Pack Light, Pack Smart

Weekend Wanderlust

By Jamie Hazlett
Sun Star Columnist

As Thanksgiving and Winter Break approach, many students will be contemplating plans to visit family or take a vacation.  Whether you’re flying or driving, what you take and how you take it can determine the ease with which you travel.  Most airlines now charge extra fees for checked baggage (one exception is Alaska Airlines, which does not charge for checked baggage on in-state flights).  The best way to avoid these fees and to lighten your load is to pack strategically so that all you require for a week’s getaway are carry-ons.

The first step is to choose your luggage.  Remember that there’s a limit of 45 linear inches (that’s the total of the height, width and depth of the bag) for carry-ons.  Rolling suitcases that fit the size requirement are available, or you can opt for a duffel bag or a large backpack.  An open main compartment is important – this maximizes the efficiency of your limited space.  Also remember that not everything has to, or even necessarily should, go into this main bag.  Keep your laptop, iPod, and gum in a smaller bag that you can call your “personal item.”  Messenger bags and smaller backpacks work well for this.  Ladies who normally carry a purse might consider packing their empty handbag and using a smaller wallet for the flight.

Once you’ve got your carry-ons, you’ve got to fill them.  You don’t need your entire wardrobe for a four-, five-, or even seven-day trip, and some travelers can go even longer.  If you’re staying with friends or family, they’ll probably let you do laundry if you need to, and even if there won’t be any laundry facilities, you can still pack light.  Pants will generally last two to three days, so wear a fresh pair to the airport and you only need to pack a couple extra.  Go with slacks instead of jeans, as dress pants tend to be thinner than denim.  For a week I personally take a clean shirt for each day, but some may be comfortable wearing a shirt for two days.  If so, your load will be lighter still.

Taking a second pair of shoes with you?  Try to pack the ones that squish the most – for instance, wear your running shoes and pack your Converses.  Choose neutral colors for your clothes so you can match easily.  The best trick is one that my mother taught me: don’t fold your clothes.  Instead, roll them tightly and secure each garment with a rubber band.  This not only saves space, as rolled items take less space than their folded counterparts, but also decreases wrinkles and lines if you roll neatly.  If you’ve been reasonable with your bag size and clothing choices, you should have some room left for your other necessities.

This being the holiday season, you’ll probably bring more back then you left with.  Try packing an empty larger bag of the soft-sided variety in your carry-on.  If you buy or receive enough items that you have to use the extra bag, you’ve still saved money by not paying for checked luggage both coming and going.  Remember, too, the restrictions on gels and liquids when you pack. If you use specific products that only come in large sizes, go to Fred Meyer and get a couple of empty  three-ounce plastic shampoo containers from the health and beauty section.  They’re cheap, they’re reusable, and they’re much better than an argument with the Transportation Security Administration.

Even if you don’t switch to just carry-ons on your next trip, try at least to pare down your packing list.  Think about all the things you normally take that you never use. This time, don’t take them.  Anything you can do without for a few days, do without it; you won’t die.  Save money, save time, and save your back. Pack light.

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