|My husband & I in Siena, Italy, 2007.
Don't cram the overhead bins! First came the silly idea that checking bags somehow was a big waste of time -- trust me, I've traveled to all 7 continents, including Antarctica, you waste more time shoving stuff into those overheads than you would waiting a mere 5 minutes at the baggage carousel (especially for international trips, where customs & immigration are the true holdups).
Then the airlines started charging to check bags. I understand we're all pinched for cash, but let's not go nuts saving where it doesn't really help you. All this forcing into one bag nonsense makes for huge fights in the aisles & even takeoff delays because people carry on too much crap & try to shove it into the plane's overhead bins.
Now, I'm not saying you should pack a million giant bags for every trip. But if you're going for more than a weekend away or a short business trip, check one modestly sized bag & carry on only a purse or backpack that fits under the seat in front of you on the plane. Plan a coordinating wardrobe of mix-&-match separates, plus a few accessories, check it, pay the $35, & forget about it.
2. What are your must packs?
An eye mask for sleeping in hotels with insufficient curtains, & comfy shoes for walking all over town.
3. What are you happy to leave behind?
The computer (unless it's a business trip, of course).
4. Any packing secrets that help you get everything into one suitcase?
Limit your toiletries & makeup routines. I may primp like crazy at home, but on the road, I use the bare basics. Wear your heaviest items on the plane (boots, coat). Consolidate your electronics -- this is where a smartphone or an iPad can come in handy, instead of using a phone & a music player & a computer & a stack of books.
5. Beach reading … what are you taking with you to read in the sand?
I prefer going to the beach in shoulder-seasons like spring & fall, as summer is too hot & crowded. But when I go, I grab a stack of whatever trashy fashion mags I can find! Tho' last trip, I downloaded them to my iPad (see #4).