Yes, you can fit all of your clothes into one bag — here’s how

by Karen Fawcett on October 21, 2008

When it comes to airline baggage, less is more. Airlines have not only begun charging for the first bag, but also cracking down on carry-ons.

So how do you downsize?

Smart packing takes substantially more planning. If you’re able to survive with a carry-on suitcase, traveling is, hands down, easier.

Consider the following scenarios:

•    Your baggage is lost.
•    Air-handlers are on strike.
•    You have a tight connection.
•    It’s impossible to get a porter or a cart.
•    Hopping on and off trains is much easier if you’re not overburdened. Hearing the conductor announce that when you stop you have only two minutes to disembark can strike fear in loaded-down travelers’ hearts. It can look like a Marx Brothers’ replay as passengers toss suitcases from the train onto the platform in a race against time.

Here’s what to do:

Unless Weather.com guarantees perfection, assume you may be in for some climate surprises. With the exception of summer months, pack a set of silk underwear that can be worn under everything. It takes no space in suitcases and is often a blessing should the chill factor set in.

Assemble a “mix and match” wardrobe. Each item should coordinate with the others, to be dressed up and down. Squelch the urge to pack a knockout dress that can only be worn once.

Select clothes you know and love and ones that don’t wrinkle. Although you can always borrow an iron (or have items pressed), there are so many “travel-perfect” clothes being manufactured these days. If you’re a frequent traveler, they’re worth the investment.

Color coordination is essential. For women, it means wearing the same shade of clothes with a few accents. I’m always comfortable in black or beige. A city wardrobe can consist of two skirts or dressy pants, a pair of casual pants, a jacket to be worn with all of the above, and three shirts or sweaters which can be made to look dressy with different costume jewelry or patterned silk scarves. I always wear a colored shawl over the coat that I wear on the plane.

Pack a small fold-up umbrella. More than likely, it will come in handy.

Men are less “packing challenged.” If they’re traveling on business, one dark suit is invariably enough. Add a navy blazer, a pair or two of gray pants, three dress shirts, plus a couple of casual ones, and call it a day.

Shoes present a challenge. it’s not a good idea to buy new ones unless you’ve had sufficient time to break them in. There’s nothing more miserable than not being able to walk. Bring a maximum of three pairs: a pair of casual ones, good walking shoes and a dressy pair for evenings. Wear the heaviest ones on the plane.

Many people pack more underwear than they’ll ever need. Bring three pairs of light ones that dry quickly. You can wash them and hang them in your bathroom overnight. You don’t need to sport detergent. The hotel bath gels do the job. Ditto when it comes to nightgowns, robes and pajamas. If you’re staying in hotels, check to see whether or not they offer robes.

Another suggestion: Invest in a selection of different colored plastic or mesh bags. Pack your “essentials” here. They can be squeezed into a suitcase and identified at a moment’s notice. If you’re running short, use every-day plastic kitchen bags as extras. Not having to grope for socks and/or stockings, underwear, ties or scarves, medications, bathroom amenities, etc., facilitates unpacking and makes life more orderly.

The choice of a suitcase is another consideration. Hard-sided ones with rollers have been extremely popular. But they’re not as flexible. Recently, a new variety of duffle bag with rollers has come out, and it’s definitely worth a look-see. It is more pliable when it comes to fitting into an airline’s overhead bin. But do clothes end up more wrinkled?

Some people swear that rolling clothes is the way to go. Others, most especially men, say that spells disaster.

For serious packers, pack two days before your departure and resist the urge to stuff anything more in the suitcase.  That’s the real challenge!

Anyone who has any packing tips, please share them. Travelers need all the help they can get.

Karen Fawcett is president of Bonjour Paris.

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  • http://n/a Martina Taylor

    Pack some plastic sandwich and freezer bags as well. They always come in handy.

  • T Sorensen

    Use the travel size space bags to pack your clothes. These are not the ones you need to vacuum out the air but the ones you just roll up or sit on to get the air out. I use them every time I pack a suitcase. My family of 3 went to London for 10 days with just a carryon each because we used these bags.
    These also keep TSA from touching your clothes as everything is sealed in clear plastic. I have had my bags searched many times (confirmed by the notice left by TSA) and not once have the bags been unsealed. I always put an extra bag in to use for the dirty clothes. They also protect your clothes if any liquids like shampoo, etc happen to leak.
    The one problem with these bags is that they do not keep clothes from getting wrinkled. Most of the time just hanging the article in the bathroom when you take a shower will take care of most of the wrinkles. Also most hotels and motels today have irons available.

  • Frank

    Sorsenson is RIGHT ON THE MONEY.

    I highly recommend space bags. Even those that you do vacuum out. they are awesome as they reduce the same of clothes tremendously!

  • Craig

    I agree with Frank and Sorensen – they said everthing I would have. My family took a trip to Austria and Germany with one carry-on each and we had no troubles. Riding trains was easier and when we got back to the US, we didn’t have to wait for bags – we even surprised Customs, as they weren’t ready for the masses yet and they let us walk right out. Pack lots of plastic bags – it saved me from spilled shampoo once.

  • Richard

    And you can stuff the empty spaces in your packed shoes with socks and other small items.

  • Kayla

    I think you are totally right richard. I do that every time i go. I can’t get the space bags, because they aren’t in stores anywhere I live, and the TV offer is too expensive. I’m packing for 2 weeks, do you agree with the rolling clothes, or keeping them layed out????????????

  • CT

    Rolling works well for women’s knit and casual clothes. You can definitely fit more into a 22″ roller this way than by folding, but be aware this will also make the luggage heavier & harder to lift into the overhead bin. Put the heaviest items (usually shoes) next to the wheels.

    You can substitute extra large Ziplocs for so-called space bags. Squeeze out as much air as possible before zipping shut. Be aware that the ziplocs will puncture more easily than the more expensive space bags, however.

    I always wear my heaviest clothes and shoes on the plane. Often this means cotton and wool which is safer anyway (most plane accidents involve fire, not a good time to have lots of polyester or nylon next to your skin). Plus the plane will be cool. Shed layers into your carryon if need be.

    These days I pack a small straightening iron but not a hair dryer. Even though the dryers in most hotels are woefully underpowered for my thick hair, the iron takes care of it.

    I use a ziploc for all the electronic cables and adapters I bring except those used the day of flight.

    I take a couple of my company’s large manila envelopes with me on most trips, and use them to mail documents acquired during my trip (like conference notebooks, handouts, etc.) back to myself so I don’t have to add their weight and bulk to my luggage. On long trips with multiple destimations, I sometimes FedEx things I no longer need back to my house. E.g. tropicware as I leave FL for CO in the winter, extra warm clothing when it’s the other way around. If you or your spouse works for an airline (mine does), FedEx gives a great interline discount on shipping.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_5BPMW5T2FBVMZD4YXONMSAPSEE Aidan Edward

    Want to fit more in one bag, you can do this by choosing an appropriate bag having a maximum no. of pockets so that you can pack your maximum luggage in one bag..

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