-- I’m just back from a two-week trip to Italy, where everyone in the family packed a wheeled carry-on and a backpack; no big checked bags.
It can be done, but only if you know what to bring and what to leave behind.
So I’ve updated my “do not pack” list so you can save space in your bag and maybe even a little money.
Here's my "Do Not Pack List":
1. Expensive stuff
Valuables are always a target for thieves and if they’re not easily and inexpensively replaceable, you’ve got problems. Bags can be lost, stolen or rummaged through and so can purses in hotel rooms. Plus you may run into inventive scammers and pickpockets. If you leave valuables at home, that’s one less thing to worry about. Still, if you must bring those diamond studs, wear them. If you must bring an electronic device (beyond a phone), keep it on your person or firmly gripped in hand.
2. Unidentified tablets and phones
Electronic devices are lost in airports every day. The good news is, you can usually run back to the security checkpoint and get them. The bad news is, if you don’t discover your iPad missing until you’re ready to binge-watch "Game of Thrones" on the plane, you have a problem, especially if you don’t know your device’s serial number. Many devices look alike, making recovery difficult.
Solution: Tape a business card (or piece of paper with last name and phone number) on the back of the device, and jot down the device’s serial number and stick it in your wallet. Or you and your traveling companions can take photos of each other’s devices and jot down serial numbers. Finally, don’t forget charger cords and adapters, but pack the compact travel versions to save space.
3. Unexpectedly banned liquids
You know not to bring bottles of water through security, but it’s easy to forget about similar banned items. Do not pack a hostess gift of wine in a carry-on; it’s OK in a checked bag but pack it very carefully unless all your clothing is the color of a good burgundy. Another no-no for carry-ons: homemade gloppy-type food gifts like jam or salsa. Finally, shampoo, conditioner and sunscreen in tubes larger than 3.4 ounces are another forbidden. Don’t worry, the stores at your destination will have your brand.
4. Razors with blades
Yes, you can pack an old-fashioned razor with removable blade but only in a checked bag. In carry-ons, you can only pack disposable razors, either the kind where you discard the cartridge head or throw the entire thing away. Electric razors are fine in either bag but these things can be space-hogs.
5. Old-style entertainment
Some of us forget that phones are not only communication devices but flashlights, radios, typewriters -- and books. Don’t bring an old-style hardcover (or even a fat paperback) because it will weigh you down and take up space. Airlines like American charge an extra $100 to $200 for overweight checked bags and too-big carry-ons are often taken from passengers for stowage in cargo. Download your favorite reading material to read on your electronics.
6. A third pair of shoes
Wear one pair, pack the other. Maybe add a third but only if it’s a pair of something extremely light-flat such as flip-flops; anything else will just weigh you down. Your two pairs of shoes could be sneakers and good-looking walking shoes, or if at an upscale resort, maybe walking shoes and something fancier.
7. Wrong clothes
Two rules for clothing: Know the weather at your destination. If it will be hot, you will probably be wearing khakis or shorts instead of jeans. Don’t pack more than you need: Pack what you need, not what you want. Make a wish list of outfits, then cut it by (at least) one third or in half. Stick to a similar color scheme so you can mix and match and make sure everything that goes into your bag is comfortable and you’ll be fine. You’ll want that extra room in your bag later on for souvenirs and other stuff you’ll pick up along the way.
8. Excess hair equipment
Blow dryers can be found in the most modest of motels these days (and if you want to make sure, check the website or give them a call). As for electric hair curlers and straightening gizmos, I’m no fashion expert but do you really want to spend precious vacation time taming locks? Aside: My wife’s electric curlers nearly exploded in a European hotel room once thanks to a wrong adapter. Midway through this trip, she threw out her travel-size curlers. She had decided they just weren’t worth the hassle, but at least she got more space in her bag.
9. Too many cards, too much cash
Cash: There is no reason to travel with a lot of cash these days and flashing it (even unintentionally) can make you an enticing target for thieves. Credit cards: Take two at most, perhaps an American Express and a Visa or MasterCard, and always take your ATM card. If you’re only taking one credit card, leave the AmEx at home because it’s not accepted everywhere. As for what to do with the rest of your cards, avoid putting them in a super-secret hiding place that’s easy to forget; this happened to one of my employees and she didn’t find her extra cards until months later when she finally emptied the last of that big box of cereal and there they were in her bowl.
10. Big bag
Most airlines charge $50 round-trip for a checked bag while carry-ons are usually no charge (Allegiant, Frontier and Spirit are notable exceptions but even they let you take a small under-the-seat bag for free). Keeping it light not only saves money, it makes navigating public transportation like buses, subways and trains so much easier (ditto for taxis, Uber and Lyft). Best of all, you get a head-start on vacation by beating the pack out of the airport while they wait for checked bags. And wait and wait.
Final thought: Forgot something? Unless you’re traveling to the moon, there will be shops nearby, happy to sell you whatever you need.
Any opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author.