Skip to main content

IndypendenZ/iStockPhoto / Getty Images

The hopeful item

To save money and time and go carry-on only, you’ve got to be ruthless with your packing – and your planning. If you really want to do something on your trip – a hike, a golf lesson, a fancy-pants Michelin-starred meal – don’t just “hope” you get around to it. Make it firm on your itinerary before you leave. Otherwise, odds are it won’t happen. And you will have lugged around those hiking poles/clubs/uncomfortable formal shoes for nothing.

The maybe item

This is similar to the previous one. Maybe it will rain … so you pack an umbrella. Maybe you’ll meet a cutie at the hotel bar … so you pack special underthings. Maybe it will be cold at night … so you pack a sweater. I’m all for being prepared, but even Boy Scouts know when to draw the line. Unless shopping will be difficult at your destination, only pack items that have a high probability of being used.

Valuables you can’t replace

Most expensive doodads can be repurchased if forgotten in a hotel room or left on a plane, even if your insurance doesn’t cover the bill. I’m talking about items of sentimental value – say, the cufflinks that have been in your family for generations. When we travel, we’re often exhausted, rushed and in unfamiliar surroundings. It’s easy to misplace things – so make sure you can afford to lose them financially and emotionally.

Excess electronics

I used to always bring my iPad when I’d be staying at hostels, because I knew I’d want to wind down by watching some TV, like I do every night. Except – it turns out I didn’t. I never used the thing. The lesson: It’s important not to pack based on at-home habits, because routines change when we’re on the road. Do you really need your laptop, or your fitness tracker, or your smart watch – and all the related chargers?

Five common items you can’t put in your checked baggage

How to fit more into your suitcase

5 tips to avoid being a jerk on an overnight flight

Gym clothes

Listen, if you’re training for a marathon or fully commit to your workout routine no matter what, then sure go ahead and pack your running shoes and yoga pants. But if you sort of, kind of, sometimes work out, don’t bother. Think of if this way: You have a limited amount of time at a destination. Do you want to spend it in a dreary hotel gym or would you rather spend it walking around a new city? Rack up the steps and consider that your fitness for the day.

Live your best. We have a daily Life & Arts newsletter, providing you with our latest stories on health, travel, food and culture. Sign up today.