Baggage Suitcase Airplane

How To Pack: Shove 50lbs of Stuff Into a 10lb Sack

If you’re a SCUBA diver, you are quite familiar with airline weight limits and the baggage fees. Most airlines limit your checked bag weight to 50lbs or they charge you extra. I hate baggage fees. Here are 10 tips to help you shove 50lbs of stuff into a 10lb sack and be sure it comes in under the airline’s weight limit.

  1. Buy a Luggage Scale
    Find a nice small, packable luggage scale that will be your friend on your travel.  Digital is best – find one that can hold up to 100lbs and gives a direct readout after you set the bag down.  Analog scales are nice, but sometimes you cannot read the weight while you hold the bag.  Go digital with memory.

  2. Buy The Right Bag
    Bring that luggage scale you bought to the store.  Seriously.  Some bags can weigh up for 20lbs, and others weigh 7.  If you’re a diver and need something substantial with no weight, shop around with your luggage scale.  Looking for a good bargain on suitcase or luggage? Hit up discount stores like Ross, TJ Maxx and designer outlet stores.  You’ll find great quality for a reasonable price.  And what you save, you can spend on baggage fees later!

  3. Do Your Homework
    Read up on the place you are traveling – read blogs, travel tips, ask around to see what you should pack.  Local customs are also really a good place to start.  Many foreign countries are surprisingly conservative and not only dislike shorts and flip flops, but find baring shoulders and knees offensive.  When you experience another country, start before you board the plane and prepare your suitcase to have the things you need in it to be culturally smart.

  4. Skip the Advertising & Bling
    The bags you get with the dive flag and the flashy logos are so nice and attractive. But not for traveling to third world countries and some less-established countries. That flashy logo, jewelry and clothing paints you as a target in a poorer country.  If someone is going to get robbed, mugged or held for ransom, it’s probably you.  Try to fit in with the local culture as much as you can, and try not to flaunt anything.

  5. Roll Your Clothes
    Rolling your clothes into tight “burritos” will not only help them stay more wrinkle-free, but will allow you a lot more room in your suitcase.  Shove smaller items into shoes for protection.  Use every inch of space you have, and then check the weight.  Throw in a dryer sheet with your clothing also to keep them fresh as you go.

  6. Packing Cubes
    Packing cubes are a traveler’s best friend. They contain your items like “drawers” as you travel.  If you are traveling from destination to destination, packing cubes really help keep things organized and easy to pull one thing out, without having to rip apart your entire suitcase.  They also can help keep dirty clothes away from clean clothes.

  7. Don’t Need It? Don’t Pack It?
    Four pairs of shoes?  Really?  Nearly nobody needs four pairs of shoes on a week long trip.  Check the weather, read up on the place you’re visiting and pack accordingly.  Consider that everywhere you go, all that ‘stuff’ has to come with you.  If you have extra tip money for a porter to carry your 80lb back like a Sherpa up to your room, then go for it.  But if you’re like most, lugging too much stuff around is exhausting, and you probably don’t need most of what you have.  So just leave it at home.

  8. Pack Things You Can’t Buy
    Or don’t want to pay a fortune for later. Batteries, sunscreen, bug spray, toiletries. Depending on where you go, these items can cost a pretty penny. Some places you may travel may not even have them available.  Go for rechargeable batteries also.  If you travel to islands, getting rid of trash is a real problem, so don’t add to it.

  9. Pack Necessities in Your Carry-On
    It’s inevitable.  Your flight, ship, vessel, is going to be late or cancelled.  And you’re going to be stuck, somewhere, holding the bag.  It’s best that you have the items you need IN that bag.  Extra clothing, medications, chargers – whatever you need if you get stuck somewhere.  Diver?  Pack your own mask and reg (or whatever you don’t want to rent), one swimsuit and a change of clothes.

  10. Write Down What You Needed
    It never fails, you pack too much or not enough.  If you visit a destination more than once or take the same type of trip, write down what you needed and used, or what you wish you had brought.  Leave the list inside of your suitcase when you unpack so that you have it available for next time.  It cuts down on the unnecessary items and saves you the”what should I pack?” stress before your next trip.

    Now is also a good time to note that your wet suit, wet clothing and humidity add a little bit of weight to your suitcase when traveling to a drier climate. Packing a “damp” wetsuit can add up to 2lbs to your luggage. Be sure everything is dry before you pack.

  11. Bonus Tip
    Traveling to a less-fortunate country?  Consider packing clothes you can leave with the locals to help them out.  Extra t-shirts, shorts, blankets… whatever you find locals might need, bring it and leave it for them if your heart is inclined to do so.  But, do your homework.  Don’t leave things that aren’t needed.  School kids might like a coloring book, but need pencils.  Women might need clothing but it has to be socially acceptable.  Take the time to learn and help out if you want.