In my fourth year of university, I journeyed into Mexico for a ten-week language study course. Not only was this my first trip out of the U.S., but it was also my first trip without any family (I can’t say alone, since I was traveling with a troupe of 24 fellow students).
Ten weeks – it seemed like forever to me. So, of course, I thought I would need a giant bag to haul the clothing and supplies needed for that great length of time. So, my parents bought me a suitcase 2.5 feet wide by 3.5 feet tall and about 1 foot thick. It was giant. It was monstrous. I didn’t even manage to fill the fu–, er, sucker; it was that big. Arriving at the airport and seeing my fellow classmates’ baggage, began to hint at the possibility of my mistake.
One classmate brought nothing more than a small, brown, standard-sized knapsack. That was it. For ten weeks. (I am still impressed with that feat.)
When you have to drag your over-sized bag down several blogs of cobble stones or haul that fu–, er, sucker up a flight or two of stairs, you learn real quick just how much it sucks to pack heavy.
Like Scarlet O’Hara, I pulled myself up and made a solemn oath — I would never over pack again.
Less is Less (and that’s a good thing)
I’ve done a lot of traveling since that first big trip to Mexico, for play, for work, and sometimes both at the same time.
These days, I can pack like a lightweight queen and can fit a week’s worth of professional work clothes and office supplies for conferences, along with a week’s worth of play clothes and accessories into a single bag (the play clothes and work clothes are not always compatible).
Here’s a few things I do to make it work:
- I think about the purpose of the trip, the destination, the possible weather. What kinds of clothes will I need? Will I need a work outfit? Can I still to warm weather, lightweight clothing? Or do I need winter gear?
- Are there any clothes or shoes I can wear multiple times or for dual purposes, such as jeans or jackets?
- How active will I be (i.e. will I be sweating a lot)? Will there be a place or time to wash and dry clothing while I’m traveling?
I use these sorts of questions to narrow down my required list of clothing as narrowly as possible.
Then, once I have a bare essentials packing list, I add in an extra shirt or a dress in order to give myself an extra option, just in case.
The Joys of Carry On
Skipping the baggage handling — something I’ve only done in the past year — is a great joy. No standing in line to hand your bag off at check in. No standing around groggily staring at a conveyor belt as you wait for your battered luggage to show.
Going carry on is sort a more extreme version of the streamlining I already mentioned.
The hardest part with carry on, of course, is the toiletries, since liquids have to be stored in a clear bag that can be taken out for the security check point. For liquids I love the leak-proof Nalgene bottles, which fit the TSA size requirements. (See “Helpful Posts”.)
Hint: The TSA has a search tool, called “When I Fly, Can I Bring My…?” (near the top of the page) that allows users to type in an item and find out if it’s restricted for carry on or not. It’s helpful for figuring out if things like nail clippers are allowed in carry on (hint: yes, they are).
Packing Lists Are My Friends
Oh, how I love my packing list. I love, love, love it. It makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside.
It also keeps me from wasting time fretting over whether I’ve forgotten something important. The stress of travel is cut in half.
I have a two stock lists, one for personal gear I need to take and one for office supplies required for conferences. While packing, I plan out outfits, then mark off each item as it goes into the bag. For pants, tee-shirts, or other items that occur in multiples, I write quantities (2 jeans, 3 tees, 2 sweaters, etc). Once it goes into the bag, that’s it; it doesn’t come out again.
If it’s checked on the list, I know it’s in the bag and I don’t have to think about it again.
implementing these sorts of light packing methods has made me a much more happy, less stressed, and flexible traveler.
Do you travel a lot? What sorts of packing tricks and tips do you use?
Helpful Packing Posts!
This post is brought to you by The Daily Post prompt: The Happy Wanderer.