How to Pack Light. If I Can Do it, You Can, Too.


I tried to pack light for my 5 day, 4 night trip to Manhattan. I really did. And I still had trouble lifting my carry-on into the overhead bin. In fact, I have a vague memory of a flight attendant rushing to help me get the last corner up and in. (Thank you, Delta. I still like you, even though you put me on hold for 70 minutes.) But the amazing news is that I did manage to board with only a carry-on bag and a soft Vera tote that I usually use to carry my laptop. The laptop I left at home because I brought along a portable keyboard for my iPad. That was a fairly easy decision. I knew I wouldn’t have much time to write, given that I was there to do other author-y things–though I did get to write a bit on the direct flight from St. Louis to LaGuardia.

Before the trip, I listened to half a dozen podcasts about packing light, and everyone agreed that it’s a good thing. I made my commitment to travel with minimum baggage because I’m super tired of dragging bags through the airport and into hotels. Maybe I’m just getting old, but everything feels so heavy. There’s an existential heaviness as well to carrying a bunch of stuff around too, don’t you think? It feels that way to me.

The existential heaviness is related to fear. Fear that I won’t have just the right thing to wear. Fear that I won’t have everything I need with me. Fear of not doing it right. On the flip side, of course, there’s the worry that I won’t do the packing right thing correctly either. Apparently there is no winning this game. So the best thing I can figure to do is make choices up front, and have faith that I can live with any consequences of those choices. I know a woman who once went on a camping vacation with her family and forgot to pack shirts. She only had one t-shirt of her own, and one she borrowed from her husband. She wore them for 9 days. One to wear and one to rinse. This was years ago, and I was astounded. I definitely would’ve made an excursion to the nearest town and bought at least a couple of t-shirts and a hoodie for comfort. But I wasn’t my friend, and she seemed content with how things had gone. And, really, who cares what one wears in the woods? Now I applaud her, even if I would’ve done things differently.

It may not seem like a big feat to you to do 5 days in NYC with a tote and a carry-on, but I felt like a champion, lol. I took an inventory when I returned, and found that I didn’t wear 1 sweater, 1 pair of underwear, 1 light robe, 1 nightgown (somehow I had 3!), and 2 pairs of socks. I took 4 pairs of shoes, including the ones I wore on the plane and the heels I wore only to the Edgars. At the last minute, I left my short black boots in the car because they took up way too much room in the suitcase. In the end I was so glad I did, because I then had room for a few books in the way home.

Along with the podcasts and Internet searches, I got lots of great advice from folks on Facebook. Here are the basics:

  1. Plan out what you’ll wear each day before you put one item in the suitcase. (Including jewelry and shoes and undergarments)
  2. Use a two-compartment suitcase if you can. It’s easier for organizing, and you won’t have to dig for things to find them.
  3. Chances are no one will notice if you wear something twice. Change it up with a scarf, jewelry, or a light sweater.
  4. Roll everything tightly. Use packing cubes or plastic zip lock bags for very loose or small items.
  5. Stuff your shoes with socks, underwear, accessories.
  6. Minimize jewelry. A couple of pairs of earrings, a bracelet, and two versatile necklaces will do you.
  7. Don’t wear your biggest shoes on the way there. Plan to wear them on your way home, so you have a little extra room in your bag.
  8. Layer up for the plane. Your coat or jacket shouldn’t have to go in your suitcase, and you can always shed the layers when you’re settled.
  9. Leave room for souvenirs if you plan on getting some. Otherwise, just plan to return with phone pics and your memories.
  10. Take a jacket or light sweater if you’ll be inside a lot. A/C in hotels can be brutal.
  11. I have lots of lotions, etc, but managed to get them all in 1 quart bag. But I left behind my small can of mousse because I hated how overstuffed the baggie was. So I was able to easily get to my hand lotion on the way home. Also, hotels have toothbrushes if you forget yours.
  12. Use a tote for your small personal item instead of a purse. It can carry your electronics, purse stuff, toiletries, etc. Even an extra pair of shoes. Put a small, flat purse or two in your carry-on. You won’t want to haul a big one around anyway if you’re sightseeing.
  13. Use a change purse or small folding wallet instead of your regular one. Leave all your loyalty cards, etc. at home. I took only my debit card, Amex, license, and insurance cards, along with cash, and it was perfect.

Don’t be afraid to leave things behind. I didn’t have room for one of the books and left it, along with a Metro Card, and a tip for housekeeping.

I think that’s it, but I’m sure I’ve forgotten something. Please do add your tips in the comments.

This was a challenge for me, but I don’t see myself going back. I’m sure I could do an entire week–at least in warm weather. Winter is a whole other challenge.

Happy travels!


May 2nd Words
Journal: 250 words
Long fiction: 0 words
Short fiction: 0 words
Non-fiction: 0 words
Blogging: 1007 words
Exercise: Nope.

2 thoughts on “How to Pack Light. If I Can Do it, You Can, Too.”

  1. skyecaitlin says:

    This is sensational advice, dear Laura; I plan to be flying soon, I hope, or maybe I don’t ( I have a ‘fear of flying’), but I hope to move out of NJ as soon as I can.

    1. Laura Benedict says:

      I hope it happens just when you need it too, Skye!

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