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Learning to Travel Light

Recently I was on a trip with a good friend and shared a few of my packing tips with her—things I have learned on my various adventures.

While they didn’t seem all that original, she marveled and said, “Why do you post your tips on your blog? I think these ideas area great.”  I mulled it over and decided, why not?

So here goes.  These are practices I have developed especially for longer trips—10 days to two weeks or more.  I aspire to make my way down the jetway with only a carry on bag.   I know it is possible. We have friends who travel around the world, buying and discarding stuff as they go so they don’t need to check a bag. I”m not there yet.  Too much stuff.   But this is what I do to make my life on the road easier.

1. I limit the color palette of the clothes I take.  For example, I select only black and white with accents of red.  I take a jacket that can be dressed up or down in the accent color and then pack only things that go with that color scheme.  It makes it easy to pack and then every thing goes with everything along the way.

2.  I rarely take jewelry or many scarves or accessories—maybe two pairs of earrings—one gold, one silver and a watch.  Then along the way I enjoy shopping from street vendors, markets, cute little shops.  When I buy something I wear it immediately.  No delayed gratification for me.  I feel good supporting the local economy and it is fun to have the trinkets when I get home.

3.  I only check one bag but I always have a nylon bag suitable for checking that folds flat tucked into a side pocket.   That way, if I buy something fabulous (like a great coat, a hand-woven throw or something special for my grand daughter) I can pull out the extra bag, fill it with stuff (often the dirty clothes because it make sorting easier when I get home) and simply check a second bag on the return.

4. I carry on computer, camera, Kindle, Ipod, IPhone and chargers along with a great flat purse from a company called Baggallini.   I love their stuff.  I think they understand  traveling needs.

5. I often travel with a smallish nylon backpack that doubles as a purse.  It has theft proof straps and will hold my camera—a Nikon that is too big to stick in a pocket.  One of the things I like about using this as a purse is that occasionally my husband will shoulder the load and he doesn’t feel silly with some girlie type bag slung over his shoulder.

6. I often take a large black knit shawl with me, throw it over whatever coat I have for extra warmth, use as an evening wrap if a coat isn’t needed and appreciate having it as an extra blanket if hotel or airline seat is cold.  I’ve had it for years.  Goes everywhere.

7. I always have a notebook for notes and glued in copies of my of passport and all relevant itinerates, phone numbers, address, health information.  My husband carries his own set of travel documents.  The notebook  fits in my purse/backpack.  On really long trips to distant places I make a second set of copies and stash in my suitcase.

8. I do have some clothes I wear just for travel—those puffy jackets that never wrinkle and can be dressed up and down.  I find mine at our local luggage store. I have a couple that are reversible.   Chico’s carries a line of clothing call Travel Clothes—the stuff is indestructible and rolls up like rubber.  A pair of black pants and black t shirt with a change of scarves, shawls and jewelry (purchased along the way) can get me to a wide range of events and multiple dinners.  I also like the non-wrinkling shirts available in camping stores.  They layer and work well in all kinds of climates.

9. Shoes are the biggest problem because I have some health issues with my feet. I wear  light weight   leather hiking boots on the plane and take a comfortable dressy flat for evening and one other pair.  Takes a lot of space but necessary. I never take athletic shoes because they immediately brand you as a tourist.

I recently came across a web site chock-a-block full of packing tips, including a handy printable packing checklist. www.onebag.com

Don’t be shy.  Please add your packing tips to the comment section.

Post Author
Susan J. Smith
Susan's career includes writing for newspapers, lots of community work and a wonderful family life. Now she is enjoying traveling, photography and writing for DesignDestinations and Grand Rapids Magazine. She welcomes you on her journey and appreciates your comments.

Comments

13 Comments
  1. posted by
    Georgia Gietzen
    Apr 8, 2010 Reply

    Very helpful Susan . . . with the amount of travel you do you are well versed in this subject! Thanks for sharing.

  2. posted by
    Margaret Cheff
    Apr 9, 2010 Reply

    I agree with athletic shoes branding you as a tourist….especially those that are perfectly white. Wow…they look like headlights on your feet! Shoes are always my biggest challenge in traveling, too…if anyone answering your blog has a great idea, many of us would like to hear it. Mephistos are good but expensive and clunky. Tanks for the tips!

  3. posted by
    Sue Schroder
    Apr 9, 2010 Reply

    Fantastic advice. Like you, I’m determined to graduate to life with carry-ons … you bring the dream closer to reality … in so many ways.

  4. posted by
    R. Lyle Boatman
    Apr 11, 2010 Reply

    Although my travel has been somewhat restricted as of late, due to school, I am fond of traveling and have the same problem packing shoes.

    I sometimes wear an old pair of shoes to begin a trip with the thought that finding a new pair along the way will make the discard of an old pair not so traumatic. Plus the older shoes are “broken in” and great for walking to many destinations. And it isn’t such a burden to have an extra pair in the hotel… just on the plane.

    Over the years, I have gotten many compliments on my collection of shoes from other places around the world. And there is no fear of looking like a tourist with local shoes!

  5. posted by
    smithsj
    Apr 11, 2010 Reply

    Great suggestion, Lyle. I’m going to try this. sjs

  6. posted by
    Jeanne Skilton
    Apr 12, 2010 Reply

    I’ve taken old clothes to Croatia, Sicily and eastern section of Germany (right after the wall came down). Then I wear them and leave them for the maid –with a note. I also used quart and gallon baggies–lots of uses and great place to put anything wet. Use hair curler that can be used in US and Europe–but you still have to bring the correct plugs.

  7. posted by
    smithsj
    Apr 12, 2010 Reply

    Great suggestions. Thank you.

  8. posted by
    Sarah Jackoboice
    Apr 13, 2010 Reply

    Your packing tips are great! I printed this for future use. You should write a book.

  9. posted by
    Kate Dernocoeur
    Apr 14, 2010 Reply

    GREAT photo at the top of this post! Where did you see that?

  10. posted by
    smithsj
    Apr 14, 2010 Reply

    Sacramento, CA airport. Fun, huh?

  11. posted by
    Barb
    Apr 18, 2010 Reply

    Milt and I have been traveling as you suggest for quite some time. We traveled for 3 weeks, 3 countries with one carry-on and med.-sized back-pack each. We were both prepared for a week in London as well as small villages in Poland and the Netherlands. Whilst in the U K, in the village of Whitstable, we found a laundromat and had a delightful conversation with its’ owner…one of the joys of a “Mr. Bubbles”!
    A packing tip – we bundle! The obligatory black travel slacks and/or skirts, placed flat on the bed, then pile on the folded tops, scarves, etc. Take one end of the slacks and fold it over the pile, tightly. Then the other end and now you have the bundle which fits very neatly in one end of the carry-on. Smaller items can tuck around the bundle and the remaining space is for shoes, and whatever else one needs for travel.

  12. posted by
    smithsj
    Apr 18, 2010 Reply

    Wow. Great suggestions. I am going to try “bundling” on my next trip. Thanks for taking the time to share your tips.

  13. posted by
    Leather Purse Link Request
    May 11, 2010 Reply

    Hi there, I couldn’t see a way to email you, and so I really hope that you see this comment. I have a website covering leather purses, and wondered if you might like to swap links with me. I have entered my email address if you would like to get in contact. Thank you.

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