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Packing Light:  How to Pack for a Week in Just Your Free Personal Item 

By Posted on 5 m read 179 views

In the past year, I have flown on 14 low-cost carrier flights. I think I just heard you groan, and you are looking for the 😥 emoji at the bottom of the page.  Hold up a minute, I know some folks hate discount carriers and have sworn to never step foot on one again.  It’s true, the nickel and diming that is part of the low-cost carrier experience can be maddening.  But, I have grown to love them…I mean what’s not to love about scoring a round trip ticket for $50!  You just have to know how to beat the system.  The trick is all in the packing.

The two most common complaints I hear about low-cost carriers are that they charge for luggage and inflight beverages/snacks.  You can solve these problems by packing everything in your free personal item.  How can you possibly get everything you need for a week in your one tiny personal item, you ask.  Here’s a step-by-step guide…

  1.  Dig out your old school backpack and use it for your free personal item.  Most airlines have specifications that your personal item can be no larger than 9 inches x 10 inches x 17 inches.  School backpacks are close to those dimensions, mine is slightly larger, about an inch bigger in all directions.  Shhh, don’t tell, she’s sensitive about her size😉.  The ole gal below has been hitching a ride on my back for over 15 years and has been on every single low-cost carrier flight I have been on this year.  Not once have I been questioned about her qualifications as a personal item, and I’ve never had a problem shoving her under the seat in front of me.  One of the beauties of a backpack is that they are squishy and can change size and shape.Backpack, Packing, Personal Item
  2. Purchase a packing cube; it will change the way you pack.  I’ve been using a cube from Eagle Creek for years that I love.  Amazon carries a single cube (Eagle Creek Pack It Double Cube , Black, Large) or a set of cubes (Eagle Creek Pack It Cube Set , Black, 3pc Set) like the one I use.  A packing cube serves 3 purposes:
    – Compresses your stuff so that it takes up less room.
    – Organizes your limited space.
    – Acts as an extra piece of luggage.  This allows you to use your backpack as a daypack during your trip and still have a “bag” for your belongings. Packing cube stuffed with my clothing for the week.  I also bring my DSLR camera/bag with me on most trips, so it is stuffed in the cube as well.  Note: If you use your smartphone for photos, you have just regained enough space to pack for another week!
  3. Stick to the basics and plan on rewearing pants.  In addition to the outfits shown below, I packed 1 pair of black flats, underwear (7), socks (7), pajamas, my huge camera/bag, travel sized toiletries (don’t forget about the 3-1-1 liquid rules), hairbrush, flat iron for my hair (yes, vanity takes up valuable space😜), phone, sunglasses, snacks, and wallet. Wearing pants a couple of times really cuts down on what you need to pack. Remember, you’ll also be wearing pants you can add to the mix. Wear versatile, comfortable shoes on the plane. I have included a photo below of my favorite. I have put countless miles on these babies!        
    Clothing items packed in backpack. Tip: I highly recommend investing in black travel pants. The Columbia pants in the above images go everywhere with me. You could hike all day in them or put on a dressy top and dine in a fancy restaurant. (Link:Columbia Women’s Saturday Trail II Stretch Lined Pant, Black, 4-Regular)
    Salamon I’m a Salomon gal as you can see. I have tried a lot of different brands and Salomon is the most comfortable, longest lasting and in my option, best looking    Blue Salomons pictured above can be found here: Salomon Women’s Ellipse 2 Gtx W-W Trail Runner, Rainy Blue/Slateblue/Teal Blue F, 8 B US.  The gray ones are several years old, and I’ve not be able to find them available online.
  4. Pack your own snacks. The trick is packing small, filling snacks that don’t take up much space and can’t be squashed.  Here’s what’s going on our trip.  Now doesn’t this look way better than a bag of peanuts! Cheese sticks, almonds, raisins, and carrots.
  5. Clip an empty water bottle to the outside of your backpack.  At this point, you have probably ran out of room inside your personal item.  Time to use the outside!  Carabineers are great for travel.  I’ve used them for all kinds of MacGyver-ish things while on the road.  One use is for clipping items like water bottles to the outside of your pack.   The key to this tip is that the water bottle has to be empty.  TSA won’t let you get through security if there is anything in it.  Once you clear security, find a water fountain to fill it up, and voila- you have your inflight beverage!

I have two water bottles clipped to my bag because I’ll be traveling with my two kiddos. Tip: These Contigo water bottles are the best I’ve found for kids. They seem to be indestructible and don’t leak! We take these everywhere. (Link:Contigo Kids Autospout Gizmo Water Bottle, 14oz (Lavender/Navy Blue) 2 Pack)

That’s it!

Now pack your backpack, put every single destination that low-cost carriers fly to on your bucket list, hit the skies for an adventure and laugh all the way to the bank knowing you beat the system!

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1 Comment
  • Amy
    November 18, 2017

    I’m such an overpacker. I usually wear the same pants over again anyhow and end up with a ton of unused clothes. We are headed to Disney in February and I’m going to try my best to pack less!! We just started to pack our own snacks on flights. The snacks on the plane usually aren’t very good anyhow.

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