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Traveling light: How to streamline while packing

If you are prone to over-packing, you are not alone. For most of us, about one-third of what we pack winds up being unworn, unused or unneeded on our journey. Skip the extra weight, and you’ll feel lighter and have more room in your luggage for the things you want to bring home , and you’ll never go back to your old “stuff one more thing in” ways.

Plan your categories

For any international journey, the things you need will fall into categories. Depending on where you are going, your categories might be clothing, footwear, toiletries, electronics, and trip facts, such as guidebooks and hotel reservations. Once you have your categories listed, write down every item you plan to take. This will accomplish two things: you won’t forget anything important, and you will see which items you can eliminate or pare down.

Eliminate the heft from each category

Think about more than your clothing. Most of the room in your luggage is taken up by non-clothing items. Let’s take a look at how to pare down each of the categories listed above.

For clothing, think flat and versatile

Wrinkle-resistant fabrics like rayon, silk or microfiber take up less space than denim, cotton or fleece and are less likely to make you look like a rag bag after they’ve been packed for awhile. Consider using compression bags, as they can reduce the size of clothing by half by removing air. Once you’ve chosen your wardrobe, lay it all out side by side and take a hard look. Do you really need both blue shirts? Are all of the pieces truly mix and match? If an item works with only one other piece, leave it at home.

Be heartless with your shoes

Two pair of street shoes are all you need, plus one pair of flip-flops for indoors. Pack them in the bottom of your bag and fill them with small items. Inside a shoe is a great place to stow any fragile items.

Rely on destination toiletries

Toiletries can take up a lot of room and may spill in your luggage. And, chances are, you’ll use less than half of what you bring. Plan to use hotel soaps, shampoos and conditioners. For the toiletries that you do bring, pack only travel sizes. These can be purchased at just about any drugstore, along with empty travel-size containers you can fill with your own products. And don’t forget, they do sell shampoo in other countries.

Electronics – friend or foe?

Chances are you don’t need a laptop AND a tablet AND an e-reader AND a cell phone. Every one of these items needs charging cords, which take up yet more room. Pare down to the absolute minimum number of devices, and make sure each of them performs at least double duty.

Don’t haul a ton of paper

Guidebooks are useful items but they contain many more pages – and take up more room – than you really need. Rather than packing one or more space-hogging tome, photocopy just the pages you need and leave the rest at home.

Take a practice run

Now that you’ve organized everything you plan to take in one place, it’s time to pack it and see how everything fits. Your “practice packing” should include any bags you will check as well as your carry-on. If you’ve packed everything and you still have room in your bag, great. Add a canvas zipper tote to use at your destination. And resist the urge to add “just this one more thing because you have room. You’ll need that extra space for your return trip.

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