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I’m starting to assemble the contents of my bag for my upcoming trip to Europe and I have one mantra that I keep rolling around my head. Say this one with me and tattoo it on your eyelids, “Nobody has EVER said that they wished they had brought more. Nobody.”

Less is more. Look at it this way, if your bag is under-packed, think of all of the space you have for bringing back cool souvenirs (in my case, wine). And think of how much your back will thank you.

To be honest, it doesn’t really matter how much you pack, but what does matter is how much it weighs. Many airlines have weight restrictions for carry-on bags. Remember that you should always carry your bags on the plane. Nothing ruins a trip like a lost bag. I had a couple on tour last year that were on the phone every day of their trip trying to locate their lost luggage. It did finally arrive in Italy…it got to the Rome airport the same morning that they flew home. So keep calm and carry on, you’ll be glad you did.

Airline weight restrictions in the U.S. are pretty loose, sometimes nonexistent. Some airlines allow up to 40 pounds (!) in your carry on. In all of my years of travel, I’ve never seen a single person asked to weigh their carry-on for flights on U.S.-based  airlines. European carriers are much more strict. Lufthansa, for example, allows no more than 8 kilo, about 16.5 pounds. They really do mean it. They weigh the bags at the door of the airport and again at the door of the plane. If it’s too heavy you are sent off to check it.

Many European airlines have very severe luggage restrictions, weight and dimensions both factor in. Some low cost carriers such as Ryanair and Volotea make every passenger weigh their bag and fit it into their templates to be sure all bags meet the restrictions. This seems to be a ruse to me, a way to make money off of cheaply priced flights.

My bag, which I am careful to pack to the airline restrictions, was booted off a Volotea flight out of Sicily a couple of years ago, at a cost of almost $100 to check the bag. It’s kind of a scam. My strategy in these cases is to be equally as sneaky. If my bag is rejected, I excuse myself into the nearest bathroom and put on everything in my bag. Everything. 4 shirts, 3 pairs of pants, 3 pairs of socks, jacket pockets stuffed with toiletries and shoes, until my bag is light and almost empty. I’ve actually done this more than once and it works fine, as long as you don’t mind looking a little silly.

Avoiding games is easy, though, just pack to the standards of the strictest airline you are flying. Your best weapons in this mission to pack light are scales and a permanent marker.

This is the scale from my kitchen, my most valuable tool. With this, I roll up and weigh everything going in my bag. This helps me make decisions because I have a better understanding of where I’m spending weight. I’ve also been know to pack this little scale in my bag when I go shopping. Shoes, in particular, are easy to quickly weigh. Sounds crazy I’m sure, picture me sitting on the floor at Nordstrom with my kitchen scale and a pile of shoes, but it’s a great way to make a decision on what to buy.

After weighing each item, I use a Sharpie permanent marker and write the weight on the tag. This works well for me as a reminder in the future of things I’ve decided are too bulky or heavy. There are a few things in my closet that I’ve always wanted to bring but just aren’t practical, so I do often need the look at the tags to convince myself to put them back. The second scale is for the overall bag. There is a dial to set the target weight. After everything is packed, I strap this on the handle and pick it up to see how I’ve done. Hitting slightly under the target weight is smart, just in case some extra things sneak their way in during your trip.

A handy chart for airline weight restrictions can be found here.

Double check with all of the airlines you intend to fly, weight restrictions tend to change often.

The luggage scale I use is from Restoration Hardware, but a similar model can be found on Amazon or at travel supply stores.

AWS Staff

This post was published by the Adventures with Sarah team. Click here to find out more about the people that make everything at AWS happen.

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