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Addicted to Overpacking? Try This 5-Step Program.

(Julia Ewan - The Washington Post)

· Don't bring three pairs of jeans or three black sweaters when one good one will suffice.

· If you must bring bulky items -- including heavy shoes, fluffy fleeces, ski sweaters or winter coats -- wear them on the plane instead of packing them.

· Always pack a few quick-drying items that could be hand-washed in a jiffy, including T-shirts, underwear and lightweight trousers.

4. KEEP TOILETRIES TO A MINIMUM. Most travelers are surprised how many extra pounds a full array of beauty products can add to a bag.

· Bring travel-size items, not full-size ones. If you can't find a teensy version of what you need, check out Minimus ( http://www.minimus.biz/ ), which sells only travel-size products. Its inventory ranges from 21-cent Dial antibacterial soap and $1.29 miniature deodorant to packets of light ranch dressing for 66 cents.

· Pack items in leakproof resealable bags or clear toiletry bags, which will help you find items without having to unpack everything.

· Consult experts' packing lists for medicine suggestions, so that you don't end up bringing more than you'll need.

· If you're headed someplace where replacement toiletries won't be readily available, look for products that do double duty, such as shampoo that's also body wash or a sunscreen that's also a skin moisturizer.

5. PACK THOUGHTFULLY. The key here is packing every inch of usable space in a bag without overpacking. Experts battle over which packing method is best, but go with the one you're most comfortable with.

· Consider rolling as many of your clothes as possible. "When soldiers pack their stuff into duffels and need things to take up as little room as possible, they are taught to roll everything," explains Ramona Creel, a professional organizer in Clinton who runs the Web site OnlineOrganizing.com.

· An alternative to rolling is bundling all clothing items together into one tight, pillow-like mass that takes up the entire suitcase, Gilford suggests in her book. Lay all your clothing items across the entire width of the suitcase, and once all items are piled up, begin folding in the arms and legs.

· Stuff shoes with socks, rolled ties, jewelry, underwear or other small items. Make use of this seldom-considered space. And if they're dirty, shoes should be wrapped in shoe bags or plastic bags.

· Books are dead weight. Instead of packing a library's worth of guidebooks, photocopy the relevant pages or even rip them out of the book.

· Electronics (cameras, iPods), jewelry, prescription medication and important documents (passports, tickets) should always be carried on. Likewise, remember that security agents cannot see through chocolate or peanut butter with X-ray machines, and packing those items may provoke a security check.

Share Your Packing Tips

So, what did we miss? Everyone has packing secrets -- and if you think you're the only one who tosses out used underwear every day, think again. We want to know your tips: E-mail them with your name and home town to travel@washpost.com (put "Packing Tip" in the subject field), and we'll include them in a roundup in a future issue.


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© 2006 The Washington Post Company