I’ve never been one to pack a million suitcases to take on a one-week trip. Instead, I try to limit my luggage to one checked-on piece and maybe one carry-on. However, since most airlines now charge for checked on luggage, I’ve had to get creative with my packing. In my pursuit to save anywhere from $25 or more, or the cost of checking on luggage with major airlines, I’ve figured out a solution for cutting the cost of flying: Take a backpack!

One thing I’ve realized during my traveling is the less you have to carry in your hands, the better and a backpack is a perfect solution. Carrying a backpack on your back down a tight airplane aisle is much easier and faster than wriggling a smallish carry-on down the aisle. Does a backpack work for every trip? Of course not. But it will work for many trips, especially if you plan accordingly:

  • Travel to tropical regions – the warmer the climate, the less bulky clothes you have to pack.
  • Travel during the spring and summer season – again, warmer temps mean less bulky clothing.

Most backpacks expand more than you think. For example, my $40 backpack that I use for my books, work and school was a great option for me when I traveled to New York this past May. I took a couple of pairs of pants, a few shirts, a sweater, a light-weight windbreaker (it can get cool in New York in May), and a pair of slip-on shoes. I was able to squeeze it all into my backpack.

Backpacks expand more than you think.

I even packed my toiletries in the front, small pocket using Zip Lock baggies and small containers. I kept my toiletries to a minimum since most hotels provide hair dryers, small shampoo and conditioner bottles, and a few other things you might not want to take with you – and friends and family can share if you’re staying with them instead.

Small, clear baggies work great and get you through security.

A few tips for using a backpack in lieu of any other luggage:

  • Wear your most bulky clothing that you’ll be taking on your plane ride, including heavier shoes. Smaller items fit more easily into your backpack.
  • For women, you can still take your purse. I was able to fit a couple of items in my purse once my backpack became over loaded.
  • Make sure your backpack can fit under the seat in front of you for standard class travelers. The benefit of a backpack is it’s easier to take than a small carry-on and will fit in front of your legs so you don’t have to fight for a space in the overhead compartment. You also won’t have to wait to grab your bag when you depart the plane.

This summer, I’m attending my sister’s wedding. I plan to take my backpack and that’s it. However, my husband and I will need access to our nice clothes; a dress, a suit and dress shoes. These items won’t fit in our backpacks and will become horribly wrinkled if I try to stuff them in. Solution: We’re shipping our “nice” clothes ahead of time to the hotel. Using UPS or FedEx and shipping a garment-sized box (flat and mid-length) will cost just less (about $5.00 less) than checking one piece of luggage. And, there’s less chance of the suitcase getting lost since we can track the shipment with a tracking number!

Summary of benefits of taking a backpack on a trip:

  • No checked luggage fee.
  • Reduced possibility of luggage getting lost.
  • No wait time at the carousel after leaving the plane. Just grab your backpack and go!
  • Hands-free bag. You can actually hold on to your kid, your coffee, or your partner without loosing your grip on one or the other. 🙂

As far as I’m concerned, backpacks are the best invention since sliced-bread.

How do you travel – light or heavy? Would a backpack work for some of your trips?