On my first-ever standby weekend trip, I packed four different outfits in a giant pink duffel bag. Not coincidentally, that was also the weekend I got stranded in Houston AND Tampa on my way to Birmingham due to weather. I scoff at my former self.
As a verified standby aficionado (i.e., an airline employee), I know a thing or two about how to pack the perfect carry-on that'll allow you to sprint hands-free across the terminal when your gate gets changed or you decide the move is the connection in Phoenix instead of the nonstop to Vegas.
While overpacking gets a lot of diva glory (women love to subtle-brag about having separate suitcases for their shoes and hair products), a true travel junkie knows that less is always more. Here are a few ways to travel light and get the most out of your bag (and trip).
Always carry-on. And, when possible, use a backpack.
I know rolling carry-on suitcases are wonderful because they fit a lot of stuff and—hello—they roll, but there's a downside to bringing a true suitcase.
For one thing, they have to go in the overhead bins. Perhaps it's just my standby plebeian status, but I'm usually one of the last people to get on the plane—which means overhead bin space is limited. The worst thing in the world as a standby passenger (once on the plane, at least) is when they run out of space and you have to check your bag (luckily, dem #BagsFlyFree).
But it's a time suck, sometimes your bag doesn't make it to your destination, and I don't know who the heck has time for baggage claim, but it ain't me. The backpack can be shoved under the seat in front of you (which also allows you to sit in any empty seat on Southwest, regardless of the bin space above it).
Moreover, if you're a quick-trip traveler that enjoys spending as little time as possible in a hotel, suitcases pose an issue. You must drop off a suitcase after landing, or be tasked with rolling it around the city with you like a vagabond. If you're doing a day trip, you don't have anywhere to put your stuff. A backpack is a must.
I still use my L.L. Bean backpack from middle school because it's #DurableAF, but once I get some extra spending money I'm going to splurge for a Herschel backpack that'll make me look truly travel-y.
Wear a neutral pair of jeans or leggings on the flight, and bring one shirt change.
Again, this is specific to people who do only one- or two-day trips (obviously bring more than one shirt if you'll be gone for a week). If there's one thing I've learned from traveling, it's that wearing a different pair of black leggings or having two different shades of blue jeans is completely unnecessary.
Wear the pants on the flight and then use them over the duration of your 24- or 48-hour jaunt. You can cuff them if you need to switch the look up a little, but trust me, nobody's paying attention anyway.
I usually try to bring a shirt that looks radically different than the shirt I travel in, because I'm vain and usually anticipate taking pictures on the trip (gotta have an apparent outfit change, ya feel?).
(I'm sure all the boys reading are rolling their eyes—sorry fella, women think about these things.)
I also tend to wear black-and-white Nike Roshe's (or another comfortable, chic athletic shoe that's versatile) that'll be good for getting around in and won't give me any blisters, but will still look put-together. I have legitimately no idea how some women wear heels (or other fancy shoes) on trips.
Lastly, wear a raincoat or jean jacket on the plane. You'll probably want to have one anyway, regardless of where you're going, and they're both lightweight enough to not be too sweltering in hotter places. I'm almost always cold on airplanes, so it doubles as a little blanket in-flight. (It also works wonders if you end up stuck in an airport and have to sleep.)
Get creative with your toiletries (and makeup, if you have that).
Something that always stresses me out when traveling is the toiletry situation because you can't pack it until the last minute. Last summer, I made a 'travel toiletry kit' with minis of all my stuff, ready to roll and stowed permanently in my bag.
This took a little extra effort (i.e., going to Target and CVS and hunting down the appropriate minis), but it's so nice to have a small kit already in my backpack so I can grab it and go without having to round up all my travel necessities every time. I know most men have travel kits already, but it's a little less common for women.
Another tip—skip the fancy stuff. On quick trips, you aren't going to be deep conditioning and blowdrying. I always include:
Makeup works similarly. Most of the time I don't wear makeup at all when I travel because I hate the idea of having a layer of gunk on my face in the recycled plane air and outside sweating as I walk around, but if you must, I would suggest keeping it extremely basic and following the three-products-max rule.
I always used to bring way too much makeup on trips with me and 95% of it would end up unused in my bag, weighing me down. The truth is, when you're on-the-go (or staying in a hostel with 11 strangers), you're not going to be applying winged liner. You just won't.
I think people overpack because we always overestimate the amount of downtime we're going to have. How many times have you brought an abundance of stuff on a trip and realized while unpacking that most of it went untouched?
However, there is one specific amount of downtime I think you SHOULD prepare for...
Airport downtime checklist
While laptops can be super helpful when you're sitting around at the airport, they're also heavy and have to be screened separately in security (which is annoying). I also feel weird traveling with a $1,000 device in my backpack, considering my lodging style is more Motel 6 than Ritz Carlton.
I typically just bring my phone, but it's a "Plus" so the screen is big enough for surfing the web comfortably. I found out the other day that you can actually download Netflix shows now, so I'm considering trying that out on my next trip.
Here's my go-to checklist for airport downtime that doesn't add too much weight or inconvenience to my pack:
My favorite thing to do now in airports, however, is find the bar or main restaurant and sit alone and drink one of their drought beers. It makes me feel like such a real person, and it's so much better than sitting at your gate scrolling through Twitter. This is the best option during layovers and delays, in my opinion.
Travel hacks and must-sees from a broke frequent flyer.
The fine print: