Most travel is a pain in the ass, but holiday travel is extra annoying. You have a ton of travelers all trying to get somewhere at the same time while toting a ton of stuff they don't need.
What you end up with is a big pile of awful. Literally, because all that extra luggage is awful. That said, here are my suggestions for how to get home (or wherever) for the holidays without all the extra stuff.
>>You do not need a bag larger than a carry-on. You don't. Starting with a giant bag gives you a mental excuse to fill the damn thing, which means you'll end up with more than you need. Limiting your packing space equals limiting the number of things you can pack equals bringing fewer things. It's science.
>>Unless you're traveling to a third-world country, you probably don't need to pack anything "just in case." Everywhere has toothpaste and shampoo and deodorant. Everywhere. So unless you have some sort of fancy prescription toiletries, you don't need to worry about getting 3-ounce portions of face wash and conditioner together and making sure they all fit in those little plastic baggies. And if you're staying with family, they'll probably have these things already and will let you borrow them. (You should check first, though; it's only polite.)
>>You do not need that many pairs of shoes. Or pants. Or shirts. Or anything, really. The trick is to make the things you pack work for you in more than one way. With the exception of underwear and socks, you're probably going to rewear a few things, so you may as well make sure the things you bring will work with each other to provide you with enough outfits for day/night/parties/whatever.
>>Be aware of the weather at your travel destination and remember to pack accordingly, but don't use the fact that it's cold as an excuse to bring more things. Instead, make sure the things you do pack can be layered.
>>Comfortable shoes. I'll say this again: comfortable shoes. If you're doing any sort of traveling that entails walking around for any length of time, make sure your footwear can hack it and is weather-appropriate. (Yours truly wore Converse in Germany for too long and was nearly crippled by the time she returned.)
>>Make a list. Yes, I know, you don't need a list. But seriously, make a list. Make sure you have things you NEED, not things you THINK you need.
>>Pack smart. You've heard about stuffing smaller items into your shoes and maybe you've laughed about it but DON'T LAUGH because that's a crazy smart thing to do. Also, rolling your shirts makes them less prone to wrinkling, and they also take up less space.
>>Are you traveling with gifts? Is there no way you can ship them in advance? This is pretty much the only instance that it's OK to check a bag—and it should be the ONLY bag you check. If you're one of those people who tends to buy clothes as gifts, don't wrap them in advance, if you can help it.
Whether you're visiting family or going to Europe to stay in a cave hotel, bringing a bunch of stuff isn't going to make your trip better. Focus on where you're going and who you're going to see. And leave all your weird hair appliances at home.
Stacey Andeen is a RedEye special contributor.
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