When I read about how travel isn’t fun anymore, I have to disagree. Embarking a boat, train, or preparing for a road trip is as enjoyable as it’s ever been; what’s changed is just how awful plane travel is.
Besides packed jets and the excruciating process of a line that is TSA screening, one of the biggest problems today is that it takes so much longer to load and unload ever-busier planes. This is mostly due to airline baggage fees and the bizarre obsession people have with keeping their bags with them. I prefer to check my bags and be rid of them upon check-in, which frees my hands and mind for more important things, like finding halfway edible food at the airport.
But for all of you who like to keep your bags within a 10-foot radius at all times (or are forced to carry your bags on due to draconian fees for checked bags), here’s a few tips for packing lighter — so maybe this time you can wedge your carry-on into the overhead bin without hitting me in the face.
You don’t need as much underwear as you think you do. However long you are traveling for, you only need three or four pairs of underwear (and women, two bras; one black and one nude). A quick rinse in the hotel sink and it will dry overnight, simpler than bringing 10 pairs, and lighter too. If you are a guy who wears boxers, consider bringing quick-dry fabric versions like Patagonia's. Of course, you can use them when not traveling, too.
Choose a simple color scheme. Mine is black, white and bright blue with a couple of red accents. These colors all work well together, tend not to show dirt and wear. Plus, having one color palette to work with means you can make more outfits from fewer pieces. Black and white stripes, houndstooth or polka dot patterns mix and match well with plain basics and colors. And they’re always classic.
Wear your heaviest and bulkiest clothes on the plane. I never, ever pack jackets or a sweater, but I will always layer it on. Ditto for boots and belts, raincoats or winter coats. I rarely wear jeans to travel as they aren’t easily washable and they weigh too much, but if you do, wear them on the plane as they take up quite a bit of room in a packed suitcase.
Pick just two pairs of shoes — one to wear, one to pack. For women especially, this can be tough, but shoes take up a lot of room. I generally wear my boots or good walking shoes on the plane and pack a pair of super lightweight sneakers for destination jogs, and to give my feet a break. I’ve found the number of times I’ve worn my "going out" shoes when I’m traveling is usually once, so it’s just not worth the lugging.
Fabrics are key. Choose silk, bamboo, light cottons and lightweight wool and cashmere blends, all of which are natural fibers and will wash and dry easily. Polyester underwear that wicks moisture and dries in an hour can be a real boon. (Try these cute ones from Ex-Officio.)