Let’s face it, no one ever came back from vacation saying: “I wish my bags had been heavier.” A good traveler’s goal is to carry the bare essentials and leave the excess at home. How to put your luggage on a diet? Follow these easy tips:
1. Do your homework. Call the hotel, motel, friend’s house where you’re staying and ask the following: do they have a hairdryer, iron, ironing board, beach towels, bathrobes, sand toys—basically anything that’s bulky and that you’d rather leave at home? If the answer is yes, do not under any circumstances bring your own.
2. Check temperatures and events at your destination. Only pack what corresponds—do not bring “just in case” clothes.
3. Choose a central color to pack around. A neutral such as brown, black, or tan is a good place to start, then bring accessories and accent pieces that go with this color palette.
4. The numbers game. A good rule of thumb for trips less than one week is one shirt per day, one layering jacket or sweater, one bottom per every two days (but never less than two pairs of pants), no more than two pairs of shoes (one you wear and one you pack), underwear for every day, and seasonal additions, like a bathing suit.
5. Wash it out. If you’re traveling for more than a week, follow the same numbers as above and plan on washing clothes instead of bringing more. If you’re in a country with a good exchange rate, or aren’t on a tight budget, take advantage of the hotel laundry service or dry cleaning. Otherwise, bring individual packets of Woolite and a travel stain-treatment stick (Tide to Go is the best one).
6. Write it down. Make detailed lists of everything you plan to bring. That way you can easily see if you’ve allotted six pairs of pants for a four-day trip. Be honest, note everything—including socks and underwear—and then stick to your list when packing.
7. Downsize toiletries. Pick up travel-size versions of your favorite products whenever you see them, not just when you’re getting ready to travel. If you can’t find miniatures, buy small plastic bottles and decant from larger products.
8. Wear your heaviest shoes, sweater, and jacket. That way, you don’t have to pack them.
9. Pack outside your bag. Before you actually pack your suitcase, pile everything you plan to bring on your bed or dresser. This is your opportunity to eye your clothes and cull a few more items. If you pack directly into your suitcase, you’ll be tempted to throw in a few extra items (trust us, you will). Once you’ve made the final edit, pack only what’s in front of you. If you’ve followed our advice, your suitcase should now be a lean, mean, traveling machine: happy travels!