When other women hear that I don’t check a bag when I fly, many say they wish they could do the same. But when they think about living out of a carry-on for a week or more, they get cold feet: They picture wearing the same pair of increasingly grubby jeans every day, or they fear being so deprived of cosmetics that they no longer resemble their passport photos and can’t clear security.
Going carry-on only isn’t for everybody, but it sure can make traveling easier: No extra fees, no lost luggage, no fumbling with baggage carts and waiting at the baggage carousel. You don’t have to sacrifice style to streamline your luggage: Here’s how to lighten your load without kicking fashion to the curb.
1. Vary your jewelry instead of your shoes. In addition to a pair of comfortable shoes, try packing just one versatile pair of dressy shoes and inject variety with jewelry instead. You can pack a heck of a lot of jewelry in the space that additional pair of heels would take up.
2. Prioritize your potions. Transferring beauty products into TSA-approved 3-ounce containers is the Waterloo of many a woman’s resolve to go carry-on. Instead of pulling out every cosmetic product you use in the course of a week, think about what you really need every day. I’m no backpacker -- I don’t wash my hair and brush my teeth with the same product – but I know there are some things I can do without in the short term. If you go four days without eye cream, will you really come home looking 10 years older? (If so, by all means, check a bag.)
3. Wear your coat on the plane, no matter what the weather. Do I feel a little silly wearing a ski jacket on a flight out of Orlando? Yup, but wearing instead of packing a coat pays fashion dividends in the suitcase space it opens up. Plus, a coat makes a nice blanket or pillow during the flight.
4. Embrace boots. Cowboy boots – or any chic, comfortable boots that you wouldn’t wear on the Appalachian Trail -- look great with jeans, pants, skirts or dresses, so they really earn the space they take up in your bag. Wear them on the plane and you’ll maximize your luggage space even more.
5. Change up your makeup. If you’re in the habit of wearing liquid foundation, consider a pressed powder or other non-liquid base for the trip. Opting for non-liquid eyeliner, shadow and blush while traveling can open up room in your quart-sized bag for the liquids you can’t avoid packing.
6. Invest in a jacket that can withstand a vicious crumpling. One of the only travel garments I’ve found worthwhile is a uBu jacket I received as a sample years ago. It goes with everything from dresses to jeans, doesn’t stain, is virtually indestructible and looks great even when pulled out of the bottom of a backpack after a 10-hour flight.
7. Opt for camis with shelf-bra lining instead of underwire bras when possible. Camis take up less room, are easier to wash if necessary and add an extra layer of warmth when needed.
8. Stock up when you arrive. If your trip is long enough that travel sizes won’t get you through, buy drug-store items after your flight lands and toss them before you fly home.
9. Choose your second bag carefully. In addition to the bag you stow in the overhead compartment, you’re entitled to a personal item. Maximize this bag by opting for a satchel or backpack that you can pop your purse into when it’s time to board the plane – gate agents often waylay passengers who try to board with three items.
10. Plan for souvenirs. Another objection to going carry-on comes from gals who like to shop while they’re traveling and need suitcase room for the treasures they’ve collected. One solution is to pack an empty nylon duffel in your carry-on that you can fill with your finds and check on the way home. Alternately, fill the extra bag with dirty clothes, making room for souvies in your carry-on. Some stores will ship items to your home, but if the fee is prohibitive, consider shipping a box home yourself. You might spend some of the money you saved by not checking a bag, but you’ll still escape the anxiety of lost luggage and the tedium of waiting at the baggage carousel when you’d rather be out exploring your destination.
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Alisson is a freelance writer and journalism teacher based in Florida. Her first trip out of the country was to the Bahamas at age five, where she told everyone who would listen that she was from another country. No one was impressed, but the trip did leave a lasting impression of the transformative power of travel. Her writing appears in National Geographic Traveler, the Tampa Bay Times and mental_floss as well as newspapers, magazines and web sites in the U.S., Canada and Australia.
Located: Gainesville USA
Likes: outdoors, family travel, Florida, off the beaten path