However tempting it may be and however well prepared he may seem, if you want to save space, don’t pack the family cat.
Food fans, hold onto your forks and knives. This week I’m switching gears to discuss another passion of mine, travel. Because I enjoy traveling so much more without the burden of a huge, heavy suitcase or backpack to lug around the globe — and because a friend recently mentioned that she needed to learn how to pack lightly — I thought that I’d impart a few packing tips. So, for all those wondering how to manage three weeks or just three days with only a small carry-on bag …
WHAT’S IN MY CARRY-ON FOR 1 to 3 WEEKS OF TRAVEL:
*Ziploc bag with TSA-approved size (3-ounce) containers of conditioner, deodorant and sunscreen. Although I love my brand of shampoo, I figure that hotel shampoo is fine when combined with my usual conditioner. The Ziploc bag also contains Ibuprofen, a sheet of Benadryl (great for allergies, restless nights and allergic reactions), a few tablets of Immodium (the victim of food poisoning’s friend), loose Band-Aids, small hair brush, toothbrush, toothpaste, facial soap and tweezers. What the bag doesn’t contain are bottle openers, pocket knives, scissors or any liquid over 3 ounces. The TSA has enough of those items already.
*Underwear — Take quick-drying underwear that can be hand-washed and dried overnight.
*Socks — For warmer climates I toss in a three pairs of tennis socks to wear with sneakers. (Yes, you read that correctly. Sneakers.) For cooler days I have three pairs of SmartWool socks. I like this brand because its socks aren’t bulky but still keep my feet cushioned and toasty. If I’m headed to a wintry destination, I also include a pair of tights to wear with a skirt or beneath pants for added warmth.
*1 pair of pajama bottoms & 1 or 2 long-sleeved, quick-drying t-shirts — A pajama set tends to be cumbersome so I take the pants and partner them with long-sleeved t-shirts. If I’m in a cold climate, I wear these Ts under sweaters, too.
*1 pair of black pants — Keep it simple and pack black, which doesn’t show stains and can be dressed up or down for any occasion. As with the underwear, make sure that you can wash these either in a washing machine or sink and have them dry enough to pack or wear again within 24 hours.
*1 pair of jeans — For cooler places only. Heading to the South, South America or the Sahara? Pack a pair of lightweight, quick-drying pants instead.
*1 black cardigan sweater — Keeps me warm on the plane, in drafty buildings and during unseasonably chilly days. Depending upon the season and destination’s climate, I pick either 100% cotton or wool, specifically merino or cashmere. These fabrics are breathable and don’t take up much space. Once again, I choose black because it goes with everything, hides stains and tends to be dressier yet less memorable and tiresome than a bold colored or geometric patterned sweater.
*1 skirt or simple dress — If I take a dress, it’s a black dress that can be worn sightseeing during the day and dressed up with a scarf, bracelet or necklace for an evening out. If I’m traveling to a conservative locale, this dress will fall below my knees and have long sleeves. With a skirt I go for practical knee-length.
*1 simple dress-up/dress-down black shirt — Wardrobe staple. I wear it under the black cardigan and with black pants, a skirt, jeans or quick-drying pants.
*1 to 3 wrinkle-proof tops/shirts — Color and style is up to you. Just be sure that these tops don’t require dry cleaning, ironing or any fussy treatment. If you’re traveling in brisk weather, be sure that these shirts can be worn beneath sweaters.
*1 fleece zip-up or heavy wool sweater for cold trips only — Layers, layers, layers. That’s how you stay warm in the Swiss Alps and Scottish Highlands in February and in Iceland in May. Bring along a fleece zip-up or heavy wool sweater to put over your shirt and cardigan. It may sound unfashionable but it serves the purpose, which is to stay warm.
*Accessories — Keep this simple as well. One to two pairs of earrings. A necklace or bracelet. Note, that if you’re spending three weeks trekking through the desert, mountains or jungle, leave the jewelry at home. If I’m off to a chilly land, I toss in a scarf that can be worn for warmth and to spruce up my black wardrobe.
*1 pair of sneakers — It seems taboo to be an American wearing sneakers but, thanks to a lifetime of bad knees, I’ve learned to add a pair of running shoes to my suitcase.
The complete outfit: Unglamorous but functional, it prepares me for a range of temperatures, weather and activities in Copenhagen, DK and elsewhere.
*1 pair of comfortable boots or sandals — If I’m not headed somewhere sultry, I throw on a pair of well-worn, water-proofed Frye boots for my journey. You don’t have to splurge on Fryes or even pack boots. Just take something comfortable, proven to hold up over miles of walking and that can be worn anywhere with anything.
*1 bag of almonds — Placed in my camera bag, which is my personal item on the plane.
*2 to 3 PB & J sandwiches — I’ve never had any luck with airplane food so I take along PB&Js for the flight. These go in my camera bag.
*Travel journal, novel, guidebook, pen, sunglasses, Altoids — They also go in my camera bag.
Along with my inflatable travel pillow, camera, camera charger, phone, phone charger, passport and wallet with a credit card, debit card and driver’s license, these are all that I take on a trip.
WHAT I DON’T PACK:
I don’t bother with a hairdryer. Hotels, B&Bs and private residences invariably have them. I likewise don’t fuss with umbrellas or multiple coats. Whatever jacket I wear onto the plane is what I’ll wear throughout my journey. Soap for washing clothes? If the rented apartment has a washer and dryer, it has laundry detergent, too. I also don’t bother with boxes of cereal, granola bars, etc. Whether in Cairo or Cleveland, I’m able to stop at a market and buy these goods.
WHY PACK LIGHTLY?
By packing lightly, I don’t check a bag and therefore don’t have to worry about having my luggage lost or delayed for days. That has happened one too many times for me. Likewise, I don’t have to drag a heavy suitcase onto trains and buses, in and out of cars and up and down staircases and cobbled streets. Truly, no one, not even my traveling companion(s), cares what I (or you) wear on the road. Treat yourself and travel lightly. It makes the journey much more pleasant and freeing.