1. The Golden Rule: Take half of the clothes you were planning to bring and twice the money.
2. Take only what you can fit in a carry on. We’ve all lost luggage before, and it’s a pain. But when it’s 3 degrees in Poland and you’re rocking those horrible sweats you insist on wearing on long flights, hearing “as soon as we find your bag, we’ll send it to you” can really put a damper on your first day.
3. If you simply must check luggage, ask them to put a “Fragile” sticker on it, which helps ensure your bags will be put on top of the pile and be first off the plane. Also, yours is not the only black suitcase, so slap a sticker or red ribbon on it — anything that will help you pick it out in the crowd. Think airport security is scary these days? Try making it through customs with someone else’s bag.
4. Mix and match. Bring three shirts and three “bottoms.” That’s 9 outfits.
5. Books are amazing. So are vinyl records. But save yourself the extra pounds and fill your Kindle with every book/country guide you need and stick to your iPod.
6. Don’t be a diva. If you’re the type who has to travel with your own hair dryer (and won’t use the hotel’s), then I might suggest a weekend in the Smokies over the Alps.
7. Jackets and sweaters take up a lot of precious bag space and weigh you down. Unless you’re going to Russia in winter, layers work just as well.
8. If you can bear it, stay away from jeans. They absorb dirt (and odors), are bulky and take days to air dry. Cotton and khaki are the way to go.
9. If it’s important and can’t fit into your daypack, leave it at home. Stuff gets stolen no matter where you go. As big as a pain as it is, I am constantly carrying my computer, cameras, etc. on my back — and in crowded places, as ridiculous as it looks, in front of me.