I was packing more items than usual into my 32-liter backpack and a small bag for a 2-week trip while chatting with a friend. Eventually she asked,
“How in the world do you think you’re going to fit all of this into those two bags?”
I told her not to worry and twenty minutes later I had my two bags ready. I must point out that I’m a far more “practical packer” than just about every woman I’ve ever met. But as airlines charge more and more for more limiting luggage allowances, even high-maintenance ladies might need some helpful tricks in packing a carry-on only — while still having a decent choice of wardrobe.
Just remember: depending on where you’re going it’s a good idea to leave some extra space so you can bring back some goodies.
1. Roll, roll, roll your clothes.
The old rolling trick saves lots of space, though some garments might need a little time to flatten out at your destination. Take each one of your folded garments and roll it tightly just before putting it in your bag so that you use every inch of space available. There are certain garments (such as dress cotton shirts) that cannot handle too much rolling or you will never de-wrinkle them — so lay those flat at the bottom of your suitcase then put your rolled up clothes on top of them.
2. Stuff your shoes up.
Each shoe has valuable space that can be used for storage. Place rolled up socks (or even your favorite bar of soap) inside your shoes and pack them back to back inside a shoe bag or in separate shoe bags; leather shoes should go in separate bags for better protection and stuffing them with socks helps keep their shape. High-heeled shoes are best packed in separate shoe bags so that, in addition to stuffing them with socks, you may also use the back of the heels to secure rolled up garments or fragile items.
3. Cloth handbags are your space friends.
Cloth handbags are great for saving space because you can fold them into tiny little things, which is especially helpful if you like to have many wardrobe options while dealing with limited space options. Cloth bags are handy if you fly with an airline that allows only one carry-on because you can stuff your cloth bag in your suitcase to get through check points but take it out afterwards to keep your wallet and passport closer to you.
4. Buy reversible.
What better than to pack one skirt but have the option of wearing two! You’ll easily find cloth handbags that are reversible but you might want to explore options for reversible clothing too, especially when it comes to bulky items like coats. (On top of saving space you’ll also save money, as you pay for one item that serves as two).
5. Bulk up on the way.
If you’re taking bulky items such as knee-high or hiking boots, wear them instead of packing them so you save a decent amount of space in your bags — remember that every inch is valuable. And if you’re headed somewhere colder than your departure city, carry your coat or thick sweater in your hands to save space in your luggage (airlines don’t count them as carry-on items).
6. Go on a toiletries diet.
Those who aren’t hotel dwellers may want to buy toiletries at their destination, but sometimes we just like that conditioner so much we want to take it with us (or we heard that the last person who bought shampoo at our destination lost all their hair!). Here are some tips for taking on toiletries, keeping in mind that you should check aviation regulations for the latest carry-on liquid rules:
- Instead of a full-size hair brush, take a wide-toothed comb or a mini-hair brush.
- Take free samples instead of a full bottle of perfume. Saves you space, money and headaches at security check points.
- For those who aren’t hotel dwellers take a combo shampoo/body wash instead of shampoo and soap.
- For the women who like makeup, some lipsticks and eye shadow also work as blush. And look into tinted moisturizers so that you don’t have to take a day moisturizer and foundation.
All packed and ready to go…
Using these tips I was able to pack my 32-liter pack (about the size of a regular carry-on) for a 35-day backpacking trip through the Iberian Peninsula that included:
- dinner dresses, partying outfits and apparel for everyday;
- hiking and beach wear;
- 5 pairs of footwear;
- a couple of handbags;
- my toiletries bag.
I also packed my laptop and other work gear as well as a few books and on the way home I managed to find room for four bottles of cava, which is Spain’s equivalent of champagne, and was I glad I’d left a little extra room for them!
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