These days, it costs a lot of money to check bags on a flight — even just one bag. Check two or more, and you can easily start racking up fees that are half the price of a plane ticket.

Plus, as many international travelers find, that huge suitcase on wheels that rolls effortlessly through airport hallways suddenly becomes a major hassle and backache on uneven, narrow sidewalks, in tiny taxi cabs, or in utterly charming 17th-century hotels with no working elevators.

But sometimes it’s tough to break the over-packing habit.  

Here are six ideas, ranging from easy-peasy to unconventional, that can save you money and help you travel light(er):

1. Always think “multi-use”

It’s tempting sometimes to just pack that one extra sweater because it’s so great. But are you going to wear that sweater more than once? Does it go with the pants you’ve packed, or the skirts? Does it work with the shoes you’re bringing? What inevitably happens is that you wind up packing other things to go with that one extra thing — and that’s how over-packing starts.

Make a list. Find tops, bottoms, and shoes that are versatile and that you can easily mix, match, and layer. Accessorize with light, easy-to-pack things: scarves, neckties, fabric belts.

2. If you must bring bulky things, don’t pack them — wear them

While this can be an admittedly uncomfortable option if you’re traveling between two very different climates — it still is easier than over-packing for one outfit. The bulky jacket, the long sweater, men’s dress shoes, the knee-high boots, the shoes with chunky heels, the big purse, the hiking boots — these are great candidates for wearing rather than packing. They take up a lot of room in a suitcase, they’re unusually heavy, and they’re not worth the extra heft and money.

3. Do a little laundry

Rather than packing a separate outfit for each day, consider bringing a few ounces of laundry soap and washing a load for a second round. Depending on the trip, this could allow you to even get all your clothes packed into a carry on.

4. Hit the thrift

If you’re heading to a cool city, get the skinny on the best thrift stores or local shops in the area, and find something that can serve as a boost to your traveling wardrobe and a unique souvenir of your visit. (The money you save on over-limit fees can go a long way to having a wonderful piece from your destination!) Donate something you brought with you and take home something new-to-you. Of course, depending on your budget, you might prefer a high-end boutique to a second-hand store — but the idea is still the same. Arrive light, leave light. And every time you put on your great find, you can remember the fun you had on your trip.

5. Use technology to your advantage

You likely know that you can bring a library’s worth of books and magazines on an e-reader or iPad.

But a tablet can also house handy travel apps that can make your trip more efficient and can store vital information. For example, you can scan copies of your driver’s license, passport, or credit cards and securely email those images to yourself, for easy access in case they are lost or stolen. There are apps for reservation and flight information, train schedules, best gas prices in your area, best food where you’ll be staying — all right at your fingertips, which can save you the weight and hassle of hard-copy documents and folders.

Before you pack, you can check out a site like, which allows you to check the forecast of your destination and can help you plan what to pack based on the temperature and conditions that might await you upon arrival.

6. Mail your stuff to and from your hotel

This might sound like a pretty kooky suggestion, but if you’re going to be staying in one place for a while — say, 10 days at a resort or something like that — consider what Caroline Costello from points out: “It costs $39 to ship a 15-pound package from Boston to Los Angeles if you use an Express Mail Flat Rate Box from USPS. Comparatively, a third checked bag on a domestic flight can cost as much as $150.”

If you plan ahead and just use simple ground shipping, you could save even more money. Pack a few essentials in your carry-on, and you can easily be set for a week.

Ready to try out your new lean-and-mean bag packing skills?

Schedule a “Let’s Get Acquainted Session today and let’s find a fantastic new destination for you spend all that money you will be saving on baggage fees.

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68 thoughts on “Want to lighten your load? Here are 6 bright ideas

    • Michelle Damon says:

      I always go back through what I’ve packed & think do I really need that – alot of times, I’ll end up taking a few unnecessary items out and making more room this way. And if I need a pair of “bulky” shoes like sneakers that take up more room, I wear them I stead of taking up space in my luggage.

      • Paul Awe says:

        Package what you need instead of what you want. This helps you from overpacking because you’re taking the bare minimum. This helped save some space left in my luggage for other things

  1. Misty Shallcross says:

    Very useful information, especially for my family that arent frequent flyers. Thank you, a good read.

  2. kathy m says:

    I roll my clothes which I think makes more room, but always pack less and use outfits that can be mixed and matched. If going someplace that I need bulk I fedX my bulk to my hotel. These are all good tips!

  3. Ellie Sheely says:

    I am with the school of “do a little laundry”. I tend to have my favorites and often do not even wear an item I packed. Less clothes, more comfort.

  4. Philip Rutan says:

    😢I will be 43 July and gf of 14 yrs is 41..we have never EVER had a vacation in both our lives..i no crazy. ..being full time grandparents of axel 3 and Austic wrking w him everyday so he we can help him stop flipping in public has been very hard..we was gonn5 try camping this wk end but decided to wait a tad longer and wrking him another mth so we can take lil vacations this summer..2 yes wrking w him and better he is getting but wow it is alot of tiring wrk but at least we no he will be fine later in life…we would like to camp and hike so where ever you can do that at we would go..

  5. Gloria Walshver says:

    What a great idea always used to pack my clothes will tell my daughters this when they go to the Middle East this summer

  6. Christina Hawkins says:

    I love using Ziplock bags to keep things separated and putting my shampoo/ conditioner bottles in just in case they leak.

  7. Evan says:

    Nice. My thinking also helps. Staying humble and not being stuck in materialistic ways. I think materialism leads to over packing because people constantly they pack things they don’t need

  8. Anna Pry says:

    if i haven’t used it at home recently, probably not going to need it on vacay either, i go as minimal as possible because you can always pick up an item there if you absolutley have to have something you didnt bring

  9. Marisela Garcia says:

    I think packing the necessary its ok to repeat clothes I mean sometimes we just need a laundry mat wash and go and boom you will not have so many issues with luggage

    • Nancy Femmer says:

      Although I not Air Traveled, but became an experience at packer when visiting family far away.
      Rolling clothes us a must, plus no wrinkles.
      Also remember to pack light.

  10. Lydia Goodman says:

    I roll my clothing, and try to pack multi use items. I havent tried them but Ive read good things about the packing cubes that are popular right now.

  11. Lisa P arrish says:

    Great tips! I think, too, that using a versatile wardrobe (black slacks or jeans to wear more than once) would save space too!

  12. Dana Matthews says:

    These are great ideas and lots of useful information. For me to making packing for a trip successful, I have to make a list days ahead and pack a little each day. I fail if I wait until the last minute to pack!

  13. Sheila Ressel says:

    I pack 1 or 2 pairs of pants and tops that are interchangeable and use accessories like scarves, belts, lightweight jackets to change up the looks so I don’t need to pack as much. I will wash these clothes in the hotel sink with Woolite when needed so I can re-wear them while on my trip.

  14. TinaH says:

    I always start making a list of what I want to take from the time I know where I’m going. As I think of things I add them, but I review the list often to see what can be deleted. Sometimes new items added make way for deletion of items already listed.

  15. Stephanie Grant says:

    My best packing tip is to pack a small garbage bag so you can pack your soiled clothing separately from the clean clothes for the trip home

  16. Jordan Binkerd says:

    Some cool ideas here…. though thrifting is less feasible while backpacking, which is usually the thing I’m packing for…

  17. Sarah L says:

    I’m with TinaH. My tip is to start making a list as soon as you know you’re going away. I like the idea of visiting thrift stores at your destination.

  18. Susan Smith says:

    I buy a lot of products in travel sizes and save the bottles when I run out and refill them. It saves a lot of space in my suitcase.

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