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Packing Light

May 27, 2010

I am a progressive packer.
As soon as my flight itinerary hits my inbox, I already have a mental list started of things I just can’t forget. I give it no more than 48 hours before I start a paper list somewhere – my fridge door, the wall, a post-it I keep on my desk. Items I otherwise may not remember- “wedding invitation,” “travel journal,” or “race confirmation.”

Throughout the waiting period and count down until trip time, things get added to the list, almost daily. Some things are obvious things I would probably not forget anyway, but just to be safe I write them down (iPod connection cord, battery charger, sunscreen). Some things make the list after discussion with anyone I may see during my trip (gift for baby, book that she wants to borrow, movie of his I’ve had for years). Pretty soon the list is long, and I have started a to pack pile. A grouping of things I keep in one space in my apartment for easy suitcase packing.

Today I am flying to Madison.
I’m going to be gone for five full days, plus.
I somehow managed to pack in a small weekender.

A few tips for packing light:

Make a List (or lists!): where are you going, what do you need. I take this to an extreme because I am a planner by nature. For this trip I had several spreadsheet’s I’ve been working on for weeks – one of which is my plans for the day and what kind of clothing I need for each day of the trip. Right before loading the suitcase, I also sketch out my days. For this trip I made a grid of six boxes, drew little stick people, and “dressed them.” In each box I wrote the day of the week and the plans for the day, then I dressed accordingly. I took some sweet photos of these sketches, but somehow packed my camera forgetting to upload, so I’ll just leave you with that tease for something to look forward to (my drawing skills are subpar at best.)

Ready, Set, NO: the best advice I can give anyone, is to gather everything you are planning to take and then put half of it back. You do not need to bring EVERYTHING you think you need to bring.

Pack colors that go together: this way you can layer and change things through out your trip if and when plans change. While I was laying out my clothing the other day, I realized that I had planned to wear a green dress with a brown cardigan. This was the only brown item I was packing, so to avoiding having to bring another pair of shoes and bag to carry for one outfit, I swapped it out for a black cardigan. Everything I pack should be somewhat interchangeable.

A classic black cardigan can be worn with any of the 4 dresses I packed.

Same goes for a nice pair of black flats.

Minimize your basics: If you have grouped your clothing together by color, some items won’t need to be duplicated. I am only bringing one pair of jeans, which I plan to wear during airport travel days. I have one summer scarf that I can wear with multiple dresses, and that one black cardigan goes with everything I am bringing.

If you are bringing denim, bring dark denim. Dark jeans are easiest to dress up or down. You can wear a dark pair of jeans with a white t-shirt during the day and add a cute top with a sweater or jacket and some great accessories for a nicer dinner at night. Dark denim is a dual purpose friend to the traveler.

Wear/Layer the bulky items while traveling: One of the reasons I am wearing the one pair of jeans, is because they are one of the bulkier items in my travel wardrobe. I am also wearing my running shoes to the airport, because they take up a lot of space but I have 3 work outs planned for the week. You never know how hot or cold you will be on a flight – I always bring a cardigan/zip-up and a scarf while flying.

Later today I’ll be sharing my carry-on/personal item packing tips and other travel tips as well. And posting those fabulous photos of my (second grade ability) sketches. Stay tuned 😉

Some Extra Tips:

*TSA says we can use 3 oz – but so often the little bottles you get for traveling are about half that size. Invest in an inexpensive set of empty 3 oz bottles and fill them yourself for each trip.

*Also, there is no reason to purchase a mini deodorant. Regular sized is usually less than 3 oz.

*Bring a plastic bag for dirty clothes. You will thank yourself day two of your trip.

*Use film canisters, pill cases, small boxes or containers for jewelry; add tissue paper to avoid tangled necklaces.

*Try to pack knit, wool, or cotton items: these fabrics tend to resist wrinkles best.

Do you have any tips for packing light? My sister is a phenomenal clothes roller – I am always amazed at how much she can roll into her luggage. What do you do?

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14 Comments leave one →
  1. May 27, 2010 9:24 am

    You have some great ideas about packing. I also make a lot of lists for days (or weeks) leading up to trips, but I have never drawn stick figures and dressed them! 🙂

    I also like to pack light and always take a carry on bag instead of checking luggage. I also tend to do laundry once or twice while I am on longer trips, so I can avoid having to take enough clothes for the whole trip. I am getting ready to take a marathon 9 day trip which involves 3 different airports, and 3 different hotels. I refuse to take a large bag, so I will be using some of your tips!

  2. Colleen permalink
    May 27, 2010 9:24 am

    I am THE worst over-packer! Thanks for the tips 🙂 I’ll keep them in mind while packing tonight for an extra long weekend.

  3. May 27, 2010 10:03 am

    Ummm I start packing immediately before I leave. I always make a list beforehand, but I use so much that I can never pack before. If I start packing a week before, I just keep adding and adding and adding and adding…

    I overpack, and I think it is fine! It’s always good to have options.
    When we went on our honeymoon, my suitcase on the way there was 79lbs. Oops.

  4. May 27, 2010 10:40 am

    I am going to brag a bit because I am a da&n good packer! I have done a week in a carry on 🙂

    Plan on wearing pants twice and bring one color of pants or pants that would match with black or brown shoes so you can bring one color of shoes.

    Bring 1 extra outfit that would work multiple ways just in case! Always wear your largest shoes on the plane and try to keep the number to 3. I wear a pair, pack a dressy pair and have my tennis shoes in my luggage. Stuff socks in your shoes and roll your clothes.

    Use a backpack as your personal item and pack your entertainment items and put your purse inside there.

    A good suitcase is a must have! It needs to fit in small overheads yet be roomy enough to get a few days of clothes in. You also want the option to put hangers in because it saves space.

  5. May 27, 2010 11:24 am

    I just have to say that you are the cutest thing ever! i am a HUGE list-maker, especially when it comes to packing. 2 weeks before i start taking an inventory of everything that i use, what i can take with me, what i should buy when i get there etc. however, it never fails that i wait to pack until midnight the night before…no idea why, but i’ve always been that way!

  6. micki permalink
    May 27, 2010 11:54 am

    So weird that you posted this, because a week from today I’m going to Europe for 10 days. And I need packing tips because I’ve never been out of the country for that long, and I’ll be without my parents who could buy me anything if I needed it on the trip, and I somehow find myself packing everything the night before I leave…

  7. May 27, 2010 1:43 pm

    I know how much you’ve been looking forward to going home; I hope you have an absolute blast!!!! 🙂

    PS: I am a massive overpacker. But when I’m trying I do the rolling thing. That’s the only way I managed to get my luggage back from Paris after living there.

    PPS: I’m omitting the part where I was still massively over my allowance and I had to sit in the corner throwing things away and re-weighing to see if it was okay. I even had to resort to ripping out the unused pages out of notebooks. Eventually the airline attendant felt sorry for me and let me on (despite being 2lbs over).

  8. May 27, 2010 3:32 pm

    I love your packing ideas. So similar to my own 😉 I am only going to be in WI for about 2 days, and I already have a list going of things not to forget (including a little gift for someone special).

    I got some of the 3 oz bottles before a trip last year and I’m so happy I did! I refill them every time I get home and then they’re ready to go when I’m packing for my next trip. I also very much agree with the one color shoe plan and wearing running shoes (they’re so much bigger than a pair of cute flats).

  9. May 27, 2010 5:44 pm

    I think we’ve already discussed my penchance for overpacking.
    I am the queen of lists, and do quite well, until about 24 hours before my departure time, and then I chuck the list and throw everythign into the bag, regardless of if I need it or not.

    PS. When I traveled to Australia, I came back with my backpack, an extra bag, two digeridoos and somewhere in that mess was a sword. AND THEY LET ME BACK INTO MY COUNTRY!!! and didn’t even flag me to check my luggage. I kid you not.

  10. July 19, 2010 4:01 pm

    One problem I ran into is packing sunscreen. We can’t find any bottles that are smaller than 4oz, let alone 3.4oz or less. Now we feel compelled to bring a checked luggage (originally we only want to bring one carry-on each). Plus, our airline charges $25 for a checked bag. :::sad::: Should we just make the best of it, or perhaps fool around with squeezing sunscreen into 3oz bottles? We’re spending a week on the beach, so ample sunscreen is a must.

    • July 19, 2010 4:53 pm

      Is there a place near where you are staying that you can purchase sunscreen? If not, I would totally spend the $1 at the dollar store to get a plastic bottle to squeeze some into. $1 is a lot better than $25!!

      (Also. I will now be searching everywhere for small sunscreen!!!)

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