You’ve booked your flights. Fantastic!
You’ve confirmed your room at gorgeous bed and breakfast that overlooks the ocean. Sweet!
You’ve spent hours researching places to eat, things to see and adventures to go on. Hell yea!
All that is left is to pack. There is no right or wrong way to pack, but there are better ways. We’ve traveled a lot and over the years have figured out a few ways to ease the pain of packing.
Mistake: Over Packing
Solution: Over packing is the obvious one, and it is one of my biggest hurdles when traveling. I do not like carrying anything extra, but feeling unprepared is bad too. I know I am not alone in this. My opinion is that the destination really drives my packing style. I’ve survived two weeks in New Zealand with only a carry-on backpack, but four days in Napa Valley required a rolling suitcase that almost hit the 50 pound limit. I know, it is an odd phenomenon! Whittling down what you need and what you don’t is a necessary evil though.
My trick to avoiding over packing? I painstakingly plan outfits for each day, or even event if necessary. I do this by ripping apart my closet, putting the clothes on – accessories and all, take a selfie and then edit the phone picture with text that describes when I will wear it. Here is an example:
This method helps me know what I need and when. Even better it helps me figure out how I can wear certain pieces more than once without actually repeating an outfit. I know, kind of silly, and very time-consuming, but it got me 2 weeks in New Zealand with only a carry on backpack! Boom! This is the single best strategy for me to not over pack. I am going back to Napa with girl friends in May, so we will see if this helps me keep it to a carry on this time around.
Mistake: Packing liquids larger than 3 ounces in your carry-on
Solution: It seems like TSA rules change all the time, but the size of liquids has stayed consistent for a while. Do not make the mistake of packing liquids over 3 ounces in your carry on; TSA will confiscate the entire bottle of sunscreen or gel. That is not a good way to start your vacation! I know what it is like to need larger bottles of hair products. Trust me; curly hair needs product. The only solution is 5 small bottles of mousse if I’m carrying a carry-on or packing larger bottles of liquids in a checked bag.
Mistake: Packing Breakables
Solution: Packing breakable items in any luggage is silly and it could be a pricey mistake. Carrying fragile items on the plane is not usually an option (based on its size or material) and if you have watched luggage handlers you know that checking it is not really an option either! If the item is expensive, irreplaceable or has the ability to ruin everything in your suitcase (i.e. a bottle of wine) it is worth the extra cost to ship the items. Why take the chance?
Mistake: Under-utilization of Carry On
Solution: A big mistake is underutilized carry-on bags. Do not save this bag for only items you only need on the plane. Utilize that carry on for extra socks, a bathing suit, a water bottle, scarves or electronics. We like to keep a small toiletry bag in our carry on – in case of delays or cancellations or lost baggage. We also like to keep electronics and cameras with us. But don’t be satisfied with just one bag if you need more. Most airline carriers give women a purse and a carry on. Have you seen how big our purses are lately? Use it!
Mistake: Assuming Weather Patterns
Solution: Have you ever visited San Francisco in July? It is flippin’ cold. Imagine my surprise when we returned in October and found it hot enough to swim in the Pacific. This Florida girl was so confused. But I learned that I should a valuable lesson: do not assume weather patterns. Solutions to this packing mistake? First, check multiple weather outlets to get average temperatures and conditions to get accurate weather forecasts. Second, think about how to layer clothes to get warm or cool off easily throughout your day. Third, stay calm and do not over pack. I get it, packing for bi-polar weather is really tough. Been there done that. I think I wore the one and only sweater I packed for our July trip to San Francisco every damn day.
Mistake: No Organization
Solution: Ahh! I cannot stand being unorganized in my life or in my suitcase. You wouldn’t throw your underwear in with your yoga pants. You wouldn’t put vegetables in the meat drawer. You wouldn’t put towels on the shelf where the bed sheets go. Would you?
I realize that some of you savages actually do these things. It should stop. Pronto!
Think about the way you pack as a way to save time and the inevitable exploding suitcase. Logically pack your suitcase to make reduce headaches when in the hotel room looking for your outfit, belt or flip-flops. Packing cubes are one such organization method. They are like drawers for your suitcase. There is a lot of debate on whether folding or rolling is the way to go. My response: who cares! As long as your clothes are in packing cubes, you are good to go. I pack shorts, skirts and pants in one cubes, shirts in another, accessories, in another. You get the gist. Changing your shirt for dinner out? Easy – grab the cube with your tops neatly folded, or rolled, and you can change in a snap. I think I would be a professional organizer if I wasn’t speech language pathologist! Order = Happiness.
Mistake: Forgetting to Account for Dirty Clothes
Solution: So, shirts go with shirts. Pants, with pants. Clean with clean and dirty with dirty. Do not mix the two. Already worn clothes are not necessarily dirty. I am talking about the clothes you wore hiking, working out or to the beach. One solution are those plastic bags lots of hotels provide, but a better answer are those packing cubes we just talked about. Our Eagle Creek models actually have clean and dirty compartments. The clean side is breathable mesh, the dirty is enclosed so that odors and dirt are not passed to your clean(er) clothes. And do not forget about dirty hiking boots or sandy flip-flops.
There is not right or wrong way to pack. Each trip is different, so the items you pack is always different. But, packing with a little thought saves space, time and maybe even money. It seems like common sense to me (now) because we have traveled for weeks at a time. Trust me, after suffering through more mid-vacation suitcase re-packs, gross dirty clothes making my clean clothes stink and lugging around extra weight too many times I have finally learned from my mistakes.