Tuesday, July 30, 2013

light packer

On the list of boring things to feel passionate about, this is probably somewhere near the top. Nevertheless, I can talk about the wonders and benefits of efficient packing for a long time. This started out as an aversion to checking bags since the Philadelphia airport always seemed to lose my checked luggage, and has now transitioned to a need to carry as few items as possible since a certain toddler has monopolized at least one of my arms at all times.

When people find out that I take a surprisingly small bags on trips, they often comment on how impressed they are that I can manage to fit everything I need, but how they never could. Not so, my friends. I am not a strange subspecies of human who has vastly different needs from you (unless taking 12 pairs of shoes on a trip is a 'need,' in which case, we may be quite different). So here are some tips for packing light:

-Most people you will be visiting will have hygiene similar to yours, meaning they will have shampoo, conditioner, body wash, toothpaste, shaving cream, lotion, and hair products. Most hotels have these items too, and even if they're not the best quality, they will work fine for a few days. I almost never travel with these items (yes, even when I had 18 more inches of hair), simply because they take up too much space. I've been surprised to have people come visit us who bring a FULL size shampoo, conditioner, and body wash -- like, do you really expect me not to have those items in my shower?

-Don't be afraid to do laundry on vacation. I only took 5 pair of underclothes, 3 sets of running clothes, 2 pair of jeans, 2 Sunday outfits, 6 t-shirts, 1 sweatshirt and 1 cardigan for a month-long trip. I had to do laundry relatively frequently (mostly for the running clothes), but it was worth it to not be hauling around an enormous bag full of sweaters and printed pants. It may be obvious to you that my main goal on this trip was not to look super fab and stylish.

-Be very intentional about the types of shoes you take. One of my college roommates did an entire international trip with only one pair of shoes - Chacos. If I hadn't had my running shoes with me, all of the shoes I took to Brazil would have easily fit in one small shoebox.

-For traveling with kids, this was by far the most helpful thing I read. I think parents are sometimes tempted to bring a circus tent full of entertaining objects to make sure their child never gets bored, but being bogged down by stuff is always a bad idea. T is always more interested in playing with the tray table or window shades than he is with his toys from home anyway, so there's no way I'm going to lug his giant plastic horse onto a plane.

-I know this seems obvious, but be meticulous in how you fold your clothing. Be conscientious of what can possibly be collapsed/stuffed random places (i.e. I fit all of my running socks, a slip, and baby Tylenol into my running shoes).

These four small bags were what T and I comfortably lived out of for a month (the luggage tag? Shameless sucking up in hopes they'll be nicer to my bag). The black and white toile bag can be stacked on top of the floral bag, which can be pulled. The orange satchel (which I've had since I was 16 and has traveled internationally with me five times) goes across my body, the back pack on my back, leaving one free arm to push a stroller. So much easier than hauling T's entire nursery to South America, and standing paralyzed in the middle of several airports looking desperate for help.

Any tricks you have for packing light? Does anyone else share my obsession?


Anonymous said...

I love that you provided this post, Becca, because you have tremendous credibility when it comes to packing light. I know, because I have collected your bags at the airport several times and wondered, more than once, where your "other" bag was, only to find that you had no such "other" bag.

My only hint is that a soft-sided briefcase can double as a suitcase, especially for a one-night trip, with papers, etc., in two or three of the divided compartments, while the largest one accommodates a fresh shirt, tie, and toiletries.

natalie said...

Brava! That is an exceptionally small load to take for a month with a baby! My concern is often that when I go on trips to visit family, I come back with more stuff than I left with, so I need to leave some extra space.

Did you have a separate diaper bag?

When we are trying to fit a lot, we always roll our clothes. You can fit way more clothes if you roll them all up super tight than if you stack them folded. It's like the sleeping bag principle.

Kristi said...

I have always been a fan of packing light, but the more kids I have, the lighter I pack. We just got back from a four-week trip to two different locations. Ivy and I shared one small suitcase and each of my boys had his own mini roller-bag. I did bring my purse and Asher and Simon had a small backpack apiece with one small stuffed animal, one toy car, and a magna-doodle each. Each of us was allowed one church outfit, three regular outfits, two sets of p.j.'s and a swimming suit. Including me. (I second the clothes rolling.) Since I need all three of my hands to wrangle kids, I don't have any to spare for non-essentials.