The Best Packing Tips For Fee-Free Air Travel

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Airlines such as US Airways (LCC), United (UAUA) and American (AMR) have decided to start charging fliers to check even one bag, which is going to force a lot of people to shell out extra money.

Even carriers such as Continental (CAL), JetBlue (JBLU), Delta (DAL) and Southwest (LUV) will charge if you have too many bags or if the bags are too heavy.

The good news is there are a lot of ways you can minimize how much stuff you take on trips -- and possibly even avoid the fees.

Airport security won't let you carry on containers bigger than about 3 ounces of liquids or gels, so that's a start. Here are 15 more things you can do to lighten your load.

15) Don't overpack
Yes, this sounds simple. But the reality is that most people do overpack. When you're throwing stuff into your suitcase for that two-day business trip, ask yourself, "Do I really need this, or can I live without it till I get back?"

14) Leave the towels at home
If you're staying at a hotel, your room will be stocked with towels. And those things take up a lot of space.

13) Limit your shoes
Shoes don't just take up a lot of room; they're also heavy. Remember, you're going to have to hoist this suitcase into the overhead container, carry it up airport stairs and the like. Try to limit yourself to a few pairs, and wear your bulkiest pair on the plane.

12) Leave the laptop
Not only are laptops a pain to get through security, but other Internet-access options might be just as good. This goes for electronics in general. You may want to take a noise-canceling headset and an iPod, but consider whether you really need the GameBoy and all that other stuff you might be inclined to toss into the suitcase.

11) Pack versatile clothing
If you've got a black dress or a khaki/shirt combo that's suitable for both the business meeting and the evening party, pack it. If your wardrobe plan involves lots of changes, you'll use a lot more space.

"Bring outfits that go with everything, and strip it down to the absolute essentials," says Anne Banas, executive editor of SmarterTravel.com. "Pack separates, and look for wrinkle-free clothing." Places such as TravelSmith offer lots of wrinkle-free options.

10) Think twice about gifts
Will Uncle Ken really want that huge bust of Lenin you bought for him? Possibly, but sometimes gifts just end up as clutter, and you'd do better just to send a postcard. At any rate, consider space-saving options when you're purchasing presents for the folks back home.

9) Ditch the reading material
How many times have you taken books and magazines on a plane trip, only to fall asleep midflight and find yourself no farther along when you return? They take up space and are also heavy. You've already packed your iPod, so why not download a book on tape and listen to your fiction instead? Or, maybe pack an Amazon (AMZN) Kindle.

8) Get a pill container
If you've got prescription drugs, save some space by using a pill container rather than packing each individual bottle.

A caveat: Some security people may want to check on the legitimacy of the prescriptions.

"It's helpful if you bring the prescription and/or packaging," Banas of SmarterTravel.com says. So, instead of all the bottles, you could perhaps bring a pharmacy page that describes the medication and its purpose, in case the security people ask about it.

7) Use a smaller suitcase
People tend to pack the suitcase full, so just try using one that will have less room. You're more likely to be able to carry it on the plane (airlines have limits to carry-on size), and the smaller it is, the easier it will be to cram it into an overhead bin.

If you must check luggage, use suitcases that don't weigh very much to reduce the risk of being charged for overweight luggage.

6) Wear your biggest and heaviest clothes
Even if it'll be a bit warm, wear your jacket on the flight so you don't have to pack it. Planes tend to get cold midflight anyway, so you might need your coat along the journey.

5) Stuff stuff into shoes
Shoes have empty space in them, which is perfect for socks, underwear and the like. Use other hollow spaces, too.

4) Limit toiletries and makeup
Hotels will have shampoo, soap and other basic items. Unless you need your own special stuff, consider leaving it behind. Use two-in-one shampoo and conditioner combos, and keep the makeup to a minimum.

3) Roll up your clothes
The simple act of rolling up clothes makes them more compact and helps prevent wrinkles.

2) Get compression bags
You can put your clothes into bags that help compress them down into a manageable space.

1) Send a package in advance
This can save you money and headaches, depending on your situation. It's a particularly good idea if you want to send presents already wrapped, or if you don't want the hassle of checking a bag or risk it getting lost by the airline.

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