Eight Tips on Packing for a Low Cost Airline

Much criticism is (semi-rightly) made of the people who usually argue in favor of packing "light." They tend to be young men who take primarily short business trips. This post is from Emily, here to share some of the tips that got her through ten days in Europe on a personal-item sized backpack.

If you do it right, you can save a lot of money on low-cost airlines. They receive a lot of deserved criticism from people who believe they nickel and dime you for everything. This is true, however I prefer to think of it like I’m only paying for things I use. If I fly Southwest and don’t plan on checking a bag even though it’s free, part of my ticket price is going unused.

Spirit will nickel and dime you for everything if you aren't careful.

Spirit will nickel and dime you for everything if you aren't careful.

If you can score a great deal on one of these budget airlines, there are absolutely ways that you avoid upcharges and can keep those savings. The biggest upcharge is the price of bags. Budget airlines will charge extra for checked bags and carry-ons, but no budget airlines at the moment charge for personal items. So trick is perfecting your packing to fit in a personal item.

Roughly defined, a personal item is a single bag that will fit under the seat in front of you. Each airline has it’s own dimensions, but it’s roughly 18 x 14 x 8 inches. My favorite personal item is the JanSport Digibreak backpack. It is perfect whether I’m packing for 10 days in Europe or a work trip to Las Vegas.

I have been on a fair amount of Disney trips in recent memory which means I have my packing list pretty much down. If you don’t want to feel like you’re forgetting something, I do recommend taking a look at a detailed Disney packing list (such as this one). Go through the list carefully and take note of anything that is essential for you (keeping in mind my recommendations below). You won’t be able to bring everything on this list in your backpack, but it’s a great way to be sure you’ve evaluated everything and have the essentials.

1. Bring matching, interchangeable pieces, not outfits

I try to bring solid colored pieces on top and solid black bottoms, so all my tops match all my bottoms.

(Your actual requirements may vary)

(Your actual requirements may vary)

2. Accept the risk of outfit repeats

This is the result of not packing an outfit for every type of weather for every single day. I know, you might have to post to instagram in the same outfit twice on the same trip, but it will be okay.

3. Do laundry on the go

This can alleviate some of your concerns over outfit repeats. Most hotels offer dry cleaning or laundry of some kind (at a cost), but I recommend these laundry sheets which can be a lifesaver for a quick refresh from your hotel room for a fraction of the price.

4. Fold your Clothes efficiently

Don't even try to find a place in your bag for those.

Don't even try to find a place in your bag for those.

We swear by the KonMari method.

5. Don’t pack for all of the what-ifs

It might rain, but if it does, you can pick up a cheap umbrella at a convenience store. You might get a headache or a bug bite or a sunburn, but don’t bring your entire medicine cabinet. You’ve got to hedge your bets on what you think is essential and then be open to the possibility of having to buy things along the way.

6. Wear your bulkiest items on the plane

Always wear your jeans, tennis shoes and all outerwear so it doesn’t take up space in your bag.

7. Limit loose items

Ensure every item has a place. You don’t want to have things falling out when you take out your laptop for security. I recommend picking up a set of packing cubes. I have these, but tend to only use the smallest cube because I’m usually only packing a backpack. Here is a good option with more smaller options.

8. Wear your Mouse Ears!

No backpack has a great option for safely packing your ears, so just wear them. Everyone on your flight will certainly understand.

We've got tons more on flying low-cost. Check out our top five tips for surviving that experience here!