shorts that are a bit dressier. This way I spread wearing each pair out a few days and neither one gets too dirty or worn.
Tip #10 Do laundry. This is the biggest single tip I can share with you for traveling over a week only just using your carry on luggage and what will fit inside. I’ve done laundry in Toronto, Hawaii, Louisiana, London, Portland, Ottawa, etc… It takes very little time and it really extends your traveling wardrobe. If you have the money you can have the hotel laundry service do it for you or you can do what I do and find a laundromat with drop off service close by. I drop it off and pick it up the next day. If you travel and stay at with B&B’s or AirBnb’s you may have access to on-site laundry facilities. Either way it is my #1 tip to travel light.