Packing light has become a mantra for many a budget traveler. Unfortunately, it can take a lot of practice to learn to pare down your items until you can take just one carry-on per person. (Eric and) I have perfected it enough to take one large carry-on and one small one that fits under the seat, but it hasn’t always been a smooth road to where we are now. Luckily, I love packing and am willing to pack, unpack and repack a bunch of times before I go anywhere to make the most of the space I’ve got. I may bring a pack-flat extra bag for goodies I acquire along the way, but I make sure that I have some extra space in my bag as well, because having a carry-on that’s bursting at the seams is nothing you want to start with.
So, what are some ways to get your packing under control? Multi-purpose items are important in saving space and getting you closer to being a carry-on-only traveler.
Kindle or iPad
I am a reader and I love using my time on the plane or relaxing before bed reading a good book. I find that I can get a lot of reading done just in my down time, unlike when I’m at home and have many other things to think about. If you’re like me, you may find that you are either in the middle of a book when you leave and then want to start on another during your trip. Instead of packing two or more books or a stack of magazines, download your desired reading material to your Kindle or iPad (you can even do it on your mobile phone, though it can drain your battery fairly quickly) and save quite a bit of space in your bag, plus you won’t have the problem of wrinkled covers or torn pages from floating around with everything else in there. And, for the most part, you can now use your Kindle and iPad for music and movies, too.
I don’t know about you, but I hate, hate, hate having 400 different chargers in my bag, or the drawer at home for such things. Somehow, they are all nice and organized and once you close and open the bag, even if it’s two seconds later, they have turned into a big jumble of wires, like ever year’s Christmas lights. What the hell? Well, I have a solution to this – Not your Christmas lights. Those are still a mystery. I carry around an iGo multi-charger. One adapter (or two if you bring one for the car), small charging tips for each device and a splitter to charge more than one at a time. We have been able to pare down our electrical devices over the years, so this works perfectly for us. I also have a small iGo USB charging plug, which can be used on our netbook or the small power strip we also take, because hotel rooms never have enough available outlets.
Packable rain jacket
It never fails. Everywhere we go, it rains when it’s not supposed to. I mean, there was a hurricane in London. I kid you not. I think it might be us, but it’s always good to be prepared. I never bring an umbrella anymore. They just take up space and if you are in crazy downpours, they don’t help anyway. Umbrellas do nothing against sideways rain and it’s hard to do other stuff when one of your hands is occupied and everyone needs to have their own. A packable rain jacket takes up less space, even if you have to pack one per person, and can be used in the event of a change in weather or it’s just a bit chilly. I get cold pretty much everywhere I go, so I probably get more use out of this than anyone…except for the fact that we end up in monsoon rains everywhere, so it’s almost a guarantee we will use ours. If you are traveling during the winter and already taking a coat with a hood, you can probably omit this one.
Not just for the beach anymore! A sarong can double as a billion different items, besides a bathing suit cover-up: a skirt, a top, a wrap, a headscarf (for those really conservative churches), a picnic blanket, a towel, a tote bag. I could go on and on, but you get the idea. A sarong packs down to almost nothing, is easy to carry around in your day bag or pocket and can be super-duper handy in many situations. You never know what might go wrong or when you want to have a picnic in the park and not get grass stains on your khakis!
What are some of your favorite items that save space in your travel bag?