It’s been said that waiting for your luggage to arrive on a baggage carousel adds about a hundred and twenty-seven minutes to any flight. Ok so we made that up, but it sure can feel like it.
Packing efficiently is a bit of an art form, but for those who know how to do it, it’s a game changer. What do those who travel with carry-ons know that you don’t? Traveling with less stuff saves you time in every way imaginable—less time packing and unpacking, less time deciding what to wear, less time at the chiropractor fixing the damage for all that schlepping, and less time worrying if you'll encounter the next Southwest lost baggage fiasco.
Who better to give us a packing tutorial than a former flight attendant who’s logged hundreds of thousands of air miles in her more than 15-year career? Yup, Tina Ray is an expert. “I learned quickly how to pack everything I needed for 4 to 7 days in carry-on bags,” she says. “There was no other option.” Ray’s advice? Choose shoes wisely, prepare to wear (and re-wear) your clothes, maximize for versatility, and find a killer travel bag. Let’s break it down.
Wear one pair, and pack two. Full stop. Those satin strap feathery heels? You don’t need them. Ditto for the boots you JUST bought (never bring brand new shoes on a trip). “I realize that this limitation may be difficult for some,” Ray says. “But keep in mind that shoes are the heaviest and bulkiest items you’ll pack.”
Think of it this way: Each pair of shoes takes the space and weight of about three pieces of clothing. You do the math.
The shoes you bring should work for the weather, the dress code, and foremost your comfort. “There’s nothing worse than having your feet hurt while running through the airport or being uncomfortable during that inevitable foot swell while in the air,” Ray reminds us.
Everything in your bag should do double, even triple, duty. Think of styles that have versatility, that can be worn over (or under) other items so that you can layer them and wear them in different ways.
A mid-weight layer - cardigan, knit blazer, or utility jacket - is a perfect example of versatility: it can be worn over a button-down OR a lace camisole, under a coat, or on its own. “Layering pieces are a must when traveling. Who isn’t cold on airplanes?! Also, a lightweight sweater or jacket is a core travel item for when the temperatures drop at night,” Ray says.
It’s hard to beat the ease of a dress, especially when you’re traveling—you don’t have to think about what goes with what and if you choose a comfortable fabric and style, it can be as wearable as a pair of sweats on the plane. “I love traveling in dresses because you can throw on a layered cardigan and some simple jewelry, and you’ll be ready to go anywhere once you arrive at your destination.”
Whatever you’ve shoved in your bag over the last few weeks—two pairs of extra sunglasses, three pairs of extra reading glasses (that’s why you can never find them!), five tubes of lipstick in indistinguishable shades of mauve, that broken door hinge that you’re trying to replace…you don’t need to take it with you on a trip.
Go through your bag and edit. While we’re at it, find yourself a bag that you designate for travel: it should be lightweight and roomy, work with multiple color schemes, include functional pockets, and, if possible, have the optionality to be worn crossbody.
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