Attention road warriors: If you think you’re making it on board your plane with that second carry-on bag you’re sadly mistaken. It doesn’t matter if that compact roller case fits in the carry-on bin, if it’s larger than a backpack and you didn’t board in Zone 1, someone’s going to force you to check it at the gate. And that means a last-minute scramble to separate your laptop from your liquids and undies.
Why? Because airlines are overbooking flights more than they typically do to cut costs. And since bag fees are skyrocketing, every square inch of overhead space is going to be full by the time the first round of economy seats are onboard. So if you don’t spring for premium boarding (or fly an airline where checked bags still are free), you need to downsize your luggage or face the fact that you’ll be waiting in baggage claim with all the other over-packers.
When I hit the road, I travel with two teeny bags, which the PYM crew has dubbed the “Mary Poppins” — after the fictional nanny who was able to pull things like a coat stand and a golf-size umbrella from her bag. At their behest, I’ve filmed this short video to show you what I manage to fit in mine.
Here are some other packing tips to help you pare things down:
- Color coordinate. If you keep all your tops and bottoms in the same color family, you’ll be able to turn them into any number of outfits. And everything goes with black. For a five-to-seven day trip, my rule of thumb is three tops, two bottoms, one blazer or sweater, one dress, sleep stuff, workout clothes, underthings. If you have to, you can always wash things in the sink or launder at the hotel — it never takes more than a day for things to dry and every shower has a clothesline.
- Wear the bulkiest items on the plane. You’re going to need every last inch of space in that luggage, so if you have to travel somewhere cold, wear your coat and bulkiest sweaters and shoes on the plane.
- Pack wrinkle-free. Of course every hotel room has an iron, but it’s a drag having to spend the morning before an important presentation trying to steam the crease back into your trousers. If you don’t want to risk wearing your nice things on travel day, you may want to pack items that don’t wrinkle. Or get your dresses and suits dry-cleaned before the trip and just pack them in the plastic bag, on the hanger. They’ll arrive freshly pressed. Wrapping delicate items in tissue paper or silk scarves work too.
- Accessorize. If you’re a woman, learn to tie scarves and shawls. One bold wrap can transform any number of outfits and let you get more wear out of fewer clothes on the road. If you’re a man, it’s laughable how just a tie and a matching pocket square can make an old suit look different. Rather than bring multiple suits, bring different shells, shirts, scarves or ties. Or, if you must — bring two jackets, but wear the bottoms over again (it works the other way, too).
- Think multipurpose. Don’t pack shampoo, conditioner and moisturizer if the hotel has them unless you need heavy-duty conditioner. And for skin care, dermatologists will tell you that most people’s complexions look best if they just use Dove soap to cleanse and Cetaphil to moisturize, on lips and around eyes too — you don’t need anything fancy. Have really dry or sensitive skin? Use Vanicream soap and lotion instead. For makeup, you can look put together with just primer, foundation, lipstick and mascara (use a lash curler). Use your fingers to dot some lipstick on your cheeks and in the crease of your eye (blend well) to make everything pop and look pulled together.
Those are my favorite packing secrets. What are yours?