Three. Packing: Quest Against Checking Your Bags

Note: I am not paid or sponsored by any company/product mentioned below (yet). So all of the products are just some things that I have found in my hunt for the best packing options.

Packing, My Arch Nemesis

I love to travel! Everything about traveling is so exciting. Nothing is better than experiencing a new place and culture. The one thing I dread though is the packing and prep for it. I hate bringing too much stuff, yet do not want the crippling feeling of not being prepared. Having too much weighing you down really is a bummer on the go and being unprepared feels just as bad. I am not one of those people who can pack 1 hour before leaving either. I like to plan and think about the logistics of what I will need in my destination. This used to give me anxiety. I’d worry about stupid things like how many shoes should I bring and what if I forget something important and I’ll die without it! Ok maybe not that dramatic but still. I tend to harp on packing because I like to be prepared and I hate forgetting things.

Over time I have gathered some nifty gear and (hopefully) helpful travel tips to be prepared and not bogged down.

Packing Light
My ideal packing situation.

Packing List

It really depends on where you are going to make a comprehensive packing list. The clothes will change for each destination, but the rest of the stuff is usually universal to each trip. I like to use my own products, but if you really want to save space most hotels/motels/AirBNB/etc. do provide basic toiletries or you can get them once there. I have yet to go to a destination that does not sell toothpaste and shampoo. I just don’t like to dry out my skin and hair with mystery products. Here is a list of must haves for me to bring in the smallest quantities possible:

Toiletries:

  • Toothbrush and Paste
  • Shampoo/Conditioner/other hair products (hair spray/gel, ties, bobbie pins, etc.)
  • Face wash/lotion (day/night/etc.)
  • Makeup-remover (I like to use coconut oil since it is gentle and easy to bring in small quantities when solid-less “liquids” to check!)
  • Deodorant
  • Body Wash (Bar soap if possible to save space for more liquids. They come in all brands so even if you like hippie dippie soap it probably comes in bar form. Mine does!)
  • Feminine products (Ear Muffs guys! I like using a Diva Cup or equivalent since it is less to pack and reusable. Good for environment, swimming, your underwear, and it’s easy to stuff anywhere if you are not sure if/when aunt Flo should visit).
  • Shaving supplies
  • Sun Screen (you need it no matter where you go people!)
  • Makeup: Mascara, CC/BB cream/foundation/powder, Eye Shadow/Blush Palate, Brushes/Pencils. Bring as many things that can be multi-use such as lipstick that could also work for blush/eye shadow. I try to minimize my makeup as much as possible since it can quickly take up space. Also, don’t bring anything too expensive or that you love. Chances are it will either melt, break, get lost, or stolen. Don’t risk your precious supplies! If you can’t go without it, use contact lens holders to store a smaller amount to bring with you.
  • Extras: Nail clippers, tweezers, eyelash curler, flat iron or curler, nail file.

The TSA requirements for carry on liquids follows the 3-1-1 rule. So You can have 3.4oz max per container, all your liquids need to fit in a 1 quart bag, and only 1 bag per person. If you can’t handle that, just check your bag and bring what will work for you.

Clothes:

  • Shoes: 1 walking, 1 casual, 1 sandal/water/shower shoe. No more than this! If you can bring less, do it. You will not need more unless there is some special event. Unless you bring the wrong shoe (like one that turns out to tear up your feet while walking), you will regret bringing more. *Unless you have the space in your bag and/or are staying in only 1 city where the bag doesn’t matter.* Ladies, never bring heels. It’s never worth it.
  • Pants: 3 of your choosing should be more than enough. I like to bring 1 denim/jean/jegging, 1-2 yoga, and 1 that can be dressed up/down. *Note for men: I usually can bring more pants because ~generally~ women pants are highly compact (yoga pants). My suggestion is to bring only 2, one casual and one that you can dress up (and just dark colors: blue/black; Please avoid khaki, you look like a tourist).
  • Shirts: 5-7 in colors of the same family. Pick a color scheme and match all your outfits around that. Usually black/white/navy colors are good for everywhere.
  • Socks: 4+ depending on shoe situation and laundry availability. If you bring wool socks you might get away with wearing them twice.
  • Undies: 7+ depending on days and laundry as well. You never want to run out and usually you can pack extra since they can be compact.
  • For the ladies-Bras: 1 sports, 1 pushup or everyday, 1 bralette (if those work for you). Can sub others in if you can’t/don’t wear one of those options and bring less! Any more than this is too many. We all know we wear 1 bra for at least a week or so before washing.
  • Outerwear: This will depend on destination for sure. I usually don’t like to have more than 1 jacket while traveling. Layering is the best for saving space. A good plan is a base layer (sweat wicking), fleece/wool/cotton middle layer (or light sweater/hoodie), and versatile outer layer (rain/snow/wind, etc.).

Obviously it depends on your luggage size and where you are going to decide how much of each item to bring. I usually only bring 1 bag and do my best to ~NOT~ check anything. Other things to consider are swimwear, snow clothes, hats, or anything specific to the activities you will be doing.

Tech:

This part is up to you. With all the new tech coming out every day, I say bring whatever makes your life and trip better. Here are a few things I like to have with me:

  • Camera with charger and 1 extra memory card.
  • Phone with charger
  • E-Reader (way lighter than bringing books and can double as a tablet)
  • Headphones
  • Outlet adapter for international travel
  • Portable power bank
  • Selfie stick (good for solo travel)

How to Pack it All

I personally don’t like to check my bag. I don’t want to deal with the hassle of it getting lost/stolen or paying to check it. Typically I have some sort of small suitcase or backpack. Backpacks are nice since they usually fit everywhere and also no one really asks you to check it if its on your back (less noticeable). I do prefer to have something that rolls so that I don’t have to strain my back. So it all really just depends on the terrain of the place I go to and if I will be moving around from one place to another.

Backpack:

This is a roughly 30L backpack. It fits the requirements to take on pretty much all flights that I’ve come across, big and small. The official carry on measurements for most airlines are 9x14x22 inches (22x35x56cm). I have yet to be asked to check it. This one, made by Osprey, opens sort of like a suit case which is nice for packing and being able to see everything inside. Some people like to bring bigger backpacks or more backpacking style, but I find that to be more difficult because things get sucked into the abyss at the bottom and it’s hard to see and reach your stuff. If you’re into that, go for the gold.

You can find this bag here: click me!

Suitcase:

I have yet to find the perfect carry on suitcase. I’ve had some trouble at the airport with the wheels sticking out and ~technically~ being too large to take on the flight even though it is within the dimensions they want. It really depends on the airline and size of the plane. And also the amount of people on the flight. The less people the more flexible they are about bag size. It’s all about the space people. What seems to work out the most is the compact bags that have a hard outer shell. They are durable, so you can toss them around and if forced to check it you don’t have to worry about your stuff being crushed. A lot of the models coming out have a USB charging port which is just awesome.

If you can afford it, this is a good option (has a USB port and lock attached to it!): click me!

The Backpack/Suitcase Combo:

This option is also really nice if you can find a good sized one out there. I took a rolling backpack to Italy because I thought that the streets would not be ideal for rolling all the time. This turned out to be true and some places did not have elevators. It is super nice to be able to carry a bag on your back AND also roll it around if the terrain allows. I do get a sore back from time to time so it is nice to be able to drag your bag around if you can. I got mine from REI 5 years ago, but there are way better options available now and other brands.

This is a good example: click me!

Other Bags/Packing Gear:

I like to have an arsenal of options for packing. I cater my packing for each destination and change bags/packing gear as needed. Here are a few items that help me save space and are super useful for travel.

Day Bag:

I really like this option for a day bag. It folds into a small pouch but is a regular sized backpack (think Jansport size)! This brand worked ok for me, the water bottle pocket is fragile and breaking already but there are lots of brands out there that work just as well. I like to just have this in my suitcase because I always end up with more souvenirs or clothes than I started with. It’s also nice for hikes, theme parks, or trips within trips (backpacking, home-stays, etc.).

Packing cubes and the like:

I love my packing cubes! They really help to organize my clothes and make it super convenient to find everything. They also help to prevent over packing. If you can’t fit it in your cube, then you have too much! I like to have 3 different sizes: big, medium, and small. ~obviously~

packingcube
Passport for size comparison.

-Small for socks and undies/bras

-Medium for shirts

-Large for pants/dresses/jackets/bulky things

The Eagle Creek brand has held up pretty well for me. I got them at REI. They have a lot of different options as well if you like to shop there. Mostly I suggest going with what is the most cost effective to you. Amazon also has a lot of good options and you can usually get them in a pack of 3 or more.

One supergem I’ve found is the SegSac by GobiGear. This is basically a packing cube on crack. It is a segmented bag with 4 chambers that compresses to become as small as you can crank it. This bag is a really nice if you need to bring a ton of clothes. It helps to keep them really compact so it will fit nicely in your suitcase or backpack. Seriously, I think I was able to fit like 15 sweaters into one of those (see first picture of this blog. I packed all those clothes in the Segsac plus some extra I got along the way. *Except for undergarments because I like to keep them in their own cubes*) just to see how many could fit. Not only does it fit a ton you can pull on the straps to compress it to be super tiny. It also folds into it’s own bag for storage or if you are not sure if you need it. My only fault with it is that it can be awkward to fit into a suitcase or small backpack since it is cylindrical. Also your clothes get really wrinkly, but I don’t really care. So far it has been worth it since I can bring more clothing options and still save space!

You can buy one here: click me!

This is just a start. I will have more detailed tips to come. Any other packing questions? Let me know in the comments and I will be happy to try and help!

Happy packing!