The holiday travel season is well underway, and everyone is looking for ways to avoid checking a bag. There's always been a pretty good chance that you and your luggage would end up in different places--but now the airlines are charging you $25/bag to lose your luggage. I just spent a week out of town attending various dressy events, and I did it without checking a bag. I carried the two small bags the airlines allow me carry onto the plane. Here's my advice:
1. Pick your carry on bags carefully. I carry the same black rolling suitcase that everyone else has. It's the second bag that's key. It shouldn't be an afterthought; you need a real work horse.
2. Instead of a purse, carry a large microfiber zip-top top tote bag. I love my purse, but it's hopeless for travel. It's squashy and soft and everything falls to the bottom. So I pack it in my roll-on suitcase and use a tote bag instead. It's light and sturdy, and the zipper across the top keeps everything from falling out and rolling around the floor of the plane.
3. Carry these in your tote bag:
- laptop (in a laptop sleeve)
- iPod, iPhone, and camera
- all electronics chargers and cables, packed in ziplock bags, one bag per device
- wallet/boarding pass/driver's license
- a purse organizer with pens, mints, and tissues
- zip-lock bag with any medications you'll need in the next 24 hours
- your quart-size zip-lock bag with toiletries
- a change of underwear
- toothbrush and travel size toothpaste
- feminine hygiene products
- jewelry roll
- a juicy book
- a snack
- a tiny container of dental floss
- for flights over 4 hours, you might like a sleep mask and some thick, comfy socks
Yes, this sounds obsessive, but you'll thank me when your flight is delayed for 11 hours.
3. For toiletries, forget everything you ever learned about buying the jumbo economy size. Do yourself a favor and pop for travel sizes of everything. If you use high-end products that don't come in a travel size, it's worth it to buy travel sizes of shampoo and conditioner and use them up on your husband--or kids--and refill with the good stuff. That way you're not in a hotel bathroom trying to figure out whether the white cream that you carefully decanted into a travel jar is conditioner or eye cream.
4. Try to schedule a cut and color for the day before you leave, and then milk that professional blow-out for all its worth. If you have to style your hair while you're out of town, call the hotel to find out whether they have a hair dryer. If not, pack the smallest, lightest dryer/flat iron you can. (I always pack a shower cap, too.)
5. Your quart-sized toiletries bag is for liquids and gels. We all tend to put all of our grooming supplies together, but if you're running out of space, your razors, tweezers, eyelash curlers, hair pins, etc., can be packed elsewhere.
6. Pick a couple of colors that go together and only bring clothes in those shades. In my last trip I did mostly black with some purple--and jeans.
7. Get over your shoe obsession--or at least make every pair count. I wore my black clogs, and packed purple suede flats with jeweled toes (and black sequinned stilettos!)
8. Pack things in things. Roll up your undies and socks and pack them in your shoes. It really does help.
9. Wear your bulkiest clothes. I wear clogs and thick socks because they get me through the metal detector with my dignity intact. For a coat, I'm loving the black crinkled polyester down jacket I just bought; it's warm but light, and manages to bridge the gap between practical and glamorous. In warmer climates pashminas and wraps pack flat and can double as a blanket for the flight.
10. Artificial fiber travel clothes really are great. Even if they're made of stuff you've never heard of. I've got things from Exclusively Misook, Eileen Fisher, and Samuel Dong that are a bit like chemistry experiments, but they pack beautifully and take up no room at all--which leaves you with some space for accessories.