Anyone who knows me knows that I downright refuse to check bags. First off, it’s a time suck, there is a risk of loosing said luggage and it is very expensive. If you have a layover or two on different airlines – which is very common for us – that can amount to $300 in fees for a single bag. Hard pass.
Call me crazy, but I love the challenge of packing out of a tiny bag and never repeating outfits. However, this is becoming more of a challenge as we use “budget airlines” like WOW, Spirit or Ryan Air. You even have to pay for a carry on.
What this now means for us thrifty travelers is you can have “one personal item.” Let’s use Spirit Airlines as an example. They are a no-frills airline with dirt cheap fares. I’ve flown to Cartagena, Columbia round trip out of Chicago for $190 on Spirit.
Their “personal item” is (e.g., purse, small backpack, etc.): Dimensions must not exceed 18 x 14 x 8 inches (45 x 35 x 20 cm) including handles and wheels.
HERE’S HOW YOU BEAT THE SYSTEM
1. Pack in something flexible. A duffel bag or backpack is typically best. If you get a grumpy Spirit employee that is out to ruin some vacations and actually makes you check your bag (by putting it in the contraption above), you will was flexibility on your side. That being said, pack in something that is slightly bigger (but flexible) than the required size.
I’ve flown budget airlines dozens of times and have only had to “prove my bag met requirements” once. Surprise, surprise – it didn’t. But this is how you get around paying that fee. You take out any layers, scarves or hats that you have to until you bag fits and simply wear the rest on the plane. Does it look ridiculous? Absolutely. But does it get you on the plane without paying anything extra? Absolutely. That is your plan B. Like I said, I’ve only had this happen to me once.
2. This is going to sound SO sketchy, but I’m giving you all my tips here. When you are approaching check in, make sure your bag is on the other side of your body (away from the employee). I typically throw a coat over it for good measure.
3. I’ve always carried on a purse as well as a “personal item” and I have only had an issue once (the instance stated above). They forced me to fit my purse into my personal item and I managed to, using the sketchy “layer” system mentioned above.
4. My husband Zach brought up a good point while we were talking about this. He is a master at packing. He said to make sure you pack in something flexible (like a duffel or backpack) like we mentioned above, but for yet another reason. If you are worried about baggage costs, you are most likely boarding the plane last. We always do! I honestly don’t care, the plane is all going to the same place, right?! But by boarding the plane last, the odds of overhead space being available is not likely. That means you will have to put it under the seat.
If you look at my diagram above, it states all of our tips and tricks to being able to pack a lot into a little bag. In this example, you are only having to actually pack a dress, two light blouses and two pairs of shorts. These should be rolled to take up less room and avoid wrinkles. Zach packs most items into my purses (all belts, accessories, underwear, bras, etc.) That typically only leaves a few items of clothing and my shoes outside of the purses and within the personal item.
HERE ARE 12 OUTFITS YOU CAN CREATE WITH JUST A PERSONAL ITEM
I use Greece as an example, because that was my last trip I did this with and actually wore these looks. However, this will work for most of Europe in the transitional seasons (fall and spring). I can state from experience, this would work in France, Germany, Malta, Italy and countries with similar climate in early summer and fall.
Even if you are going to a “warm” place – always have layers. Weather is unpredictable. We hit a cold front in Belize and I wore the jacket I wore on the plane almost every day. Also, think about what you are doing. Being on a boat of any kind will require layers.
OUTFIT 1: AIRPORT
OUTFIT 2: EXPLORING
OUTFIT 3: ISLAND HOPPING/BOAT TOUR
OUTFIT 4: WALKING TOURS
OUTFIT 5: NICE DINNER
OUTFIT 6: MORE EXPLORING/TOURS
OUTFIT 7: MORE EXPLORING/TOURS
OUTFIT 8: MUSEUMS
OUTFIT 9: COOLER DAY
OUTFIT 10: MORE EXPLORING/TOURS
OUTFIT 11: SIGHT-SEEING
OUTFIT 12: RETURN FLIGHT
Hope this all can inspire you this week. If you replicate one of the outfits, make sure to #CSScapsulecloset so I can see! Also, let me know which one of these you want me to do next! I’m working on a cold-weather destination one as well as a work style one (by your requests!)
As always, thank you for reading.