4 Tips for an Efficiently Packed Carry-On

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Whether you're flying and would rather not check a bag or headed to a destination where you'll be responsible for schlepping your bag from point A to point B, if you can fit everything you need into one manageable suitcase, it can make life a lot easier.

It's something of an art form, however, to pack efficiently. Here are some of our top tips for keeping your bag from bursting at the seams:

1. Plan your outfits in advance, making sure each piece of clothing will mix and match. Each item should be good for a few different looks. Lay items out on your bed before you pack them, and make sure they'll work together. My favorite pieces are an A-line or pencil  skirt, wrap or shift dress, cardigan, solid-colored tank tops and T-shirts, and a pair of neutral pants, such as khakis, that could be dressed up or down. Use accessories that don't take up a lot of space, such as costume jewelry and sheer scarves to add individuality to your look. One item that always gets a place in my bag: a sarong. It works as a bathing suit cover-up, shawl or scarf for cool evenings, picnic blanket, beach towel, and makeshift shopping bag, and is compact enough to fit in my purse when I go out for the day.

2. Rather than bringing a bulky piece of outerwear in case it's cold, bring items that can be layered to provide warmth and worn as separates when temperatures rise. A crushable anorak or small umbrella in case of rain is a good idea, too. If you do need to bring something bulky, wear it, don't pack it. This goes for hats, also.

3. If you're traveling for more than a few days, consider doing laundry while you're there. For lightweight items, pack a travel-size bottle of laundry detergent; you can wash items out in your sink and hang them to dry (use this handy portable clothesline for added drying space). For jeans, sweatshirts, and other heavy items, use the hotel laundry service.

4. Shoes take up a lot of space, so look for multiuse options. Rather than packing your athletic shoes for your morning walk, a pair of sports sandals might take you from workout, to beach, to casual sightseeing. A pair of flats could dress up your more casual outfits, and work well for evening. If you want to bring heels, consider a wedge instead of a stiletto. While they look lovely, wearing stilettoes on boardwalks, uneven sidewalks, or cobblestone streets is a recipe for a twisted ankle—and who needs that on vacation?

Please share your best tips for traveling light in our comments section!

Written by Jennifer Reynolds, West Michigan Woman staff writer. Her traveling claim to fame is spending a month in South Korea and a month in Germany with only a carry-on bag.


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