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Mastering the Art of Packing Light in the Age of the Personal Item

7 Days
1 Personal item
46 x 36 x 20 cm | 18 x 14 x 8 inch

As I’m standing in yet another security line at Amsterdam airport, it hits me like a rogue overhead bin door: packing light is my superpower. Airlines are tightening their regulations like Spanx at a wedding, and I’ve got to get my essentials to fit into a personal item allowance. As a musician, convincing airline staff that my Trombone is an emotional support animal? Yeah, spoiler alert: that hardly ever works. So, I’ve turned packing light into an art form. It’s not just about saving money—it’s a matter of principle. Efficiency, freedom, and the smug satisfaction of gliding through security like a minimalist ninja are my new mantras.

Step one in my packing manifesto: the right bag. Enter the soft backpack, the stretchy pants of luggage. Flexible, comfy, and able to squeeze into the tightest airplane crevices, it’s my go-to. Unlike rigid suitcases, soft backpacks accommodate all my random-shaped must-haves, forgiving my impulse extra cardigan and illogical gifts to friends. Basically, it’s the Marie Kondo of travel gear.

Every pocket of my backpack is a secret weapon in the war against overpacking. These compartments are like little treasure troves, perfect for stashing chargers, toiletries, and all-important documents. This pocket strategy keeps everything organized and leaves the main compartment open for bigger items. There’s something incredibly satisfying about knowing exactly where everything is—like having a personal assistant who whispers, “Your toothbrush is in the left pocket, darling,” but without the weird looks from people nearby.

When it comes to clothes, rolling is my religion. I roll everything—from t-shirts to jeans—tighter than a sushi roll. This technique not only saves space but also keeps wrinkles at bay. Picture me, lying on my bed, rolling clothes with the precision of a burrito artist. It’s like playing Tetris, but with fabric, and the prize is more space for those extra shoes I just can’t leave behind.

Shoes: the bane of every traveler’s existence but my best friends in the packing department. I stuff them with smaller items like underwear, socks, or even small gadgets. Not only does this save space, but it also keeps my shoes from getting squashed. I place them along the sides of my backpack, creating a sturdy frame for the rest of my belongings. Bulky items like jackets or sweaters follow suit, lining the sides to distribute weight evenly and keep the central area free for other essentials.

The top of my backpack is reserved for the VIP items: passport, book, snack—anything I might need to access quickly. This ensures I can grab what I need without causing a small-scale avalanche of my carefully packed belongings. After packing, I let my backpack sit for a bit, allowing the items to settle and sink into the available spaces. Often, this magical moment of “breathing” creates a bit of extra room, just enough for those last-minute additions – like my breakfast!

For musicians and other travelers facing strict airline regulations, this method isn’t just about saving money. It’s about maintaining control and flexibility in a travel environment that can often feel as welcoming as a root canal. By mastering the art of packing light, I glide through airports with ease, dodge the stress of checked luggage, and keep all my essential items within arm’s reach.

Packing light isn’t just about cramming everything into a small space. It’s about embracing a mindset of efficiency and adaptability, allowing me to navigate the increasingly stringent rules of modern air travel with the grace of a ballerina and the cunning of a fox. Whether I’m safeguarding my instruments or aiming for a hassle-free journey, these packing strategies help me make the most of my personal item allowance. In the end, it’s not just about what I pack, but how I pack it—and the freedom it brings.

Packing list:

4x outfits (1 on you)
Pijamas
Thermal wear
6x Underwear
2x Bras
2x pairs socks
Dress shoes
Makeup kit
Toiletries
Computer
Charger & Cables
Trombone mouthpiece
Card reader
Passport
Wallet
Purse
Business cards
Scarf
Headphones
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