Travel Talk: Packing Part II

A dear friend of mine reminded me that I have this blog. So, on the eve of a fun adventure with a large group of my best friends, I’m rekindling the travel part of this site to talk about one of my favorite things – packing.

I’m an absolute nut for travel, travel planning, and packing for trips. I am an organizational freak with a spreadsheet or list for just about everything I do, and one of my loosely-articulated goals for this year is to travel more lightly and efficiently, something I’m really excited about. So far this year I’ve planned two weekend trips in the states, one ten day Europe trip, and two trips home across the country. And you better believe I’m not done yet.

And so, a packing post.

A lot of the tips I wrote in this packing post from 2015 still apply, but I find my packing has changed (dare I say improved?) even since then. So here is some more unsolicited packing advice. As per usual, this is just what works for me! I’m really into perfecting and analyzing my own process (hence my writing about it on the internet), but there are lots of good reasons to pack more or use a roller bag or what have you, so you do you!

1. Carry-on. Still.

In the last three years I’ve grown even more attached to the idea of traveling carry-on only. I just can’t be bothered waiting around at luggage carousels or stressing out over short connections – I’ve decided my peace of mind is better when everything is within my reach. I’m also trying harder than ever to pare down to just one carry-on, rather than an overhead compartment + an under-the-seat bag. I’ve realized that I was typically using only about half the stuff I travel with, and since I carry everything I bring in a backpack or shoulder bag, that extra weight is just a burden.

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What we packed for our two-week honeymoon. Mine on the left – this is the backpack I’ve packed for this weekend as well.

For our California weekend, I’m bringing a 35L backpack with a hip belt, a tiny backpack for hiking (fits my water bottle & not much else, and fits neatly into my larger pack), and a cross-body purse that fits my DSLR and wallet.

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What I packed for a weekend trip to Arizona in January. A nice shoulder bag option that has replaced my trusty old tote (seen in the 2015 post).

2. Clothing – Capsule Wardrobe

My favorite way to figure out which clothes to pack is to lay my entire wardrobe (yes, pretty much everything) out on my bed and then pare down. I’ll usually look up the weather, as well as making a quick list of what I’ll be doing to help me choose what I might need to wear. It’s satisfying to quickly remove all the things I know I won’t need, and easy to match up outfits when everything is there in one place.

My partner and I mainly stay in Airbnbs when we travel, and we always rent one with a washer if we’re there for a long trip. Pack less, do laundry.

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Clothing I packed for our honeymoon in Florence.

 

For my five-day California trip this weekend, my major activities are city walking, hiking, lounging around a rental house, and a couple of meals out. I’m bringing: underwear, socks, a sports bra, a regular bra, swimsuit, hiking pants, two tank tops, a cotton long-sleeved shirt, a casual dress, a nicer dress, and sleeping leggings/t-shirt. I’m wearing light-wash jeans, a tank top, and a cardigan on the plane. I’m wearing Toms, and bringing lightweight sneakers and a pair of sandals. I dispensed with my hiking boots for this one – too heavy, too dirty, and the sneakers I am bringing are comfy enough for casual hiking.

Over the last few years I have also been developing my personal style – such as it is – in order to be more capsule-wardrobe-esque. It’s nothing official, no specific numbers or purposeful accent colors involved, and I don’t pack anything away seasonally, but I have narrowed my clothing collection to a mostly grey-black-navy-denim color scheme and I find this really helps me when packing. Since most of my clothes go together now, it means that when I pack I can select almost anything and it will match nearly anything else.

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Some of the basics I’ve picked up recently for my wardrobe. From Goodwill, of course.

Pro tip – selecting clothes for travel almost always highlights my favorite clothes, and helps me decide what I might be able to donate or get rid of more generally. I find that the clothes I take for travel are usually what I enjoy wearing best, and if there’s something I never travel with or that only comes out of my closet when I put all the clothes on the bed before packing, I use this chance to give it a second look and decide whether or not I really need it. This is another reason I love packing – it helps me keep other parts of my life in check.

3. Toiletries/Accessories

When I travel I tend to aim for minimalism with accessories and the like. If I bring too many options I inevitably get overwhelmed by choice and end up just using the same one the whole trip anyway. One pair of earrings, one pair of sunglasses, one swimsuit (admittedly I only own one of each of the latter at the moment, but I digress). I used to think I wanted lots of choice and options, that it was freeing, but lately when I travel I find it to be a little bit much for me, particularly since I am already making so many other decisions while traveling (where to eat, how to navigate the city, what to do in a given day, etc.).

I have also reached a place in my life where I would prefer to buy most toiletries at my destination. Super-frugal me-from-the-past would not have enjoyed this, but current me is okay with buying full-sized sunscreen, shampoo, deodorant, and razors when I get to my destination, and chucking them out or leaving them at the apartment when we depart, rather than trying to fit them all into my liquids bag. I find travel sized products fun but also outrageously priced per ounce, so if I want to bring something with me I usually decant from a full-size that I can use the rest of at home.

To California, I’m bringing:

  • Sunglasses
  • Sunscreen
  • Earrings
  • Deodorant
  • Small vials of facewash and moisturizer
  • Eyebrow powder, brush, mascara
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The start of my packing list for this trip, where I’ve listed out the rough activities for each day.

4.  Extras

This is a category I’m still working on. As always, the mantra is “bring only what you will use”, but for me that varies. I’m a reader and a paper book lover, and I just don’t like e-readers. But on some trips I simply walk around too much to do anything other than fall asleep at the end of a long day. My hips and back often get extremely uncomfortable on long-haul flights and sometimes reading is not a good enough distraction. On other trips I spend time on beaches and want entertainment, but if I’m on a train or bus I’m more likely to journal or just look out the window.  So lately if I choose to bring a book I try to make it one I can leave at my destination once I’ve finished it. I hate earbuds and much prefer larger headphones for planes, but sometimes I just can’t justify the extra bulk and will put up with slightly sore ears instead. And I like to travel journal, but this year I’m experimenting with keeping it all in my bullet journal, so all my lists, plans, and notes are in one place. These are little ways of reducing what I take with me, but I’m still working on this.

  • Bullet journal + pen
  • Water bottle
  • Travel watercolor kit
  • Phone charger, cord, and charging block
  • Headphones
  • Book
  • Camera + batteries
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My finalized packing list for California. On the right I’ve started an exercise where I write down why I am bringing each piece of clothing, and plant to follow up with notes on what I actually wore, in hopes that this will help me pack better in future.

Cheers, friends. Happy travels!

 

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