Tuesday, September 27, 2016

11 Days in a Carry On by a Reformed Overpacker

Last month, I spent 11 days traveling and packed only a carry-on suitcase and a big purse, without stopping to do laundry. I've been a notorious over-packer in the past, and I want to share what I've learned with you. If I can do it, so can you!

It zipped closed easily, not shoving, no hassle.

Write your Daily Itinerary: Before your trip, make an itinerary of what you will likely do each day. I was taking a cruise, so 7 of those days were planned in advance and the other 3 were spent exploring a new town. Consider the customs of the place you are visiting in terms of modesty, terrain, and expectation. On my first cruise, I changed clothes several times a day - never again - pack "cruise casual" for every day and only change for formal night.

Make a Packing List: Now that you know what each day calls for, what might you wear? Most packing guides say to plan 3 tops for every bottom. I prefer to have tops and bottoms that mix and match with each other, and a dress or two that stands alone so everything could be worn twice. Think "capsule wardrobe" by planning your colors in advance. I used: black, white, and grey as my bases. Also think layers for comfort and any weather. A mostly boring wardrobe in monotone, I'll admit, but so what? The lack of time it took me to make an outfit and get out the door was wonderful. Capsule wardrobes will save you every time!

Get honest about your routine: What do you really use on a daily and weekly basis? Do you need that particular soap or shampoo or product? In hotels, soaps and shampoo are generally included if you're not too particular about the brand; as they are on cruise ships. You can also purchase products at a local grocery or convenience store in your city of arrival, so you don't have to pack the item, and can simply leave the rest behind or bring them back with you. If you do not use a product at least every other day, don't bring it.

Cut out the non-essentials: Remember that you can usually pick up something you've forgotten or run out of, also, so never bring "extra." Skip anything you're not using every single day. Snag free samples from the hotel. Buy a toothbrush when you land. Keep your bags at light as possible to avoid having to pay for checking them and saving your back from lugging around cumbersome things.

Practice: Try on your clothing to be sure everything fits in the way you want it to and layers well. Maybe you haven't worn an item in awhile or ever, or with another article. Include the accessories (scarves, jewelry). Look to see that the patterns and colors mix and match the way you mean them to. Do a dry run of your packing to see that everything fits. I used the rolling method and found it saved me a lot of space in my suitcase. Practice pack your carry on bag also. You don't want it to be too heavy. Remember that you want to leave room for souvenirs. I'm not a shopper, so I was happy to pack to the gills. We brought home tiny souvenirs that we shoved into the recesses between our clothes.

Add 1 Extra: Now that you've gotten down to bare bones, what's the 1 thing that you're longing to pack? The thing you keep thinking of that you might not need, but you might, and it'd sure be nice to have it? Pack it. That's your one. But just that ONE. For my husband, it was a lightweight flannel shirt and he was glad to have it for seeing movies on the ship where it was a little cool, but not cold. For me, it was a roll of the toilet paper we use at home. I know, but isn't it nice to have? Just one thing.

Review: Go over your list and itinerary again. Do you need everything on your list? Will you use it all? Are you missing anything? Have you planned for changes in weather? Have you planned to re-wear? Have you planned to do laundry? In 10 days, I knew I never wanted to stop to do laundry, so I planned accordingly. You can pack even less if you do laundry while traveling. Remember that you're going to enjoy the sights and take in some culture and adventure; do that with a joyous heart and if you meet anyone along the way, they will first notice your smile!

  • Write your daily itinerary
  • Make a packing list
  • Get honest about your routine
  • Cut out the non-essentials
  • Practice
  • Add 1 extra
  • Review

My itinerary & outfit of the day:
*I'm coming from a hot climate to potentially rainy Seattle, & unpredictable summertime Alaska

  1. Travel day - layers for the airport (arriving late night) - jeans, tee1, scarf1, socks, sneakers, sweater
  2. Seattle - Pike's Market, Aquarium, Chihuly Gardens, Space Needle - print pants, tee2, sandals, backpack
  3. Seattle - Underground Tour, Pikes for lunch, Olympic Park - leggings1, tee3, socks, sneakers, purse
  4. Boarding Day - explore ship, at sea - casual dress, swimsuit, sandals, purse
  5. Sea Day - formal night - print pants, tee2, sandals, formal dress, dress flats
  6. Juneau - glacier tour (cold) - jeans, tee4, undershirt1, sweatshirt, scarf2, socks, sneakers, hat, backpack
  7. Skagway Alaska - photo tour, sled dogs (possibly stinky/dirty) - leggings1, tee3, undershirt1, sweatshirt, scarf2, socks, sneakers, hat, backpack
  8. Sea day - fjord glaciers (cold) - thermal leggings, undershirt2, tee4, socks, sneakers, sweatshirt, hat, purse
  9. Sea day - formal night - casual dress, sandals, swimsuit, purse, formal dress, dress flats
  10. Victoria BC - whale watch - leggings2, tee5, hat, socks, sneakers, backpack
  11. Travel day - layers for the airport (back to hot) - jeans, tee1, scarf1, socks, sneakers, sweater

My Suitcase packing list: 

  • binoculars (used twice)
  • lanyards (brought a dozen, needed only 2)
  • sea bands (preventative sea sickness, a must for me)
  • Kindle charger
  • DS charger
  • travel clock
  • roll of toilet paper from home (that's my one)
  • tiny speaker for listening to audio books in bed or by the pool
  • diary/journal book
  • small cross-body purse for walking around without pockets (used almost every day)
  • flat folding backpack for excursion days off the ship - indispensable!
  • 5 empty Ziploc baggies (quart and gallon sized) good for so many things
  • power strip for the cruise ship
  • 2 electric candles
  • minimal makeup (mascara, compact foundation, shadow, shadow brush)
  • eBags organizers: small (hair products & makeup & medicines), medium (under clothes), large (dirty laundry). 
  • clothes (minus the bulkiest items that I wore on the plane): Jeans x1, leggings x2, thermal leggings x1, print pants x1, tops x6, bra x3, socks x7, underwear x11, sandals x1, sneakers x1, dress flats x1, sweatshirt x1, sweater x1, undershirt x2, formal dress x1, casual dress x1, scarf x2, warm hat x1, swimsuit x1.

My Personal Item (big purse) packing list:
  • cell phone & charger
  • Kindle
  • pen
  • puzzle book (never opened it)
  • small pad of paper (for the puzzles and had my packing list/itinerary on it)
  • Nintendo DS
  • iPod and headphones
  • passport
  • excursion documents & boarding passes for flight & cruise
  • neck pillow
  • medicine in a Ziploc bag (gas pills, Advil, seasickness gum & pills, vitamins, prescriptions)
  • sunglasses & reading glasses
  • wallet
  • lip balm
  • jewelry & hair accessories in a Ziploc bag (2 pair of earrings, bun twists, 3 elastics, bobby pins, headband, hair de-frizz serum, face serum - we stopped at a CVS in Seattle for toothbrushes, a small toothpaste, and sunblock)
  • sweater

And I could have packed LESS! I had 1 shirt I never wore, which is okay because I can be messy, so it was good to have a backup, I never used the puzzle book. I could have re-worn some of the clothes again and still had room left over. If I can do it, you can!

That's my little blue Samsonite suitcase. You CAN downsize!