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summer packing tipsIf your summer vacation plans involve airline travel, you should be thinking of ways to lighten your load, not only to make the trip more enjoyable but also to minimize onerous checked baggage fees that are cropping up on most airlines these days.

Trust me. Everyone is tempted to throw one more thing in the suitcase but if you cave into that impulse, it often adds to your burden by adding more clutter and “stuff” to keep track of. Instead, think of ways to prune the contents of your suitcase by questioning whether you really need each item and, if so, whether a lighter weight alternative can substitute for a heavier one. For example, do you really need to bring along a hair dryer when the resort at which you are staying has one in every room? Do you need to pack a heavy raincoat for a casual beach trip when a light rain poncho will suffice?

Here are some tips for packing light to help you avoid overweight baggage fees this summer:

  • Take the time to prepare a packing list ahead of time to identify the items you need and try to stick to it.
  • Don’t leave packing for the last minute or night before your trip. Allow yourself sufficient time to make prudent choices.
  • Coordinate colors and emphasize neutrals so you can mix and match outfits that rely on a fewer number of pieces.
  • Remember that a few lightweight accessories can change your look. A colorful scarf or pashmina can turn a daytime outfit into one that’s perfect for evening.
  • When purchasing new clothes for your trip, opt for items made from lighter weight (often synthetic) fabrics that travel well.
  • Be especially vigilant about taking along extra items that add weight and heft (e.g. heavy shoes, overcoats, and electronic gear).
  • Check whether the airline you are flying has weight limitations for carry-ons. If not, transfer heavier items from your suitcase to your carry-ons.
  • Purchase a small luggage scale to weigh your suitcase before you leave home. It can also help you redistribute weight accordingly.
  • Choose smaller size toiletries even though they may be less cost-effective. Don’t take more of a product than you will need.
  • Look for clever packing solutions. For example, a new series of ultra-light packing cubes (Pack-It Specter Cubes) by Eagle Creek is great for organizing undergarments, socks and other accessories. The cubes weigh less than an ounce and are translucent.
  • Consider whether it makes sense to update your luggage. More companies are using lightweight materials, such as hard-sided polycarbonate. The lighter your suitcase, the more you’ll be able to tuck inside.
  • Be equally cautious about adding excess weight during the course of your travels. Don’t bring home any heavy trinkets or souvenirs. Even a book or bag of coffee can add a pound. Choose featherweight gifts like scarves and dishtowels.

Bear in mind, too, that baggage policies differ among different airlines. So before you purchase your ticket, check out websites like Nerdwallet.com or AirfareWatchdog.com that compare fees across carriers. Policies may also vary based on the fare status of the ticket you purchase. So check with your carrier too before packing (and even selecting your suitcase).

**For a start, check out these free packing lists from Eagle Creek (which can be individualized, based on type of trip, activity and destination) and see how you can modify/shorten one to meet your own needs. 

Irene S. Levine, PhD is an award-winning travel writer and member of the Society of American Travel Writers (SATW). You can follow her blog for travelers over 50 at www.MoreTimeToTravel.com or on Twitter.

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