Travel is a huge part of my performing job. I need to be able to make it to festivals for weekends, to out of town one night performances, and have the flexibility to do so easily. When the destination is close enough to drive to, obviously I have some leeway, but when flying, space is all important. I hate checking bags. You have to pay with most airlines, it takes longer at the counter, longer to get out of the airport and I would be lost if my bag didn't find it's way with me.
All that to say, I've managed to pack light and still look festival ready with one carry-on while my friends bring giant suitcases for the same amount of days and outfit changes. Do I have to occasionally beg, borrow, or buy some essentials like hairspray? Yes, but it's easier to do that than to lug a giant suitcase around.
Here are my golden rules:
Lay Out Everything You Need
I normally lay out my entire costume for my performance, including jewelry and any extras I need just for the performance on one end of the bed. That way I know just how much space just the costume if going to take up. Then I plot out the rest of my weekend. Dresses, crinolines, work out clothes, etc. I like to go the 50s dresses route, which makes the dresses airy to pack and just one large crinoline, in a bag with all the air squeezed out, fit in rather nicely. For a four or five day trip, my luggage usually consists of: panties of all days, two bras, two skirts, three tops and one or two dresses.
Sure you might like to have all the comforts of home with you, but do you really need them? Most hotels have travel sized shampoo, conditioner and soap. If you're traveling with someone else, distribute toiletries evenly so you're not using more space by doubling up. I bring make up wipes to freshen up and whatever amount of makeup I need, but I bring a wallet sized makeup bag instead of a full case. And just think, if you save a little bit of room on the way there, it's room to fill with a fun buy at your destination!
Find the Perfect Suitcase
This is as essential as it is obvious. Last year I was planning on going to Toronto for only one day, and had a very minimal costume, so I packed a bowling bag with the barest everything and my purse. The border guards were certainly curious as to how I was going to spend the weekend with such a small bag though! I have a variety of smaller sizes suitcases ranging from teeny to just-small-enough-to-be-considered-a-carry-on. Having everything in one place before I pick my bag lets my wardrobe help me determine the size, instead of last minute stuffing the corners of luggage larger than I really need.
Scheme your Colors
I don't plan out every single outfit I'll wear while away, but I do generally look at the colors and see if I can mix and match a few things. Black is of course, a good staple, and then a few shirts or accessories in bright colors is my usual MO.
Books and Shoes and Tech
If you're a lady, or a fashion savvy man, you probably like shoe options. I do too. In fact, I love shoes so much, I'll forgo other amenities just to make room for having at least three pairs of shoes. It goes without saying, but wear your biggest pair while flying. I bring only one book on a trip, and if I finish it, I'll usually leave it at the destination and buy another on my way back. I do almost always have my computer with me for work purposes, so I make sure that my purse is big enough to to fit it in. If you're going overseas, make sure you have the right plug converter.
I love miniatures, so actually shopping for mini deodorants, shaving creams, hairsprays and the like are pretty fun. Just make sure that they all are under the 3oz limit and they still all fit in one plastic baggie.
Which in this case isn't to say, always carry a towel. If you forget something, there will probably be stores where you are going.
Are you a light packer? How do you control the stuff?