Packing light has always been a savvy travel tip, because hauling less weight means you travel with more comfort and freedom.
But now, when you consider the baggage fees implemented by most airlines, packing light makes more sense than ever. Most airlines charge per-piece fees for your luggage as well as extra-weight fees for bags over 50 lbs. (Check your airline for the latest info.)
As Rick Steves, the travel guru who has written books such as Europe through the Back Door, advises, "Pack light, wash frequently, buy it if you need it." He suggests limiting yourself to one bag of about 20 pounds.
Regardless of your destination, either type of bag can be packed lightly.
Airline passengers are generally allowed to bring aboard 1 personal item and 1 carry-on bag for no charge. There is no federal standard for carry-on bag size, but many airlines define a carry-on bag as no larger than 45 linear inches (length + width + height). It must be able to fit in an overhead compartment or under the seat. Always check with your airline for the latest rules.
The limitation of carry-on bags is that the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) restricts what you can bring. Some personal items, sporting goods and tools can only be taken if checked. Visit TSA's list of permitted and prohibited items for a complete list.
The TSA says the "3-1-1" for a traveler's carry-on bag is:
Note: There are some exceptions for essential liquids, such as baby formula and medicines.
Check at tsa.gov for the most up-to-date regulations. Outside of the U.S., check with the airline you will be using.
You'll have fewer security hassles if you check your bag. Some items cannot be carried on and must be checked. If you're taking an ice axe, ski poles or Swiss Army knife—items that could also be considered weapons—your bag will have to be checked. See the latest list of restrictions at TSA's list of permitted and prohibited items.
Traveling light is to your benefit even when checking your bag. Why? A light bag doesn't run the risk of incurring an overweight baggage fee. Plus, once at your destination, you still need to haul it around. A light bag means greater comfort and freedom.
Wheeled backpacks: This is like a travel pack, but it has wheels for superior hauling in airports.
Wheeled luggage: These are the mega-popular suitcases with wheels and a retractable handle.
Wheeled duffels: These are typically roomy, soft-sided bags with wheels and a retractable handle.
Some time-tested strategies on how to reduce your bag weight:
To determine your bag's weight, weigh yourself with and without your bag or use a digital luggage scale (usually available at REI.com).
The less you bring, the less chance for lost or stolen items. Some tips:
Some airports require bags to be unlocked for random security checks. The TSA, however, does recognize some locks, and TSA screeners have the tool to open and relock them.
Other lightweight security items to consider:
Unless you have the luxury of hotel laundry or dropping your clothes at the cleaners, doing laundry is part of traveling light. The good news is that it doesn't require much effort. Prior to traveling, choose your clothes carefully and do a "test" wash to see how quickly they dry. Before hanging, roll items in a towel and squeeze out excess water to speed up drying.
By Linda Ellingsen
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Last updated: 02/18/2014
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