6 Tips for Packing Light and Avoiding Baggage Fees


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Take it from someone who travels often for work and carries lots of gear: You can still fit everything in one bag.

Airline baggage fees have become a revenue stream of their own in the last five years. USA Today says the 15 largest U.S. airlines hauled in $3.5 billion in baggage fees last year. The fee for one checked bag is often $50 round trip.

Travelers have had to adjust to limited wardrobe options and minimal personal care products just to be able to afford to get on a plane. Road warriors who need to travel with excessive tech gear have additional challenges, making the ability to fit everything into one carry-on bag a highly valued travel skill.

As someone who is on the road a significant portion of the time, I’ve picked up a trick or two. Here are some of my top tips for packing like a pro.

1. Wear and win

Plan your travel outfit well, and you can actually layer multiple outfit items while still looking stylish. This will help you cut back on the pieces of clothing you’ll need to fit in your luggage. For example, wearing a pair of leggings under ripped jeans with a sport tank, T-shirt, button blouse and jean jacket with knee boots while packing a skirt, denim camp shirt and flat canvas sneakers gives you a mix-and-match wardrobe large enough to last for at least a four-day weekend.

2. Savvy storage solutions

They may have fallen out of fashion in the past few years, but those clear plastic compression bags are an amazing space saver when it comes to packing more clothing in less space. Purchase a handful or two in a size that suits your case, and use them to remove unnecessary air.

An extra couple of inches of luggage space can go a long way, especially when you have tech gear like laptops and camera lenses to squeeze in. For smaller items like workout socks and undergarments, you can create your own compression bag using quart and gallon food storage bags from the grocery store.

3. Streamlined entertainment choices

Carrying multiple books will put you on the fast track to luggage overload. That’s where having an electronic reader or tablet comes in handy. You’ll be able to carry multiple books in a single compact device, saving space and the frustration that comes with boredom when a delayed flight leaves you with time to kill.

4. Trim your toiletries

If you have a complicated skin care routine you’d rather not interrupt, decanting into smaller containers is your main option. The smaller the container collection, the better.

Be on the lookout for containers that are a size down from the ones you’re currently packing. I used a travel-sized spray bottle for my hairspray until a friend gave me a sample-sized bottle of facial refresh spray that was less than half the size. Another suggestion: Pack cotton rounds instead of puffs.

5. Pare down the size of other grooming supplies

If you’re the type of traveler who likes to pack every grooming item under the sun, it’s probably a good idea to explore travel-sized versions of those items. As I noted in “Surprising Places to Score Cheap Travel Items,” a great place is at your local beauty supply retailer. Miniature versions of things like cosmetic pencil sharpeners, emery boards, clear nail polish and bobby pin cases are available there.

6. Buddy up for better savings

Traveling with a companion allows you to share the storage responsibility for items like medical ointments, electrical chargers, toothpaste and other items that are easily shared on the road. That will reduce the size of the bag you each need to carry, which is helpful when traveling to locations where taxi cabs are nonexistent and motorcycles are your only option for transportation to your chosen hotel.

Light packing can be challenging for those of us who need to lug professional gear on every trip. I use these tips on a regular basis to create needed room for cameras, lenses, a laptop and extra batteries. If you’re traveling for pleasure, think how much lighter your carry-on backpack will be.

Stacy Johnson

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