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The Packing Thing

Updated: Sep 9

Quick disclaimer : I'm not a vulgar person but my vocabulary can be colourful. My life is R-rated and my website occasionally reflects that. Be aware of some frank language. All my photos are PG, but please read blogs before sharing with kids.

All photos taken by lotzacurls unless otherwise credited.

Packing your bags for your next trip
Photo by wix.com

Congrats! You’ve bought your ticket, your affairs are in order and you’re taking off in about a week. Time to start packing for your dream getaway!


When deciding on luggage, consider your destination and your type of travel. If you’re going on a cruise, a wheelie suitcase will be perfect. If you’re planning on hopping from island to island in Greece, a backpack might be better suited. If you’re renting a car and staying in BnBs, a duffel will be more than adequate. Regardless, consider that you might be pulling your stuff across gravel, carrying weight on your back or lugging it all up and down stairs.

Hiking with our daypacks in the Italian Dolomites
Hiking with our daypacks in the Italian Dolomites

Backpacks are my preferred way of hauling my belongings around. Depending on the trip, my suitcase is sometimes the better choice. Since most of my trips involve various destinations and multiple means of transportation, I usually reach for my backpack. Along with the pleasure of looking overburdened and being a sucker for punishment (just kidding), here’s why my backpack is my jam:


* It forces me to travel light. I'll have to carry it all on my back, and that ensures that I won’t overpack.

* It allows me to go hands-free, which is more practical than most people realise. Buying tickets at the train station, checking your phone, paying for coffee or food, eating said coffee or food, looking at a map, making a phone call - everything is easier when you’re not struggling with your stuff.

* Going up or down stairs, walking down dirt roads and stony paths, negotiating subway/train platforms, getting in and out of vehicles - the logistics of manoeuvrability are much simpler when your stuff is on your back.

It all depends on transportation and accommodation infrastructure. If you’re renting a car the entire time, or staying in hotels with elevators, then rolling luggage is ideal. Cobblestone streets, however, render suitcases loud, impractical and obnoxious; Venice came close to condemning them altogether.


So with all that in mind, here’s how I pack for a 4-week summer vacation to Europe.


CLOTHING

1. Consider the season/environment.

If you’re going somewhere warm, you've got less bulk to pack; tank tops, shorts and flip flops are easy. The tricky spots are the cold or rainy ones. In either case, the key is layers.


For cool and rainy weather, bring a few quick-dry long-sleeved shirts and pants, a wind/rain jacket, and closed shoes like runners. Merino wool is a must-have; it doesn’t pick up odours (which means less washing), dries quickly and doesn’t wrinkle much.


Clothing for the cold and snow takes up more space, so your pieces will be limited. Again, choose stuff you can layer. And again, Merino wool is an excellent choice for cold weather.

SUPER TIP: A good rule of thumb is to pack enough clothing for one third of your time abroad. If you’re travelling for three weeks, bring one full week of clothes, with the exception of extra undies. 30 days = 10 outfits. Six weeks = 2 weeks of clothes.


Travelling with just a carry-on? Bring less clothes/underwear and sink-wash them, or visit a laundromat when needed.


2. Invest in high-quality packing cubes

For longer trips, I use two medium cubes (black and red) and one small one (blue). All by Eagle Creek.

I have two medium cubes and one small cube, in 3 different colours. For longer trips, my bottoms and dresses go in the black cube, my tops go in the red one, and my unmentionables (bras, underwear, swimsuits) go in the smaller blue one. I’ve recently purchased compression packing cubes similar to these, which take up even less space.


Alternately, one cube could store normal clothes (jeans, t-shirts, undies) and another cube could be for colder weather clothes (sweaters, tuques, mittens, scarves, etc.). Or dressy vs sporty clothes. You decide.


Keep in mind that packing cubes are useful for cutting down space, but they get heavy rather quickly. They’re space savers and organisers, but not weight savers.


And yes, I roll my clothes; it takes up less space than folding. Clothes get wrinkled regardless of how they're packed so unless you've got a business meeting, get friendly with your wrinkles (also fitting advice for the ones on your face).


If you don’t want to invest in packing cubes, plastic grocery bags will do just fine (although significantly less ecological).


Travelling with just a carry-on? Challenge yourself to fit everything into just one medium or large cube.


3. Coordinate your colours, but stay versatile.

A travel capsule with clothes that you can mix and match
Photo courtesy of pennypincherfashion.com

I tend to pack lots of neutral bottoms and tops (blacks, khaki greens and greys); that way, everything harmonises and can be coordinated. One colourful scarf or piece of jewellery can really jazz up an otherwise bland outfit.


4. Now lay it all out

Once you’ve chosen your clothes, lay everything out on your clean floor. Include jackets, hats, scarves, accessories and shoes. Set aside items you’re unsure of - you can add them one at a time later on if you have room.


Pile your clothes according to your cube categories (tops/bottoms separate, or sporty vs dressy). Roll each item and pack it into its cube, starting with your favourite, most versatile or most essential pieces.


Don’t forget to set your entire flight outfit aside; I usually wear my heaviest clothes (jeans, runners, sweater) on the plane.

In Italy, I knew I’d do a lot of hiking and walking. As stylish as Italy is, I was unfortunately dressed like Sporty Spice most of the time. A regrettable but necessary sacrifice in order to travel lightly and practically.


If checking a bag, pack a spare outfit (and extra undies) into your carry-on - it will be a lifesaver if the airline were to misplace your checked bag. It's happened to me twice and I'm sure it will happen again!


TOILETRIES

This stuff gets packed into a small, daily toiletries pouch.

Mini-sized toiletries make travel lighter and simpler - I love reusable, leak-proof silicone bottles. Here is PackHacker's thorough review of GoToob silicone tubes.


For a month-long trip, I'll bring 2 tubes of face wash; one tube goes in my daily toiletry pouch and the other stays in my extras bag (kept in a side zipper of my backpack). I refill my daily toiletry pouch with extra toiletries as needed.


If I'm checking a bag, I'll bring more toiletries (rather than buy them as I need them). I'm often camping or hiking in rural areas, so I'd rather not waste my time hunting down shampoo or laundry soap.


SUPER TIP In case of lost luggage, keep some toiletries (mini shampoo/conditioner, toothpaste/toothbrush, deodorant, prescriptions) in your carry-on.


Travelling with just a carry-on? Fly with bare essentials and buy most toiletries at your destination. Pack shampoo bars (as opposed to liquid shampoo) and cut out small blocks of your favourite soap instead of body wash. Pack a small container of powder detergent instead of liquid detergent.


ELECTRONICS

Organising technology and chargers when travelling
Label your Ziploc bags according to the items inside. If you find an empty bag while packing in your hotel, you'll know which item you almost left behind.

Keep your new, flashy technology inside scuffed-up cases to make them look less pricey. Not only can you avoid unwanted attention from thieves, but in poorer countries it would be downright obnoxious to flash that stuff around.


Chargers, power packs and extra camera batteries must be kept in your carry-on for the flight. Don’t forget to pack travel adaptors for your destination country.


SUPER TIP: I keep most items in clear Ziplocs and label each bag. When packing up in your hotel/hostel room, finding an empty, labelled bag indicates which item you’ve almost just left behind.


DOCUMENTS

While travelling, I keep my passport in a thick cover; the bulkier it is, the harder it is to misplace. Once I've arrived at my destination, I leave it in my hostel safe/hotel room.


I keep a colour photocopy of my passport in my day bag, in the rare case it might be needed. That photocopy will make things much easier at the embassy if my real passport gets lost/stolen. I also keep a digital copy in an email folder, and my parents also have one.


Important documents (travel health forms, vaccinations, VISAs/travel permits) are kept in a thin plastic folder in my main backpack.


START PACKING!

Packing for a month-long trip is easy with packing cubes
Everything I needed for a month in Northern Italy

Once again, lay everything out on your floor. Your flight clothes (incl. shoes and sweater/coat) and all carry-on items (incl. extra toiletries, books, electronics, etc.) should already be set aside.


Place your heaviest items (packing cubes) at the bottom of your bag, or against the back, to avoid it being top-heavy.


Your carry-on bag should double as your daybag (or bring a cute extra purse in your checked bag). I prefer messenger-style bags for carry-on/everyday; it’s more stylish than a small backpack.


Keep room in your checked bag for souvenirs or extra purchases.


SUPER TIP: Don't bring your purse if you’re going out at night. Use a money belt or front pockets for ID/money; better yet, use your bra. I’ve spent many evenings with my ID and a few 20s tucked in the upper part of my bra (just inside the cup, right near the strap). Not joking. I didn’t worry about being pickpocketed or leaving something behind, and my hands were free at all times.


Here’s what I brought for 30 days of hiking/walking in Northern Italy. This list isn’t minimalist, but it’s not excessive either.

It's important to choose a backpack with several access points; top-loading bags are very frustrating when you're searching for something or repacking. This Osprey Kestrel 68L bag has 3 access points: top drawstring, mid/bottom zipper and side zipper.

Clothing

- 6 bottoms (3 sport shorts, 1 jeans, 1 black capris, 1 harem pants)

- 2 dresses

- 9 tops (7 tank tops, 2 t-shirts)

- PJs (which double as extra clothes if needed)

- 4 bras (3 sports bras, 1 regular bra)

- 1 swimsuit

- 12 undies

- 1 long-sleeved Merino wool shirt

- 1 wind/rain jacket

- 1 Buff (to use as headband/beanie)

- 1 colourful scarf

- 1 sun hat

- 1 pair of running shoes (with 4 pairs of socks tucked inside)

- 1 pair of flip-flops

- 1 pair of comfy wedge sandals (Crocs)


Toiletries (all travel-sized)

- Shampoo and conditioner

- Hair pic

- Soap slices (cut from my favourite soap)

- Face wash

- Face moisturisers (day/night creams)

- Sunscreen

- Toothbrush, toothpaste and floss

- Razor

- Deodorant

- Cotton Q-tips

- Wet wipes

- Mascara, eye liner, blush and lip gloss

- Nail clipper and tweezers

- Hair elastics and bobby pins

- Time-of-the-month stuff

- Extra toiletries pouch (shampoo, conditioner, moisturisers, soap slices, toothpaste, deodorant)


Misc

- Eye mask and ear plugs

- Sunglasses and eye glasses

- Small First Aid kit (mostly ibuprofen/acetaminophen and blister prevention)

- Electronics (laptop, phone, camera, earphones) + chargers

- Books + pens

- Travel towel

- Waterproof poncho

- 20 L stowable backpack (packs into small pouch) * Doubled as carry-on bag and used for small day hikes

- Packable messenger bag (everyday use)

- Individual packets of laundry soap

- Ziploc bags (small and medium) and grocery bags

- Collapsible water bottle (leave your bulky water bottle at home)

- One or two sporks


One last thing...
Be low-key. Leave your expensive jewellery at home and make sure that your technology is well-hidden (camera and computer stay hidden in cases). Remember that your Louis Vuitton suitcase will look real good to a thief; choose something inconspicuous.

And there you have it - you're ready to go! See you out there.


__________


A few articles you may also enjoy:

The Arrival Thing

The Loneliness Thing

The Safety Thing

The Budget Thing

The Flight Thing

The Planning Thing

The Accommodation Thing

How To Travel With Just A Carry-On

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