At this time of year, you should be sitting on a cozy cushion in front of a fire listening to Mariah Carey’s Christmas album while sipping superfood hot chocolate. You should not be sitting on top of your suitcase shouting expletives as you throw your weight into getting it to zip up.
Packing for winter travel is always tricky, thanks to bulky sweaters and super cute but unwieldy boots. Then, if you’re headed to holiday gatherings, you have to add a pile of gifts into the equation. And of course, we also have all kinds of tech gear to bring along to keep us entertained on the flight or drive, in the form of devices, headphones, and chargers.
The good news is that tech can also help you pack smarter, thanks to innovative designs and the ability to shift some of your stuff out of your bag and onto your devices (sadly, you’re on your own with boots).
Here are a few of my top tips on how to lighten up your holiday load this year, whether you’re packing the car to head to grandma’s with the whole fam or are jetting off on your own to spend some quality time with friends who moved across the country.
Get a Better Bag
In this era of high-design luggage, there’s no reason not to have a bag that can help you get seriously organized. (Ask for one for Christmas or Hanukkah this year and at least you’ll have it ready for next.) I like Away Carry-On bags for their design and break-resistant construction. They’ve got device-charging capability, so you don’t have to pack so many chargers, and the larger models have an interior compression system, which will help you jam more stuff in there. They’re also more affordable than other techy bags. Some other great options below too. For my second carry-on item, I usually have a backpack (no extra arms required!) for my laptop and other smaller items— this is similar to the one I’ve been carrying for a while now… when I switch over to a tote, I always regret it.
Condense Your Cords
“Seven maids a milking, six ladies dancing, fiiive taangled choooords…” What, that’s not how that song goes? Get a USB hub and/or a multi-charger cable, so you can skip packing 15 different cords in a big, knotted pile. Pictured above is Native Union’s Stow organizer, a new favorite for cord wrangling.
Use Packing Hacks
Of all of the hacks people share that are supposed to help you fit more in a big, the ones I think really work are rolling instead of folding your clothes (bonus: fewer wrinkles) and stuffing things in your shoes. The bundle packing method explained here is also pretty interesting—it’s just a little bit more of a project.
If you’re one of those people who loves the feel of turning the paper page of a novel or of the latest issue of Vanity Fair, I totally support that. But maybe you can handle giving up that feeling just for a little trip? Not only do books and magazines take up a ton of space, they’re also really heavy. Using a Kindle or iPad for your reading materials is a game changer when you’re trying to travel light. And even apps for your favorite mags—from The New Yorker to People—are now much more user friendly than they were a few years ago.
Step away from the oversized stuffed animals. In this new era, your niece will most likely equally appreciate a gift card. For adults, online memberships (like Thrive Market!) and app subscriptions (meditation, anyone?) are also a win. Or, take advantage of your online shopping savvy and send those gifts on ahead of you. You’ll look so prepared to boot.