I used to be known for always over packing. I was that girl who checked a bag for a weekend trip. I would bring 10 pairs of shoes, enough toiletries to sink a ship, and at least 6 extra dresses just in case. Just in case? In all my years of traveling, I never actually found out what just in case really means. Meanwhile, I was stuck schlepping these heavy bags around and only I was to blame. When I went to Spain for 15 days, I had a serious moment of realization, and I knew I had to change my packing habits for good. My checked bag was 5 pounds over the limit. Ah it’s only 5 pounds over, right? Wrong! That would have cost me around a total of $500 in penalty fees for all of the flights on my trip. Luckily, the agent warned me to make adjustments before my next flight. The worst part of these adjustments was having to make my back pack even heavier. Why the F did I pack so much? The back pack literally made me topple over every time I put it on. Plus, I had to pull 2 pieces of luggage almost totaling my body weight from Home -> JFK -> Barcelona Airport -> Airbnb -> Barcelona Airport -> Ibiza Airport -> Airbnb -> Ibiza Airport -> Mallorca Airport -> Hotel -> Mallorca Airport -> Madrid Airport, which also included a 3 mile walk to the terminal where I had to change planes -> JFK -> taxi -> home. I'm exhausted just thinking about it! A week at the spa couldn’t cure the pain I felt after I returned. That was when I made a sound decision to always strive to under pack. What is this nonsense I speak of?!?! It makes sense. Hear me out.
I’ve found that if I focus on under-packing, then I will pack just the right amount or only slightly over. For example, I recently went on a trip to Disney World for 9 days. (Yes, I am slightly insane!) All I packed was a small carry-on and my trusty back pack, which I now refer to as the Mary Poppins bag. Believe it or not, I still managed to over pack!
So, what’s the secret to under packing? Be realistic and honest with yourself. You know you don’t need every pair of shoes in your closet. That dress you bought 3 years ago with the tags still on it, (you know the one) throw it in the donation bag immediately! If you are questioning whether or not you should bring something, then the answer is no. Not comfortable with that answer? Then ask yourself, “Do I really want to lug everything I own around with me while I’m on vacation?” Trust me, the “what if I need it” is certainly not worth the struggle. If you are nervous about not having enough for that “just in case” moment, then ease your mind with this simple thought... You can always buy it there. What? How could you possibly buy it there? Unless the destination you are traveling to is so far removed from off the beaten path, then I would bet that they have whatever it is that you may need. The label might be in a different language, but it's all the same stuff.
The added bonus to successfully under packing is that you can buy things at your destination to physically bring home with you. Gifts for loved ones. That dress you have had your eye on from the moment you landed. After all, you need it because you didn’t pack that extra dress for dinner. Aha! ;) A pair of shoes to go with your new lovely dress. A unique purse no one at home would ever have. You can make all of these purchases without worrying how it will fit it into your luggage. Imagine that?
Here are some helpful tips to keep in mind when trying to under pack:
1. Do your laundry 2 nights before you are scheduled to leave. This will give ample time for all the stuff you hang dry to actually dry before you're ready to begin packing. It's the only way to avoid that mildew smell from wet clothes. Gross!
2. Fold everything into categorized piles… Dresses, shirts, shorts, PJs, socks, unmentionables, etc.
3. Once you have everything you intend on taking is in correct piles, then remove at least 2 items from each pile. That sexy little bedtime number that you will not wear. Unless you are going away with your significant other, then please remove it. Who has time for that, seriously?
4. Decide on the shoes you will 1000% need. Need, not want! This will obviously depend on your intended destination, but let’s keep it limited. For example, you are going to a casual resort on an island. Chances are you will either be barefoot or in a pair of flip flops for the whole vacation. Bring a pair of flippies, a nice flat sandal, one “just in case” heel or wedge, and a pair of sneakers. How can you limit it down to only 4 pairs of shoes? I promise you, it’s possible!
5. Plan your outfits in advance, and actually try them on before you pack. If you're anything like me, then your weight is constantly fluctuating. Ugh, I know! :( There’s nothing worse than arriving with an entire bag of clothes that no longer fit you. Been there before, and it was not fun! Try to pack similar colors that will match that one pair of sandals and that one pair of heels/ wedges. If most of my outfits are black, then I plan for a black wedge and a fancy silver or gold sandal or vice versa. Once you have your 4 pairs of shoes, then place them at the bottom of the suitcase strategically mushing them together without damaging the shape of the shoe.
6. Keep rolling and rolling and rolling… seriously, I roll everything! Start with the casual dresses and then the fancy dresses, followed by shirts, shorts, pants, etc. Roll and place it in the suitcase and repeat. Make sure to fit it all in tightly, and then fit one more in. There is always more space. The tighter the better, and it will lead to less wrinkles.
7. Purses, another space gobbler. Limit yourself to a total of 3 purses. One that goes with most of the outfits you packed (for me it would be black) and one that matches the fancy sandal. These purses should be fancy, yet casual. They should be able to go with a dressy outfit, yet not look over the top with a more casual outfit. The most important purse is the casual every day bag. I suggest a cross body type of purse. Something you can take on an all-day adventure or out for a quick coffee run.
8. Keep room for in your suitcase for your hairdryer, brushes, mini steamer, make-up case, and toiletries. If you don’t have Global Entry or TSA pre-check, then you should put your toiletries in the back pack in case you have to put it in a bin at the security check. It’s a little easier to remove from the back pack verses the suitcase.
9. Ah toiletries… keep it travel size even if you are checking a bag. The weight from full sized bottles will add up. Personally, I find it more cost effective to buy the fillable travel sized containers verses actual travel sized products. I have spent over $50 on travel sized products for one long weekend trip, which is basically the same cost for the products I usually buy at a normal size. Plus, I prefer to buy the products I like and transfer them into the travel sized containers. At least then I have products I actually like instead of settling for what comes in travel size. What I’m about to say next might be my OCD talking... after you fill the containers, put them into Ziploc bags divided by category. Why by category? If a hair product explodes, then you can still get away with using everything if it’s in a Ziploc with other hair products. If that same bottle exploded while in a bag with your mouth wash or eye cleanser, then you might have to go to the store to buy replacements. If you are on a trip for 7 days or more, then double up on shampoo, conditioner, tooth paste, mouth wash, body wash, lotion, and sun block.
10. Now you should be left with socks, undies, PJs, swimsuits, cover ups, etc.… This is when that trusty back pack comes in handy. I use my Mary Poppins bag, and I stuff these items in along with any light weight articles of clothing that don't fit into the carry-on. Try to strategically fill the back pack in a way that makes sense for you. I put all the items I just mentioned above in the pocket closest to my back. I don't want to have to open up the pocket while getting from point A to B. The middle pocket is for my laptop, I-pad, chargers, international sockets, and a book. I keep room in this compartment to stuff my casual cross body bag. In my cross-body bag, I keep my wallet, passport if necessary, cell phone, boarding pass, lip gloss, hair clip and anything else that I need to be easily accessible. Back to the Marry Poppins bag… the other compartments are for my gum/ mints, Evian Spray, hand sanitizer, Vitamin C packets, Vitamins, Advil, and my noise cancelling headphones. What baby crying? If you are strategic when packing your back pack, then you will know precisely where everything is, and it will be much easier to find when you have to dig for it on the plane.
Hope this article helps you pack for your next adventure!
Travel souly, find your soul!