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Packing Light is Your Key to Freedom

Without fail, I have the exact same conversation with every first-time travel partner I jump on a plane with. It goes a little something like this:

They see me approaching them at the airport—or wherever we meet up—carrying but a carry-on and laptop bag. “That’s all you’re bringing?”

Me, staring at their pile of luggage. “You’re bringing all of that?!?!”

I am a light packer for all trips. This is not only prudent but saves my sanity. For any trip, 10 days or less I will have 1 carry-on and that is all. How do I achieve such a feat? Well, let me break down the contents of my suitcase.


  1. First, it’s all about the carry-on. We all know there is a max weight and size for your carry-on luggage. Make sure you buy a bag that maxes out for your airline. The most comprehensive list I could find online was right here. Usually, the weight is about 22 lbs and the size is around 21 x 15 x 9. Walmart and other big box stores offer cheap luggage that allows you to buy for your trip. I guarantee it’ll be cheaper than paying the difference at the airport.

  2. Next, all of my clothes are either wrapped as tight as I can or flattened and then I vacuum seal them. I have a different brand, but universally I’ve heard good things about these. Vacuum sealing bags will save you at least 50% of your space. Seriously, it sounds super nerdy, but it works.

  3. For clothes, I first consider how many 1-time wear items like socks and boxers I’ll need. It’s important that those are vacuum-sealed fairly flat to fit in between the bars of your bag on the bottom. Swim gear also fits this rule. This will get you about 5% more space on top of the 50% from vacuum sealing. Then, I roll the rest of my clothes and seriously consider what I need. For example, on a recent trip to Palo Alto, I knew I needed to pack for 6 days; 1 day was formal, and the rest were casual. I checked the weather and saw sunny skies across the board. This means I needed 2 undershirts, 1 dress shirt, 3 casual shirts, 1 pair of jeans, 1 pair of shorts, and 1 pair of slacks. Radical, huh? What will people think of seeing me in the same clothes 2 days in a row? Here’s a tip: No one cares.

  4. Shoes, the biggest challenge. For my Palo Alto trip, I needed to bring 3 pairs. This is where living practically (even outside of travel) comes into play. I wear Vans … all the time. Why? Well, for travel they flatten out the best, have the least amount of crap caught in the grip, and they clean up easily. Now, I know, the women out there reading this are cursing me out right now because I don’t have to wear heels! You didn’t think I’d write this whole blog without considering the females out there, did you? I travel with a friend and she gets her travel shoes from here. What makes them travel heels? ***Drum roll please!*** The heels detach!

  5. Now, with all that room you just saved you can fit presents on the way home, jewelry, and other small items. For a lot of that, you can put the items into your laptop bag as well.

To understand how well this strategy works, I once took a friend’s 2 suitcases, 1 carry-on luggage down to 1 carry-on, and yes, my travel partner was female! So there you have it; male or female you too can pack light, save money, save time, and save your sanity!

For my next trip, I’ll take a video of me packing. For now, the list will have to do. I know what many of you are thinking …. what about the toiletries? Well, that’s a story for another blog.

Do you have some packing tips to share with the rest of the class? Share them in the comments.

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