You want to pack light. You’re not trying to bring five bags with you, but you also want to be prepared. We’ve been there. So, here are a few tips to help you downsize without sacrificing:
Pack a Scarf or tie - you want a fancier option in case you want to go to a fancy restaurant or get invited somewhere unexpected, but consider this: you don’t have to bring a whole fancy outfit. Often a nice scarf or a tie can dress up an outfit you were already planning to pack.
Discard things you can buy there - if you’re taking a long trip, you don’t have to pack all the toiletries you’re going to need. Unless you’re traveling to a place where cheap toiletries won’t be available, pack enough for a few days and buy the rest when you get there.
Take inventory - Lay out all your items on a flat surface for two reasons: (1) This is a good way to see what’s unnecessary (if you’re taking 6 shirts for a long weekend, you can probably discard from that pile) and (2) It’s must easier to pack efficiently when everything is laid out in one place. We’ve found that an overflowing suitcase often packs easily once we’ve removed everything, sorted it, and returned it to the suitcase in an organized way.
Roll your clothes - If it’s not fancy, roll clothes instead of folding them. And definitely don’t just throw everything in. That’s a great way to lose a lot of space.
Pack food separately - Bring your food for the plane in a separate plastic bag if it doesn’t fit in your carry-on. Food doesn’t count towards your 1-carry-on + 1-personal-item limit, so if you’re short on space, don’t waste it with food.
Wear bulky items - Instead of packing your winter coat, for example, wear it while traveling. You may be hot in the airport, but it’s a great way to make space in your suitcase if you’re desperate.
Check the weather - A little research goes a long way. Especially if you’re just going for a short trip, check the weather before you go. If there’s only a 10% chance of rain every day of your trip, you don’t need the windbreaker, the raincoat, and the umbrella. Choose one. Knowing the weather (and what activities you plan on doing) will help you discard the outfits you’re unlikely to actually wear.
Stuff socks in shoes - The inside of your shoes are dead space in your bag. Stuff your shoes with socks or other small items to make the most of the space.
Tie shoes to your bag - If you don’t even have room for the shoes in your bag, you can tie the laces to the straps of your backpack.
Plan to do laundry - Take out a few of your everyday outfits and bring some Tide hand-wash packets so you can re-wear more.
In case you missed the other packing posts:
Check out part I: 10 Packing tips to save you money
Check out part II: Packing tips to avoid a crisis