Whether for business or pleasure, I suspect few people today travel for up to three weeks at a time with just one carry on bag and a brief case. But, between longer lines, more lost luggage and now higher costs for checking bags -- ANY bags -- it has never made more sense to do so.
Combining an impatient nature with chronic back aches and frequent travel made me a "carry-on only" girl nearly two decades ago. I may not be a fashion plate everywhere I go (I admit, that would take more packing space than allowable) but I do look professional and well put together.
For those of you just now trying to come to grips with the new rules of the road re: checked luggage, here are my 10 "no fail" tips on how to be a light packer and still arrive with what you need to have fun and look good.
1) Start with the biggest and best suitcase you can find. In my foreign and domestic travels, the one size I've found to be accepted by all is a 22" stroller bag. Get one with almost no internal sub-compartments, an external pouch for a laptop and a fully retractable handle. Because they are very light weight, last forever and are well designed, my favorite luggage Tumi. But, any brand will do if you pick wisely.
2) Add the right "hand bag/brief case". Don't just bring a small purse because in some airports if you can't fit it into your suitcase, it will count as "a bag" even if it's no larger than a credit card. So, I suggest a small handbag that can easily fit inside a larger soft sided duffle - a pair that together can fit under the seat in front of you if need be. Combining the stroller and the duffle will give you the maximum room allowed to pack in. That's a good start.
3) Next, ensure all of your toiletries are in travel size containers. Not only do you need to do this to get through security but it will save you a huge amount of space and weight.
4) Forget grooming appliances. Bring a multi-converter if you need it but otherwise, just plan to use the hair dryers etc at your destination.
5) Work with one base color only. Black. Brown. Tan. Navy. You pick. But, you only get one because everything has to match it. My choice is always black because it works so well switching from day to night and is the best at hiding a multitude of sins. But any base shade will do.
6) Dress in layers. That way you can easily move from climate to climate, indoors to outdoors, without needing totally different outfits. Just add or subtract layers as needed.
7) Use accessories and different tops/jackets to add color and visual differentiation to your base items. You'd be amazed how many days in a row you can wear simple black slacks or a basic black suit (washed if needed of course!) as long as you keep changing the jackets, scarves and jewelry.
8) Buy outfits that pack well. Look for ones that remain wrinkle-free, comfortable even when sitting for long periods of time and reduce to very small sizes when folded. There are many brands in all price ranges that are great for this. Two of my favorites are Eileen Fisher and St. John's. They are not cheap but I've had some of my outfits for nearly a decade so they do pay for themselves over time - and of course they both have outlet stores!
9) Limit your shoes to two pairs. Period. And, try not to bring a bulky pair (like boots) unless that's the pair you're sure to be wearing when you need to pack the rest of your stuff into your bag. I always bring a pair that can work across my needs for walking/site seeing/exercise (usually a simple black pair of walking shoes) and one pair for meetings/evenings (in my case, usually a low heeled black pump - with metal clips I can add/change so I can change the overall look of the shoes day to day).
10) Finally, make every inch of space work for you. Roll or fold all of your items. Stuff your shoes with your socks or scarves or other small wrinkle-proof items. How you pack can make a big difference in what you can fit so it's worth the effort!
So, that's my list. It may be painful at first to leave those gorgeous one of a kind outfits at home. But, once you get the hang of it and you see the benefits in time and money, I swear you'll never go back!
Perry Yeatman is an SVP at Kraft Foods and co-author of the award-winning book Get Ahead by Going Abroad.