The goal is simple: to visit your destination without a suitcase so stuffed that you emit strange animal sounds trying to heave it into the overhead compartment — and with plenty of clean socks and underwear. But if only it were that easy! If you’ve struggled over which clothes to bring or how many gadgets is too many, you’re certainly not alone. Packing for a trip is often a struggle to distinguish what we want to bring from what we need to bring.

When we’re forced to choose between our favorite things, we’re sometimes tempted to just bring it all and to hell with it — but overpacking can cost more than extra suitcase space and a free hand. Checking more than one bag, exceeding your airline’s weight limit or even checking a bag at all can cost you. Most airlines charge a $25 fee each way for checking one piece of luggage on domestic and some international flights, with fees climbing into the hundreds of dollars for anything beyond two checked bags.

Everyone’s packing style is different and we all have our own travel needs, so before you get upset at the idea of leaving behind your beloved toothbrush sanitizer, remember that these are only suggestions.

Don’t Pack More Clothes Than You Need
Clothes tend to make up the bulk of most travelers’ suitcases, and reducing the number of outfits you pack can lighten your load significantly. No one wants to run out of clean underwear in the middle of the Brazilian rain forest, but it’s possible to find a comfortable balance between wearing the same stinky jeans and T-shirt the whole trip and changing your outfit three times each day like a celebrity.


If you are staying at a major chain hotel that will offer complimentary toiletries — use them! Don’t bring your own shampoo and conditioner bottles to the hotel and then stuff the hotel ones in your suitcase to take home. If you don’t use them on the road, you’ll probably never use them at home.


Don’t Pack Unnecessary Gadgets
If you’ve ever packed items such as nightlights, shoe horns, portable DVD players, book lights, coffee makers, fire-safety smoke hoods, hotel-door alarm systems, toothbrush sanitizers or electronic language translators, Don’t ! as you will never actually use them on your trip. The definition of “necessary” varies from one traveler to the next, so it’s important to ask yourself if you will really need your ocean-sound machine to get to sleep each night before you stuff it in your bursting suitcase.