If you’re traveling for the holidays, whether you’re flying or driving, remember you’re working with a limited amount of space in the car or your suitcase. You’re taking enough clothes for several days, probably heavy enough to keep warm in the winter. (Although we barely have to wear coats down here in Florida. Just pointing that out.)
And many people try to pack their gifts so they can save money. They end up spending more money instead and creating more of a hassle for themselves. There are several ways you can lighten your load and still get everything you need to where it needs to be.
1. Don’t check your bags.
If you’re traveling for more than a week to stay with relatives, the big mistake many travelers make is to pack one or two big suitcases and check them through to their destination. Everything goes into the bags, including kids’ clothes, gifts, and one outfit for each day they’re going to be gone.
And then, because literally millions of people are traveling for the holidays, your luggage could get lost or delayed, which means you’re without your clothes, gifts, toiletries and so on, at someone else’s house. If you’re going to check your bags, then be sure to pack at least one change of underwear, your toiletries, and your medication into your carry-on bag. (Be sure to stick your laptop and electronics into your carry-on as well.)
You’re better off streamlining your packing and fitting everything into a carry-on and taking that onto the plane. If your kids are five or older, they’re allowed to carry on their own bags. So you can pack their clothes into their carry-on, and let them be responsible for their own stuff.
The next four tips will help you pack light, so you can avoid checking your bags.
2. Pre-plan your schedule and plan your clothes around it.
Look at your schedule and plan out your days. Many people will pack a nice outfit, “just in case” they go somewhere fancy for dinner. Don’t do that. Either plan for the dinner out, or just don’t go to that level of restaurant.
Similarly, don’t take other “just in case” outfits, like whether you might go skiing or might go paint balling or might go to a museum. If you plan your schedule, you can be sure whether you need to take those clothes or not.
3. Remember you can double up and wear your clothes more than once.
Don’t pack one outfit per day. If you’re going to be gone for seven days, you don’t need seven pairs of pants and seven shirts. You can wear your pants at least twice or even three times, and the same could even be possible for some shirts.
Sure, you’ll need enough undergarments, like underwear, t-shirts, and socks but you can even cut down on those items if you can do laundry at least once while you’re there. Just make sure you have some laundry facilities available to you; double-check before you leave. In a pinch, you can always wash your underwear and socks in a hotel sink. Just get a very small bottle of detergent when you arrive, although some hotels may sell them in their lobby shop.
4. Ship your gifts early.
Don’t pack your gifts in your bags to try to save money. Most airlines charge $25 for your first bag, and $50 for a second, and you’ll probably end up carrying enough gifts to require a bag. If you shipped most of your gifts ahead a few days early, you’d spend as much as you would on a couple of checked bags.
You could also order gifts online at Amazon or other ecommerce stores, and pay to have them shipped. If you have Amazon Prime, which is $119 per year, you could get free shipping throughout the year. But if you had planned on spending $150 in checked bag fees, you could save yourself quite a bit of money by spending it on Amazon Prime instead, and doing all your holiday shopping a few days before you leave. Follow all these other tips, and you can use carry-ons and save all your checked bag fees, which will more than pay for your Amazon Prime membership.
5. Wear your heavier items.
If you’re going somewhere cold for the holidays, don’t pack your heaviest items, wear and carry them. Wear your boots and pack your normal shoes. Your boots will take up an awful lot of room, plus they’re likelier to be dirty and get grime on your clothes. Just remember to pack your shoes in shoe bags so you don’t transfer dirt then too.
You should also dress in layers for warmth, instead of wearing a giant parka. Thin layers are easier to pack and take up less room than a single coat. But even if you take a heavy coat, carry it through the airport and then wear it as you’re boarding the plane. It’s not officially a carry-on item then, and you can always take it off and stow it once you’re on the plane.
How do you travel for the holidays? Do you pack everything and pay the charges, or do you try to travel as light as possible to keep things easy. Share your thoughts on our Facebook page, or on our Twitter stream.
Photo credit: Josh Hallett (Flickr, Creative Commons 2.0)