Nowadays I’m more willing to check my bag, but if you can swing it, try to pack light! You’ll save time and can also save money. I really learned to pack light in order to literally have a lighter bag, as I’ve gone on a few trips where you have to haul your own bag around several flights of stairs or bumpy cobblestone roads.
Lay out all the clothing you want to bring, then eliminate a bunch of it
Be honest with yourself – what do you really need to bring versus what you want to bring? For most trips you only need 1-2 pairs of shoes and 1 jacket. Bring items you can rewear (especially pants/bottoms) and items that you can easily mix and match, so you aren’t wasting space on “single-use” clothing. There are situations where this may not be avoidable, such as traveling for a wedding or business trip.
Wear your largest items
When possible, wear your heaviest, bulkiest clothing to save space in your luggage. Typically this is your largest pair of shoes, and your jacket (you don’t have to keep it on, I sit on mine on the plane). Wear a hat or scarf, or tie it onto your personal item for the plane.
Put odd-shaped items in your personal bag
I don’t personally do this, but my husband typically puts his toiletry bag in his backpack to free up space in his suitcase. This tactic works well for anything lightweight that is difficult to pack around in your suitcase.
Maximize every space
I pack my socks inside of shoes so there is no dead space in them and to keep them from getting crushed. My suitcase also has some uneven hollow spaces where the handle rods are attached, and I make sure to tuck my pajamas into those spaces so I don’t leave empty space there either.
I have these packing cubes and have gifted them twice. I roll nearly all of my clothing inside them for travel. I will fold pants and things like PJs into the hollows of my suitcase. Delicate or wrinkle prone items can be rolled or folded around other clothing. I think I could actually fit slightly more into a bag without using packing cubes, but they are really helpful for organization. If you’ve ever had to open your bag at the airport or somewhere public to find one thing it’s so much less embarrassing to move a few cubes around than to empty everything. Other people use color coded packing cubes for different kids or different days of the trip.