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Ever had to pay an overweight fee for your suitcase at the airport? I have! In fact, I have always been an over-packer but managed to just skirt the line until we started to cruise. Between formal night, excursion gear, and your must-haves for keeping your stateroom more organized; it’s no wonder it’s easy to overpack when cruising! So, how has this “pack rat” not paid an overweight fee since 2015 in spite of flying more than 20 times since? Allow me to share my three tips for packing lighter for your cruise!
In late 2015 I accepted a new role with my company which required monthly cross-country air travel for business. Returning home from my first trip, I remember standing at the baggage carousel thinking about how much I loathed waiting for my luggage (especially at 10 PM after a six-hour flight). I realized that my only choice was to try to pack six days worth of stuff into a carry-on. This was not going to be an easy task for an over-packer!
Tip #1: Plan, plan, plan!
While I’ve used packing lists for as long as I can remember, I always end up throwing “just in case” pieces in that weren’t planned. Not only did I rarely wear those “just in case” pieces, but it also created so much more work when I had to unpack. When I moved to a carry-on, I started making outfit lists and looked for pieces that would combine well with each other. I also tried on each outfit on to make sure I was happy with how it looked and fit. For formal night, I pack a single pair of shoes that go with both outfits.
Tip #2: Decant your liquids
While shoes and clothing can be bulky, the biggest challenge was fitting all of my various gels, creams, liquids, and lotions to a single 1-quart bag. I was bringing full-size bottles with me on trips and that gets heavy! After some experimentation, I realized travel sizes are actually quite large. Unless you are going on an extended trip, you probably don’t 3.4 oz of anything. The solution? Decant most of your products into small containers.
This little bag contains the following:
Toothpaste, deodorant, body lotion, hand lotion, mascara, eye drops, contact solution, nasal spray, shampoo, conditioner, leave-in conditioner, styling spray, hair heat protector, body oil, perfume, extra contacts, face toner, face cleanser, face lotion, spray makeup fix, concealer, eye makeup remover, bronzer, four tubes of lipstick, and wrinkle releaser for clothing.
I did switch from a liquid foundation to a powder-to-cream foundation so I could spare a bit of space.
What you will need:
- A 1-quart clear bag. While you can just use a Ziploc baggie, I went for something more substantial since I did not want any leakage. The rectangular bag I use (above) allows you to cram it fully so that there is not a millimeter of wasted space. Trust me, I have stuffed it to the point I thought it would finally burst, but to date, it has survived more than 20 cross-country flights so it’s quite durable.
- Several small bottles, atomizers, and jars. I use 1 oz. flip-top bottles for shampoo and lotion, 1 oz jars for creams and gels, and 1 oz spray bottles for wrinkle-release and leave-in conditioner. I also bought travel atomizers for perfume.
- A blunt-tip decanting syringe. When you are trying to decant into tiny bottles, a funnel won’t work, especially with thicker products like lotion. Again, Daiso has these but here’s an alternative if you don’t have a Daiso near you.
- A label maker. OK, not a necessity, but it helps everything feel tidier and I don’t run the risk of squirting wrinkle-releaser on my hair.
Since my first trip, I realized TSA does not seem to care if your lipstick or a stray container of travel size lotion is floating around in your handbag. They also don’t seem to mind my mascara mingling with the rest of my non-liquid makeup.
Tip #3: Packing cubes!
I have to admit, I used to think packing cubes were a gimmick… until I used them! You can roll and stuff so much into these lightweight mesh pouches! I use this set for clothing and can load an entire week’s worth of clothing (including undies and sleepwear) into these three bags. Not only have these bags worn like iron after 20+ flights, but nothing I have packed yet has needed ironing (or even the wrinkle-release spray) after a six-hour flight. If you aren’t as worried about saving space and have more than one set, you can use packing cubes to bundle outfits and accessories.
Have I ditched the big bag for good?
Not quite. And the point of this is not to encourage you to go carry-on only, especially for a cruise. Formal wear alone would make it very tricky! However, I do pack by outfits, carry my trusty tiny toiletry bag at all times, and I always use my packing cubes because they keep everything tidy and organized.