Whether traveling for business or visiting family and friends, packing efficiently can be a challenge. Not wanting to forget anything or feeling pinched for time, it's easy to panic and overfill your suitcase. Avoid the hassle (and extra airline fees) by traveling light. Pare down to the essentials and eliminate items you really don't need. Here are several things you can safely leave at home on your next trip.
- Full-size bottles of toiletries. Invest in small, 3-ounce travel-size versions of your go-to products: shampoo, conditioner, lotion, deodorant and contact lens solution. This change alone will save on weight and free up space. Keep them full and in a re-sealable clear plastic bag and they will be ready to go whenever you are. I put my serum and foundation in clean contact lens cases when I am on a short one or two-night stay.
- An outfit for every possible scenario. It's tempting to aim for the perfect ensemble for any occasion, but all you really need are a few versatile staples that can be mixed and layered. Select pieces in travel-friendly fabrics that can be used in a variety of ways: a comfortable dress you can wear for walking around, worn with a wrap (large scarf) over your shoulder for dinner. Dark pants for sightseeing that carry over to a nice restaurant in the evening by swapping out your shoes. Short sleeves when the weather is warm, plus a versatile jacket for meetings and when the air gets cool.
- More than one coat. One outer layer will provide warmth and water-resistance, depending on the weather. Pack something that will transition from casual to dressy, like a knee-length trench coat.
- A variety of shoes. For most trips, two pairs is ideal, three maximum: comfortable walking shoes (flats), tennis shoes for the gym and a mid-length heel. A stylish pair of pumps can do double-duty for meetings during the day and the theatre at night. Tuck in a pair of flip flops for the hotel room or pool.
- Any other gadget besides your smartphone and tablet. You don't need a separate camera, laptop, GPS, pedometer and music player when your phone or iPad is all those things and more. Photography buffs may wish to bring their fancy cameras, but otherwise, your phone will take adequate photos.
- A first aid kit. Leaving home can sometimes bring out the survivalist in us. Still, unless you are going camping, odds are you won't miss the first-aid spray, antibiotic ointment, medication for insect stings and bites, etc. A small bottle of pain reliever is advisable. If you are really nervous, pack a couple of Band-Aids and a safety pin for emergencies in your cosmetic case.
- Travel books. In most places you will have fairly consistent Internet access, so let your phone do the heavy lifting. Several great travel websites provide up-to-the-minute information on attractions, restaurants and lodging options, plus customer reviews. Even overseas you will be able to access free Wi-Fi in your hotel room and many restaurants and pubs.
- Jewelry for every outfit. Instead of trying to color-coordinate each dress or top you'll be wearing with a different statement necklace, rely on one neutral (and relatively inexpensive) classic that will complement any look.
- Workout gear. Be honest with yourself. If you are a dedicated athlete or never skip a morning run, by all means, bring workout clothes and appropriate shoes. Otherwise, it's highly unlikely you will be waking at sunrise to start a weightlifting program or go for a mountain run. A good pair of walking/running shoes and comfortable slacks or shorts will probably suffice.
No matter how big or small your suitcase or carry-on may be, it's wise to have a plan in place should your flight be delayed. If you find yourself stranded due to inclement weather or other circumstances, you'll be grateful that you brought along important medications, a lightweight change of clothes and a few healthy snacks. For most other items, a quick run to your favorite retailer will do the trick. Enjoy the freedom of traveling light!