Everyone loves the tradition of going home for the Thanksgiving 4-day weekend, but simultaneously dreads the inevitable drudge of the holiday travel involved. Long lines, the endless wait at the baggage carousel, and undressing for the TSA are modern day realities we can't avoid entirely. However, with a little thought and planning, you can sail through the airport with just a small, check-in sized duffel bag. One of the biggest pitfalls of the traveller is being a chronic over packer, believe, there is no reason to check a bag for a 4-day trip home, you can't possibly need more than fits in a carry-on. Follow these simple rules and you'll never have to check a bag again, which nowadays saves you money as well as time.
Ditch the Inefficient Roller Bag
It's just a fact that a carry-on sized duffel bag has more space than an equivalent roller bag. If you don't have a versatile duffel, now would be a great time to get one. Check out the Gokey Heritage Duffel at Orvis, or the Filson Travel Bag for two manly, well-built duffels that will last you a lifetime and transport your clothes in style. Save your enormous roller bag for your next two-week European vacation. A carry-on duffel won't be that heavy, but if you really can't stand to be without wheels, drop a buck on a cart at the airport. But come on, just carry it. Make that gym membership count for something.
Pick a Color
First step to packing your duffel efficiently is to establish a color scheme for everything you're going to pack. If everything is in the same basic color family you can easily mix and match items and create several different looks with a limited amount of clothes. Blue is a favorite of most guys, and a pretty safe choice for creating several different looks, but if brown or green is your thing, then go for it. Darker colored clothing will be more forgiving in hiding wrinkles and for wearing more than once on your trip, so keep that in mind when deciding. The idea is to choose a finite amount of clothes that all form a cohesive color story together. At this point in the process, go over your trip's itinerary and determine how many different looks you'll need – dinner at Grandma's house, homecoming football game, reunion drinks with your buddies – whatever's on the list, make sure it's accommodated with your choices. Pull out everything you think you'll need, including the outfit you'll wear on the plane, and then start eliminating.
Pack the Minimum for Maximum Effect
Whether you lay everything out and whittle it down, or just go for it and try to make the perfect choices from the jump, do lay everything out, folded, on your bed so you can see it all together before it's packed. Once you've made all your choices, narrow it down to just the basics using this magic formula and everything should fit perfectly in your duffel:
- 1 pair of pants that are not jeans (Wear jeans on the plane, they travel well).
- 2 sporty, casual button-down shirts (Plaid is always a winner for fall, and it packs well, but don't bring more than 2 plaid shirts).
- 1 sweater (Your best bet is a thin, merino wool v-neck for layering, make sure both your packed shirts match the sweater, and that your pants match everything).
- 1 nice, pullover shirt (Go with your most often worn style, a long-sleeve polo, a rugby, a heavy long-sleeve T-shirt, a thick Henley, whatever you wear the most).
- 3 T-shirts (For layering and lounging around).
- 4 pairs of socks
- 5 pairs of underwear (An extra pair of underwear is never a bad idea).
- 1 warm, sporty blazer (A charcoal grey, tweed blazer would go great with a blue color palette and provide some nice color variation).
- 1 pair of boxer shorts and a comfy T-shirt (for sleeping in).
- 1 tie (if you need it).
- 1 pair of dress shoes (if necessary - you should have plenty of room for an extra pair of shoes or sneakers, but unless you have a specific need for a second pair of shoes, you can probably get away with just wearing the shoes you travel in).
- Small toiletries bag
If this seems like it's not enough, it is. If you're concerned that one pair of pants doesn't seem right, remember, you're wearing pants on the plane, you'll have two pairs for the trip. Worried about not having a jacket? You'll be wearing one on the plane. If you're really concerned you aren't packing enough, remember, if you really need to, you can do a quick load of laundry at Mom's house!
Packing your toiletries is still a little tricky, especially when not checking a bag. Basic rule still is, nothing over 3 oz. and everything must be packed in a clear plastic bag. Luckily, you're most likely traveling to a destination with fully stocked bathrooms at your disposal, so you won't need to bring your whole arsenal of products. Get yourself some 3 oz. squeeze bottles at the drug store and pack your essentials, or, get a readymade alternative, like this travel set from Jack Black.
Make Your Travel Outfit Do Double Duty
Wear a sharp outfit on the plane. For so many reasons, this is a good idea. Not only is it just plain better to always look good and be dressed like a grown up while traveling, you're also essentially packing on your body. Everything you wear on the plane can be worn again during your trip, so plan accordingly when getting dressed and make sure you can cycle in everything. Wearing your jacket on the plane frees up space in your duffel, and gives you a sporty alternative to wear while you're on vacation. Layering on a sweater or a hoodie will keep you warm on the plane and you'll also have that second option during the weekend. Most importantly, don't succumb to cut-off sweats and flip flops or some other messy look on the plane; look like a gentleman while traveling and harken back to the days when air travel was special and civil.
Make the Most of Your Other Carry-On
In addition to your duffel, you'll probably need to lug your laptop along for the trip. Make the most of it and tuck all of your in-flight essentials in your laptop bag and you won't be popping open the overhead bin during the flight. Squeeze in a bag of almonds or trail mix for in-flight munchies, unless you'd rather pay $8 for a 2 oz. bag on the plane. Stash your wallet in your bag so you're not sitting on it the whole flight. There should be plenty of room for a book, a magazine, your phone, keys and sunglasses, as well. If not, maybe your laptop bag is too small.
Remember these rules and apply them to any trip you're packing for. It pays to be a wise traveler, not a tourist!