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  • Packing Light: 8 Tips to Keep Your Luggage Lean

  • For Phil Emard, president of Medford-based Opex, travel is part of his job. And though his profession is consulting with healthcare and business organizations, he has found that frequent travel has developed a new set of skills. "You're usually standing in line behind the people who don't travel very often", he comments, "and counseling the travelers around you as they struggle with extra baggage."
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    • The Right Bag for the Job
      When setting a limit on your luggage, having the right suitcase can be just as important as planning what to put in it.

      The best place to start, says travel expert Anne McAlpin, is with a go...
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      The Right Bag for the Job
      When setting a limit on your luggage, having the right suitcase can be just as important as planning what to put in it.

      The best place to start, says travel expert Anne McAlpin, is with a good quality, expandable 22-inch rolling suitcase. As laundry collects or as you purchase items to bring home, the bag can be expanded. Other useful items?



      • Compression bags. These bags keep you from packing air instead of necessary items. Like large zip bags, the air is squeezed out providing more room in your luggage. They have the added advantage of being clear, so items can be packed together but still viewed when necessary.


      • Packing boards. These flat surfaces can create new "compartments" in your suitcase for various items. And don't forget that small items can be packed inside shoes or collected into smaller bags to make them easier to locate.

      • Quart-sized recloseable bags. If traveling by air, these are necessary for toiletry items going through security. Keep some extras in a side pocket just in case.


      • An expandable tote. A fold-up, closeable tote bag can be very useful for extra soft items. Pull it out and fill it with your laundry or sweaters for the trip home. It can also be used as your carry-on bag for your essentials (medications, paperwork, reading material) if you check your suitcase on the trip home.
  • For Phil Emard, president of Medford-based Opex, travel is part of his job. And though his profession is consulting with healthcare and business organizations, he has found that frequent travel has developed a new set of skills. "You're usually standing in line behind the people who don't travel very often", he comments, "and counseling the travelers around you as they struggle with extra baggage."
    It's a very common sight, says Anne McAlpin, travel expert and author of Pack It Up: The Essential Guide to Organized Travel. Most people overpack when they travel but as she often says, "If you're trying to get away from it all, don't take it all with you!"
    1. Make your belongings multi-task.
    McAlpin recommends packing multi-purpose items as much as possible. A woman's scarf can serve a multitude of purposes when traveling. Capris are more functional than shorts, if a dress code is likely. McAlpin's own compact "travel towel" serves as blanket, towel, sarong or bath mat.
    2. Plan your "palette."
    McAlpin recommends starting with two basic clothing colors for the greatest mix-and-match potential. Shoes, as well, should serve double duty. For example, a black walking sandal can be worn with capris for a casual afternoon, or with a skirt or dress when dining out. One neutral sweater should co-ordinate with any outfit when needed.
    3. Don't take what you don't need.
    Emard jokes, "I get upset if I pack an extra pair of socks I don't need." Think ahead, he says. If the hotel will have a hairdryer (and most do, reminds McAlpin), don't pack one. Ski equipment, strollers or golf clubs can be rented or can be shipped out ahead. If you're staying with family, leave any remaining sundries with them.
    4. Pack for a week.
    "I pack for one week and plan to do laundry once a week," says McAlpin. Many hotels have laundry facilities, or with a line and some detergent, you can hand wash your clothing and have a clean wardrobe for the coming week. As an alternative, she suggests "Take your underwear or sweater that's on its last legs — wear it once and then throw it out or replace it on the trip."
    5. Travel-size it!
    "I've had several [recloseable] bags thrown away because I had a 4-ounce bottle of shaving cream," Emard recalls. When possible, he now uses travel-sized items, or he recommends buying re-usable bottles (3.4 ounces or less) and filling them with hair gel, shampoos or other liquid items. And he points out, "Don't get uptight if you have something thrown out. You can buy it at your destination."
    6. Only pack what you can carry.
    If you can't carry your suitcase up and down the stairs a few times or around the block, it's too much, is McAlpin's rule of thumb. Keep in mind the type of trip you're taking, she cautions. Can you handle that suitcase getting out of a gondola or on and off a train?
    7. Think ahead.
    Air travel, particularly, can be a challenge to packing. Check on the latest requirements and know which items may have to be removed for examination at security or customs. "It's nothing complicated," says Emard. "It's just a case of thinking it through."
    8. Be realistic.
    Lastly, says McAlpin, know yourself. If you can't abide the thought of wearing the same clothes for two days, or can't cut back on accessories, recognize it and consult a travel agent or experienced traveler for suggestions. Or as a last resort, she jokes, go on a tour where someone else takes care of your luggage.
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