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Packing Hacks: How To Get Everything You Need For A Trip Into 1 Carry-On Bag


While we're talking about travel, the next thing I say may seem hard to believe, but, yes, you can get everything you need for a trip into one carry-on bag. For our NPR Life Kit guide to travel, Elise Hu asked frequent flyers about their best packing hacks and came away with these tips.

ELISE HU, BYLINE: Traveling light is all about eliminating extra stuff before you leave. You can do it by making a list and then trimming it to the essentials before you pack your bags, or do it manually by packing a bag and then taking out a third of it.

JADA YUAN: How many days am I going to be gone? Can I wash any of this stuff in a sink? And then you take a third of it away.

HU: Jada Yuan was The New York Times' 52 places traveler, going to 52 places around the world inside of a year.

YUAN: Schlepping things around is a great way to kill your buzz on a vacation.

HU: Conventional wisdom is clothing weighs us down, which is true, but don't forget to also ditch the smaller, more insidious way to be weighed down, liquids. Onebag.com engineer Doug Dyment says liquids are the worst things to carry around.

DOUG DYMENT: It's heavy. It's bulky. The security people don't like it. It can leak.

HU: Lose them by only using the lightest travel size items of your toiletries or the dry versions of what you need - tooth powders that are mixed into paste, dry shampoo, not wet shampoo - or just purchase them while you're on the road, as Jada Yuan learned from her extensive excursions.

YUAN: I would've actually set out with almost none of my toiletries because it turns out that, like, that most of the time, you don't miss the things you're carrying around.

HU: Generally, this is true, but she found five exceptions, the items you do want in your toiletry kit.

YUAN: Among the things that are hard to find always - sunscreen, bug spray, some kind of bug bite relief, the tampons you like and then hair conditioner.

HU: And finally - this is our favorite tip - pack MVP items, the single items that can be used in multiple ways. A scarf doubles as a dust mask, a cover-up, a blanket, a headband, a napkin and more. Dental floss - the uses are endless.

DYMENT: Dental floss can be repair thread. It can help you to lock your luggage. It's - you can use it - the little cutter on the box. If you're a knitter, you can use that to cut things in the airplane without having to take scissors on the plane. And you can slice cake and cheese and pastries and things with it, or you can use it as an emergency shoelace. Or you can use it if you've got a finger ring that's stuck on your finger that you can't get off, there's a little trick you can use with dental floss.

HU: He's still talking about dental floss.

DYMENT: You can, you know, replace the broken toilet chain. If you've got a drippy faucet in your hotel room at night, you can tie a piece of dental floss around the end of the faucet and let the water dribble down the dental floss so it won't drip, drip, drip anymore.

HU: Seemingly no end to these ideas. To sum things up, you don't need as much stuff as you think. Take way fewer liquids, and never leave home without your dental floss.

Elise Hu, NPR News.


CORNISH: More tips on how to pack and how to plan trips to reduce the hassles and increase the fun are in our Life Kit episode on planning and packing. It's available on npr.org and wherever you get your podcasts.


Elise Hu is a host-at-large based at NPR West in Culver City, Calif. Previously, she explored the future with her video series, Future You with Elise Hu, and served as the founding bureau chief and International Correspondent for NPR's Seoul office. She was based in Seoul for nearly four years, responsible for the network's coverage of both Koreas and Japan, and filed from a dozen countries across Asia.