by Amanda Mears
To avoid paying the extra baggage fees that most airlines now charge, packing for a trip has become a sport, and the goal is getting everything you need into one little carry-on. Instead of making a haphazard dash for the packing finish line, rely on packing cubes to help you pack light while staying organized. These convenient packing tools feature a set of lightweight bags, usually with mesh panels, that divide your suitcase into compartments and make condensing all your items into one organized bag more plausible.
Make a list of everything you need. Over-packing always starts with good intentions. Perhaps you've been caught in a sweltering climate without any deodorant and never want it to happen again. Maybe once it seemed completely rational to pack two extra toothbrushes, just in case. Most of the time, however, you'll find that being too prepared when packing leads to lugging around a lot of extra weight. Although it seems time-consuming, typing a list of everything you're going to need can help cut down on over-packing. A list helps you feel confident that you're not forgetting anything or packing too much. Set some time aside to brainstorm what you need for each day you'll be gone and then narrow it down to the basics.
Separate items into categories. Once you have your list, gather everything you need and place it on a flat surface, like your bed, dining room table, or floor. Since packing cubes typically come in sets of three, divide everything you have into three categories: clothing, toiletries, and electronic accessories. If your cube set has an extra bag, you may also want to separate accessories and jewelry. Pack everything into the corresponding cubes, using the largest one for clothing. If you have any miscellaneous items that are absolutely necessary, place them in the outside pockets of your carry-on.
Configure the cubes in your carry-on. Small rolling suitcases that fit the carry-on luggage size requirements are the best option when using packing cubes, but you can also fit the cubes into large duffel bags. Whichever type of luggage you choose, try to arrange the packing cubes so that they fill the space without making it hard to zip your bag.
Maintain the organization while you're traveling. After you get to your destination, keep the items you aren't using in the corresponding cube, so packing for your return flight is painless.