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How to Travel Internationally with Just a Carry-On

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Savvy international travelers know it’s a good idea to pack light. By taking only a carry-on bag, you save money on checked baggage fees, avoid the hassle of lugging heavy suitcases around, and don’t have to worry about lost baggage.

Because it can sometimes be difficult to pare down your packing list, here are some handy tips to help you keep things light.

Just the Essentials

  • Start with a list of the items you’ll definitely need. Leave off items you think you might need, like an umbrella or extra toiletries. You can almost always purchase these things at your destination if you need them, and then you have the added fun of shopping like a local at the corner drugstore or department store.
  • If you’ll be traveling for more than a week, don’t forget that you can usually do your laundry on the go. Hotels often have laundry service for a fee, or you can try to find a local laundromat. If you have to, it’s easy to wash clothes in the sink and hang them up to dry.
  • Modern technology can lighten your load. Pack an e-reader instead of a pile of books, a tablet instead of a laptop, and your high-tech camera phone instead of a bulky camera and lenses.

Clothes Sense

  • All of the clothes you bring on your trip should mix and match with each other for maximum versatility. Choose a few pairs of pants or skirts in neutral shades, and then add some layering tops in colors that complement each other.
  • Multitasking clothing, like pants with zip-off legs that become shorts, are great for travel. Women who will be visiting mosques or temples can pack a scarf that doubles as a head covering.
  • Stick to just one or two pairs of shoes that will work for many situations. A casual pair that’s comfortable for walking will suffice for most trips. If you’ll be going to nice dinners, throw in a dressier pair as well.

Maximize Your Space

  • Fold or roll clothes tightly to fit more in your carry-on. If you want to really save space, look for travel compression bags that squeeze out excess air.
  • Mesh bags, packing cubes, or simple zip-top plastic bags work well to keep toiletries, underwear, and power cords organized.
  • If you have to bring heavier items, like hiking boots or a bulky coat, wear them on the plane. You can always stow them in the overhead bins during the flight.
  • Instead of saving room in your luggage for souvenirs, consider shipping bulky items home. This can often be cheaper than paying baggage fees, and you won’t have to cart the items around with you as you move from place to place.
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