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Going on a trip? Pack lightly

Yes, you can get it all into a carry-on

February 08, 2009|Valli Herman

Reduce, reuse, recycle. It's not just the mantra of the eco-conscious anymore. In the pursuit of efficiency and sanity, frequent travelers are abiding by the same vows.

Air travelers have more reasons than ever to pack light: airport security searches, hour-long baggage check-in lines and tougher carry-on restrictions, never mind charges for checking a bag.

After logging nearly a million miles as a fashion and travel journalist, I've learned how to pack a three-week wardrobe into one medium-size bag and to survive with just a backpack and a rolling carry-on for a week-long assignment.

Even if you're just taking a weekend car trip, it still pays to apply the principles of light luggage. You'll spend less time hauling bags and more time having fun. Here are some rules for the road:

Think thin. Learning to pack lighter is an exercise in exclusion, not inclusion. Train yourself to think of what you don't need. Months or weeks before your trip, begin to assemble a travel-worthy wardrobe that includes good-looking walking shoes, lightweight and wrinkle-resistant fabrics (some recent favorites: no-iron dress shirts from Brooks Bros. and Lands' End) and items to layer and recombine. Start testing shoes, bags and grooming products that can do double duty. Take a hat and scarf to keep warm, not a heavy coat.

Make a detailed packing list and stick to it. Taking inventory of every item in your possession forces you to edit your load. Copy the list and keep it in your wallet or handbag. If your luggage is lost or stolen, the list also can help with insurance claims. Many travel guides, outfitters and websites offer suggested packing lists by gender, destination or season. Beware of lengthy lists designed to cover every contingency with travel gadgets.

Research and research some more. Check the forecast for your destination frequently and pack accordingly. Contact your hotel or its website to find out which items you won't have to pack, such as a hair dryer, shampoo or iron.

It's the bag, stupid. What's the use of shedding ounces if you're starting with a fatso bag? Carry-on bags now can weigh as little as 8 pounds, including the wheels. Manufacturers such as Delsey, Tumi and Travelpro offer wheeled, 22-inch carry-ons that weigh less than 10 pounds. Titan, Zero Halliburton and Heys USA use polycarbonate for hard-sided, clamshell bags that are extra tough and light. Online luggage seller offers weight statistics on all bags and a search feature for lightweight luggage.

List and list again. Chart each day's likely activity and match it to an ensemble. Every shirt, jacket and pair of pants should combine into at least one other outfit. If you must give yourself wardrobe options for a particular situation or day, think of alternative pieces, not entirely new outfits, to substitute.

Allocate bulk. If you must have hiking boots, a voluminous parka or thick sweater, don't pack it; wear it. Use the sweater as an in-flight pillow or the parka as a seat cushion.

Colors, unite! Keeping to one palette makes every wardrobe item interchangeable. A black-white-khaki or even a navy-green-pink color scheme means you'll need fewer shoes, handbags or jackets. Also, choose garments made of silk or synthetic blends. They're comparably lighter weight, resist wrinkles and wash and dry quickly.

Shrink your grooming products. Cosmetics companies got the memo: Nearly all offer travel-size sets, compacts of coordinating color cosmetics and single-use packets. Now nail polish remover, deodorant, makeup remover and even styling gel come in pre-moistened, single-use towelettes from La Fresh ( Minimus ( carries a range of travel-compliant personal care products, and Kiehl's Since 1851 ( offers small-size cleansers, moisturizers and shaving products, and new compact, roll-on essence oils.

Ship it. Your local UPS outlet can ship your luggage, or you can arrange for a service to pick it up and ship it by size or weight, overnight or in a week, to nearly any destination. A medium bag can cost from about $100 to ship round trip from Los Angeles to New York; up to $300 for faster service. Among them:, and


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