Ask Gadling: What to do when you can’t fit everything into your luggage

The closing of the suitcase.

In this day and age, when we have to pack so carefully — in smaller suitcases — to avoid checking our luggage, it’s just not fair when we get to the end of a trip and the dang suitcase won’t close. Are we supposed to bring a huge suitcase packed halfway and pay for checking baggage twice? Robbery.

There are a couple of options you have when you find yourself in this quandary. You can ship the extra gear, which can be costly. Or, you can bring (or buy) a collapsible bag (like a duffel) in your suitcase and check it, filled with your dirty clothes and shoes, on the way home. If you have a lot more stuff than you can pack, these may be your only options.

Still, there are other ways of getting what you want: all your stuff on the airplane with you, free of charge.

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Sneak a third bag onto the plane.

Well, not really. You may remember the SCOTTEVEST from my article How to sneak a third bag onto a plane. This is a great way to make the most of your allotted cabin space: put as much stuff as you can in your jacket. A SCOTTEVEST or other multiple-compartment jacket can allow you to empty your carry-on into your pockets and create much more space for your additional purchases. You’ll take the jacket off at security, so don’t worry about metals, and you can stow it in the overhead on the plane, so don’t worry about comfort. Jackets like these are handy for traveling anyway; it’s always more fun to explore with free hands.

Wear your problems.

Don’t want to invest in a new jacket? Understandable. Still, consider your wearables. Make sure you wear your very bulkiest items on the plane and stuff the pockets, creating more space in your luggage. Hiking boots, cowboy hat, snowpants, jeans, fleece, sweater, jacket and go (and if that ever really happens, where in heaven’s name were you?). Keep in mind that you can stow a couple of these things in the overhead compartment.

Go Old Testament.

Lastly, when you’ve got too much stuff to close the suitcase and you just can’t bear to pay to check an extra bag, consider making the ultimate sacrifice: throwing something away. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve gotten home and thought, “Really? I paid to check this?” Edit your acquisitions — some of those free-with-the-tour gifts, in particular, are things for which you’d never have paid $25. Another possible chopping block contestant is your shoes. How worn out are they? If you’ve got shoes with less than a couple wears left in them before you admit they make you look like a vagrant, consider ditching them. Shoes take up a ton of space.

That’s about it! Keep in mind that if your purchases are liquid, you’re just going to have to check a bag or ship it.

[Photo by Don Fulano via Flickr.]