5 Tips for Packing Light

For starters, don't follow this lady's example. (You probably won't need a wedding dress, riding boots, and tennis racket on your next business trip anyway.) Assuming you're not traveling by steamship with a trunk full of your life's possessions, you probably want to pare down and fit all the essentials into a carry-on bag.

Before you begin, make a checklist of what you really need to bring. Travel site OneBag has a helpful list of everything you could possibly fit into a carry-on, but they err on the detailed side. Most short trips won't require all the stuff they outline.

Once you've determined what you're going to bring, you've got to figure out how to pack it. Here are five different packing methods (with links to more detailed info).

  1. Roll it up. The New York Times has a photo slideshow documenting how flight attendant Heather Poole packs a carry-on bag for a 10-day trip. Her secret? Rolling clothes tightly, setting them aside, and then stacking layers from heavy to light. For more details, click here.
  2. The pillowcase technique. We like to pack a pillowcase when we're traveling, since it takes up minimal space but works well as a way to separate clean clothes from dirty ones inside your suitcase.
  3. Vacuum-packing. With a vacuum and a garbage bag, you can reduce the space your clothes take up by half. This type of packing works best for a move or a long-term stay, where you need to fit a bunch of things in one bag and you'll have plenty of time to unpack and iron your clothing once you reach your destination.
  4. The bundle method. Instructables has a great step-by-step tutorial for packing your carry-on using a bundling method, where you layer the largest items on the outside and wrap them around smaller items in the center of your bundle.
  5. Check the rules. The Transportation Security Administration posts what you can and can't pack in your carry-on luggage on their site. Click here for a list of prohibited and allowable items.


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Image: McCall Homemaking Cover, 1942 by Nickolas Muray from the George Eastman House Collection via Flickr Commons

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