I travel lightly, so lightly that I now actually use a half-sized suitcase. (I AM SO BRAGGING RIGHT NOW — I LOVE that I went to Italy for 18 days with so little. I think I've been training toward this Olympic-level packing my whole life.)
You asked for it! Here you go, the Traveling Lightly List.
I bought this suitcase, but it's sadly unavailable now. This gives you an idea of it, though. 17 x 10 x 13 inches.
Boot for scale.
So here's my method:
1. Pack one small roll-aboard suitcase. (Pictured above, red.)
2. Carry an empty bag. (Pictured above, the black and white one.)
3. Inside that bag, place your everyday travel purse/messenger bag, fully packed. (Below, in umbrella picture)
There! You just defeated the "one personal item/one piece of luggage" rule of traveling carry-on! They tell you what you can bring on board, not what you can take off with you. As soon as you step on-board the plane you can toss your suitcase overhead, throw what you don't need in your purse into the extra bag and heave that up, too. (Pro-tip: Always wear your heavy coat/sweaters on board. There's plenty of room under your seat to shove those things, or put them up top with your suitcase. Or in that empty bag!)
I happen to think that after a lot of research, I have the best travel bag EVER. It's the Pacsafe Citysafe 200 Gii, and I got the herringbone color.
A gadget I now find completely necessary and wonderful is the Travel Bungee. The best $15 you'll spend, it secures your extra bag (or purse or coat or small disobedient child) to your suitcase, like this:
So. Let's break it down, for those of you who, like I do, get off on lists.
For a winter trip of any duration (did I just blow your mind?), here's what I take and why.
To Wear on the Plane:
Jeans – I like the option to put things in my pockets sometimes
Black V-necked t-shirt – can be dressed up or down
Black cashmere thin sweater – I never travel without cashmere. Hello, fiber snob. But it's soft, very lightweight, completely smooshable, and can be used as a pillow. I got my new one (tags still on) on eBay for $25.
Handknit sweater - I wear this onto the plane because it's a little bulky. I use it as a blanket or pillow.
Wool socks - Handknit, of course. Take off your shoes as soon as you sit down. Your feet will thank you.
Cowboy boots - Your mileage may vary, but damn, I love my boots.
To Pack in Carry-On:
Black dress – Mine is stretchy, 3/4 sleeves, from Travelsmith. Easy to dress up and down
2 nice t-shirts – I brought one extra black one and a green striped one. Good to sleep in, wear with jeans, etc.
2 pair thin black socks – These are what I wear under my boots for lots of walking.
1 extra bra
2 extra pair underwear
Black down jacket
2 shawls – for variety. I brought one green, one red.
Merrell barefoot sneakers – I packed these on a whim, and I'm so glad I did. I had one day of blisters, and I wore these the next day and they basically fixed my feet. They weigh almost nothing and take up almost no room.
2 pair tights - one red, one black.
That's it, folks. Even on the coldest, rainiest day of our trip, the cold couldn't penetrate my t-shirt, cashmere, handknit sweater, and down jacket, topped with a cashmere scarf. I did forget a hat and gloves, so I had to buy some. (Unless you're trekking to Outer Mongolia, you can buy what you forget to bring. Don't overload on Band-aids and neosporin and Tylenol and tampons–that's all available where you're probably going.)
Also, remember: No one cares what you're wearing. Well, if you wear the big yellow shirt covered with parakeets and the jingly-bell necklace, and you wear this outfit twice in three days? Maybe the guy at the corner store will remember, if you're in town that long (but probably not). If you're in mostly black? NO ONE WILL KNOW you really only have two basic outfits. No one cares.
A pop of color goes a long way.
I'm sure you know this already, but roll your clothes. It makes them tiny and prevents wrinkles. I lay out my biggest piece (the dress) and lay everything else on top of that, then roll it into a clothes-burrito which I shove into a medium packing cube. I carry all my toiletries/medications in a small packing cube. Chargers/converters get their own little sack. I tuck extra knitting in the suitcase, also, because . . . you know.
In My Purse – Everything else
MacBook Air, kindle, iPhone, knitting, notebook, pens, duct tape (wrapped around half a chopstick, great for blisters!), earphones, eyemask, earplugs, snacks (Lara bars and nuts), corkscrew, GPS unit for geocaching, water bottle, umbrella (I never bring one but always end up buying one). That purse up there? Holds all this plus room for shawl/hat/bottle of wine. It's a great bag.
But What About Clean Clothes?
Dr. Bronner's Soap. I keep half a bar in a ziplock bag and I use it both for bathing and clothes-washing. IT IS NOT HARD TO WASH AS YOU GO, friends. When you wash your face, throw your socks and underwear into the sink, rub 'em with soap and rinse. In seconds, you're done. T-shirt? You really only need to wash the pits and where you dropped the spaghetti. Jeans? Wash them once on the trip. If that. No one will know.
To dry: Wring out the clothes the best you can. Then lay your towel on the floor, doubled long-ways. Lay your clothes on top of it. Roll tightly, and then stand on the roll. Your clothes will be almost dry when you take them out of the towel, and they'll dry overnight unless you're in the tropics, in which case, you're just wearing a bathing suit anyway, so who cares?
Put your souvenirs and gifts in that extra bag you brought and check it (or check your clothes and carry-on the gifts). I don't mind if my luggage gets lost for a while on its way to me when I'm comfortably at home, but I prefer not to have that happen while I'm on the road.
Then get home and do what we all do! Leave all the bags in the corner for a week because you can't stand to touch them anymore (I actually love unpacking, too, but sometimes it takes me a while to get the energy back.)
Last Random Thoughts
Instead of washing undies, bring your old worn-out ones, the ones you've been forgetting to throw away. Wear, and toss! It feels delightfully decadent.
And of course, this whole list is absolutely thrown out the window when I go someplace like a writing convention, when dressing up and networking is actually part of the game plan. In this case, I take a normal-sized carry-on suitcase, and I still manage to not check a bag — I still roll my clothes and I just make sure my most fabulous Fluevogs match most of my outfits.
What are your favorite tips for packing light? I'm dying to know.
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