You’re getting ready for your next flight and you’ve carefully researched the “best luggage” to buy.
After browsing multiple sites, you decide on the perfect 5-piece, perfectly color-coordinated set of luggage and can’t wait to show up at the airport in style.
Except the airlines are laughing at you.
Hopefully you’ve already read our posts on why airlines are not your friends and why you should never check a bag.
They love making you pay extra for every little thing – and when they see a traveler walking in with 5 bags, they know they’ve hit the jackpot.
Trust me, the last thing you want to do after you land on international soil is wait around at baggage claim for an undetermined amount of time while your brand new bags come through the carousel all beat up (that’s if they even make it there).
And even if they do make it, congratulations! You now have the responsibility of dragging around 5 suitcases full of stuff (most of it you won’t even use) on your entire vacation.
Talk about miserable.
But there’s good news – you can actually travel the world without checking even one bag.
Everything you need can fit into two carry-on pieces.
But in order to fly light, you need to know how to pack like a pro.
That’s where we come in to help.
So check out our top packing tips and you’ll never have to check another bag again.
Make A List
Sounds basic, I know.
But before you start frantically ripping shirts out of your closet and throwing them into your suitcase without even looking, figure out what you actually need on your trip.
You might think you need three cocktail dresses, but once you remember you’re only going out for one “fancy dinner” – you realize you only need one.
Figure out what activities you have planned on your trip so you can decide what clothes you’d like to bring.
Literally, plan out a rough sketch of what you’ll wear each day.
And don’t forget to research the weather!
If the forecast where you’re headed is supposed to be super hot, you don’t need a coat.
The key to packing less clothes is to pack pieces you can wear more than once with different outfits.
Ladies – take a plain black fitted t-shirt for example. You can wear that with leggings (and throw a shawl over if you get cold), jeans, dress slacks, a skirt, etc.
Pick solid colors and stripes so you can wear them with different outfits and make multiple outfits from just a few pieces.
Yes, you’ll wear the same thing more than once, but that’s okay!
And no, you do not need multiple pairs of shoes.
Rookie travelers waste a ton of prime real estate packing space with shoes they never wear (or don’t need to wear).
You’ll survive your vacation with one pair of shoes.
I went to El Salvador for 21 days and only wore the shoes on my feet – none packed.
At most, you can pack one extra pair, if you insist.
You’re Not Going To Read 6 Books
Many people have ambitious vacation goals like “I’m going to read 6 books on my vacation!” So they overstuff their carry-on with books to “entertain themselves” on the plane.
Let’s be real here – you are not going to read 6 books on your vacation.
You might read one on the plane—maybe two if they are quick reads.
And once you land, I hope you’re out exploring the city instead of laying in your hotel bed reading books. Come on, you can do that from home!
Some people prefer a Kindle for all their reading needs, but if you’re old-fashioned like me you can still pack a book.
As for music, consider downloading podcasts and music ahead of time on your phone so you’re prepared for the flight.
But chances are you might sleep once the plane takes off, especially on a long flight.
Just remember to bring your own neck pillow and blanket!
Packing cubes is where it’s at.
These nylon/mesh bags allow you to perfectly organize your stuff.
Fumbling around trying to find your charger or a t-shirt is annoying – and makes you have to dump stuff out.
Packing cubes are a double bonus as they save space and organize your stuff.
And because you know how to avoid bed bugs by keeping your clothes off the floor and in your suitcase, you can quickly find what you need when you get to your hotel.
I use the larger ones for my clothes (rolled up) and the medium ones for undergarments and medications. If necessary, I bring a small one for miscellaneous items like my journal, phone charger, etc.
Having your stuff organized in cubes makes it easy to access your belongings and keeps things from getting lost in the bottom of your backpack.
Some people pack for a 2-week vacation like they’re taking a 6-month vacation.
Unless your traveling to some remote place (and even there), chances are there will be stores should you need to pick up something on the fly.
Packing for every “possible” emergency just isn’t feasible (nor wise).
Having a small first-aid kit is cool (I’m talking band aids, Aspirin, and some Neosporin).
And maybe a tiny travel umbrella is okay if you’ve researched your destination and it’s supposed to rain.
But I’ve seen people pack their suitcase like the world is ending — full on flashlights, batteries (sizes AAA, AA, A, C, and D), massive first aid-kits, multiple coats, rain jackets, boots, hand warmers, portable alarm clocks, scissors, notebooks, towels, hand-cranked radios… you get the idea.
Don’t do it!
Be TSA Ready
One of the most miserable parts about traveling is dealing with TSA.
They’re just looking for ways to grope you and take grandma’s water bottle away.
So when you are going through security – have your stuff ready.
Have your toiletries in a “TSA Friendly” see-thru case so you can quickly pull ‘em out.
I personally have 3 reusable silicone bottles I fill with my shampoo, conditioner, and face stuff that fit neatly into a little case and are spill-proof.
Again, I don’t take every beauty product I own – whatever fits in the see-thru case is all I take.
If you bring your laptop, make sure it’s in an easy place to take out so they can scan it quickly.
Or, perhaps you have a special bag that allows you to keep it in so when you go through security you don’t need to take it out.
When I travel, I take a tiny hard-shelled suitcase and a backpack. My backpack unzips so my laptop can be scanned without me having to take it out.
My goal is to get through TSA as quickly as possible so they can leave me alone and I can get back to enjoying my travel experience!
And I’ve found it’s easier to just suck it up and play by their rules to avoid needless drama.
Of course, if you have TSA Pre or Global Entry, you don’t need to worry about this stuff.
Some people get so stressed about packing!
But it’s really not a big deal.
Plan out what you want to bring, organize it, and don’t bring a lot of stuff.
And then when you show up at the airport ready to fly, you can feel confident.
Sure, while flying is still mostly awful, at least you’ve one-upped the airlines and outsmarted them with your packing game.
And finally, have fun and have a great trip!
How many bags do you typically pack when you travel?
What is the one packing tip you wish you knew before?
Tell us your thoughts in the comments below and be sure to share this article with all your friends!