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Packing Tips to Make Your Suitcase Lighter

couples coordinates packing tips to make your suit case lighter

In the early 2000s oil prices skyrocketed and airlines began telling us a bullshit story about how bags are heavy and impede fuel efficiency. For about 15 years bag fees have been ubiquitous and unless you fly with Southwest, have status, or have an airline credit card, you probably incur bag fees when you travel. Most airlines allow 50lbs (about 23kg) in a bag without incurring an additional overweight fee. Clearly, the weight argument is flawed as passengers don’t receive a credit for being skinny or pay a penalty for being over an arbitrary weight. The goal of this blog is to provide packing tips that we have learned over the years to make your suitcase lighter so that you can mitigate bag fees and travel easier.

couples coordinates packing tips michael hiking with osprey 55l backpack at machu picchu
I even got my 55L backpack into Machu Picchu. Typically they are banned, but I’m a smooth talker 🙂

Osprey Backpack (46 – 50 – 55L)

Maximize your carry-on luggage space by traveling with a 46, 50, or 55-liter Osprey backpack. 55L is definitely the MAX you can bring as a carry-on, and even that is pushing it. Economy airlines like Ryan Air, Easy Jet, and Air Asia have TINY overhead bins, so a 55L pack is barely going to fit. A 50L bag is relatively unassuming, so you likely won’t have an issue getting it onboard. We have found that we typically never are asked to weigh our 50L bags, but the 55L bags do get some scrutiny both at the ticket desk and at the gate. At the end of the day, we have traveled with a 55L bag for 5 years and never once been forced to check it. In a 55L bag, you can fit AT LEAST 30 – 40 lbs of clothes, camera gear, etc.

Even our 46L bag is a perfect carry-on bag and has enough room to fit a laptop, camera gear, snacks, and 3+ days clothes.

couples coordinates packing tips
Osprey also makes great day packs. We typically put one inside our suitcase and bring it for our day excursions.

Carry-on packing tips

An Osprey 50L or 55L backpack is perfect for a 5-day trip or is a great complement to a large suitcase for a trip of any length. Having had our bags lost on a number of occasions, we now make sure to always fill our laptops with 3+ days worth of clothes, our laptops, camera gear, and, of course, snacks.

Always put your essentials and your most fragile items in your carry-on so that you’re sure to have them no matter what.

Personal item tips

Alex has often gotten away with carrying a small backpack through security as her personal item. She typically has some clothes, snacks, etc. in there and has enough room to put her purse inside as well so that she doesn’t get stopped for having multiple personal items. Laptops bags or garment bags make great personal items as well and save space in your carry-on bag.

Garment bags are great for suits, dresses, etc. and save tons of space in your suitcase.

Laptop bags like the leather one we got at the Florence leather market are perfect to carry as a personal item and actually fit much more than a laptop. In my leather laptop bag, I can fit 2 laptops and both chargers, a book, my passport wallet, and my headphones. Together with a 50L or 55L backpack, I can fit everything I need for a 2+ week trip while keeping my suitcase under 50 lbs.

couples coordinates packing tips
The nicest Airbnb we have ever stayed at in Bellagio, Lake Como!

Airbnb helps you pack less

One of the major benefits of staying in an Airbnb is that you can choose to search only for properties that have washing machines and/or dryers. Invariably, we make sure we have an Airbnb halfway through our trip so we can wash our dirty laundry and wear items again on the back half of the trip. Let’s assume we are on a 2-week trip…if we only have to pack enough clothes for 1 week and then we wash those clothes and wear them again, we save a TON of space in our suitcases and carry-on bags.

Bundle onto the plane

Remember the movie A Christmas Story? Remember when the little mom bundles Randy up into a bunch of jackets and winter gear? Clearly, you don’t want to do the exact same, but you should certainly wear your heaviest jacket and shoes onto the flight if you’re hurting for space or weight in your suitcase.

Packing tips

  1. Only pack 1 pair of shoes. Wear another pair on the plane.
  2. Only bring 1 pair of jeans. Jeans pretty much go with everything and don’t really ever need to be washed.
  3. Buy a light suitcase. We use Samsonite Featherlite bags. The last thing you want to do with your suitcase is to compromise some of your weight to a heavy bag.
  4. Lay all of your money and clothes out on your bed. Take half the clothes and twice the money. This is an old travel tip that you should think about every time you travel.
  5. Pack your toiletry bag in your carry-on. Just be sure that you don’t have liquids over 100 ml.
  6. Don’t visit cold destinations and hot destinations on the same trip. If you’re traveling to an island and only need bathing suits, tank tops, and sandals, your packing list will be short and your bag will be light. But, if you plan to visit a hot and cold destination on the same trip, you’ll have to account for winter clothing that will be heavy and will consume lots of space in your suitcase.
  7. Buy snacks at the airport. If you buy snacks at Hudson News or one of the generic airport stores after you’ve gone through TSA, you can get a large bag and carry that on in addition to your carry-on and personal item.
  8. Shop when you arrive. If you’re traveling to a destination that is known for fashion and/or has great shopping options, you can always pack less and acquire clothes on the trip. That means you only need to account for your bag’s weight on your return trip.
  9. Read books on an iPad, Kindle, etc. Funny enough, both of us love reading physical books. However, if you’re worried about the weight of books, only read e-books while you travel.
  10. Make sure your hotel or Airbnb has a blow dryer so that you don’t need to bring one.
  11. Accept the fact that you’re on vacation! You don’t need to bring all of the shit you own. You go on vacation to escape your normal life, so don’t try to bring it with you!

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