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Packing the light fantastic

You over-packers know who you are.

Lugging all of that stuff “just in case.”

Carrying diapers and snacks for kids because they don’t sell diapers or Goldfish crackers where you’re going (which is Des Moines or something and they really have discovered diapers there, but never mind.)

Now that you’re back from your Thanksgiving trip and have vowed to stop killing yourself carrying so much, let me send some helpful links your way.  I’ll preface this by saying that I finally learned how to pack properly when a rapid-fire series of business trips forced me to fall back on one black suit, one brown suit, one black dressy T-shirt, one white dressy T-shirt and the old “change your accessories” trick with scarves. 

I was amazed at how little I really needed, nobody cared if they already saw my brown trousers on Tuesday, and I actually had suitcase room to bring back souvenirs (even bulky Dale of Norway sweaters.)

One carry-on bag? Travel writer Rolf Potts has some thoughts on how to do it.

Yes, I know, packing for travel with kids is another ball game, you say.  Well, not really; not if you’re fairly ruthless.

One, kids that are old enough to wear a small backpack and pull their own little suitcase should do so.  Nothing is better for teaching children the disadvantages of bringing too much than letting them discover how much of a pain it is to carry it all from one end of the airport to the other.

Two, you never need as many trousers/shorts/skirts as tops.  Stop cramming in all of those pairs of bulky blue jeans; you only need one pair and one pair of chinos/khakis, which can be dressed up.  And you know you’re going to buy souvenir T-shirts when you get there, so don’t pack so many to start with.

Three, for long trips, they have this thing called “laundry.”  You can wash stuff in the hotel sink, or just go to the local laundromat for a couple of hours.

Four, if you have too much stuff at the other end, mail some of it back to your house rather than carrying it. 

Five, the shoe problem.  I have one pair of brown, one pair of black (to go with the suits above) and in summer it’s the same for sandals.  Maybe a pair of running shoes if I think I’m going to work out, but I try to leave it at that.  Keep your kids to just a couple pair as well (and wear the bulkiest ones on the plane.)

The FlyLady, as usual, has an exhaustive list of family-oriented packing tips for you.  Check out the rest of her get-organized site if you have CHAOS in your house….Can’t Have Anyone Over Syndrome.

The Washington Post devotes a bunch of space to “The Packing Issue.”

Europe’s travel expert Rick Steves has long been a “pack light” advocate.  His readers also have a bunch of “what/how to pack” tips, and the ultimate packing list from the guru himself is here.

So make it a game with your kids the next time you’re planning a trip, don’t wait until the night before to pack (so you’ll have time to say, “Do I really need to take that?”) and have room….literally….to enjoy your travels a bit more.

Update 02 December 2006:  Here are some more packing tips for travel with a baby, from a San Antonio Express-News staff writer who just took a Vegas trip.

Update 17 December 2006:  The Miami Herald has the answer to over-packing — it’s in the shoes. 

Update 09 January 2007: Teresa Plowright at About.com’s Travel with Kids gives us a comprehensive packing list, just in case you don’t want to travel too lightly.