Weird works -- trust us. Some of the most unusual and creative advice is also the best, even when it comes to packing. So with the help of some of our well-traveled SmarterTravel readers, as well as our social media friends and followers on Twitter and Facebook, we've compiled a list of nine outlandish packing strategies that are as practical as they are unusual, from sending luggage through the mail to giving up luggage altogether.
Mail Your Stuff There
Pack your bags and ship them off to your hotel a few days before you depart; this technique won't seem so crazy once you weigh the airlines' bag fees against shipping costs. Consider this: It costs $39 to ship a 15-pound package from Boston to Los Angeles if you use an Express Mail Flat Rate Box from U.S.P.S. Comparatively, a third checked bag on a domestic flight can cost as much as $150 (that's how much American charges).
If you're nervous about your airline losing your bag, going the postal route could provide a greater sense of security. And you won't have to drag your things through the airport, either.
Mail Your Stuff Back Home
Or, more specifically, mail back the part of your luggage that you've already used: your dirty clothes. Madelyn Tyson Cruise Planners explains: "I took a 13-day cruise tour to Alaska ... but mailed my dirty laundry home in a $9.95 Priority Mail Medium Flat Rate Box (now $11.35). No checked baggage, no luggage fees and a few AK souvenirs! Whoo! Hoo!"
Dump Your Duds
You know that pile of "to donate" sweaters sitting in your closet? Get a final wear out of the clothes during your next getaway, and then ditch them when you're done. Sally V. left a comment on 10 Things to Pack That Will Save You Money, breaking down how she relieves herself of burdensome baggage while seeing the world. According to Sally, "Items that you just can't bring yourself to throw away at home (T-shirts, socks, underwear, etc.), dispose of them along the way and lighten the load for the trip home. Or better yet, use that space for purchases you've made during your travels."
If you're traveling in the U.S., there's likely a Salvation Army drop-off area near you. Call 800-SATRUCK for more information on drop-off bin locations.
Go to Thrift Stores
Give yourself a great excuse to wile away an afternoon in a few thrift stores: Pack only the basics and pick up extra clothes and accessories at thrift stores. Writes Linda M., "If you need extra clothing you can buy some very cheaply in thrift stores. I bought an Armani blouse for $3 at a shop in England." Your new-to-you livery will also function as souvenirs once you're back home.
Take a Snapshot of Your Samsonite
According to Michael P.F., your smartphone is way more than a means for a good game of Angry Birds: It can double as a bag-recovery aid. Says Michael, "I always use my phone to take a picture of my checked bag. It has helped when travelling to countries where I do not speak the local language. If a bag is lost, you have to fill out a form describing the bag. I just show them the picture and they fill in the form appropriately."
Our Twitter follower thescrvnr suggests, "Pack disposable undies for long trips spanning multiple cities/countries." Magellans sells a few varieties. Granted, no one will mistake you for Miranda Kerr in your pastel-colored disposable cotton briefs. But an overpacked suitcase isn't pretty either.
In response to 10 Things You Should Never Pack in Your Checked Bag, reader Jerry J. serves up a clever idea for flying couples: "If two of you are traveling together, each should pack a two-day supply of clothing in the other's baggage. If one bag is lost, that traveler will still have clean, suitable clothing for at least two days while the bag is located and returned."
Make Your Own Washing Machine
In "Packing Tips from Our Readers" on our sister site IndependentTraveler.com, USRoadTripper offers a creative solution for travelers without access to laundry facilities: "I went to Japan last year, and took one of the extra-huge zip-top bags with me and used it as a washing machine! I was able to get a lot of clothes into it at once. I just put in the clothes, poured in the soap, filled it with water and then agitated it around in the tub until the clothes were all clean. It made the washing and rinsing a breeze, and my clothes got much cleaner than if I was just washing in the sink."
Leave It All Behind
When it comes to packing, traveling without luggage is as crazy as it gets. But it's been done. Travel writer Rolf Potts embarked on a 42-day luggage-free trip sponsored by Scottevest Travel Clothing (SeV), makers of multitudinous-pocket travel jackets. Potts crisscrossed the planet carrying only things he could fit inside his jacket pockets, including a small-sized deodorant, a few pairs of clean socks and underwear, along with some T-shirts, a small digital camera and a toothbrush.
Although many travelers, especially the high-maintenance ones, might be reluctant to go to that extreme, it could be smart to take a page out of Potts' minimalist book. Grab a jacket with plenty of pockets (read our review of the Scottevest Travel Vest) and swap one of your bags for a piece of apparel. Or do your next weeklong trip with just a carry-on -- you'll likely feel liberated from those pounds of superfluous stuff.
What's your so-crazy-it-works packing tip? Share it in the comments!
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-- By Caroline Costello
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