packing with poise

No one knows the importance of traveling light better than a faerie.  Have you ever gone on a hiking trip with an overladen, top-heavy backpack?  Every step is a risk of toppling forward.  The darned things are so hard to get on and off that you just want to leave it on when you take a water break. Now imagine dealing with that In The Air. No fun, right? No faerie wants to face-plant underneath an overly  stuffed pack, so they learned quickly how to pack lightly but thoroughly.  Today we will go over some of their basic, but most valuable, tips.

I personally like to do my packing in stages. I have it down to a six step process now.

Step 1: Packing Preparation 

Before you pull a single sock out of your drawer, there are a few things to consider.  Ask your-self some questions.

– How long will you be gone? And more importantly, will there be a washing machine?

If you will be going on a short trip, or will have access to a washing machine- pack light! Wash and re-wear my friend!

– How much moving around will you be doing once you leave your house?  

Lugging around suitcases, even ones with those silly little wheels on the bottom, can be aggravating.  Watching over your possessions in public places can stress you out, and hauling weighty suitcases around will tire you out quick.  However, if your suitcase is staying put once you get to your new room, maybe you can consider packing more luxuries or a heavier load.

– What kind of weight restrictions are imposed by your means of transportation?

Don’t pay more to move your stuff around than you pay to move yourself around.  Be aware of overweight or extra baggage fees.

– What suitcases will you be using?

Know before you pack, what you’ll be putting your stuff in.  Keep the size of the luggage in mind when choosing what to bring.  Don’t leave home with an overstuffed bag, because lets be honest- you know you’ll be buying stuff along the way!

– What is the purpose of this trip?

Packing for a weekend in the city or an 1,800 mile hike across a mountaintop will require drastically different things.  These are extremes, but think about the events you’ll need to plan for when packing.

– Lastly, make a list of things you want to pack.  My Turkey list looks like this:

In my Purse (Yeah, its kind of a big purse):

  • Passport/Wallet/Print-outs of all ticket information
  • Book to read
  • Notebook/Pen
  • Netbook/Charger
  • Outlet Adapters
  • Camera/Charger
  • Ipod/Cable
  • Snacks (Yes, snacks.  Waits at the airport can be long and boring, and the temptation to buy food there is high.  Save yourself some money and bring some healthy snacks along.  Wait to spend your money on good food once you arrive at your destination!)
  • Water Bottle (Bringing an empty reusable water bottle is OK with security, and you can fill it at a water fountain once at your gate.  Bottled water adds up quick on a trip, save some cash and the environment by coming prepared.)

In my Backpack:

  • Clothes (I usually bring about a week’s worth of shirts, socks, and underthings, and a couple pairs of pants. I’ll talk more about choosing what to pack down below.)
  • Belt
  • Chucks (Or some easy to pack extra pair of walking shoes.)
  • Toiletries
  • Towel (Don’t ever travel without one!)
  • Small Presents (For friends, couch surfing hosts, or friendly locals you meet along the way. Nothing too bulky or expensive, just something to make a nice gesture with.)
  • Hat/Scarf/Gloves (Depending on the season, these can come in handy.)

Step 2: Lay out everything you think you might want to bring

And I mean everything! Laying out everything you want to bring gives you a starting point for the packing process.  Right now just throw it all on your bed (or some big flat space).  When you’re done, take a look at the size of the heap.  How are you doing? How much of that do you think you need? How much can you fit in your bag? This is what my Step 2 looked like today while packing for Turkey.

Lay out everything you could possibly want to bring.

Step 3: Narrow your choices down

This is the tough part- deciding what really should go with you.
Toiletries are pretty easy to manage. You know your routine, and what you need on a regular basis.  Picking up a set of little bottles isn’t a bad idea either.  Put your shampoos and lotions in these.  Not only does it make airport security happier, it is less weight for you to lug around.  And ladies- you won’t die if you have to go a day or two without hairspray, a blow dryer, or a curling iron. If you’re lucky, they’ll probably even have these things at the lodging you’ve chosen.

Now, clothes are a little harder.  I like to pack for all weather conditions, since its hard to judge where your trip might take you.  But it is important to be cute too! So when I pack I think layers, colors, and moods.

  • Layers: Pack things that can be worn alone when it is warm out, together for added warmth.  Think light t-shirts underneath long sleeved-shirts underneath sweaters; or tights underneath knee-high socks underneath jeans.  I could recommend bringing wool instead of cotton for it’s higher performance in heat, wet, and cold; but I prefer to be realistic- pack what you own. Try not to spend too much money on new stuff before the trip, that’s less you have available to spend once you’re there!
  • Colors: I try to follow a similar color scheme when I pack.  It makes playing mix-and-match, and pairing outfits together, easier during the trip if I’ve already thought about how well the clothes I’ve brought go together. For this trip my colors seem to be gravitating towards blacks, creams, olives, and plums/purples.
  • Moods: Like colors, moods come into play when mixing and matching.  Shorts are casual, until dressed up with a black top and tights. Suddenly its a funky outfit for a night out.  Pack clothes that can change their mood depending on what they are paired with.
For this five week trip I am bringing only one small hiking backpack.  I’d like to have about a week/week and a half’s worth of clothes. My list looks like this:
  • 7 pairs of socks and underthings
  • 1 pair of jeans
  • 2 pairs of leggings
  • 1 pair of tights
  • 1 pair of shorts
  • 6 tank tops
  • 2 t-shirts
  • 4 long sleeved shirts
  • 4 sweaters
  • Waterproof coat
  • Hat/Scarf/Gloves
  • Boots (They are leather, but they’ve been sprayed with waterproofing spray.)
  • Chucks (I did only one trip with only one pair of shoes.  I don’t care how comfortable they are, your feet will be sick of those shoes by the end.  Bring a second smaller pair if you can.)
  • PJ’s
What I have picked out will last me more than a week, probably more like two, but it gives me a great diversity of options.  I can wear the tank tops with shorts if it is warm, or with jeans to go to a club.  The shirts will layer well, and the boots go with everything I’ve packed.  The chucks will be cute with leggings and some of the longer tank-tops worn like tunics.  And most importantly, it all fits in my bag with room to spare.  This is what my streamlined packing choices look like:
Try to pack clothes that work together based on layers, colors, and moods.

Step 3: Trial Pack

When you think you’ve whittled down your starting pile to a more manageable load, give it a test run.  You don’t need to be particularly need or orderly this first time packing.  You’re just testing the “stuff to space” ratio.  Lucky for me, all my choices fit into my backpack the first time around.  Remember, you can leave out one outfit as your travel outfit.  I always travel in my biggest shoes (the boots) and bulkiest sweater, but my comfiest pants.  I usually wear warm thick socks too, those planes can get cold!

Step 4: Final Cut

Unload your bag.  If you weren’t able to fit all your choices the first time around, now is when you do the final trimming.  Streamline your travel wardrobe one more time.

Another tip when choosing what to pack: consider the longevity and quality of your clothes.  I always take traveling as a chance to weed out the more worn out stuff in my closet.  I bring towels, socks, underthings, and even shirts and toiletries that only have a little life left in them.  Then when I’m doing my final packing job, ready to head home at the end of the trip, I abandon these things.  It makes a little more room for all the souvenirs I’ve probably bought.

Step 5: Final Pack

Last step- pack for real! Reload your bags, considering convenience and easy access of frequently used items. Leave your computer and toiletries on top, especially if you aren’t checking your bag.  These things need to be pulled out for security and you don’t want to root through your underwear to get to them! Even if you are checking your bags, you will be happy when getting to your toothbrush at the end of a long day isn’t a battle with your bag.  If you’ve got an outside pocket, put that spare pair of shoes in there so they don’t get your clothes dirty.  And try to keep the weight evenly distributed throughout the bag so its not top heavy or leaning to one side.

And that’s that.  These are what my final packs look like, ready and waiting for my Turkey adventure. Do they look as excited as I am?

One purse, one pack, and a "day of flight" outfit.


3 thoughts on “packing with poise

  1. […] Oh right, ok, back up then.  About three weeks ago, January 27th to be precise, I left Annapolis on a circuitous road trip adventure, ending up in Apache Junction, Arizona, on February 3rd.  I headed north first, hitting my friends in Philadelphia, Nazareth, PA, and Hamlin, NY. In Hamlin I picked up a travel companion by the name of Mindy and then we headed west. Well…south west.  Making stops in Lexington, KY, and Memphis, TN, before making a mad dash west along 40 until we came sliding into Apache Junction like a baseball player stealing third.  Along the way we picked up several fantastic stories, which I will share, I promise, just not quite yet. Because before we can talk about the trip itself, we have to talk about the trip prep. Which is the real point of this post: Packing for a Road Trip.  Equally as difficult as, though much different than, packing for a crawl around Europe (see Packing with Poise). […]

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