Airline flight packing tips to ease strain on wallet and back

Thank you to free, Microsoft Office Images.

Packing for your next vacation? What will you take? If you’re flying, there’s much to consider. Should you only use a carry-on or check your bags? You can find an abundance of tips online to help eliminate possibility of excess airline fees — and back strain.

When I was packing for my recent 10-day vacation to the United Kingdom, I decided to use the simplest methods possible — packing only what I thought was absolutely necessary — at least so I thought. I had not packed enough of some items, and had over-packed with other non-essentials. Packing for an international vacation is like any other trip. You want the least amount of weight in the smallest suitcase, but you want to take it all! Packing simply requires a lot of common sense and a little ingenuity. I know many of my readers who are experienced travelers have tons of tips. Feel free to add these to comments below and help me improve — for my next trip!

Make a list. Check it twice. (Sorry.) Categorize your list first by items such as clothes, outerwear, shoes, toiletries, medicines, hats, documents, electronics, etc. Then rearrange your list for each bag or container: carry-on, checked bag (if necessary), personal item, pockets.

Layout your items on a flat surface. See how much you’re really going to pack in your suitcase before actually start loading it up. This will avoid unpacking and repacking. If your suitcase has been in the closet, storage unit or garage, check it for stowaway critters such as scorpions. I was stung while packing for a Mexico trip a couple of years ago, and I’ve read accounts that passengers have been stung after boarding a flight.

Consider each item before tossing it mindlessly in your luggage. Ask yourself: Do I really need this? What happens if I don’t take it? Can I buy it at my destination? For example, I probably don’t need a full-size shower gel or a large bottle of Tylenol. I can survive with a smaller amount for a week long trip.  Lotions, shampoos, conditioners, sprays, goos, pastes, gels — all of these pile on the luggage weight. Consider packing basics such as comb, toothbrush and paste, floss, deodorant, shavers, moisturizer and a little bit of makeup. You can probably purchase the remaining sundries at your destination.

Make good use of your shoes. Use Oxfords, sneakers and boots as containers for socks, belts, phone chargers and other small or even breakable items. I usually wear my heaviest footwear — such as sneakers — to the airport, just because I never know when I’ll be spending most of the day on my feet, or running through the airport. Then I’ll pack a pair of dressy shoes, boots or sandals, depending on my destination. My other only footwear is a pair of flip-flops which I pack in the outer, zip compartment of my soft-sided, zippered suitcase. Along with one magazine, these add some stability to my aging, worn suitcase.

If you can, try to eliminate the checked bag and only use a carry-on bag and personal item. I prefer a soft-sided rolling duffel, but currently for most week or 10 day trips, I use a  rectangle case measuring about 20 x 14 by 6 inches. It’s small and light enough for me to lift on to the security check conveyor and the plane’s overhead compartment. Most airlines restrict the carry-on size to 22 x 14 by 9. Many passengers really try to push the envelope with those “expandable” carry-on bags. You know who you are.

My personal item is either a larger “hobo” bag or a smaller backpack which will fit under the airline seat. Personal bag contents: Wallet with one credit card, passport, cell phone, Chromebook, camera, sunglasses, headphones, tissues, prescriptions, mints, water and snacks. If I will need to check a piece of luggage, and I have room in my personal item, I will consider packing a change of clothing.

photo (8)Consider getting rid of the “purse” and packing a small cross-body bag for use at your destination. I pack away small purse in my carry-or my personal item. I bought a small camera backpack in which I would put all my valuables and personal items. It’s a CaseLogic DSLR pack I found on Amazon that not only carries all my gear in neat and compact accessory compartments and zippered pockets, but also fits nicely under the the airline seat. This backpack also fits my Chromebook very neatly. Okay, it may weigh a few pounds, especially when I add a bottle of water, extra lenses and snacks, but I’d much rather tuck a bit of weight underneath my seat and carry it on my back, than attempt to hoist a larger, heavier pack above my head to the overhead bin and strain my back and shoulder pulling it in tow. (Sigh, I guess I’m either too proud or stingy to use a SmarteCarte.)

Carry-on (or checked bag if absolutely necessary) contents: shirts, pants, dresses, skirts, sweaters, jackets — and roll them up tightly — even those unmentionables. I’m not sure if this is something to brag about, but I can fit 10 pairs of rolled undies into a quart size Ziplock bag. Rolls of clothes can wrap around every curve and cubbyhole of your luggage.  If you’re unsure about your destination’s weather, plan to dress in layers.

Pack apparel that can do double duty. For instance, maybe a nice performance workout tank can double as a tankini swimsuit top. Or maybe gym shorts can substitute as swim trunks.

My goal is to save money, and save my back — eliminate the excess: Less to pack, less to tote, less to lose, less to worry about on your vacation.

Thank you to free, Microsoft Office Images.

Who has packing tips and suggestions? I would love to hear some of yours!

Stocking stuffer suggestions for the travel lover on your list

Even if you’re not Santa Claus, who has to consider who’s naughty or nice, you may be thinking of another list. Maybe you’re a travel aficionado; you already have a list of your own — a wish list — with visions of new destinations dancing in your head. Or perhaps you have a shopping list and you’re looking for a few hints for that travel lover in the family. Here’s a list of some suggested gift items for those stockings hung by the chimney with care:

Comfortable shoes

Although this stocking stuffer might not fit into most regular-sized Christmas stockings, this gift would show that you really care — at least about their feet. And for the time being, TSA still requires shoes be removed at airport security check-in sites. I recommend some comfortable slip-ons with ample foot support — for running from gate to gate. You don’t have to shell out the big bucks. For about $10, Avon.com sells soft indoor-outdoor unisex slippers that would be ideal. They actually don’t even look like slippers, with tread on the bottoms. Yet they are comfy, with memory foam inner soles. They also are wonderful for running around the hotel mezzanine at your next convention.

Traveler’s Survival Kit

You could get creative and devise a traveler’s survival kit of your own. Simply find a cosmetic or shaving kit bag and add some handy things necessities such as mini-luggage scale, luggage tags, hand sanitizer, three-ounce plastic containers for flights. Other items I would suggest are these handy foods and beverages for a long road trip or airline flight: tea bag, instant coffee, hot cocoa mix, lemonade, powder vitamins, noodle soup. These can be easily and conveniently mixed with either hot or cold water. Visit minimus.biz or your local Target or Walmart store for an extensive selection of travel-sized toiletries.

Leatherman

For that hiker, biker, backpacker, camper, outdoors-lover on your list, a Leatherman knife tool makes the perfect gift. There are many varieties and models to fit just about any holiday budget. Remember to add it in the packed luggage for your flight!

Fruit

Fruit is the perennial favorite to fill up those oversized stockings which by now are hanging on the mantel. (Doesn’t it seem like Christmas stockings are get bigger and bigger? Do people actually think Santa is going to take time to stuff gifts all the way down into the toes of holiday hosiery?) Assorted types of fruit fit perfectly into the stocking toe. For road trips and domestic flights, apples and Mandarin oranges work very well, because they don’t have the mess! Also, those little Cuties Clementines are in season!

Binoculars

Everyone who travels should have a pair of binoculars – either in their checked bags or carry-on. You never know where you’ll be when you need binoculars. They’re not just for bird-watching. You may be at a conference in Cleveland and want to get a better view of the Great Lakes Science Center or the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame from your room atop the Marriott.

Packable Dinnerware

We love these colorful dishes and plates from Fozzils.com. We found ours at our local REI store. They are completely flat for packing for use as dishes and cutting surfaces, but the corners snap together and convert into bowls for cereal or even soups, since they are heat resistant to 110 degrees. These are lightweight and since they’re flat, they will fit almost everywhere. They’d make welcomed gifts by pet-owning travelers too!

Extra long cables and charger cords

Finally here’s something almost every traveler would appreciate: And it’s a must for the iPhone owner in the family who’s always on the go. This xlSync Extra Long Sync Cable is a practical stocking stuffer. Extending 6.5 feet long, it charges at the same rate as the original equipment one from Apple, and works with all iPhone, iPad, iPod models except the iPod Shuffle — from cablejive.com. For a longer cord extension to get around the tables at the airport coffee shop, consider the 10-foot cable from Khomo, available from Amazon.

Do our readers have any other gift ideas for travelers? We always love to hear about new travel gadgets!