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Simple Tips to Stop Over-packing

by Anne Berry

Are you constantly trying to figure out how to pack lighter? These four quick tips will help!

When I was doing a lot of business travel—before the airlines starting charging for checked baggage—I always took the biggest suitcase possible. I liked to change my outfits every day, and I never really mastered that whole mix-and-match concept. Also, because I stayed in only one location, it was pretty easy to manage an oversized bag.

When I started traveling primarily for leisure, I kept those same habits ... Until I had to schlep a big, heavy bag through a train station. (If you’ve ever had to drag a heavy bag up and down stairs, you know what I’m talking about.)

Now, I do my best to travel with only two bags: A airplane overhead-size suitcase and a smaller bag that fits under an airplane seat.

There are a few big advantages to this. One, I have all my belongings with me when I'm flying, so I don’t have to worry about lost luggage. Two, it’s much easier to get from point A to point B with a lighter load. Three, I feel more confident and safe when I'm not burdened with a lot of stuff.

Let’s be honest, though. Knowing the advantages of packing light may not be enough to change your habits, especially if you’re suffering from a severe case of overpacking-itis.

Here are four tips that have worked wonders for me:

1. Literally lighten your load. Choose clothes that weigh less and take up less space. This can work, even when traveling in cold climates. Simply take multiple layers of thin thermal-type clothes instead of bulky sweaters.

When my daughter, Angela, and I took a 36-day trip through three continents, with both cold and hot climates, she went so far as to weigh each article of clothing to help her decide what to pack. To be fair, part of our journey included flying on a 6-passenger plane to a remote African safari lodge, so we had to pack extremely light.

For most travel, you won’t need to go to that extreme. Even still, I keep this tactic in mind when I go shopping before a trip. If an item feels too heavy on the hanger, I won’t buy it.

Side note: Two of my favorite stores for lightweight travel clothes are Eddie Bauer and Chico’s.

2. Use packing cubes. My personal favorites are the Eagle Creek compression bags. They allow me to keep everything organized—and fit a couple of extra items in my bag if my urge to overpack kicks in. You can choose to organize each cube with a type of clothing, like tops or pajamas, or you can pack outfits. Either way, you won’t have to unpack your entire bag to get to one item. And because the cubes are so easy to unpack and repack, they’re a lifesaver if you’re on a trip where you’re changing locations every night or two.

3. Bring an extra bag for your return trip. One of the biggest challenges of packing light is having enough space to purchase items during your travels. That’s why I always pack a lightweight, collapsible bag in my carry on to use on the way home. Simply check one suitcase and bring the extra bag with all of your new treasures as your carry-on. If something should happen to your checked bag on the trip home, it won’t negatively impact your vacation.

4. Strategize your airplane attire. If you really can’t live without your favorite bulky sweater, wear it on the plane, along with your heaviest shoes. This trick comes in especially handy if you’ve done a bit too much shopping during your travels. If your suitcases are overflowing, wear a few extra layers on the plane ride home. Added benefit: Since flights are usually cold, you’ll stay nice and warm!

If you’re ready to put these packing tips into practice, we’d love to help you plan your next trip.

*Disclaimer: Travel That Matters is not compensated in any way by the brands mentioned in this article. We just like to share what works for us.

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