One of the benefits of being a single girl is that I am free to travel on a whim. I am unfettered by a significant other’s schedule or wishes, so I can go where I want when I want without worry.
One of the down sides of being a single girl is that I don’t have a tall, strong, chivalrous hero to wrangle my luggage for me or lift it into the airplane’s overhead compartment.
So, when I pack for a trip, I must always keep in mind my physical limitations when deciding what I can and can’t live without. Also, I have a not-so-irrational fear that I’ll make it to Europe on time while my checked luggage is taking the circuitous route through Southeast Asia. So, whenever possible, I try to pack and travel in such a way that everything I’ll need can fit into one carry-on size roller bag, and one small carry-on backpack.
I know what you’re thinking…. But wait! Aren’t you the shoe queen? Don’t you have hair that needs special attention? Don’t you like clean underwear every day?
The answer, of course, is yes.
The solution is that when I travel, I adjust my living style accordingly. I don’t expect to live abroad in the same manner I do at home. For me, travel is about experiencing other cultures and taking in the magnificent sights, not in having a different pair of rockin’ shoes for every outfit.
So, here are my tricks for packing light. Bonus: packing light usually also means getting through security faster and with fewer hassles.
I like putting things on paper. Yeah, I know – it’s old-school. But for me it works. When it comes to planning, I’m a visual person, and I like to see the days on a paper calendar. This way I can also jot notes on the days I have activities pre-planned. This will help me make sure I have appropriate attire and am not forced to go on a last-minute, frenzied shopping trip.
I then transition the calendar to a list. At the top of the list I make a note of the total number of days/nights (I include travel days in that number), and any special events that require specific attire. My list is broken into four main categories: clothing, hygiene/medicines, tech, and other.
I start at the highest level and get more detailed as I start to pull things together. I make a list of total numbers of items. For example, if I’m going to be gone for two weeks (14 days, 13 nights), in a moderate climate, I will need:
|· 2 pair of long pants
· 1 pair of capris
· 5 tank tops
· 4 button-up shirts
· 1 cardigan sweater
· 1 dress (optional)
|· 15 pair of underwear
· 5 pair of socks
· 4 sleep shirts
· 3 bras
· 1 scarf
· 3 pair of shoes
Because I like to visit cultural centers and churches that have dress codes, I don’t usually bring shorts. However, if you’re going on a tropical holiday, you’ll want to adjust your list accordingly.
Now that I have a basic framework, I look at my wardrobe, decide what I have that will work in the climate I’m visiting, and try to choose items that are within the same or coordinating color family. Sure – I pack light. But even while traveling, I don’t like to wear the same outfit every day. So, everything must do double and triple duty. Clothes must be wrinkle resistant so they can be worn multiple times without washing, quick-drying in case I need to wash anything out in the sink, and the colors must mix and match so new outfits can be created by the same few pieces. Black flats work well for flight days (easy to take off and put on) but can also be worn with a dress and would look cute with capris.
Once I have an idea of a color family, I make my list more specific by listing the exact items on my packing checklist, along with the toiletries, medicines, tech, and other miscellaneous stuff, like travel documents, tickets, and itineraries. (Yeah – I’m a little list-obsessed.)
2 pair of long pants – Elle skinny, INC khakis
1 pair of capris – Black Alfani
5 tank tops – 2 white, 2 green, 1 salmon
4 button-up shirts – solid green, green check, solid salmon, salmon plaid
1 cardigan sweater – green ribbed
15 pair of underwear – various
5 pair of socks – various
4 sleep shirts – various
3 bras – 2 beige, 1 white
1 dress – green & white jersey wrap
1 scarf – green & salmon print
3 pair of shoes – black flats, walking shoes, walking sandals
Shampoo, body wash, lotion, hairspray
Loofah, hair brush, hair ties, razor
Prescription meds, Advil, antacids
Feminine hygiene products
Power converter & plug adapter
Smart phone & charger
Tablet & charger
Pages from travel books
A note about toiletries: Many travelers pack like they’re going to a third-world nation that’s never heard of shampoo. I’ve been to third-world nations, and trust me – even they have local stores where you can buy shampoo. So, I pack the bare minimum to get by in an emergency. All liquids, even creams and pastes, count toward your liquid carry-on limit, (and liquids are heavy!) so keep it to a minimum. Also – many European hotels don’t supply wash cloths, so BYOL (bring your own loofah).
A note about technology: If I’m bringing more than two gadgets that need recharging (phone, tablet, camera, Fitbit, etc.) I’ll bring a power strip. I have a power converter that can handle multiple small electronic draws, so it works well with the power strip.
A note about underwear: I hate the idea of spending any of my precious travel time babysitting a washing machine (if I can even find one), and I really hate the idea of washing underwear in the hotel sink and hoping it will be dry by morning. So, I pack enough underwear for every day of my trip. They’re small and don’t take up much room. After you’ve worn a pair, tie it in a loose knot – then you’ll always know which are clean and which have been worn.
About two days before travel, I do all my laundry and then lay everything from my list out on my bed – even what I plan to wear on travel days.
(Murphy is clearly impressed by my packing prowess.)
I then separate the outfit I plan to wear on my first travel day and set it aside. If I don’t plan on checking the luggage, the rest will go into the roller bag. If I do plan on checking the luggage, I’ll take out a few pair of underwear and one outfit, plus my tech and travel docs, to put in my carry-on backpack. You know, just in case my checked luggage decides to take a world tour without me.
I start by putting the heavy things on the bottom of the case. This is the side it will lay on while in the plane’s overhead compartment. I then start layering the larger items, placing underwear and socks into the small spaces, inside shoes, in the corners, etc.
I put my liquids in the zippered pocket in the lid of the case, or in my small backpack with my tech. This makes it very easy to pull out while going through security.
If you know you’ll be buying bulky souvenirs and don’t mind checking luggage, nest the carry-on roller inside a slightly larger case. Check it and only carry on the small backpack. Then, when you’re packing for the return trip, place the souvenirs in your carry-on roller, and throw all your dirty clothes into the larger case. Check the larger case with the dirty laundry, and carry on the roller bag full of souvenirs. That way you’ll never worry that your precious memories will be “lost” by airline personnel.
With these packing tips, you’ll never again worry that you forgot something, or that you won’t be able to wrangle your luggage yourself. So go out and meet the world, single girl, it’s an amazing place and it’s waiting to greet you!
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