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Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Perfecting The Packing List 3.9.11

There are many “musts” on my list of travel which I share with you all. One of those that we’ve touched on, but haven’t gone into depth with is the Art of the Packing List. Sure, we’ve talked about packing light and what you could pack in you bag, but we’ve never gone over the actual packing list. The more you travel, the better you get at it, especially if packing light is your new goal in life. It can be hard at first, but with some of the tips you’ve learned from me and your own experience you’ll soon find it’s very easy to figure out what needs to be packed and what things are “optional”, that you will eventually just leave at home.


There are several things to consider when making your packing list, but your basics will remain the same, making it that much easier to work on that grab-and-go travel bag we talked about before. I keep a copy of my generic packing list with the things I always bring (even if they’re already in my carry-on) in a Word doc on my computer, so I can add to it as I think of things before I actually start packing.  Keeping a packing list is instrumental in packing efficiently and keeps you on track, so you don’t just give up and throw a big pile of stuff into your bag and quit. I’ve been there and I didn’t wear a large percentage of what I brought, had too many shoes and my bag weighed a ton. If you can’t lift your own bag, there’s probably too much in it!

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This is probably the number one question to ask yourself before starting your list. Is it cold? Will you need a number of sweaters or a jacket? Is it warm? Can you just get buy on shorts and short-sleeve tops? The answer to this will determine how much more strategic your packing will have to be. Between my husband and I, we only take a large rolling carry-on and small rolling carry-on. Of course, I also bring my purse, which counts as my personal item and also gets to be home to a few snacks, boarding passes, itinerary, passports, tickets, magazines, card games and electronics that are in immediate demand (Nintendo DS, iPod, Kindle, etc.) So, if there are two of you and you don’t think you can possibly get all of your things in 1 ½ carry-ons, just get 2 big ones. I like that one can go in the overhead and the other can go under the seat, but if you must pack two bigger ones, make sure you pack the essentials for the ride in your purse or pack them in a tote bag that can go under the seat.

Mossimo® Women's Multi Style Convertible Wrap Dress - Vision Blue XXL
Convertible dress. Wear hundreds of ways!
I pretty much pack the same way for warm or cold weather:
  • 5 tops
  • 4 bottoms
  • 1 “just in case” dress or skirt (change this to dress shirt and tie for men)
  • 2 pair of shoes (one dressier option that can still be good to walk in)
If all your above items all fall in the same color scheme (which is a big hint that they should), you can mix and match everything you brought and make many more outfits than you think. It also won’t look like you wore the same 3 outfits over the course of 2 weeks, even if they are the same 9 pieces.  With this limited wardrobe selection, it should be very easy to pack, but you have 20+ outfit combinations, plus whatever you’ve worn on the plane to throw into the mix. I try to layer on the plane, because you never know if it’ll be hot or cold. Throwing a matching cardigan over your top can be a lifesaver on a plane and can also be great to carry in your day bag at your destination, in case it gets chilly.

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Obviously, it’s going to be easier to pack a dozen things in your carry-on if they are smaller, like shorts and t-shirts. Don’t let this give you the idea that you should bring more, because there is space in your luggage for more. Bring a selection of clothes that you’re comfortable in. Maybe one of your bottoms can be a pair of lightweight long pants, in case the weather turns and you need the extra coverage.

I also look for lightweight, moisture-wicking clothing (which can easily be found at Columbia, TravelSmith, ExOfficio, Lucy and other stores that specialize in “activewear”). Don’t think that just because they sell “travel clothes” that they will look like travel clothes. We own many pieces of travelwear that look just like our everyday clothing, except it doesn’t hold in odor, washes easily and dries super quick. Very convenient for when you do a quick load of laundry in the evening. Creating a good travel wardrobe is a must.

Columbia Womens Switchback Jacket, Grill, Large

So, depending on how cold the weather is where you’re going, you might want to add a set of base layers to your packing list. If you’ll be outside a lot in snowy weather, these lightweight pieces can be worn under your regular clothes and keep in your body heat. You are also going to want a nice warm jacket, but look for one that is “packable”, which means it can moosh down to almost nothing in your travel bag. Even if you wear it on the plane, you still don’t want to walk around with a parka that’s going to take up more room than you are. Look for jackets that have PrimaLoft and other synthetic fillers that are easily compressed. Columbia, The North Face and Mountain Hardwear are just some of the brands that carry such awesome jackets.

Duofold Men's Midweight Ankle Length Bottom With Moisture Wicking,Navy,SmallDuofold Women's Mid-Weight Single-Layer Thermal, Black, Large
You can save room in your luggage by layering clothing. Take some lightweight pieces and then a few warmer outer layers, like fleece, that you can wear over things each day. Not only will it keep you warmer, but when you get inside and the heaters are blasting, you can remove a layer and still be comfortable.

Looking for sweaters that don’t take up your whole suitcase? Again, look for lightweight, yet still warm pieces from outdoor stores, likeREIColumbia, ExOfficio. Their clothing offers the technology of using different fibers that are less bulky, but offer the same characteristics of your regular winter wardrobe. These key pieces can spare you more packing space, which you’ll need for your other essentials.
ExOfficio - Women's Shannon Long-Sleeve Pullover Sweater S NATURAL
 
Shoes are another item that can cause a big issue when it comes to keeping your feet warm. If you are happy with thick socks inside your regular walking shoes, that’s great. If you are also looking for something that has more protection, look for weatherproof (waterproof, snowproof and insulated) boots that are “packable”. You can find these many places, such as LL Bean and TravelSmith. I have a great pair of brown ones that I received as a gift that offer flat, slip-resistant soles, weatherproof construction and can be rolled up in your suitcase to save space and don’t lose their shape. Mine are from Hushpuppies, but again, you can find many different brands and styles for one that suits you and your travel wardrobe. I try to wear my bulkiest pair of shoes on the plane, since this also allows me more room to pack toiletries, electronics, etc.
Hush Puppies Women's Ambulate Boot,Dark Brown,8 M USL. L. Bean Thinsulate Lined Weatherproof Boots Shoes -- Men's 10 Medium -- NEW WITH TAGS -- as shown
 

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Okay, so you have your dozen key pieces to pack for wherever you’re going, what else needs to be on your packing list?
  • Underwear – Unless you’re averse to wearing such things, undergarments are a must. Look for ones that have soy or bamboo fibers, or ones that are quick-drying. They make for comfortable travel companions and don’t hold odor or moisture. You know why this is important.
  • Socks – Usually, you are going to need a few pairs of these. If all you’ve packed is sandals and flip flops to hang out on the beach, still throw an emergency pair into the bag. You never know when they might come in handy (or how hard they are to find when you actually NEED them).
  • Packable rain jacket – This is a must anywhere I’m going, unless I know it’s going to be really cold and might rain and I’m bringing a really warm jacket with a hood. The rain jacket is great in that it packs into its own pocket, will fit just about any crevice present in your travel bag and also doubles as a lightweight jacket.
  • Toiletries – You know what you use most often. Try to pare it down to JUST the essentials if you can. Deodorant, shampoo, conditioner, moisturizer, sunscreen, lotion. If you are a makeup wearer, pack as little as possible. I tend to travel with my basic beauty routine: moisturizer, foundation, concealer, powder, lip balm and blush…and then I throw in a trial size mascara and a fun eye shadow, just in case I go out and want to primp. I don’t really need more than that, and I find that I’m so excited to run out and do things that I don’t take the time to do more than my basic routine anyway. Remember: The less you bring, the more room you’ll have in your 3-1-1 bag for essentials. You remember the dreaded 3-1-1 bag, right? If not, here’s another quick reminder.  Get yourself a nice compact toiletry bag, so it limits what you can fit in there. When it’s full, you’re done. Don’t forget any medication you take regularly!
  • Random useful items can include: tweezers, nail clippers, nail file, sewing kit, back-up contacts and condoms (you never know).
  • Electronics – I know you’re not going to go anywhere without some gadgety thing. List your must have electronics (Kindle, netbook, iPod, mobile) and anything that needs to go with it, like a charger. Nothing worse than getting to your destination and then not being able to use your iPod, because you forgot the charger at home (yes, this happened to me). Better yet, invest in an iGo multi-charger and then you only ever have to take the one plug and tips and you can keep that in your travel bag all the time.
  • Important paperwork – Besides having your picture ID and/or your passport with you, you’re going to want to keep your itinerary (with your confirmations and important addresses and phone numbers) somewhere, along with your boarding pass(es), so you can grab it all and be ready when you get to the airport and your destination. You would think this is a given, but I always put it on my packing list.
Packing List Enclosed labels 3" x 4" gloss paper
Still need help with your packing list? Don't despair. Get some great ideas on how to write you list, or just steal someone else's, with these sites:
Bringing home more than you started with can be a problem, but one that can be prepared for with this awesome pack-flat back-up bag by Travelon. I have this bag and LOVE IT. It packs flat and takes up very little room in your travel bag. When you've purchased more than your bag will hold, whip out this little baby and unzip it to reveal a full-size carry-on that has a nice padded strap and fits easily under the airplane seat. This thing is crazy durable, too. You'll want to buy them as gifts for all your traveling friends!

Don't forget to join me on the Frugal Living Community on BlogFrog, brought to you by Ebates. There are some great discussions going on, including the one I've started on budget travel tips. I bet you've learned a thing or two from me, but it doesn't mean you can't learn from others, too, or give others your favorite tips. After you put in your two cents, join in some other discussions on frugal living. Learn better ways to coupon, where to find budget fashion pieces, how to cut back on everyday expenses and more!


And don't forget to join Ebates and take advantage of double cash back on awesome travel merchants. Even normal cash back is a deal, because it's dollars and cents off your purchase, meaning you saved MORE money. Add that to your travel fund or use it to pay of vacation debt. You can't go wrong with free money. And don't forget that you can use Ebates to get cash back on everyday purchases, too! 

I've been contacted to do some other guest posts for budget and travel sites. Do you want me to write for your page? Please feel free to contact me with information HERE!
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