Saturday, 17 July 2010

Packing Lessons Learned

I packed for the trip to Italy using a list for each of 4 locations:  1 suitcase, 2 front pocket of suitcase, 3 my purse, and 4 the liquids bag.  When I unpacked at home after the holiday, I made a list of every single item and made notes about whether I'd take it again.

For clothes, I mostly used this advice, that I thought came from Unclutterer, but darned if I can find it there.  (Anyone know who says to do this?)

Take two fewer bottoms and one less top than the number of days the trip will last, including what you wear on travel days. (For a five-day trip, 3 bottoms and 4 tops). Pack one extra pair of shoes (dressy flats and wedges are good), and add 1 cardigan. Wear a jacket on the plane. Mostly stick with simple pieces, but mix in one dressy skirt & top to pair for a festive evening out.
Except, I packed for 5 days instead of for 10, knowing that I would be able to wash, hang and even iron, if necessary.

The long-sleeved tee and wool cardigan I wore on the plane were too hot for Italy, but the water-proof jacket, my trainers and the lightweight navy cotton slacks were useful at other times.

So, what worked well?

My Eagle Creek backpack was perfect for this trip.  It converts to a regular suitcase and Bill found me a shoulder strap which came in handy, but I would only carry that amount of weight on a shoulder strap for a very short time. I paid about $100 for this backpack 17 years ago, after reading Rick Steves’ Europe through the Back Door (only one from about 1993).  I’ve never regretted that purchase, though it seemed a lot to me at the time. Although it would be nice to have the option of wheels, with Europe's many stairs and cobbled streets, wheels are often a real nuisance. The waist strap of the backpack was great for taking weight off my shoulders and making the backpack pretty comfortable.

5 white tops. Kept colour coordination simple. I took any technical tops I had, as long as they had no writing on.

1 blue linen shirt. This dressed up a top a tiny bit for evening and served as arm cover when I wore a tank top.

Light blue waterproof jacket. Handy once when it rained, but Bill’s umbrella would have done. On the other hand, this with a wool cardigan is good for in England

4 bottoms. Navy cotton slacks, beige linen skirt, taupe zip-off cargo pants, black 3/4 length pants. I didn't end up zipping off the cargo pant bottoms, as I don't care for shorts, and I'd decided these didn't earn their way.  However, upon our return when I had to pack away my purse, all those pockets served wonderfully in lieu of purse, and so I'd take them again. They were also made of technical material that dries overnight.

3 pairs of shoes:  every need met.  The trainers were good for heavy carrying days.  Leather sandals worked for most others.  I wore cork wedgies (light!) for evenings. The leather sandals got washed in the machine on our return and they came out like new!

5 pair underwear, 2 bras, 7 hankies. Plenty.

House keys.  (We've broken into our house 3 times now; I keep a back up set on me at all times).

Bobby pins / hair grips and clips were good to put up my hair when it got hot.

Nail clippers and emery board are always in my toiletries for emergencies.

When my liquids bag got full, I used Bill's spare capacity.

Bill and I shared the same toothpaste.

Renu contact solution (60 ml). Though I usually need saline for sensitive eyes, I found I could use this solution - as intended - as both cleaning and saline solution (though I wouldn't put it directly into my eye; I brought small bottles of eye drops for that).  I only used about 20-30 ml, so wouldn't worry about taking a partial or smaller bottle on the next trip.

Eye drops x 3; I only had partial bottles around the house, but turns out I didn't use these as much as I thought; 1 would have sufficed.

Toothbrush with a cap, dental floss, contact case, make-up brush, Eyelash curler, razor.  Check.

Neutrogena Ultra Sheer Dry Touch SPF 30 (29 ml).  I used this as moisturizer when mine ran out.  It was brilliant.

Burts bees lip stick, Bourjois concealer (10 ml):  both nice and small!

I refilled a small Nivea tin (30 ml) with Vaseline for removing eye make-up.  This worked perfectly.

Hair conditioner tube supplied in hair colouring kit, just the right size.

Plastic ziplock bag for makeup.  Makes it easy to see and put my hands on what I want quickly.

I buy the sets of small bottles of perfume at duty free or at Boots (a drugstore/ chemist) when I see them. They work as stocking-stuffer Christmas presents, but are also the right size for this purpose. I have some samples in vials as well, but the perfume isn't as nice as True Love

I took a brown eyeliner pencil, an eyebrow pencil, and a Body Shop crayon concealer pencil, all very short -- not to mention slim, so took up less space; however, I also needed the pencil sharpener for the first two. I use every smidgeon of make-up and use a lipstick or other brush to reach all the corners. 

A tea towel in a ziplock bag to keep us tidy when picnicking. 

Small coin purse to put British currency in when using Euros. This bag also stores the Euros in the file cabinet along with US currency (in a different bag) for the next trip to either.  Even a small amount of cash and coins is useful to get started on a trip.  We tend to use ATMs / cash points in foreign countries, and I draw dollars out of my American credit union account when we are there.  In Europe, a new credit card is available that supposedly charges lower conversion fees.  Need to check that out.  A Bureau de Change may say it doesn't charge a fee, but then they don't give good conversion rates.  On this trip we noticed a 24% difference in their offers for buy and sell.

Notebook and pens: essential travel kit! 

Camera – can’t imagine life without it now!  I take a spare set of re-chargable batteries and the battery charger...and the electric thingy to plug it in.

GP prescription. Not needed, thankfully, but I take it in case I lose medications; unlikely, but I've become accustomed to being able to breathe. Same with spare contacts lenses. 

What didn’t work 

I took a blue cloche hat that I think is very flattering, but it turned out to be far too hot for Italy. My white baseball cap from Club LaSanta worked great for shade and travelled fine, but it's not very fashionable, is it?  I took a straw hat that didn’t pack as well as I thought it would, so it didn’t see much wear and I probably need to replace it.  Any suggestions for what hats travel well? 

My favourite red purse, a shoulder bag that belonged to my Aunt Rita, was an ideal size but tedious to carry in addition to my backpack. Would chose one that closed at the top for more security.  I looked for a smart leather backpack style purse, but most of the straps were zippers, which looked uncomfortable.  Didn't buy anything in the end.

Cargo pants (well secured to stay up!) might work best for travel days with backpack.  Easy to find in technical fabrics and neutral colours.

A pink scarf  I wear in bed when it’s cold: useless in that hot climate. I need to remember that 70 degrees feels more like 85 to me now that I’m more acclimatised to the colder weather. 

Asthma inhalers and tablets. Took 2 each. One each would have been fine, as long as they were full. 

Sweeteners. Never used. I can’t bear strong continental coffee and so usually switch over to tea. Discovered cappuccinos were quite nice.  Sweeteners were available on the table in most places. 

Sun glasses & case. I hate wearing sunglasses, preferring hats to keep the sun out of my eyes. Both were clumsy when using the camera. 

Electronic organiser with addresses. I never even thought about postcards once we landed. Maybe write address labels next time to help me remember? 

Running clothes (how we kid ourselves...). Neither of us was up to running after the first day of walking around in the heat. That said, the running bra was more comfortable than the underwire when carrying the backpack. 

Swimsuit and cover up. I would give this a miss unless it was specifically a beach holiday. I had hopes since we were near the Med, but to no avail. Bill even brought a beach towel, bless him. 

Dick Frances book. Was a great read, but travel was rather hard on this book, as it didn’t get the preferential treatment of being close to hand that Simone de Beauvoir got. 

Winter running socks for travel days. It wasn’t that cold travelling, so I’d skip these. Same with the socks I took to wear as slippers. Hot weather = bare feet! 

What I’ll be trying next time 

Maybelline base make-up SPF 15 (30 ml). Good make-up, but in a heavy glass bottle. Will look for smaller, non-glass container or maybe try using up all those samples I’ve collected from magazines!  Or just use concealer /highlighter and have a less made-up face. 

Mascara and lip gloss – find smaller ones. Elizabeth Arden has a tiny mascara. 

Solid deodorant – does this have to be in liquids bag? Look this up before next trip.  Keep an eye out for smaller toiletries, generally.  Rarely see them here in Britain outside of the duty free at the airport (at a ridiculous price).

Brought back 10 pouches of shampoo/shower gel (but left the small bars of soap – I have a lifetime supply already). Will use these shampoos instead of bringing my own. 

Rimmel nail polish (12 ml). Smaller bottles of nail polish available now. Either that or go without nail polish altogether. 

Styling brush and hair dryer with electrical thingy. About half the places we stayed had hair dryers, so I might have managed with out. Perhaps work on finding a wash and wear hair style or wear more hats? 

An envelope would have come in handy for all the scraps of paper we collected. 

Fewer grocery bags and more large zip lock bags. One of the grocery bags was a heavy, decorative plastic that I’d intended to use as a beach bag if needed. I think it would have sufficed, but still needs tested. On the other hand were we going on a beach holiday, which means staying in one place for the majority of the trip, I’d probably pack quite differently, take my beach bag and make it double as a purse. 

2 tea towels instead of one. 

Look for more technical clothing instead of linen, so I don’t need a travel iron to feel presentable. 

Electrical thingy and battery chargers: We need more than one as we both have electrical items to use/charge. 

40 ml bottle of shampoo. Useful to know I only used about 30 ml during the 10 day trip. Will go with the sachets we’ve saved up. 

Billfold with all my loyalty/membership cards. I’ll be looking to find a simpler wallet and to leave most all this at home.  Only need 1 cash card, 1 credit card, place for paper and place for coins.

Pink cotton nightdress. A shorter one or sleeping in one of the technical t-shirts might have saved an ounce or two of weight. 

60 ml body lotion wasn’t quite enough.  Will take 100 ml next time.

Spray on Sport SPF 30 (29 ml): see running clothes.

I may look into posting boxes home in future, in the event that I see something I desperately want but can't cram into my luggage. Mind, if it costs more than it would have to check a suitcase, it would defeat the object, but I know there was the option of posting a 20 pound box $20 from the US not too long ago.

One might think from all this that I'm really infatuated with the whole packing thing, but I'm not.  In fact I dread it and put it off to the very last minute.  I think I'm frightened of making decisions I'll be stuck with for the duration of the trip, scared of what I might forget.   I only survive the ordeal at all because of all these lists!  I hope some of these ideas were useful for you.

How do you plan your packing for holidays?

1 comment:

Struggler said...

Well, you are going to be all set for next time!!
I do pretty well at not over-packing for trips, but I always forget a few tiny things which would make life more comfortable. I agree with you that technical tops are great for travel, as they seem to do well in a range of temperatures and are so easy to wash quickly.
I have a foldable hat which is clearly not straw but has that kind of look to it. I got it in Macys (US, obviously) but at one point M&S were doing something similar. Otherwise, indeed, a trusty baseball cap does the job but not in a very chic way...