Holiday travel is stressful. Suddenly, even the earliest flights have hour-plus waits at security and the smallest weather delay can mean your entire trip is cancelled–though when it comes to the holidays and weather, it is rarely a small delay. Getting in, getting on the flight, and then getting out afterward takes at least 15x longer than usual (that’s not a scientific number, just an educated guess based on my constant holiday travel between NYC and Texas, which tests even my southern hospitality and patience).
If there is anything that you can do for yourself, though, to make this experience a little bit better, a little bit faster and a little bit less Home Alone-like, it is this: pack lightly.
If you can avoid the lines to check in luggage and then the additional wait at baggage claim once you land , you can shave off a good 30-plus minutes off of your holiday travel. That might not seem like a lot, but pair it with the calm you’ll have knowing that it is impossible you’ll be the girl in the lost baggage area for an additional three or more hours, packing well is totally worth it. And it might just save your sanity.
- Use your purse wisely. Use a large purse to pack additional essentials like your iPad (with a cute case that can be used as a clutch later on), toiletries, jewelry or even underwear (a purse with multiple pockets helps). These items are often packed last, and can create bulge in outer pockets of your main carry on. Most flights have their own size restrictions for carry ons, so you can call and check with your airline about their specific regulations or you can find a bag that is 22” x 14” x 9 and you’ll be safe across the board. Bulges often are the culprit when it comes to last-minute check-ins. Plus, if you move the smaller items that generally cause bulge to your purse, you’ll be able to fit three pairs of shoes, rather than just two, in the saved space.
- You can’t go wrong with black. Keep colors neutral when packing. This way, you’ll need less variety of shoes, makeup and jewelry. Wearing all black items together, think leather leggings and oversized knit sweaters, immediately pulls your look together. Use a red or burgundy lip shade to add pop there, and suddenly, your look is chic instead of frazzled.
- Give bundle packing a go. Contrary to regular folding, which leaves pretty big holes in your bag that could otherwise hold more items, or rolling your clothes, which helps to sole the aforementioned problem, but still leaves some usable space, try bundle packing. You wrap, rather than fold or roll, clothes around a core piece, like socks, a hair drier, whatever you want. To do it, you lay clothes out on a flat surface, your bed works just fine. Start with your shirts, laying one down facing you and then one facing away, matching up the sleeves. The same goes for jackets, but lay them face down. For jeans, hold them hot dog-wise and then lay them on down one side of a sleeve, alternating depending on how many you are bringing. When finished, fold up each side (you should have four) around a middle item of your choice–“the bundle.” Sound difficult? It’s not. Check out this diagram to see how it’s done.
- Pack yourself. Use yourself for bulky items like jackets, scarves and knit sweater. Wear them on the plane where they can double as pillows if it’s a long flight, or stow them in the overhead, under your seat or with the flight attendants. For footwear, wear your winter boots to travel, and keep shoes that take up less space, like your flats or tennis shoes, in the bag.
- Get tech savvy. Use technology to help you pack well. There are multiple apps on the market that will make a packing list for you based on what type of trip you are going on (home, business, vacation) and the weather in that area. This way, you won’t forget your deodorant, socks or the long johns you might need for a colder climate. Check out Stow or TripIt to get started.
As always, make sure you charge all your gadgets the night before to you can wait out those lines while being productive (even if it’s Facebook stalking!). And, when all else fails, grab yourself a coffee, throw on a smile and remember, at the very least, that all these people are facing the one place worse than the dentist at this time of year just to see their families and celebrate. It’s likely many of them are totally up for grabbing a beer.