Packing Tips: How to Travel the World with a Carry-On

What type of packer are you? Are you a full-size suitcase plus carry-on user, a back-packer or one of those streamlined small roller-bag types? We all have our own individual approaches to packing, and it’s worth stopping to ask ourselves if our personal packing style needs a little tweak.

European travel guru (and our buddy!) Rick Steves tells us: “The measure of a good traveler is how light she travels.” That might be over-stating things a bit, but there are clear benefits to packing light, which Rick outlines on the travel tips section of his website. Benefits like:

• You enjoy more mobility and freedom with a smaller bag. Many parts of the world don’t prioritize accessibility, and hauling a heavy bag up flights of stairs could even cause you to injure your back before your holiday properly begins.

• If you carry-on your own luggage, it’s far less likely to get lost, damaged or stolen.

• No more waiting around the luggage conveyer belt in a jet-lagged fog with similarly dazed-looking travelers! You can walk off the plane with carry-on in tow and hit the ground running.

Plus, if you travel to Europe with just a carry-on size bag you avoid paying all those extra baggage fees that airlines like Ryan Air and Easy Jet like to charge.

Clearly, there are benefits to streamlining your packing.

But how to do it?

Pack only what you are sure to use
While packing, most of us often throw a few extra “just in case” items in our bags, but Rick says this is a big mistake - that we should be careful to pack only what we genuinely need. So stop and honestly ask yourself: “Am I definitely going to use this?” If the answer is only a wishy-washy “maybe” then leave it behind. Remember: unless you’re in the wilderness, you can almost always buy something along the way if you need it. Sometimes those items – like an umbrella from London – make fun souvenirs!

Plan your outfits thoughtfully
Fortunately the summer travel season is almost here, so bulky coats, boots and sweaters will not be taking up precious space in your bag. If you’re a woman, lightweight summer dresses, cardigans and skirts can roll down to tiny sizes, as do leggings (in case the weather turns a bit cooler) and lightweight cotton t-shirts. And a bit of common sense: be sure to bring pieces that mix and match in multiple combinations. Sticking to a neutral plus one-colour palette is helpful (e.g. white, black, beige, blue).

Consider doing laundry - or having someone do it for you
If you’ll be away for a couple weeks, it helps to stay in a place with laundry facilities, as that way there’s no need to pack 14 changes of clothes. This isn’t restricted to apartment rentals: many hotels will do laundry for a small fee.

Minimize your toiletries
To avoid bringing toiletries that take up a lot of space, consider not only travel-size containers, but investing in a couple multi-purpose products like 3 in 1 shampoo/conditioner/body wash and moisturizer with built-in sunscreen content. And if you’re traveling with a partner, there’s no need to bring multiples – share that tube of toothpaste.

Research hotel amenities
If you’re someone who likes to maintain a coif while traveling, it’s worth calling your hotel to see what sorts of style amenities they offer guests. Many will have not only a standard hairdryer but also straightening and curling irons available.

Wear it on the plane!
And finally: there’s no need to pack your heaviest layers: wear them on the plane. Chances are the aircraft cabin is the one place on your trip where you’ll really want to wear socks and a long-sleeve cover-up/jacket.

Give your packing some serious thought before your next trip and see how it feels to travel without checked luggage. You may just find the freedom of carry-on so intoxicating that you’ll be a true light-packing convert.
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