How to Pack Everything You Own in One Bag Now that many airlines are charging for a second checked bag, one packing expert reveals tricks travelers can use to pack everything they need in one checked bag. He says the key is to draw up a list and bundle wrap clothes.
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How to Pack Everything You Own in One Bag

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How to Pack Everything You Own in One Bag

How to Pack Everything You Own in One Bag

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From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Michele Norris with some advice.

Lighten up. This is not a segment on pop psychology. I'm talking about packing, and specifically the need to pack lighter, because more and more airlines are charging to check a second bag. Starting next week, AirTran joins Northwest, Delta, U.S. Air, United and Continental in requiring a fee if you can't cram all your clothes, shoes, books, hairdryers, you name it, into one checked bag.

Well, we turn to Doug Dyment to get some advice on how to pare down the packing load. Dyment created - that's a Web site devoted to the art of traveling light. When I spoke to Mr. Dyment, he was prepping for a trip to India and Russia, two very different climates, and he was packing just one bag - one bag he planned to carry on. He says a key to his art is following a master list that he has been developing for years.

NORRIS: If it's not on your list, it shouldn't be in your bag. What happens with people is that they pack the night before their trip. And that packing activity consists mostly of talking to yourself and saying, well I might need this and I might need that, and what if the queen invites me to dinner, and all of that sort of thing. And that's death to light packing. So, well in advance of your trip, you should've thought about what your list looks like, you should have it literally written down, and you should check it off as you go.

BLOCK: Now, you site this old adage to bring half as much clothing and twice as much money as you think you might need. But as I look at this list, it's four columns long. It's a pretty big list. How do you fit all this in one bag, in one bag that you can carry on and you don't have to check?

NORRIS: Well, specifically, it's well over a hundred items on the list. So, you're right, it's a big list. But most of the things on the list are very small. They don't take up much space. They don't add much weight. Don't forget, also, that this list is an all-inclusive list. It includes the things that you wear. So, your coat and one of the shirts and one of those skirts or pairs of trousers and one of the sets of underwear - those are on you, not in the bag.

BLOCK: Is there an art to packing things well and making sure that you can pack as much as you need in as small amount of space as possible? What is the best way to fill that suitcase?

NORRIS: Well, there are really only two things that I would label as tricks, other than just plain, good old common sense. First of all, you shouldn't let any spaces go unused. So if you're packing a pair of running shoes, say, don't forget there's a lot of space inside those shoes that you could use to pack stuff - so things like that.

And I guess the main trick is how you deal with clothing, because most people don't know how to pack clothing very well. They fold each item individually, pack them in a stack, and then force them into the bag, somehow, which is just about the worst thing you can do as far as packing clothing goes.

So there is a technique for packing clothing. It's called bundle wrapping, and it's a way of putting all your clothing in a bundle, for want of a better word, that keeps it from getting wrinkled and crumpled and also takes up less space.

BLOCK: When you're talking about bundling these items, are you talking about, for instance, taking a shirt, putting the bundle inside the shirt and then wrapping one sleeve over - one sleeve over the shirt tail up and over the bundle and then the collar - is that what you're talking about?

NORRIS: Exactly.

BLOCK: Or you're talking about instead of rolling it from the bottom?

NORRIS: No. I'm not talking about rolling. Rolling is better than individually folding and stacking, but it's not much better. So, no, you've described it pretty well. If you think of laying a shirt flat on your bed and then placing this bundle where the chest would go and then gently wrap the sleeves around the bundle, and then bring the bottom up and wrap it around the top.

BLOCK: Shoes, they take up a lot of space.

NORRIS: They do. They're the single, bulkiest item, and the biggest secret there is just not to take too many shoes. I guess, never take more than two pairs of shoes. And frequently, I take one pair of shoes. In lots of business situations these days, you can buy shoes that are quite dressy looking and yet their internal construction is more like a high-quality running shoe. And I find that that works for most things.

BLOCK: I have to interrupt you and, you know, someone may snatch my feminist card from me, but there are women who are listening, thinking: One pair of shoes for an entire week, is that even possible?

NORRIS: Well, of course, the ladies do tend to complain a little more about that constriction than others. But even women mostly can get by with a pair of low heels and a pair of, sort of dressy, strappy kind of sandals. I mean, those two things will handle most kinds of travel that you want. If it's cold weather, then a pair of boots with short heels would be better than the strappy sandals. But most women can really get by with two pairs, if they wish. But, of course, they always have the option of carrying seven suitcases and dragging half their belongings around the world with them.

NORRIS: Or buying shoes when you get there.

DYMENT: Or buying shoes when they get there. Yes. That's what you do when you do get invited for dinner with the queen.

NORRIS: Ah, okay. Thank you so much for joining us and bon voyage.

DYMENT: Thanks, Michele.

NORRIS: That was Doug Dyment. He's a frequent traveler and creator of To see a diagram of his bundling wrapping method, you can go to our Web site:

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