Budget-Friendly Travel: Packing Tips

Travel BagsYou’ve booked your flight, but the savings don’t have to stop there…

Recently, we kicked off our new Budget-Friendly Travel series, with specific tips and tricks designed to maximize your vacations and put a little extra cash back in your pockets while you’re at it. Starting with a spotlight on affordable airfare (and yes, there really is such a thing!), we shared 15 of our favorite ways to save money from the very beginning—when planning and booking your trip. Now, with tickets in hand and a destination on your mind, it’s time to pack.

Whether you’re planning a long weekend escape or a much longer multi-stop getaway, there are a lot of factors to consider when it comes to deciding what to bring. From the number of days you’ll be away, to the weather where you’re heading and the types of activities you’ll be doing when you’re there, it’s crucial to think through everything you may need—and be honest about what you won’t need at all.

A strategic approach to packing for your trip can help you get the most out of that budget-friendly itinerary you selected. Here are 10 of our favorite tips for how to do it.

Carry On to Avoid Baggage Fees

Is there any greater feeling than arriving at your destination and breezing past your weary fellow travelers, who are stuck waiting at an empty baggage claim carousel? Beyond the pleasure of easy-come-easy-go travel days, carrying on can save you $50 or more per checked bag—each way! Carry-on luggage can also ensure you have everything you need with you, at all times. Pro tip: Depending on your location and the type of trip you’re planning, you may also want to consider utilizing a large backpack versus a rolling bag or duffel.

Beware the Weight Limits

Sometimes, there’s simply no way around checking a bag. In these cases, it’s important to stay below the weight limits for your airlines so you can avoid racking up hefty excess baggage charges. Depending on the airline and where you’re traveling, fees for heavy or oversized bags can start at $50 per bag but quickly escalate to $200 per bag, or even more.

Start with an understanding of how much your suitcase weighs when it’s empty, and limit the number of heavy items you bring, such as heavy-soled shoes and liquids. And consider investing in a low-cost luggage scale, so you’ll always know the weight of your checked bags before heading up to the ticket counter to check it.

Lay Everything Out First

It may seem like an unnecessary step, but laying out your entire vacation wardrobe at once—before you pack your clothes—can give you a comprehensive view of everything you’ll have on your trip. It can help you make important cuts before packing it all into your bag.

Grouping things by color or type is a great way to quickly identify any items that may be redundant, as well as anything you may be forgetting to include from your packing list. It’s also an excellent way to ensure you’re bringing the appropriate layers and things you’ll really need on the trip—meaning you won’t be spending extra money on forgotten items after you’ve arrived at your destination.

Pack Flexible Apparel, Shoes and Accessories

To make carrying on easier, remember to pack items that pull double or triple duty. Think: easy on-off sneakers you can wear through TSA, that can also work as your gym shoes or sightseeing footwear on busy touring days. Or consider a pashmina or wrap that can keep you warm on the plane, while also serving as your casual scarf once you reach the destination.

Even a cozy hoodie and a favorite lip balm with SPF can go a long way toward keeping you comfortable on the flight, while pulling double duty to keep you sun-safe during the trip itself. Remember: if every item works twice as hard, you only need to pack half as much.

Toss In a Spare Bag…or Two

No matter where you may be headed, it’s pretty much a statistical certainty that you’ll return with more than you packed in the first place. Having an empty canvas or soft-sided bag tucked into your luggage will give you the overflow space you need to carry back all those must-have souvenirs you’ve picked up along the way.

Separately, if you can spare the space, bring along a plastic grocery bag or two. These small plastic bags can come in handy for everything from dirty hiking shoes to wet swimwear, protecting the other contents of your luggage from soiled items that could damage them while in transit.

Get on a Roll

This tip can be a bit controversial and it certainly has its detractors. But diehard fans of roll-packing will tell you that when it comes to maximizing suitcase space while arriving at your destination wrinkle-free, there’s simply no other way to go.

The fact is that rolling your clothes can conserve space, first by tightening the mass of the items so there’s less wasted space, and secondly, by equalizing the size and shape of most items so that they pack together in a more uniform way. And the wrinkle-fighting benefits are the cherry on top, helping you unpack perfectly pressed and ready-to-wear items in a flash when you arrive at your destination.

Don’t Forget the Meds

From cuts and scrapes to headaches or even more unpleasant stomach aches, carrying a small medical kit can truly save the day on your next trip. You can buy a pre-made first aid kit that has the essentials, or you can easily make your own. Just find an empty toiletry bag and stock it with a few band-aids and antibiotic ointment, plus essential medicines you might need in a pinch, such as pain relievers, antacids, allergy pills, and a few cold meds.

Beyond the medical items, consider including other quick-fix items in your kit that can save you from other kinds of travel headaches. Think: safety pins, a small sewing kit for emergency tears in your favorite layer, a lint roller to clean up dark fabrics after long travel days,a stain remover, and of course, your favorite travel size sunscreen.

Bring Your Own Entertainment

Most flights have seat-back screens and in-flight WiFi service that allows you to stream entertainment from their branded services. But on some over-water and international flights, that Internet connection is spotty at best. And some airlines operate planes without screens at all. Not to mention, these services often come at an additional cost.

Don’t leave it to chance—pack a Kindle, iPad or other device with pre-downloaded entertainment to ensure you have books, movies, games and other distractions to last the flight without spending the extra cash.

Carry an Empty Water Bottle

We all know liquids aren’t allowed on most flights unless they’re purchased after you’ve gone through security. But don’t waste your money on those pricey bottles of water in airport kiosks. If you’re traveling on a budget, it’s helpful to always have an empty bottle in your carry-on bag.

TSA will let you take empty water bottles through security checkpoints (though you may need to take it out of your bag for the scanner). Then, you can easily refill it gate-side, as well as throughout your whole trip.

Don’t Forget the Snacks

Sure, most airlines will feed you—but it depends on the aircraft, the route, and your cabin of service. Even when you know there will be a meal service on board, there’s nothing worse than the munchies at 35,000 feet. Tuck a few nutritious, filling snacks in your bag, such as granola bars and nuts, to ward off any feelings of hunger when you’re in the air and between meals.

Now Sit Back, Relax, and Enjoy Your Flight

With these packing tips in mind, you’ll be on your way to your destination with everything you need—and nothing more holding you back. Stay tuned for more tips in our Budget-Friendly Travel series in the weeks to come, and let us know if we’ve missed any of your favorite packing tips on our Facebook or Instagram pages.