Thursday, May 29, 2014

How to Pack in Only a Carry-On (for warm weather)

On my trip to Central America, many of my friends were impressed with the tiny backpack and suitcase I carried. My goal was to pack light without forgetting anything important, and for the most part, I succeeded! When we hopped over to Guatemala for three days, I left my carry-on at the Belize lodge and only brought my backpack. Travel is MUCH easier when you have fewer items to worry about. 

the messy beginning of my packing process
(black backpack in the corner zips off the carry on to serve as a personal item)

Here are some tips on how you can travel light:

1. Find out if you’ll have access to laundry services. Some places will do your laundry for you, for a fee. You can pack much less if you know you’ll be able to wash everything.

2. Lay everything out in piles. It’s easier to spot overpacking. Do you really need four pairs of shorts AND two pairs of leggings for two weeks?

3. Get creative with your packing! Roll your clothes, stuff underwear inside your extra shoes, stuff socks between those annoying bars that line the middle of your suitcase. Don’t worry about keeping your clothes organized.

4. Use a small backpack as your personal item on the plane. Make sure you keep some of your clothes in there as well. I stuffed the bottom of mine with a pair of leggings, a rolled up t shirt and tank top, a pair of socks, underwear, and my rain jacket (which I rolled up and stuffed into the hood, keeping it small and convenient for packing).

5. Don’t bring unnecessary beauty products. When I travel abroad, I leave all makeup and hair products home. All I brought to Central America was a travel size shampoo bottle and some face wipes. Think about the activities you have planned – do you really need full eye makeup? You can free up a TON of space in your suitcase (and have more room in your 1 quart liquids bag) without those extra things.

6. Pack bags within bags. I brought a drawstring daypack so I wouldn’t have to lug my backpack around all the time, which I packed inside my suitcase. Empty any purses or bags you don’t need on the plane, fold them up small and put them in your suitcase.

7. Keep your liquids small. 3.4 oz is the rule. As many of those tiny bottles as you can cram into a 1 quart bag, you can take on the plane. Check out the travel-sized shelves at Target, Walmart, and other grocery stores for items in TSA approved sizes.

8. If you can buy something once you get there, don’t pack it! If you know you’ll be able to stop at a store once you reach your destination, save most of your liquids (sunscreen, bug spray, shampoo, toothpaste) and other easy-to-find items for once you arrive. Also, ditch as much as you can before traveling home (most of those travel sized items will be gone by the end of your trip anyway and will just take up room in your bag).

9. Wear your bulkiest items on the plane. Hiking boots may be a pain to retie after going through security, but they’re much harder to cram into a suitcase than flip-flops. Wear that bulky sweatshirt, too; it’ll probably be chilly on the plane.

10. Double-check TSA’s website (and your airline’s) for carry-on/personal item size restrictions and prohibited items. You can bring disposable razors in your carry-on, something I had to double-check online. Small aerosol cans (3.4 oz or less) can be taken on most planes now, but I’d recommend buying regular bottles of sunscreen/bug spray just in case. You don’t want to be stuck in the jungle getting eaten by mosquitos because security took your DEET!

11. Travel technology-free if possible. Using a laptop as your personal item drastically decreases your amount of packing room, so try unplugging from social media for the duration of the trip. If you don’t need it for work purposes, don’t bring it! You can upload all those gorgeous pictures when you get home. Plus, you can be much more engaged with your new environment when you face isn’t glued to a screen!

Traveling light gets a little more complicated if you need to pack for colder weather (more jackets, bulkier shirts, heavier shoes, etc.) but I have confidence that it can still be done!

Hope these tips are helpful. Happy travels!

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