Ruthless Packing Tips

Carefully thought-out carry-on luggage

My longest packing sessions involve trying to get 10-14 days of clothes for multiple climates and/or activities into a single 22-inch carry-on bag.  Two years ago, it was packing for a March trip that spanned Iceland and Southern Spain. Last month, it was a 10-day drive through Scotland with clothes for rainy day hikes and one-star Michelin restaurants. It makes me pack ruthlessly — everything has to earn its space in the bag. And through these packing sessions, I’ve developed this list of packing pro tips.

  1. Pick a single color family for your clothes, and make it black. Three reasons: black makes everyone look thinner, it spans casual to smart dress codes, and black doesn’t show stains. The thinner thing is a nice-to-have, but hiding stains is key. I usually pack two pair of slacks and wear a third on the plane. I can’t be one-and-done on a pair of pants because of incoming from a fork-handling mishap.
  2. No one-and-done outfits. Every piece of clothes has to serve multiple purposes so it can be worn multiple times. Every shirt has to work under multiple sweaters and has to go with more than one pair of pants. Versatility is key. And another reason to pack black.
  3. Think additively; pack layers. This was the key to solving my Iceland-Spain packing challenge. Pack multiple thin layers that you can pile on when it’s cold and wear separately when it’s not. Black sweaters and a black fleece vest are my layering go-to’s.
  4. Leave the workout gear at home. Gym shoes take up a huge amount of space, which can be filled with a couple of sweaters and a second week of socks and understuff. Ditch the taxis, Ubers, and rental cars, and get your exercise by walking everywhere instead.
  5. Wear your bulkiest clothes on the flight. On the trip to Scotland, I packed the hiking rain shell and flew in the blazer I needed for the one-stars because the shell was infinitely more crushable. My only caveat to this rule is shoes. For Scotland, I packed the hiking shoes even though they were bulkier. I didn’t want to set off the metal detector in the Pre-Check line or get pulled out by the TSA because the soles were too thick. If you’re not doing Pre-Check, you’re already taking your shoes off, so wear your biggest ones.
  6. Use a nondescript black rolling bag. Black not only makes you look thinner, it makes your bag look thinner to gate agents scanning for bag-sizer bait. My daughter had a baby blue roller bag for the longest time. She loved that color, and it was easy to spot on the luggage carousel, which was a good thing. It ended up there a lot because gate agents were always pulling my daughter out of line to gate check that bag.  If you’re flying a budget airline that’s a stickler on size, use a hard-shell bag. It’ll keep its dimensions better when overstuffed, and the polycarbonate shell will slide past the metal bars of the sizer easier than the ballistic nylon of a soft-sided bag. But if you’re working against weight limits as well as dimensions on international budget carriers like Wow Air, you want the lightest, most stripped down bag possible. You don’t want the extra weight of the hard siding. You probably don’t even want very sturdy wheels; just the lightest covering around your clothes that you can find.

Podcast #133 — Packing Pro Tips; Traveling Injured

One Way to Reduce Packing Needs by 50%

Fitting 10 days of clothes for rain, hiking, and Michelin restaurants into a 22-inch carry-on forced me to pack ruthlessly, and to distill my packing thoughts into 5 packing pro tips. Flying to Hungary right after a cycling accident reminded me of the hassles of traveling on the injured reserve list. All this and listener comments on EU mobile regulations, travel apps on smartphones, and the need for Atlanta baggage X-ray ninja skills at the direct link to the podcast file or listening to it right here by clicking on the arrow below.

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Podcast #132 — Travel Apps on My Phone

How Are Their Yelp Reviews?

It’s a listener request podcast. A fellow Peacock, this one named Jack, asked “What travel apps do you have on your iPhone?” Paging back through the TravelCommons archives, I’ve covered different categories of travel apps,  — in the most recent iteration of my Top 10 Travel Tips I recommended some flight tracking apps and way before that, did a bake-off of trip management apps — but never covered walked through what’s in the travel folder on the home screen of my iPhone. I’ve now remedied that oversight. We also continue talking about overseas phone SIMs; the impact of the new EU ban on roaming charges. Also, my first encounter with some new TSA scanning equipment.  All this and more at the direct link to the podcast file or listening to it right here by clicking on the arrow below.

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Podcast #131 — Twitter Concierge Customer Service; London Tube Story

I have a craft beer problem…

This past week in Atlanta Hartsfield Airport, when I traveled across four terminals to find a restaurant serving a nice selection of local Atlanta beers, I finally had to admit that I have a craft beer problem. In addition to this confession, I talk about about taking the London Underground back from the big Adele concert in Wembley Stadium. The experience proved out some of the positive stereotypes about the English — queuing well and muddling through without complaining. I talk about hotel room flat screen TVs and using Twitter to quickly get Hertz to fix a mistaken refueling charge. All this and more at the direct link to the podcast file or listening to it right here by clicking on the arrow below.

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Podcast #130 — Notes from Hungary

It’s a Mitteleuropa episode, talking about last month’s travels through Vienna and Hungary. I came away with good first impressions of Austrian Airlines and the Vienna airport. And, for the first time in many visits, saw Hungary through a tourist’s eyes, spending time in Budapest and the Tokaj wine region. We also talk about how Google Translate has become pretty much indistinguishable from magic and the potential impact the privatization of the US air traffic control system might have on the general aviation industry. All this and more at the direct link to the podcast file or listening to it right here by clicking on the arrow below.

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Podcast #129 — Airport Fight Club; The Bourdain Effect

Scottish Food Tourism can be an acquired taste

Difficult to do a travel podcast without talking about this month’s incidents on United and American Airlines. The videos that hit social media were damning, but as more of the facts came out, the stories around each incident became more complex. On a much lighter note, we also talk about the explosion of food tourism, called by some “The Bourdain Effect” after Anthony Bourdain’s TV travelogue series. Also, listener suggestions for visiting the Budapest baths, and compliments on the terminal improvements at San Francisco Airport (SFO). All this and more at the direct link to the podcast file or listening to it right here by clicking on the arrow below.

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Podcast #129 Uncut — The Video Version

Pulled out the GoPro again for the recording of the latest episode. The GoPro is a bit too far from me for good audio, so I cut in the podcast audio from the Zoom recorder when it was available, hence the change in audio quality. I’ll post the final audio on Saturday.

Podcast #128 — Hunt for Experiences; Pop-Up Entertainment

One of the Four Major Food Groups

It’s a very Paris-centric episode; I’m still trying to drop the weight I picked up on our 10-day stay. I talk about hunts for beer and pastry took us out of the usual Notre Dame-to-Eiffel Tower-to-Louvre tourist triangle, some of the interesting buskers we saw along the way, and my surprise at Munich Airport receiving an airport award. I also continue our on-going discussions about buying international SIM cards and ride-sharing. All this and more at the direct link to the podcast file or listening to it right here by clicking on the arrow below.

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