After more than 30 years as a travel writer, I’ve learned a few things about packing. There are few travel annoyances more avoidable than paying an overcharge for luggage that’s too heavy. If the charge for overweight luggage is $50 each way, that’s $100. So pack smart and keep from paying heavy-luggage fees.
Pack a smaller bag than you think you’ll need. If you choose a smaller bag, you also have to choose more carefully which items you’ll actually pack. Blue dress or black? Pick one. Change the look with accessories like pretty scarves (weigh nothing), a light jacket or different jewelry. For men, one lightweight sports coat and pants should get you into all but the fanciest restaurants. If you’re worried, add a tie.
Pack the lightest option. If you know you’ll need a jacket when you get to your destination, do you pack the full-length all-weather coat or the fleece jacket that’s maybe not so stylish, but is warm and weighs just ounces? If you must have both, pack the jacket and wear the coat on the plane.
Pack throwaways. On a three-week trip to New Zealand, I packed several things I could intentionally leave behind. An old nightgown, some seen-better-days underwear, a sweater I hated. After I used them, I tossed them in the trash, lightened my load and made room in my bag for souvenirs.
Put some of the heavier things in your carry-on. You’re not going to need a camera on the plane, but if you have a real one, put it in your carry-on so it doesn’t get weighed. On a trip to Europe, we put our adapters for electronics in our carry-on bags because they are quite heavy.
Call ahead and ask questions. If you’re headed to the beach, does the hotel provide beach towels? Does it have robes and hair dryers in the rooms? Is snorkeling gear provided or rentable? If it’s a rainy climate or season, does the hotel provide umbrellas? In winter, some ski resorts even have snow boots you can borrow. All things you won’t have to pack.
Have extra room in your bag? If you packed efficiently and the bag is too big for what you really need to pack, blow up one of those portable pillows to fill the space. Otherwise, you’ll be tempted to add more shoes. The pillow keeps things from shifting and getting wrinkled but doesn’t weigh anything. If your bag is underweight when you leave home, you have room for souvenirs and other purchases you may want to bring back. Just deflate the pillow.
And speaking of shoes. They can weigh more than just about anything else in your bag. Keep them to a minimum. A good pair of walking shoes and a pair of dress shoes should get you through just about any situation. And forget slippers – too bulky and heavy. Pack some slipper socks (or regular socks) to replace them.
Finally. Check with your airline to see what the weight restrictions are on bags. Step on a scale and check your weight. Step off, pick up your bag and step on again. You should get a pretty good idea of how much your bag weighs.
For more packing tips, check out these websites: Packing Light, Rick Steves and Reids Guides.
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