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zipper suitcaseIn The Carry-On Challenge: How to Pack Light Every Time, I offer advice on how to avoid checking luggage even on long vacations. Here’s how I put my own tips into action on a recent two-week trip.

I was visiting New Zealand in the springtime, and temperatures fluctuated from the upper 30’s to the low 70’s. To cope with the changing conditions, I packed the following clothing:

-Two pairs of pants: jeans (worn on the plane) and lightweight hiking pants
-One set of lightweight thermal pants
-Five long-sleeved T-shirts (including one worn on the plane)
-One lightweight hooded sweatshirt
-One heavy hooded sweatshirt (worn on the plane)
-Water-proof rain jacket with zip-in fleece liner (worn/carried on the plane)
-Two pairs of shoes: hiking boots (worn on the plane) and walking shoes
-Seven days’ worth of undergarments and socks
-One set of lightweight sleepwear
-Gloves, scarf and knit hat (stuffed into pockets of rain jacket)

This was enough clothing to get me through the first week, at which point I did laundry. To save carry-on space, I wore all the bulkiest items on the plane — jacket, hiking boots, jeans, heavy sweatshirt. And during the trip, I was like a Russian nesting doll, adding and shedding layers of clothing as needed. In the colder regions of the country, I wore both my sweatshirts plus my jacket every day, changing nothing but the T-shirt underneath.

In addition to clothes, I also had a camera, travel-size toiletries, a snack-size plastic bag full of medications, a baseball cap and sunglasses, a plastic rain poncho, a travel journal, a guidebook, an MP3 player and, of course, the essentials — passport, credit cards and air/hotel/car confirmations. All of this fit easily into my carry-on (a roll-aboard suitcase) and personal item (a backpack), leaving room for souvenirs.

Poll: Do You Check Bags When You Fly?

A few things I didn’t bring: a laptop or tablet (I paid a few bucks to visit Internet cafes twice during the trip), dressy clothes (I ate only in casual restaurants) and a hair dryer (I used the ones supplied in hotels). I don’t have an e-reader, so I packed a few used paperback books that I’d picked up at my local library for 50 cents each. As I finished each one, I left it in my hotel room or at the airport for other travelers to enjoy.

This is just one strategy for traveling without checked luggage. What tips and tricks have you used?

— written by Sarah Schlichter

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8 Responses to “Two Weeks, One Carry-On”

  1. Caroline Hanson says:

    In addition to the tips above, to avoid over-packing and making sure everything is coordinated, I make an Excel spreadsheet. Each day, I list the activity(ies), then the needed clothes, shoes etc. And sometimes, the expected weather. At the bottom I list things like undies, toiletries. I can wear the same slacks/jeans every other day, with a mix of tops. A successful pack is one where I wear/use everything I packed!

  2. Frank II says:

    Whether it’s 2 days, 2 weeks, or 2 months, I pack the same. I figure out what I really need and only take that. Too many people feel they must cram their bags with stuff. That’s the wrong way. I take one non-wheeled, convertible bag that when packed weighs less than 18 lbs.

    I also make do with one pair of shoes, usually Rockports, which look like dress shoes but feel like sneakers. To keep them fresh, I take along a few pre-cut disposable insoles. Not only do they absorb moisture but also adds a little cushioning for those long days on my feet. About once a week or so, I change them.

    As long as a person is willing to do laundry along the way, travel can go on forever.

  3. Teacher says:

    I wear really comfortable Hue velvet leggings (can even sleep in these!) and then bring a good pair of wool leg warmers. I have a pretty lightweight, but warm, insulated raincoat that comes down to my knees. With that & the legwarmers on the lower half of my legs, I can weather most cold temperatures.

  4. Carol says:

    A recommendation–never bring jeans. They take too long to dry, and when worn day after day, they smell! Bring light pants and if necessary, a pair of light ski underwear. On a non-hiking holiday, bring skirts. In public toilets you lift them up so the bottom never touches the ground. Bring tank tops (quick dry) and a fleece or jacket for casual days and a shawl or pashmina for dressier dinners.

    • Noelene says:

      I totally agree with Carol regarding not taking jeans. They are not the most comfortable pants to wear on long haul flights, can weigh quite heavy and take up a lot of space in suitcase. If they get wet in snow or rain they can be extremely uncomfortable and cold. They can’t be washed easily in a hotel bathroom sink (I have tried it!) and they can take a while to try. Hotels in Europe and UK and Australia charge quite highly for laundry service and finding a laundromat isn’t always easy….besides who wants to spend precious travel and exploring time in a laundromat!

  5. MB says:

    I take 3 pairs of pants. On one trip with only 2 pairs of pants, the zipper broke in one pair early in the trip. That was a problem. Golf pants, skorts, and shirts are usually quick to dry, at least women’s are. They can be hand washed at night and dry by morning. Scarfs are a great accessory to vary outfits and dress them up.

  6. Carol Arnold says:

    wear Black! And great scarves (3). No jeans except if they are really Leggings with straight legs, not skinnies.

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