Since I’m in the middle of packing for a trip, it seemed a good time to continue my series on packing tips — this time for men.
My first tip is to see if you can finagle your wife/spouse/significant other/good friend of the tidier persuasion to organize your packing for you. (Ha ha, just kidding…sort of.)
If you’re the tidier one in your relationship, great. But you still may overpack, just in a more tidy way than, say, I do.
By trial and error — mostly error — I’ve learned that the key to packing smart is packing light, which usually saves time, money, space, headaches and backaches. Think George Clooney in the film “Up In the Air.” Somehow he managed to get everything into a small carry-on whenever he flew and still turn up looking spiffy. But of course, that’s George Clooney.
For the rest of us, here are some pointers — intended for leisure travelers:
* If in doubt, leave it out. I’ve previously confessed to the sin of overpacking, tossing in extra shirts or trousers or shoes for almost every conceivable contingency. This is usually a mistake and means I have to check a bag rather than get by with a carry-on. So pack what you know you’re going to need, not what you think you may need.
* If there’s room after you pack your essentials — one pair of extra shoes besides those you wear on the plane, underwear, a shirt or two (one “good” and one casual plus a T-shirt), one extra pair of trousers, some shorts if it’s warm where you’re going, two pairs of socks if you’re wearing shoes that require them, handkerchiefs, toiletries with TSA-approved small-sized containers, swimsuit if needed, a crushable cap or hat if you’re not wearing it while traveling, and a fold-up umbrella — then you can add a few extras if there’s space.
* Be sure to pack prescription medications and any valuables or things you can’t afford to lose (such as passports, camera, cell phones, laptop, tablet, chargers, earphones etc.) in a smallish carry-on separate from your larger one, in the event you have to check the latter — which sometimes happens on small or overcrowded planes.
* Sometimes you’re going to need a third pair of shoes — even if they’re flip-flops to wear to the beach, sandals, etc. These should take priority over an extra shirt or other clothing items; comfortable feet are critical to an enjoyable trip.
* Take advantage of fabrics that can be washed out and dry overnight or even sooner. That means you can wear them over and over, even if you get sweaty. These “miracle fabrics” are much lighter and more breathable than wool, cotton, etc. (Carry travel-size stain sticks in case you spill something on your shirt that’s hard to wash out.)
* Zip-off travel pants that transform into shorts or long trousers as appropriate can save the space of one garment. Similarly, some types of shorts can double as swimwear, and some sport shirts can double as dressier shirts.
* Shirts, trousers, and jackets with multiple pockets are invaluable when you travel and can be stuffed with things when needed.
* Use packing cubes. Rather than fill your suitcase with loose clothing, fold up your clothes and pack them in packing cubes — lightweight containers that fasten and keep your clothes neat and unwrinkled. Sort them by type (shirts, underwear, etc.) so you can remove one item at a time and keep the rest in their cubes till required.
* Use compression packing bags. These are bags you can fill with either clean or dirty clothes and roll them up as a valve lets the air escape, forming an airtight pack that takes up much less space.
* Alternatively, roll up your clothes; they take up less space and don’t get wrinkled.
* Don’t waste space. Stuff socks, handkerchiefs, rolled up belts or other small items inside packed shoes. Wear any heavy jackets, sweaters, blazers or heavier pairs of shoes onto the plane.
* Besides your two carry-ons, pack a small fold-up backpack for day use; it can hold a camera, pen, travel info, or double as a beach bag when you go out. Note: this may become an additional carry-on bag when you return home if you’ve done any shopping or just can’t fit everything back in your first two carry-ons — which means you’ll probably have to check your main carry-on bag on your return flight. But having it lost or misplaced or damaged on the way home is much less of a crisis than on the way there.
* Remember, if you’re using only carry-on luggage, don’t pack any long, sharp objects or anything that could be used as a weapon. Liquids must be in containers of 3.4 fluid ounces or less to pass TSA inspection.
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