How To Pack Light And Avoid Checking Luggage
As more and more airlines have begun charging for checked baggage, more people have begun to carry-on their luggage. Of course, carrying on means packing lighter. This can be especially difficult for longer trips. Of course, it may be worth the effort if you want to avoid the $25 (or $40 or more) fees associated with checking bags on most – but not all (see below) – airlines.
There are other advantages that come along with only relying on carry-on luggage. Passengers who don’t check their bags don’t have to worry about the airline losing their baggage. Instances of lost luggage are pretty rare, but there is always a chance (based on the percentages of bags lost) and the hassle of waiting for your suitcase to be found can be unbearable.
The first part of any carry-on packing strategy is having the correct piece of luggage. It is easy to find pieces of luggage that are specifically designed to meet most airline’s carry-on requirements. Some people opt for hard-sided suitcases or luggage that is built around a rigid frame. This will assure them that the suitcase will fit in an overhead compartment, but it does not allow for the proverbial “stuffing of the suitcase.” Soft-sided bags are a better bet when it comes to getting as much as possible into a small area. Soft-sides not only allow you to get that extra pair of socks and jeans packed, they also make it easier to push into the overhead compartment. As long as a bag actually fits in the overhead, it is unlikely that flight attendants or other airline staff-members will ask you to check it.
There have been comedy skits and jokes about people wearing 12 layers of clothes on the airplane so that they don’t have to check their suitcase. Of course, this approach is laughable and extreme, but there is a practical related idea. Remember that airplanes can be cold. Wear heavier clothing for your flight. If you want to bring a jacket, wear it. It will take up a lot of room if you choose to pack it and can be slipped off and stowed under the seat or even in the overhead compartment without questions from the flight attendants. Likewise, jeans, sweatshirts/sweaters or heavy shoes take up unnecessary room. Pack your light clothes and wear your heavier ones.
What about your purse or briefcase. Most airlines allow you to carry a small personal bag in addition to your carry-on (be careful about this though, some airlines – namely Ryanair – are very strict about this). This has to be small enough to be stowed under your seat. You can even opt for a small backpack. If you use this second bag for packing instead of for your personal items and entertainment, you’ll be able to use it for any items that did not fit in the carry-on. Just be aware that security may perform a bag search. If you won’t want your underwear or toiletries in full view of other passengers, you might want to put it in your carry-on suitcase rather than your backpack/purse.
There are various approaches to fitting maximum amount in your suitcase. Some people roll their clothing into tube shapes rather than folding it, This allows them to press items together and limit the amount of open space in the suitcase. Other people say that laying items as flat as possible (not folding shirts or jeans more than once) is a better way to limit unused space. These are both proven methods of packing.
Still, there are those times when everything you want to take simply won’t fit in a carry-on. In this case, the best approach is to eliminate unnecessary items. Can you buy toiletries at your destination? If so, you can take out shampoo, toothpaste and shaving cream. Going to a beach destination? You will be able to buy swimsuits, towels and water sports equipment once you arrive.
Sometimes packing light is just not an option. Extended periods of travel call for more luggage than a simple carry-on. In this case, it is possible to look for alternatives. Shipping your extra clothes or equipment to your destination is a possibility, though one that will most likely end up costing as much or more than checking a bag.
Some airlines offer free baggage checking. This is the case on many international flights, when travelers going abroad cannot reasonably be expected to bring only a single carry-on. Airlines like Southwest offer free baggage checking on all flights and other airlines, like Delta, give their credit card holders and loyalty club members cheap or free baggage checking.