Friday, June 3, 2011

Traveling light saves money, hassle and stress

The last time I was on an airplane, I was traveling with three small children, which necessitated bringing two umbrella strollers, three car seats, and a suitcase full of things like onesies, bibs, sippy cups, diaper rash cream and baby spoons. By the time we reached our destination, I felt like a beleaguered pack mule.

On my upcoming vacation, I’m planning on a much more relaxing flight (reading or watching an in-flight movie, instead of passing out stickers and lollipops for three hours) and I’m only packing what fits in a single carry-on.

I’m getting ready for the first vacation my husband and I have taken alone in nine years. The last thing I want is to be bogged down with too much stuff. By packing light, I won’t be subject to airline baggage fees ($25 per checked item), and I can bypass the check-in counter and the baggage claim carousel, saving myself extra time and hassle. Plus, I’ll be certain to arrive at my destination with my luggage in tow—no lost or delayed bags.

What’s more, by limiting myself to a single carry-on, I will only be able to pack the essentials. This means I won’t be lugging around dead weight (like three extra pairs of shoes), and I won’t need the assistance of a skycap or a bell hop (and therefore I won’t need extra cash for tipping).

While there are plenty of reasons to pack light, it does require extra thought and planning. Travel experts assert that one of the reasons many people overpack is because they fear the unknown. These unknowns become “what ifs.” And ultimately, those “what ifs” result in travelers bringing too much stuff—the proverbial “bringing everything but the kitchen sink.”

Travel often comes with a few hiccups, but minimizing the unknown is one way to help you travel light. To prepare for our upcoming trip, I first got a handle on the type of weather we can expect, and I downloaded a few sample packing lists from fellow travelers. This general information will help me get a more specific idea what I should, or shouldn’t, bring.

I’ve also made sure to review the Transportation Security Administration’s rules on what I can pack in my carry-on, specifically as it relates to liquid and gel limitations. Accordingly, I stocked up on 3-ounce travel bottles and bought trial-size versions of products I commonly use. Having to replace an oversized item that gets confiscated, such as a pricey facial cleanser, could end up being more expensive than simply checking a bag in the first place.

Learning the airline’s carry-on size limitations is another way to minimize unexpected expenses. If it turned out that my bag didn’t meet the airline’s requirements, I would be required to check it and pay a higher fee than if I had prepaid the baggage fee.

Finally, I plan to use a few savvy packing strategies. One of these strategies will be to pack clothing in two colors; I’ll be able to wear those items interchangeably and create several outfits from just a few key pieces. And since the weather is likely to be very warm when we arrive at our destination, I’ll pack light, wrinkle-free separates, because the last thing I want to do on vacation is be uncomfortable (or have to iron).

With a little advance planning, you can pack a small suitcase that holds everything you need—and nothing more. In the process, you’ll save money and will be able to focus on the most important aspect of a vacation, which is to simply relax.

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